Copycense Clippings 1.10
So much news, but this week, so little time. Hence, we present an abbreviated edition of Copycense Clippings.
Article & Quote of the Week
“This fight isn’t primarily about consumers and their rights, and its outcome won’t necessarily make things better for Internet users.” — Wall Street Journal columnist Walt Mossberg commenting on Viacom’s copyright infringement lawsuit against Google.
Walter S. Mossberg. Congress Must Make Clear Copyright Laws To Protect Consumers. WSJ.com. March 22, 2007. There is really no new “news” here in Mossberg’s column. We note the article, however, because it is continuing evidence that several technology and business writers affiliated with mainstream media outlets continue to complain about the tilt, interpretation, and occasional lunacy of domestic copyright laws.
These writers — who include Mossberg, The Washington Post‘s Rob Pegoraro, The New York Times‘ Saul Hansell and Jeff Leeds, and even The Chronicle of Higher Education‘s Scott Carlson — have, with varying degrees of journalistic stridency, turned a more critical eye to how copyright interferes with digital work and the digital lifestyle. Further, they are noting the correlation between copyright laws and the behind-the-scenes, industry-led lobbying efforts that create what some might characterize as a stacked deck.
Unfortunately, much of the writers’ coverage (along with that of their parent institutions) continues to lend tacit or explicit support to the process by which copyright laws are created. Mossberg’s column essentially says the byproduct of the legislative and political processes — copyright laws — is unfair and occasionally wrong, but that byproduct would be fairer to Joe and Jane Citizen if they more rigorously followed the process.
In other words, write your Congressman.
We suggest an alternative thought. Maybe Joe and Jane long have known that the process is broken and have consciously chosen to register their dissatisfaction with the process by ignoring it. This may be one reason why voter turnout is so consistently low in various elections.
We submit that one of the main reasons copyright law is unfair to consumers is because the system that produces these laws is broken, perhaps irreparably. Until we have an environment where parties are barred from scripting Congressional testimony that supports aggressive copyright legislation, for example; or barred from providing the “evidence” by which the U.S. Trade Representative “proves” “piracy” occurring abroad, the system will continue to be “broken” — at least as it applies to Joe or Jane.
And increasingly, it seems Joe and Jane are saying, “If it’s broke, why bother?”
- Jeff Leeds. The Album, a Commodity in Disfavor. The New York Times. March 26, 2007. The Times’ lead music writer analyzes the demise of the long player in the age of iTunes. Categories: Music.
- Anne Broache. Vonage Ordered to Stop Using Verizon VoIP Patents. News.com. March 23, 2007. In a statement on March 26, Vonage officials called their demise “greatly exaggerated,” claiming the 26 percent drop in the company’s stock was an overreaction to a permanent injunction issued Friday by a federal court judge. In this case, though, it seems the markets may be right. What will be interesting is if Verizon uses the ruling to buy Vonage, and fold the service into its existing VoiceWing telephony offering. Doing so would increase legal and business pressure on Skype. Categories: Cases & Litigation; Infringement; Patents; Web & Online.
- Theresa Agovino. Appeals Court Reverses Patent Ruling. BusinessWeek (via The Associated Press). March 22, 2007. After a federal appeals court reversed a trial court’s ruling that held it infringed on Pfizer’s patent, Canadian generic drug maker Apotex Inc. can begin making generic versions of the drug Norvasc in September. Categories: Cases & Litigation; International; Open Access; Patent.
- American Library Association. Jaszi Honored with 2007 Patterson Copyright Award. March 22, 2007. The ALA will award Peter Jaszi, a Professor of Law at American University’s Washington College of Law, with the L. Ray Patterson Copyright Award at the ALA annual conference in Washington, D.C. on Monday, June 25, 2007. Jaszi was instrumental in creating the American University’s Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Law Clinic and is currently serving as Director of the clinic. Categories: Events; Research.
