June 28, 2005
Grokster... EFF: MGM v. Grokster
Posted by Wendy at 07:47 PM
June 23, 2005
No Grokster Yet...

You can stop the frenetic reloads of SCOTUSblog -- they report no decision on Grokster or Brand X today, further decisions to come on Monday.

Posted by Wendy at 07:17 AM
June 16, 2005
Of Copyrights and Cakes

BoingBoing posts Clay Shirky's photo of the IP-maximalist warning from his local bakery.

What College Bakery is saying with that sign is "The risk of being sued is so high that we'll give up on helping paying customers create their own cakes." This is Trusted Computing for frosting.

It's amazing to see signs like this. Equally amazing, though, are the comments posted in the boingBoing thread: lawyers write that IP requires companies to "police" their property or lose it; non-lawyers argue that everything other than a direct copy is non-infringing. Neither is true: copyright is never lost by non-enforcement, and trademark demands policing only against confusing designations of source. Non-identical copies can still be derivative works -- either infringing or fair use as the case may be. But at the end of the day, no one's rights are threatened by "unauthorized" cake decorating. As my colleague Jason notes, the whole discussion shows how polarized the "intellectual property" debates have become -- and how far out of touch with ordinary people's expectations.

Posted by Wendy at 04:37 PM
June 15, 2005
Music in Batman Begins

IMAXI just came back from "Batman Begins," a good show even though the men get to have all the fun.

No spoilers here, just two music notes: The opera young Bruce attends with his parents is Arrigo Boito's Mefistofele -- the Faust story seems appropriate; and Mildred J. Hill and Patty S. Hill are credited (cached HTML of a .doc) for the "Happy Birthday" sung to Bruce.

Posted by Wendy at 11:02 PM
June 13, 2005
EFF Answers FAQs for Bloggers

Keep on Blogging!You need to know your rights to defend them. Avoid being chilled with EFF's new legal guide for bloggers.

Posted by Wendy at 03:47 PM
June 10, 2005
How Many "Copies" Does One Disc Hold?

Copyright Prof William Patry addresses derivative works today on The Patry Copyright Blog. He gets to the thorny intersection of the Section 115 compulsory license and newer multimedia discs, such as Super Audio and DualDisc, that contain multiple versions of the same recording.

Issues for compulsory licensing are presented because there is more than one layer on a single Super Audio disc. Two principal questions are: (1) whether some of these layers are merely "transfers" that do not represent new authorship, or, whether some, such as remixes for 5.1 channel surround sound, are derivative works for which a separate compulsory license fee is required unless (2) even though there are as many as three layers on a given disc (all perhaps with different derivative versions), the disc is considered to be one "phonorecord" within the meaning of Section 115, and thus one payment only is required notwithstanding that if the layers were separately released they would require three payments.

These aren't just law exam hypotheticals. About the only thing I've heard make record execs steam nearly as much as "peer-to-peer" is the music publishers' claim that they're entitled to double royalties for "copy protected but computer playable" CDs. The music publishers argue that they're entitled to royalties for each copy of the tracks on disc: one set of CD-audio tracks, often poorly hidden from the computer, and one set of WMA or other DRM'd files "meant" for computer playback. Perhaps end-users should be thanking music publishers, as well as incompatibility problems, for the market failure of copy-protected CDs.

Posted by Wendy at 02:18 PM
June 09, 2005
Open Access Law: Let the Articles Out

As a soon-to-be academic, I'm very pleased to see my alma mater Harvard Journal of Law & Technology on the list of signatories to the newly launched Open Access Law Program, at Science Commons.

The OAL Program encourages law journals to commit to a set of OAL Journal Principles. These Principles require that a journal 1) take only a limited term license, 2) provide a citable copy of the final version of the article, and 3) provide public access to the journal's standard publishing contract. In return, the author promises to attribute first publication to the journal.

Legal scholarship can only gain by wider circulation. Open access makes articles available to readers outside of ivory towers, bringing new participants -- and new ideas -- to the conversation.

Posted by Wendy at 03:27 PM
Code: The Book Club

Don't miss Ed Felten's online book club, over at Freedom to Tinker:

Freedom to Tinker is hosting an online book club discussion of Lawrence Lessig's book Code, and Other Laws of Cyberspace. Lessig has created a wiki (an online collaborative space) with the text of the book, and he is encouraging everyone to edit the wiki to help create a new edition of the book.

Don't forget you can read and help revise for the second edition on the Code wiki.

