Category Archives: copyright

Recording industry in England

John Naughton had a nice column last week in The Observer (at the guardian) trashing the British Phonographic Industry. Triggered by their spokesperson’s statement that “For years, ISPs have built a business on other people’s music,” Naughton awarded it “Fatuous Statement of the Month” and went on to excoriate their arrogance and the legislation they’re pushing to mandate ISPs to deal with copyright infringement. And properly Naughton pointed out that “ISPs have indeed ‘built a business’. They’ve done it by providing an internet connection for upwards of a billion individuals and businesses across the planet.”

But what I thought was funny was the spectacle of the phonographic industry, which represents record companies, complaining about someone else “building a business on other people’s music”. The irony kills.

craft and copyright

Friend and colleague Wendy Seltzer has a new column in Craft Magazine about copyright. Copyright has been increasingly applied by crafters and craft-pattern companies to craft patterns, in “shrinkwrap” style licenses. I’m greatly pleased to see some attention to this issue! Thanks, Wendy!

Related reading:
* idahobeauty writing about the impact of copyright on quilting culture
* RePost – art & originality

agh – LA Times on “piracy”


This LA Times article
reports on consumer attitudes in LA about “piracy” of goods. Of course, the author (Richard Verrier) seems mortally confused about the differences between trademark and copyright.

Although previous studies have documented piracy’s toll on the Los Angeles economy, the U.S. Chamber report is the first to focus on the attitudes and behavior of consumers here who knowingly buy fake goods, including bootleg movies, illegally copied CDs, knockoff handbags and counterfeit auto parts.

“The study confirmed what we already knew: That the buying of these products is widespread and is viewed as a victimless crime,” said Caroline Joiner, executive director of the chamber’s global anti-counterfeiting and piracy initiative.

Of course, since trademark laws are designed to protect the consumer against confusion, if the consumer isn’t confused then there is neither crime nor victim. That doesn’t stop the government from trying to stop imports from China of counterfeit goods, but is this really the best way to spend our money? Wouldn’t we all really rather our good-inspection dollars be spent on looking for lead in children’s toys and poisons in our cat food? (Or, hell, how about bombs and suitcase nukes?)

The bottom line is that companies treat their trademarks like property, and work very hard to get governments to do the same. Traditionally trademark enforcement has been handled by the trademark owners, as it should be. Trademark owners have cost/benefit analyses to apply to enforcement. So they take on only the serious threats, and make reasonable decisions about what to pursue and not to pursue.

Shifting those costs to the public — which is what trademark (and copyright) owners want to do — means that companies owners can be as persnickety as they want about their rights, regardless of the human cost. Hence the cost to taxpayers of, what, probably thousands of dollars in pressing criminal charges against a 19 year old girl for recording 20 seconds of a film in a movie theater. (She ended up pleading guilty, by the way, paying a $71 fine and having a criminal record for at least a year.) She was prosecuted under a new Virginia bootleg law, intended to beef up federal copyrights with state criminal law.

But the public benefit to putting public funds toward policing private trademarks is negligible, even less than the putative benefit of policing private copyrights. Again, trademarks are designed to protect the consumer against being defrauded. If consumers are happily and knowingly buying knock-offs and counterfeits, then no consumers are being defrauded. There is no public good to justify use of public funds and the full weight of the state’s mechanisms of criminal law against vendors or buyers. While to my knowledge no state has tried to criminalize the purchase of counterfeit trademark goods, I will be wholly unsurprised to see such legislation sometime in the next ten years. Combining the government’s ramping up of trademark & copyright enforcement with the trend in legislation to get at tertiary support of illegal activities is not much of a reach.

Consider this ominous quote, for instance:

Nonetheless, Joiner drew encouragement from another finding: Seventy-two percent of the respondents believed counterfeiting and piracy laws should be stricter, and 90% said they wouldn’t have acquired the fake products if they knew doing so supported organized crime.

So, can we now look to Hollywood to tell us that the mob is behind filesharing? They’ve already linked P2P to child porn and terrorism so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.

