Archive for January 29th, 2008
Some readers have informed us they appreciate Clippings’ incisive, retrospective commentary about the week in copyright and digital media, but have suggested that we break out some of our longer passages into distinct entries. Doing so, they have argued, will make certain longer entries easier to read, and will ensure that our readers can link to the longer entries without losing them within a broader Clippings publication.
We couldn’t agree more.
Therefore, beginning this week, we will make remix and republish select individual stories from each edition of Clippings, including all our Article of the Week and Quote of the Week entries. These new entries often will add extended commentary and analysis. The remixed versions will be published throughout the 7-day period between Clippings editions.
In the end, we believe this effort will make the content more readable and accessible. Thank you to all who suggested improvements.
In this week’s huge edition of Clippings, we look at registration reform; news media inaccuracy; a challenge to the DMCA “safe harbor”; ICANN seeking independence; and the wireless spectrum auction.
This is Copycense.
Articles of the Week
Public Knowledge. Don’t Trust the Media to Get Copyright Right: Scrabulous Coverage Scores Few Points. Jan. 22, 2008. Often, we have taken the press to task for its frequently errant and one-sided coverage of intellectual property issues. When IP was a backwater issue, poor (and sometimes inaccurate) coverage was a problem, but was not evident. Now IP often warrants front-page, above-the-fold coverage, and the mistakes not only are evident, they are harmful. A news organization’s primary professional objective is to get it right. Writing flowery prose like Selena Roberts is optional. Talking loud and saying little like Stephen A. is optional. Whining while cashing checks like Mr. Tony is optional.
Getting it right, on the other hand, is mandatory.
Marc Fisher got it wrong in a big way last month, likely because he relied on second-hand reporting and did not do the requisite amount of fact- and document checking. Now, as PK points out, several media outlets seem to have gotten the Scrabulous/Facebook story wrong, attributing to an alleged copyright infringement problem what really is an alleged trademark infringement problem. Not only is this unacceptable, it is grossly unprofessional. If the news media can’t get it right, above all else, it’s useless. Categories: Broadcasting & Journalism; Infringement; Trademarks.
Dan Heller’s Photography Business Blog. Proposal for Privatizing the Copyright Registration Process. Jan. 21, 2008. Citing other instances of government outsourcing — including U.S. Postal Service allowing Mail Boxes Etc. and other commercial mail receiving agencies to manage mail delivery and pickup — Heller suggests that the U.S. Copyright Office accredit private sector business to handle copyright registrations. (Although Heller does not mention this specific example, America already is quite familiar with registration outsourcing: domain name registrations are outsourced to hundreds of registrars that are accredited by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).)
We already have some businesses that purport to handle copyright registrations, but many of these firms seem suspect at best. A rigorous accreditation process (similar to the one ICANN uses), overseen by the U.S. Copyright Office, likely would weed out the fly-by-night firms. Further, the U.S. Copyright Office already has received poor marks for its online registration system, so there remains a legitimate question as to whether the agency can implement a solid solution. And online registration clearly is the way to go, since (a) USPS mail to federal government agencies still gets delayed because of anthrax screening; and (b) it’s 2007 and our federal government should have online services like this down pat by now.
Further, broadening the registration process may encourage more people to register their works. Currently, copyright is the only one of the Big Three forms of intellectual property where neither registration nor public review is required prior to the government granting monopoly status. This leads to several problems, not the least of which is a huge orphan works nightmare, and a suppressed, downstream licensing market that suffers because no one can find the correct copyright owner.
This is a marvelous idea in so many ways. Categories: Registration; U.S. Copyright Office.
Eric Bangeman. Debating Copyright Reform: Time for Compulsory Licenses? ArsTechnica. Jan. 21, 2008. Ars reports on a copyright panel convened at the Consumer Electronics Show entitled Washington, Intellectual Property and Your Living Room, which was moderated by Ars editor Kenneth Fisher. The panel seemed fairly balanced, which is unusual for these panels, and everyone allegedly agreed some sort of copyright reform was necessary. Surprisingly, though, compulsory licensing was discussed, and at least one panelist positioned compulsory licenses as a way of providing compensation in light of the fact that copyright owners no longer can control their works.
There are two basic arguments here. On one hand, a compulsory license would force media companies to license their works at an established, set rate. (For example, royalties for cover songs are paid according to a rate set in a compulsory license.) Additionally, it would eliminate the often licensing negotiations, many of which can be ridiculous and random. (The music industry, in particular, suffers this problem when it comes to digital sampling.) On the other hand, U.S. Register of Copyrights Marybeth Peters is on record as opposing compulsory licenses because it hurts “creators.” As we mentioned last week, though, one must be careful with the label “creators”: are we talking about individuals, or multinational corporations that own and control the copyright monopoly? We’re unsure what Peters means when she refers to “creators.”
Nevertheless, this is the first time we recall hearing someone — anyone — talk seriously about compulsory licensing as an option worth investigating. Also, it is the one of the first times we can recall any person who deals with copyright for a living bluntly proclaim that control of protected works no longer is possible or realistic. Categories: Bundle of Rights; Licensing & Permissions; U.S. Copyright Office.
Quotes of the Week
“One way to look at plaintiff’s difficulties here is as further evidence of the disproportionate difficulties African-Americans have had in getting the benefits of IP protection.” — Rebecca Tushnet.
43(B)log. Strikeout: Baseball Player’s Claim Against Cards Fails. Jan. 5, 2008. Georgetown law professor Tushnet (no, the junior Tushnet) ends her analysis of a lawsuit against the Topps trading card company with this interesting comment. The lawsuit (which was based on right of publicity, trademark and related claims) was brought by the daughter of legendary Negro Leaguer James “Cool Papa” Bell, alleging that the trading card company did not have permission to print Bell’s likeness on a trading cards released earlier this decade. Tushnet’s summary says Bell granted to the Baseball Hall of Fame permission to use his name and likeness on various products. (Bell was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974.) Tushnet’s comment raises interesting issues about IP protection and race.
Stories are legion about the extent to which creative, technical, or scientific achievements by African-Americans have been appropriated without initial or residual compensation. And strains of complaint often make it into the lyrics of contemporary music. (Even Jay-Z once said in “H.O.V.A.” “I’m overcharging labels for what they did to the Cold Crush.”) We would be very interested in seeing any articles, reports, books, or scholarly work that addresses this phenomenon and estimates the lost value therefrom. Categories: Licensing & Permissions; Trademark.
Copycense: Incisive IP.
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