Copycense Clippings (Nov. 13 to Nov. 19, 2007)
Happy Thanksgiving, and here’s to the free flow of day-after-Thanksgiving sales information, lest your favorite retailer abuse the Copyright Act by threatening or filing bogus DMCA takedown notices that preempt the online distribution of factual information.
Article of the Week
Greg Sandoval. Prince: The Artist Who Formerly Liked the Internet. News.com. Nov. 13, 2007. A superb article on Prince’s sudden and alarming attempts to control every bit of information about him available on the Web. Prince’s behavior has led to (or is connected to) several legal skirmishes, including the infamous EFF-sponsored Lenz v. Universal litigation, in which a mother is suing a record company after the label asked YouTube to remove a video of the plaintiff’s children dancing to the artist’s 1984 hit “Let’s Go Crazy.” This bizarre behavior comes after Prince freely gave away in the U.K. millions of copies of his most recent album, and after a period in which Prince was one of the artists most likely to search for new business models through the Web.
Prince’s tactics are even more bizarre when one considers he is one of the artists most likely to benefit from a return to a music industry in which artists earn money through performance rather than album sales. He already has a headlining live show in Las Vegas (at a club he owns, mind you) for which tickets are more than $100 apiece. And anyone who has been listening to Prince long enough knows that the shows always are better than the recorded performances. (Hello, the Super Bowl? In the rain?) Prince will make his money, and should have enough to manage a soup-to-nuts operation for distributing his content. So in the end, this all is peculiar … and oh so typically Prince. Categories: Film & Video; Music; Visual Art.
Quote of the Week
Food banks are a dominant institution in this country, and they assert their power at the local and state levels by commanding the attention of people of good will who want to address hunger. Their ability to attract volunteers and to raise money approaches that of major hospitals and universities. While none of this is inherently wrong, it does distract the public and policymakers from the task of harnessing the political will needed to end hunger in the United States. …
We know hunger’s cause — poverty. We know its solution — end poverty. Let this Thanksgiving remind us of that task.
Mark Winne. When Handouts Keep Coming, the Food Line Never Ends. WashingtonPost.com. Nov. 18, 2007.
Nate Anderson. Overly-Broad Copyright Law Has Made USA a “Nation of Infringers.” Ars Technica. Nov. 19, 2007. Highlights an interesting paper from University of Utah law professor John Tehranian, which argues “three key trends bear close observation. First, copyright law is increasingly relevant to the daily life of the average American. Second, this
growing pertinence has precipitated a heightened public consciousness over copyright issues. Finally, these two facts have magnified the vast disparity between copyright law and copyright norms and, as a result, have highlighted the need for
reform.” Ars, itself, ask two important (somewhat rhetorical) questions: “What better way could there be to create a nation of constant lawbreakers than to instill in that nation a contempt for its own laws? And what better way to instill contempt than to hand out rights so broad that most Americans simply find them absurd?” Categories: Bundle of Rights; Research.
Asher Moses. Networks Want to Nobble Ad-Skipping. The Age. Nov. 19, 2007. One sign the copyright system is totally out of wack in all sectors of the globe: the broadcast television industry in Australia claims copyright over factual information like television listings, then says companies that make TiVo-like devices can’t have that information because it will help consumers skip commercials. Categories: DRM & Copy Restriction; Film & Video; International.
Randall Stross. What to Do When Goliaths Roar? The New York Times. Nov. 18, 2007. Just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday, a summary of large retailers’ copyright abuse in keeping so-called “Black Friday” (day after Thanksgiving) sales information off the Web. Categories: DMCA; Web & Online.
Iain Thomson. Obama Plans Major Patent Shake Up. vnunet.com. Nov. 16, 2007. Presidential campaigns have become similar to the Christmas buying season: earlier, endless, and mostly uneventful. All we think about when we get word of a debate is the trombone-plunger sound that reminds us of Charlie Brown’s teacher’s voice. But Barack Obama’s technology plan (.pdf) acknowledges (and proposes reasonable solutions to) some of the nation’s pressing technology and intellectual property policy issues. (Obama also expounded on this plan during a visit to Google.) When we read statements like “Barack Obama believes we need to update and reform our copyright and patent systems to promote civic discourse, innovation and investment while ensuring that intellectual property owners are fairly treated,” however, we start hearing that voice again. Categories: Politics & Government; Patent.
The Canadian Press. Access Copyright Sues Staples/Business Depot for Copyright Infringement. Nov. 16, 2007. One of the largest Canadian writer and publisher organizations in Canada alleges Staples was allowing too many people to hit that big red “Easy” button at retail copiers. Michael Geist is puzzled at Access Copyright’s cause of action. Access Copyright, of course, is the organizational creator behind the Captain Copyright propaganda campaign, which it pulled recently because “the current climate around copyright issues will not allow a project like this one to be successful.” No, rather, the project was unsuccessful because it was propaganda (not education) and consumers smelled a rat. Categories: Bundle of Rights; Cases & Litigation; Infringement; International.
SiliconValley.com (via Associated Press). U.N. Internet Forum Ends With U.S. Control of Core Systems Still at Issue. Nov.15, 2007. The largest controversy is Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers’ control over the global domain name registry. ICANN is a California non-profit corporation; the U.S. government retains veto power over its action. This means America legally and technically controls the entire method through which persons and entities register domain names (which have trademark value). Through this arrangement, one also can argue the U.S. rhetorically controls the domain name system, since the system tends to reinforce English language domain names over domains in other languages. This is increasingly problematic in a global world, on a global network, where China and other non-English speaking countries soon will be more populous than the United States. Categories: International; Politics & Government; Trademark; Web & Online.