Suggesting that Americans “get” IP law but just aren’t that interested in following it, Justin Hughes at Cardozo opined that “Most Americans do understand copyright and trademark laws ….” Not if crappy news reporting is where they get their information, they don’t. And while the IP policy cognoscenti may argue back & forth about the benefits and costs of IP, the lobbyists for Hollywood are happy for Americans to not get the full picture. The US Chamber of Commerce (which commissioned this survey from Gallup) might like to consider asking Americans, not just whether or not they think stronger C/TM laws are in order, but to do some ranking of customs & law enforcement priorities: bootleg purses? or lead-paint on toys. crappy recordings of crappy movies? or mad cow disease-infected beef.

reading today: imprecatory prayer & native iphone apps

I’ve been following the news about Wiley Drake and if you haven’t, you should too. Drake endorsed a Republican candidate (Huckabee, whose campaign has distanced itself from Drake) using church stationery and resources, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State did what it does in such situations — call for an investigation of the church’s tax-exempt status. When Wiley found out he called for his followers to engage in “imprecatory prayer”, calling for the death of various Americans United officials. Sweet. Of course, AU officials might not take it so lightly, since AU is comprised not so much of the godless like myself, as of the god-ridden (albeit of the liberal or classically US founding fathers variety). I doubt AU folks are very worried that God(s) will take Drake seriously, but it’s gotta feel a little unnerving and upsetting. Like when you complain to your boss about a coworker and then the coworker one-ups you and complains to the boss’s boss about you, and asks that you be cursed, smited, and fired, and that your kids be cursed, too.

And, Eli Jacobwitz posted about native apps for the iphone. I confess that when I first clicked-through I thought it was going to be, I don’t know, a rolodex of tribal council members, or maybe a Cherokee-language something, or a — well, you get the idea. I surrender my geek creds for that but I haven’t been reading much geek news lately. Of course, the article was about an little-n native app, but it has some good links & opinion about the wisdom of Apple’s keeping the iPhone closed.

good news in SCO case

The District Court of Utah has issued a decision and order finding that SCO does not own parts of Linux (D.Utah 2007/8/10). The lengthy litigation (funded in part with Microsoft’s investments in SCO) was the only serious shadow hanging over Linux, although the claims seemed bogus when examined closely. (I also liked this chart that geekly picked over the possible harms to linux.) It’s good to see Judge Dale Kimball come to the same conclusion.

The D. Court of Utah website was down yesterday and for some reason has labeled all SCO filings and orders as available only through PACER (a fee-based access service to public court filings). However, groklaw posted the decision.

arrested for 20-second recording

Some poor kid took a short clip of the Transformers movie, and was hauled out and arrested. The theater (Regal Cinemas Ballston Common 12, in Arlington, Virginia) is pressing charges that could land this 19yo in prison for a year for the 20-second film clip. She recorded the clip to show her little brother, because she thought it would get him excited to go see the movie, too.

I think the only good outcome of this is that the theater has lost years of revenue from this young woman because in addition to trying to put her in prison for a year, they have banned her from their theater for life. Hopefully her friends will boycott the theater on her behalf too.

If you have any thoughts about the ludicrous nature of this prosecution, feel free to share them with the theater at (703) 527-9730; Regal Cinemas at 877-TELLREGAL (1-877-835-5734); or the Arlington, VA, Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney at (703) 228-4410.

Her trial date is set for August 21. She’s being prosecuted under a new Virginia statute that criminalizes using cameras in movie theaters.

Further reading:

  • Washington Post 8/2
  • USA9.com
  • excess copyright
  • Two commenters on slashfilm note that “Regal offers employees, most of whom make minimum wage, $10,000 for catching a ‘pirate’. I’ve never heard of anyone getting it.”1 and “the MPAA gives a cash reward (Around $500 last time I checked) to whoever reports someone for using any kind of recording device in a move theater”2

cross-posted at sivacracy

update 8/9:

  • free culture NYU calls for a boycott.
  • a commenter posted the email address for the VP of investor relations: ddelaria at regalcinemas.com
  • a commenter at sivacracy suggests that people at arlington do a mass protest and everybody record 20-second video clips.

more linkblogging

why? because i keep seeing interesting things but don’t have enough time to get all discursive on ’em.

in the realm of stupid, check out ASCAP’s contribution to the “let’s teach our kids the copyright corporations’ view of copyright” animated video wars: “Donny the Downloader“.

spam subject of the day: apocalyptic daze dinnerware. i like it because, (A), how cool is the idea of an “apocalyptic daze”. and (B), it’s a modifier for dinnerware! like a cool new pattern from noritake.

crossing my screen today

How to give a great man-to-man hug — a hilarious video from the developing world of masculinity studies. I went to it on the off-chance that it was actually funny, and was well-rewarded for my optimism.