Posted by Wendy at 03:05 PM
June 07, 2005
A Photofinish for Copyright's Unintended Consequences

A friend of mine has a new baby and, with family spread across the globe, likes to use online photo-printing services to share snapshots of the growing baby. She can create an online album, load up photos from the digital camera, and invite relatives to browse and print their favorites. Except when they can't.

It seems one picture, of baby seated against the background of their blue sofa, looked too "professional" for Ofoto (Kodak). Though she was permitted to upload the photo and copy it to her browser (view it online), when she tried to print a copy to hang in the office, my friend was confronted with a copyright-based denial: "Your order has been cancelled because it appears your order contains one of the following. 1. Professional images...." She could proceed to print only if she signed an affidavit warranting that she was the photographer or had permission from the copyright owner.

Ofoto's form had no place for my friend to indicate, among other possibilities, that she owned the copyright as work-made-for-hire, or that printing would be fair use. She's now looking for a new online printing service.

Yet even that overreaction is better than what Wal-Mart is doing to people who send photos for digital processing, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune: Snap judgments (via BNA):

[Amateur photographer Zee Helmick had taken photos of her son for a audition, and sent them to Wal-Mart for printing. When she went to pick them up, a Wal-Mart clerk told her] "We can't release the pictures to you without a copyright release form signed by the photographer."
The clerk said the photos looked like a professional had taken them, Helmick said. And no matter how much Helmick protested that she, an amateur, had snapped the shots of her son, she said the clerk wouldn't budge.

Helmick didn't have a copyright release with her, so she offered to write a note stating that she had taken the photos. She said Wal-Mart refused even that.

I guess Canon's copyright warning is just one manifestation of a general photo-insanity. Not to mention lawyers going after the free software program Gallery.

Posted by Wendy at 10:53 AM
June 02, 2005
DRM Kills Gadgets

The NYT runs a scathing review of the new Akimbo set-top box. The device purports to offer video-on-demand, but it seems there's no video to speak of, and few viewers demand the patchwork of restrictions on viewing or saving what there is.

Akimbo's library is laughable. As Akimbo's Web site puts it, the list includes AdvenTV, "the first on- demand Turkish station in the U.S."; Veg TV, "vegetarian cooking instruction"; and Skyworks, "helicopter flights over the most spectacular landscapes of Britain."


[And] not only do you pay for the Akimbo box and its monthly $10 fee to get no-name shows, you also have to pay per show. And even then, the show you buy will erase itself after a month! This is piracy paranoia run amok. It's insane to think that anyone would pay so much for cheesy cable reruns and oddities like three-minute how-to videos for new mothers.

To make matters worse, the rental terms are different for every show. Some are free. (Akimbo says 40 percent are free, but that tally includes movie trailers, video blogs, two-minute CNN snippets and other free stuff from the Web.) The rest cost 50 cents to $5; pornographic movies are $10 (parental controls are available). Some stay on your hard drive forever, some self-destruct after 7 or 30 days, and some give you only a two-day window to watch.

To be fair, the fault is less Akimbo's than the studios and TV networks, who'd prefer to wage Pyrrhic war against unauthorized downloading of their content than to offer a convenient, lawful alternative. They'd rather strangle TV tuners with the broadcast flag than see competitive, unfettered devices flourish. Thankfully, Rep. Barton seems to be pushing back for viewers' rights.

Posted by Wendy at 06:21 PM
Download the BBC's Beethoven

For a weeklong tribute to Beethoven, BBC radio will not only be broadcasting his music non-stop, they're offering all nine symphonies for download. Brilliant!

As a column in The Scotsman notes, this is a terrific way for the BBC to introduce a new audience to classical music -- an audience for which its recordings, not Karajan or Bernstein, are the standard.

It may turn out that Noseda's Beethoven becomes the household version to computer-literate millions in China, India or Korea who have never heard of Karajan or Klemperer and could, in any event, never afford the price of a DG or EMI set.

To them, Noseda and the BBC Phil are the bringers of light and arbiters of art. When, two or three decades hence, China is the world's largest industrial power, it will be Noseda's Beethoven that couples recall as their formative revelation, as our grandparents once savoured Toscanini's.

The BBC recordings will apparently be offered for download for a week after they're played on the radio next week. No no word yet on format or license, but I have high hopes for an organization that understands its role as promoting culture, not just commerce. (For more Beeb coolness, see also Creative Archive and BBC Backstage.)

Thanks Danny!

Posted by Wendy at 09:46 AM