Plagiarism Today. Is Trademark the New Copyright? Nov. 15, 2007. Interesting article that discusses trademark’s strong, yet understated role in an environment where virtually every online act constitutes a potential copyright infringement. This begs an interesting doctrinal question: If virtually every digital or virtual act is a potential copyright infringement (as Tim Wu observed recently), and copyright owners can decide exclusively what is or is not copyright infringement based on their decision to sue (or, more simply and cost effectively, file a DMCA takedown notice), then can anyone reasonably state the copyright retains its Constitutional balance? To take it a step further, if common digital or virtual acts always implicate copyright, and that implication always arises because those acts are common societal acts, then it seems the law is inconsistent with society. Based upon this narrow reasoning, what good does copyright do in the 21st century? Using this line of reasoning, trademark (and licensing, if you think about it more closely) may be the preferred dominant form of online intellectual property protection. Categories: Open Source; Trademark.
International Herald Tribune (via Associated Press). Head of UN Patent Agency to Quit After Row Over Alleged Falsified Documents. Nov. 15, 2007. Kamal Idris had been due to leave the World Intellectual Property Organization in 2009. Idris is accused of using a false birth date in his WIPO personnel file, which affected retirement benefits payout and eligibility. Categories: International; Patent.
MacUser. Music Boss: We Were Wrong To Go To War With Consumers. Nov. 14, 2007. Warner Music chairman Edgar Bronfman, who has issued scathing criticisms of iTunes and file sharing, gets religion and concedes that the industry’s litigation campaign against consumers for the allegedly illegal downloading and distribution of music files was, in fact, a bad business move. Others, however, note Bronfman’s statements may be more strategic than candid and unguarded. News.com’s News Blog notes Warner Music Group has reported sizable losses to the SEC for its last two quarterly reports. And razor sharp William Patry charitably points out that “Mr. Bronfman’s remarks that it was ‘inadvertent’ that the industry went to war with consumers is, however, unlikely to be met with unanimous agreement.” Categories: File Sharing, P2P & Downloads; Music.
The Pervasive Datacenter (News.com). Revoking Open Source. Nov. 14, 2007. This brief, but informative article poses (and tentatively answers) the question, Can a computer programmer withdraw an open source license (or other open license, such as Creative Commons) and claim copyright on his code once he pledges that code to the free and open community? Categories: Computers; Licensing & Permissions; Open Source.
Bits (The New York Times). Bill Would Make Colleges Copyright Cops. Nov. 13, 2007. Part of the massive 747-page bill (.pdf) would amend Chapter 28 of the federal education law to require colleges and universities to inform students about “institutional policies and sanctions related to copyright infringement, including an annual disclosure that explicitly informs students that unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, including unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, may subject the students to civil and criminal liabilities.” The bill also would require schools to “develop a plan for offering alternatives to illegal downloading or peer-to-peer distribution of intellectual property as well as a plan to explore technology-based deterrents to prevent such illegal activity.” Categories: Education; File Sharing, P2P & Downloads; Legislation & Regulation.
Frederick Frommer. Lobbying Stalls Generic Drug Legislation. Associated Press. Nov. 13, 2007. The pharmaceutical industry has fiercely lobbied against the Preserve Access to Affordable Generics Act (S. 316), a bill that seeks to prohibit brand name drug companies from compensating generic drug companies to delay the entry of a generic drug into the market. This practice is called “reverse payments,” which the drug companies seek to continue, and which the Federal Trade Commission and others claim is presumptively anticompetitive. Law firm Jones Day makes available an issue primer (.pdf). Categories: Antitrust; Legislation & Regulation; Patent; Scientific & Medical.
Cory Doctorow. Warhol Is Turning In His Grave. Guardian Unlimited. Nov. 13, 2007. Boing Boing columnist Cory Doctorow plumbs the absurdity of “No Photograhy” signage around an exhibition of Warhol, one of the most rabid and renown visual samplers of his time. Categories: Visual Art.
Kevin J. Martin. The Daily Show. The New York Times. Nov. 13, 2007. The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission proposes to save newspapers by changing long established media ownership rules that prohibit an entity from owning a newspaper and a broadcast TV or radio station in the same media market. “If we believe that newspaper journalism plays a unique role in the functioning of our democracy, then we cannot turn a blind eye to the financial condition in which these companies find themselves,” he writes. Instead of tampering with media ownership rules, which would reinstitute monopoly power, why don’t newspaper companies remove themselves from the capital markets and become non-profit institutions, as Columbia Journalism Review has suggested in 2004, and more recently last month? Categories: Broadcasting & Journalism.
SiliconValley.com. (via Associated Press). Singer Lyle Lovett Tells Congress Performers Should Be Paid for Radio Play. Nov. 13, 2007. Lovett continues the drumbeat that calls for radio to pay royalties to music performers. (Under the current system, radio pays royalties to songwriting agencies such as ASCAP and BMI, who then distribute royalties to songwriters after taking an approximate 20 percent administrative overhead fee.) We’ll go out on a limb here: hell will freeze over before radio pays performance royalties. Categories: Broadcasting & Journalism; Music.
Rewind: Stories We Missed
(Interesting stories we noticed after we sent previous editions to press.)
Threat Level. Encrypted E-Mail Company Hushmail Spills to Feds. Nov. 7, 2007. When your business model is based upon ensuring end-to-end e-mail privacy, the technological equivalent of informing to the government is a problem. Many others have reported this story, but Wired’s coverage includes an in-depth interview with Hushmail‘s chief technical officer. Categories: Privacy & Security.
Daniel H. Pink. Japan, Ink: Inside the Manga Industrial Complex. Wired. Oct. 22, 2007. Tales of alleged copyright infringement in Japan, which hampers the domestic popularity of rabidly (and internationally) popular manga books. Categories: Books; Infringement; International; Visual Art.
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