Kitty not happy tshirts at work: The salon.com column “dear cary” handles various ethics and manner type issues, and I read it occasionally when spending a leisurely morning catching up on news. Today’s column was out-of-the-ordinary great: a meditation on the nature of work, especially non-democratic work.

Suellen Parker, an artist, was profiled at the NYT Magazine in a little video segment about her recent NYT Magazine cover. My partner1, a reliable spotter of intellectual property issues in the news, called my attention to it. Parker’s art for the NYT cover worked like this: She built a clay model; then shot photos of real life models to sculpt the expression; shot her clay model; then took bits & pieces of real life people photos (lips, eyes), to photoshop her clay model together with a bunch of other stuff. Totally fascinating, and M & I had a fun morning conversation about whether Parker only used her own photographs; had she gotten model releases for the photoshopping use, or just for modeling expression in sculpture; and so on. As far as copyright goes, clearly a fair use, but it’s an interesting example of the sort of thing that causes problems for copyright absolutists. (Like copyright image-recognition filters ….?)

… Our conversation also touched on gender issues. Watching how Parker presents her work, and how the NYT frames it — edits it, what music they choose for the background — and how we receive the video, we wondered how it would be different if the artist were a man. How much internalized sexism do we have in evaluating this artist? Would we see her as more “artiste” and less “craftsperson” if her voice had been his deep tenor voice? Would the NYT have chosen a more dramatic background music? A recent study suggests that we begin absorbing gender roles even as toddlers — how deeply embedded are gender roles in our construction of the world? Pretty damn.

And then there was this cool geekery — a video about new technologies that combine social information (like flickr, tagging, etc.) with new photo viewing & recognition technologies. (seadragon & photosynth). The less cool end of this fabulous flickr futurism: Combining photos from flickr with all the knowledge of the world & 3D visualization sounds fun and all, but flickr censors images for people based on their government. What will it look like when we combine flickr’s image censorship with AT&T’s proposed network filtering with google’s youtube video filtering? I see lots of blank spots in the brave new web 2.0 world.


 
 
 
 
 


1. My partner, legally recognized as such for at least a few more years. Thanks, Massachusetts!

press the piracy button now, please

Regal Entertainment Group has designed a little device so movie-goers can wirelessly complain about things that are affecting their experience, plus, of course, PIRACY!

New York Magazine had a great idea about what to do with the device at Pirates of the Caribbean 3:

First of all, we’re amused by the button marked PIRACY. We know we don’t care whether the person next to us is videotaping the screen. But how great would it be to head into a Regal theater, request one of the devices and a ticket to this past weekend’s No. 1 movie, and then spend two hours pressing the PIRACY button over and over and over, yelling “There it is again!”

NYT on copyright, again

After the silly editorial by Mark Helprin, who has obviously been confused by an absolutist romantic view of “property”, the NYT published 7 or 8 letters all in substantive disagreement. Now their theater section looks at another problem that copyright terms can cause: over-control of casting decisions by playwright’s heirs.

Since Bernard-Marie Koltès died in 1989 at 41, his reputation as a playwright has continued to grow. In February, for the first time, one of his plays, “Le Retour au Désert,” entered the repertory of the Comédie-Française, the historic Paris theater popularly known as the House of Molière.

Yet soon after Muriel Mayette’s production of the play opened there, Mr. Koltès’s brother, François, who owns the copyright to his works, ordered that it be taken off the stage on June 7 after just 30 performances. The reason? The Algerian character, Aziz, is not being played by an Algerian, as stipulated by the playwright.

irrational economics @ the DOJ

The OECD is releasing a study confirming that entertainment & IP industries puff up their “lost to piracy” figures — by a lot. Actual losses are under $200 billion worldwide per year. The industry estimates at $600 to $1000 billion or more per year.

… And is there any evidence-based lawmaking afoot? No, there is not. Apparently the DOJ is even more of an evidence-free and knowledge-free zone than we knew. Gonzalez is pressing Congress to pass the “Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2007”. (Perhaps if he focused more on his pressing scandals and less on unnecessary bills he would “misspeak” less often.)