- Declan McCullagh. Net Porn Ban Faces Another Legal Setback. News.com. March 22, 2007. A federal trial court finds the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) overly broad and would “chill a substantial amount of constitutionally protected speech for adults.” Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig posits (.mov) a different view: perhaps public laws should block “harmful to minors” content before private censorware does it. Categories: Cases & Litigation; Law, Legislation & Regulation.
- Eric Goldman. KinderStart v. Google Dismissed — With Sanctions Against KinderStart’s Counsel. March 20, 2007. KinderStart felt that their page rank was wrong, which is kind of funny since Google’s page rank is an algorithm and not someone physically going in and saying “Hmmm…I don’t like KinderStart’s website so I am going to rank them at 50.” Kind of silly. Apparently the judge felt the same way since he dismissed the case. Categories: Cases & Litigation; Web & Online.
- Defective By Design. New Online Music Store with No DRM: Amie Street. March 19, 2007. Is this the future of the online music store? Amie Street is set up so that new music is free but the price goes up as the number of downloads goes up with the a maximum price of $0.99 per song. And then vice versa, as the number of downloads decreases so will the price. It is certainly an interesting business model and one that makes sense. The DRM-free songs will be from independent labels. Categories: Business & Commerce; DRM & Copy Protection; Music; Web & Online.
- ArsTechnica. Infringing Videos on iFilm Could Cause Problems for Viacom. March 19, 2007. It appears that Viacom started pointing fingers before cleaning out their closet. One of Viacom’s biggest complaints against YouTube is that they don’t have more stringent tools in place to block or find and remove copyrighted materials. It’s funny that they are harping on YouTube about something that they apparently don’t do themselves. Categories: Film, Infringement, Web & Online.
- The Patry Copyright Blog. Heroes of Infringement? March 19, 2007. Someone is finally bringing suit against a TV station for using one of their ideas. I seems that the producer of “Crossing Jordan” and “Heroes” likes to borrow real situations to put in his show. Can anyone say “Law & Order”? Categories: Broadcasting & Journalism; Bundle of Rights; Cases & Litigation.
- Seltzer.org. The Uses of the DMCA: Viacom v. YouTube. March 17, 2007. Brooklyn Law professor Wendy Seltzer opines on how she thinks Viacom’s lawsuit against Google is not just about infringement, but a surreptitious way to broaden the scope of the DMCA. Also, note the tortured explanation of the NFL legal department, as represented by a spokesperson, about why it is allowed to send as many takedown notices as it wants. Categories: Cases & Litigation; DMCA; Web & Online.
- Charles Babcock. The Controversy Over GPL 3. InformationWeek. March 17, 2007. A good recap of the brewing and increasingly contentious debate over the draft of the GNU General Public License. Categories: Computers & Technology; Licensing & Permissions; Open Source.
- American Library Association. House Passes Open Government Legislation, Senate Introduces Companion Bill. March 15, 2007. Members of the largest library representative organization in America are rejoicing since the House passed the Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 2007 bill (H.R. 1309). This bill basically lessens the restrictions that Attorney General Ashcroft imposed in 2001. The ALA is requesting that members send a note of thanks to their representative if they voted for the bill. Categories: Law & Regulation; Libraries & Information Science.
- Jeff Cox. Internet Radio to Fight Royalty Ruling. CNNMoney.com. March 15, 2007. While terrestrial radio stations pay nothing to broadcast music, under the Copyright Royalty Board‘s new guidelines (.pdf) issued March 2, online broadcasters must pay each time a listener hears a song, at a rate that began at 0.08 cent in 2006 and rises to 0.19 cent in 2010. Those royalties are in addition to a $500 minimum payment for each Web channel. National Public Radio is the first to challenge the guidelines. Categories: Broadcasting & Journalism; Law, Legislation & Regulation; Music; Web & Online.
- Reuters. Starbucks Launches Its Own Record Label. CNNMoney.com. March 12, 2007. Starbucks has been moving into entertainment steadily for at least two years now, a trend we noted last year. So their launch of a record label should not be a surprise. In many ways, Starbucks is the new McDonald’s: real estate and lifestyle company masquerading as a coffee house. This move further extends their movement into lifestyle products and services. Categories: Music.
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