The IPPA recycles a lot of bad proposals from last year’s similar bill, which generally step up the pace of criminalizing copyright infringement, permit more wiretaps (don’t they have enough?), etc. There is a crime of life imprisonment for using pirated software if you recklessly cause or attempt to cause death. The DOJ gave an example of a hospital using pirated software instead of paying for it. … And this would lead to death, how? Never mind. Moving on … More wiretaps, more computer seizures, criminalize “attempts” to infringe, bigger penalties for circumventing TPMs, require Homeland Security to call the RIAA whenever Customs sees bootleg CDs. Bigger penalties of money and jailtime. The War on Drugs is leading by a nose, but the War on IP Piracy is gaining rapidly in the Race of Follies.

The bill was amusingly described by Declan McCullough as “the most dramatic rewrite of copyright law since a 2005 measure dealing with pre-release piracy”. I think that our diminished standards of drama and frequency suggest just how often we’re having to fend off ridiculous bills being pushed by the industry and/or some discredited government hack.

Last year’s version was so soundly decried that it didn’t go anywhere, and we can hope we’re as lucky this year.

9th Circuit again: P10 v. Google

The Ninth Circuit has weighed in on Perfect 10 v. Google (captioned Perfect 10 v. Amazon.com on the 9th Circuit case download website). The opinion is by Ikuta, who (IMO) got it right on the Fair Housing Council decision yesterday. It’s a long opinion, and I’m still working through it. But here’s a summary of holdings from my first quick scan:

  • Liability for thumbnails — P10 made out a prima facie case of direct liability for Google’s display of thumbnails (affirming lower court) (but see fair use below)
  • No direct liability for display on linking to full-size images (affirming lower court): Specifically,

    “While in-link linking and framing may cause some computer users to believe they are viewing a single Google webpage, the Copyright Act, unlike the Trademark Act, does not protect a copyright holder against acts that cause consumer confusion.” (at 5772, pdf p.19)

  • No direct liability for display of cache (affirming lower court)
  • No direct liability for distribution of full-size image (affirming lower court) (distinguishing Hotaling v. LDS (4th 1997) & Napster)
  • Fair use for thumbnails & vacated preliminary injunction for Google’s thumbnails (reversing lower court)
    • purpose & character of the use: Google’s use was so highly transformative (“significantly transformative nature of Google’s search engine, particularly in light of its public benefit” at 5782/PDF p.29) that it outweighs superseding & commercial uses; the superseding uses were trivial because no evidence that downloads for mobile phone use had taken place. District Court’s determination that use of thumbnails in AdSense partner direction was not significant. Instead of weighing “slightly” in favor of P10 as the District Court found, this favor weighs for Google. (reversing Dist Ct)
    • nature of the copyrighted work: photos were creative but previously published; this factor weighs “only slightly” to P10 (affirming Dist Ct)
    • amount & substantiality: did not weigh in favor of either party because reasonable in light of the purpose of a search engine (affirming Dist Ct)
    • effect on the market: no effect of thumbnails for full-size images (affirming Dist Ct); effect of Google’s thumbnails for P10’s cell phone market “remains hypothetical”; so this factor favors neither party (reversing Dist Ct)
  • Possibility of contributory infringement & enunciated a new test (reversing & remanding) Citing Grokster, Napster, and Netcom, the court found the Dist Ct had erred in assuming that Google did not materially contribute to infringing conduct.

    “Applying our test, Google could be held contributorily liable if it had knowledge that infringing Perfect 10 images were available using its search engine, could take simple measures to prevent further damage to Perfect 10’s copyrighted works, and failed to take such steps.” (at 5793 / PDF p.40)

    Remanded for consideration of “whether Perfect 10 would likely succeed in establishing that Google was contributorily liable for in-line linking to full-size infringing images under the test enunciated today.”

  • No vicarious liability (affirming District Court)
  • Remand to do DMCA 512 analysis: The 9th said because there is now a possibility of contributory infringement, the District Court now has to do the DMCA 512(d) analysis to see whether Google met the qualifications for takedowns. The issues are whether, as P10 alleges, Google was not expeditious in takedown; and whether, as Google alleges, P10’s notice was not sufficient and did not comply with provisions.
  • Amazon.com: No direct infringement for linking to Google’s thumbnails or P10’s fullsize images, and no vicarious liability (affirming District Court). However, the Napster “knowledge” test (“actual knowledge that specific infringing material is available using its system”) popped up here as in Google, and so 9th remanded to consider this contributory infringement and the DMCA safe harbor.

….update 5/18: Thinking about the decision some more, I still really appreciate the “public benefit” aspect of the language that I previously highlighted. Probably not something that most artists will be able to rely on, but very helpful for information and indexing resources — so librarians can breathe a sigh of relief.

Various other scholars & interested parties have pointed out their own highlights:

  • Eric Goldman posted a brief comment on the case, pointing out that the court held that a plaintiff must disprove fair use, which Joe Gratz also pointed out. I was also amused to see his take on the case as difficult to teach.
  • Joe Gratz listed several points of interest, including the public interest point that I like.
  • John Ottovani posted also, pointing out that the court clarified that Section 512 is available for direct as well as contributory infringement. Hmm.
  • Jason Schultz @ EFF calls the decision a “huge victory” and parses out some of his insights.
  • Rebecca Tushnet points out the possible significance of footnote 8 for the Google Booksearch lawsuit, and also speculates on the transformativeness of search engines versus parodies.
  • The Washington Post covered the case too.

Wiley copyright imbroglio at science blog

Last week a copyright imbroglio broke out at a science blog which had written a post critiquing mainstream coverage of a science article; the blog had posted a figure from the paper to demonstrate bad science writing in the mainstream media. Wiley sent a C&D; the blogger agreed to take the material down (actually took the data and recreated the figures herself) but posted about the incident; a blogstorm erupted (see also coturnix); THEN Wiley apologized … and the blogger as far as I can tell just left her own recreated figures on the blog post, and who can blame her? It’s a (relative) pain in the ass loading images on a blog.

So some good will come out of this incident: that a bajillion people will have heard the words “fair use” and been inspired to participate in discussions about open content, fair use, control of information, etc.

I really, really hope that people do *not* take the lesson that if the publisher had not apologized and “granted permission” that the original figures would have had to stay down. This was a classic example of the chilling effect that comes from cease and desist letters. In other words, a classic example of the growth of copyright paranoia.

The law is actually on the blogger’s side on this issue. That blogger would have been well within rights to completely ignore the C&D to begin with because this was as fair use (as many people pointed out). Wiley would have then had to do a s.512 notice to the ISP (scienceblogs.com) which would also have been within its rights to ignore the notice. They could have then filed a 512(f) suit against Wiley for a bad faith s.512 notice, and EFF or any number of attorneys would have been delighted to take them on as pro bono clients, I’m certain.

My point: These incidents raise questions about the growth of copyright and whether copyright should be usefully applied to certain kinds of knowledge and how public investments in scientific research should be monitored. But they also raise simple questions of the abuse and misuse of copyright law — misuse which is illegal in some circumstances and can cost the misuser a lot of money.

I’d like to see in-house counsel advising their “junior staff” about the possible liability for misusing its copyrights. A few more high-profile cases might put that in their list of important topics to cover in their in-house trainings.

shaolin trademarks and copyright as generic for IP

In an SFgate story about conflicts between folks trying to take Shaolin practice in different directions, I spotted this:

In recent years, the main temple’s abbot, Shi YongXin, has tried to copyright the Shaolin name. He’s also been criticized for commercializing the faith. YongXin gave his approval to Ho’s venture in San Francisco.

Really? I thought. Tried to copyright the name? Surely they mean trademark …. A little googling found this China Daily article from a couple of years ago (2004/9/28). I quote in its entirety because virtually every single paragraph illustrates the wacky confusion:

Shaolin monks in hand-to-hand copyright battle
Updated: 2004-09-28 09:53

The monks of China’s Shaolin temple are not just good at kung fu but also increasingly agile at using copyright rules to protect their name from rip-offs, state media reported.

The 1,500 year-old temple, known as the cradle of China’s martial arts, recently set up the Henan Shaolin Temple Industrial Development Co., whose main purpose is to protect the temple’s intellectual property rights, Xinhua news agency said.

“Everyone just wants to make some profits from the name, totally regardless of the integral image of Shaolin Temple,” Shaolin abbot Shi Yongxin told the agency.

More than 1,000 brands containing “Shaolin” have been registered without the approval of the temple in the United States, Japan and Europe, Shi said.

Since its start, the new company has been engaged in feverish activity, registering nearly 100 Shaolin-related brands in China and has applied to register “Shaolin” brands in over 100 countries, Xinhua said.

A survey by the China Trademark and Patent Law Office found that many countries were competing to register their own trademarks of Shaolin or Shaolin temple, state media reported previously.

On the west coast of the United States alone, there are three Shaolin temples. In Europe, Shaolin temples can be found in Vienna and Budapest.

with a photo captioned:

A young monk of China’s Shaolin temple demonstrating his skills. The monks have increasingly been using copyright rules to protect their name from rip-offs. [AFP]

Further reading–it looks like this story has flurried every couple of years, 2002, 2004, 2006:
* The People’s Daily from 2002/9/25 had more information about the beginning of the trademark wars.
* The USA Today picked up the story around the same time.
* The BBC News on 2004/6/29
* 2004/6/2 a story at p2pnet.net
* Another 2006 piece from China Shaolin Temple itself gives their perspective.
* China Daily, 2006/10/19 had this insightful history:

Back in 1993, Shi Yongxin took a ham manufacturer to court for promoting the ham under the brand “Shaolin,” which he claimed constituted a trademark infringement. It was the first case on brand rights in China’s religious circles.

Recalling the lawsuit, Shi said, “a long time ago, communication and transportation were not as convenient as today, and products were circulated in a limited area, so trademark registration was not required. With globalization comes infringement. To protect the trademark, we have to register the brand ‘Shaolin.’ The registration is totally protective. ”

However, the Shaolin Temple brand is being taken advantage of by other businessmen. About 200 meters north of the temple, the local tourist bureau has built the Shaolin Temple Martial Arts School, and right across from that is a Zen institute that is backed by a salt company.

Many suspect such commercial aspirations will disturb the tranquility of the temple. Shi, however, believed such establishment is a result of the interplay between business and brand, likening Shaolin Temple to the American Disneyland, which is a brand as well as a business.

* Kung Fu Magazine had an interview with Shi Yongxin, Abbot of Shaolin temple:

GC: How is trademarking the name of Shaolin going?
Abbot: Recently, some businessmen and companies had been engaging in using the Shaolin name to further their product. This influenced the image of Shaolin culture in a negative way. Now Shaolin Temple is attending to this matter. Abuse of the Shaolin trademark will diminish the influence of Shaolin Temple and create misunderstandings of Shaolin in the public eye. Shaolin represents the best of traditional Chinese art in kung fu and Chan Buddhism. As we know, some products and services provided by these companies were outlawed by the rules of Buddhism. So we have begun to administrate the trademark of Shaolin, not for the sake of profit, just for the sake of preserving our culture and religion.

… This was an interesting search in its own right, but a couple of observations:
* You know, it’s not so easy to google for something + copyright, because every frickin’ thing on the Internet says “blah blah blah COPYRIGHT date by yadda yadda yadda”.
* This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed “copyright” being used synonymously for “intellectual property”. It’s as if the copyright trademark is itself being diluted.

* Every article has its own copyright date and they’re apparently being put in almost at random as part of website templates in some cases, the article in other cases, etc. For instance the 2002 USA Today article, which I found on 2007/4/29, had a “Copyright 2005 the Associated Press”. The Kung Fu Magazine article didn’t have a date on the article or on its copyright statement, but had an automatically generated “today’s date” in the header — so one might mistakenly read the article and think it was today. This is a problem for citations, of course, but it’s also a problem for orphan works issues in the far future. So if the dates on the works themselves are practically meaningless, then how is the future historian going to be able to tell when the 95-year corporate copyright term has expired? If we’re all relying on the overworked Internet Archive as our de facto copyright database then someone needs to give them like a bajillion dollars in a hurry so they can capture the whole Internet and do it every day.

tentacles of copyright paranoia

Copyright paranoia is, truly, everywhere. Reading a NYT article about websites that track the Iraq war dead, I noticed this:

The Iraq Page (iraq.pigstye.net) is the obsession of Tom Willett, a software developer from Bloomington, Ind. The site includes a single news account for each United States service member killed in combat, with a fluttering American flag next to a photograph, and room for comments. At last count, there were 3,579 individuals memorialized from the coalition forces, 3,313 from the United States.

“I copy most of the articles, because I know the articles won’t be there in a few months,” he said. “I don’t have the copyright. I steal it from everybody, and I don’t care who knows about it.” The site, which Mr. Willett said had 2,000 to 3,000 unique visitors a day and 20 to 30 new comments a day, has never been asked to take down an article.

He automatically thinks about copyright, decides he’s stealing and that he’s going to commit civil disobedience because of the importance of the issue. Where is fair use in this equation? The NYT writers simply report his concerns, without explaining to the reader that this would be an arguable fair use issue.

surprise! more copyright stuff!

People have called my attention to a few more copyright & related matters lately:

* Darren Barefoot, who did the project “GetAFirstLife.com“, received a hilarious anti-cease-and-desist in its comments section, purportedly from Ginsu Yoon, VP of Linden Lab (Second Life’s company). Or as Peter Hirtle put it when passing it along, a “proceed and permitted” letter. More P&Ps, please! And fewer C&Ds.

* The recent movie “Dodgeball” hit the courts on a copyright infringement suit; the NYT wrote up the story, hitting some of the colorful details as the court tried to distinguish coincidence from copying, and substantial similarity from generic scenes a faire. (Would it kill the NYT to link to the freakin’ case for readers? I’ll dig it up and post it.)

* In addition to the RIAA’s stepped up “enforcement” at college campuses, the RIAA is also now attacking open wireless networks. (See Wired News blog.) A friend was asking me about this: What’s in it for the RIAA? Are they really trying to deter individuals? Well, to some extent, but principally they’re just trying to keep the issue in the limelight. It doesn’t matter if any individual enforcement action is effective, or if they get bad press; as far as they’re concerned, there’s no such thing as bad press on this issue. The more press on copyright “infringement”, the better. They want to create copyright anxiety (“copyright awareness”).

* And, last but not least, an uplifting story about Bent Skovmand — unfortunately it’s an obituary, so some might not get the “uplifting” part. But what’s uplifting is that this person spent his life seeing a problem and working to solve it. That is a success story. Every time I think of the waste of space and destruction of human energy represented by the current occupant of the White House, I’m going to try to dedicate an equal amount of time to the inspirational life of Bent Skovmand.

In case you’re wondering, the NYT obit is great, and Wikipedia’s entry is stubby but accurate. Basically Skovmand was an agricultural scientist who worked to preserve plant diversity and access. He was concerned about the monoculture techniques of modern industrial farming, even as he worked with farmers and governments around the world to help foster the Green Revolution. Ultimately he began to collect and archive seeds of all sorts of strains of food and agricultural crops, developing a project called the doomsday vault — a warehouse for agricultural crops in an island off of Norway, heavily safeguarded and secured against all manner of natural and human-made catastrophes. The vault will contain at least three million crop seeds.

In keeping with his general concern for openness and human access to genetic diversity, Skovmand critiqued the propertization of genetic information: copyrighting genes is “like copyrighting each and every word in ‘Hamlet’, and saying no one can use any word used in ‘Hamlet’ without paying the author.” According to the NYT, he gave away his own data on CDs, rather than trying to control it.

So — Bent Skovmand. May more of us have the opportunity to lead such fulfilling and satisfying and productive lives.

universities and copyright

Suddenly there’s a lot of press about the rights enforcement companies and their P2P notices — this Washington Post article and this AP story are just two of the recent press.

How timely — I just finished a report on exactly this issue. I spoke with representatives from 25 different educational institutions and online service providers to understand their processes and practices, and pressures.

What we found is that universities have indeed set up overly harsh policies in response to P2P notices. The policies were typically created in the last few years, under significant political pressure and media spotlight — pressure and spotlight engineered by the large entertainment companies. University officials are typically very concerned about academic expression interests, but may not have looked at these policies in relation to all their other policies.

We found a lot more of interest — including really problematic behavior on the part of the rights enforcement companies. The report (Intellectual Property and Free Speech in the Online World) is available online, for free, in PDF.