UCLA v. AIME – more good news

The court finally issued its order dismissing the case in the AIME v. UCLA case. (The second amended complaint, in case you’re counting.) In short, it was another big victory for libraries. The court affirmed all its earlier reasoning, and deepened its reasoning in a few key areas.

Here’s a quick summary — more discussion will be out on all the usual places in the near future, I’m sure.

Sovereign & Qualified Immunity Defenses
– All claims against Regents and claims seeking damages against individual defendants in their official capacity were dismissed because of sovereign immunity.
– The officials were also protected by sovereign immunity for their supervisory activities.
– The officials also had qualified immunity because the actions taken were not clearly copyright infringement; where there is at least some reasonable ambiguity around fair use, one could reasonably believe the action is fair use, and not copyright infringement. “The Court finds that a reasonable person would not have known that the alleged conduct violated any clearly established rights pursuant to copyright law because it is ambiguous whether the use was fair use under copyright law.” More on that below.

Associational Standing
– The earlier holding that AIME does not have associational standing still applies.

Interpreting the License
– The earlier holdings on interpreting the license language still apply — the court had said the activity looked like a “performance” not a “distribution”. However, the court also examined the “distribution” claim, and made a couple of key holdings: (1) The streamed copy on the end-user’s machine is not “fixed” and does not therefore constitute a “distribution”. (2) The licensing agreement language prohibiting broadcast or transmission over an “open or Internet system” did not clearly preclude the closed intranet system. Conflict between the marketing brochure and the licensing language created ambiguity which could be exploited by the library.

DMCA Anti-Circumvention
– Very nice interpretation of the DMCA anti-circumvention: Because UCLA had lawful access to the content of the DVD, their circumvention was okay. Oddly, the Court didn’t look to the DMCA anti-circumvention exemptions.

Fair Use
– Intermediate copying (to put the files on the streaming server) was “incidental fair use”.
– The streaming activities themselves were also analyzed for fair use, in the context of the officials’ qualified immunity. Thus, the Court did not fully assess whether the streaming itself were definitively fair use; only whether they were plausibly fair use. The Court found only that there was at least a strong argument about fair use, and so the officials were not liable for copyright infringement. It is clear, however, that this Court felt the activities were fair use.
The court found that the purpose and nature favored fair use — no discussion at all.

The second factor — the type of work — was neutral because, although these were creative works, they were used in an “informational and educational context”.

The third factor was “slightly” against a finding of fair use because the entire work was streamed: The “time shifting” argument was “compelling” and tipped this toward only weighing “slightly” against fair use.

The fourth factor weighed in FAVOR of fair use because someone watching the streaming DVD in a classroom has no effect on their likelihood of buying.

Overall, this is a very helpful analysis from the perspective of libraries.

Non-Copyright Claims
– The various state common law claims were preempted by federal copyright claims.

The full opinion can be read at scribd.

fair use (copyright) coming to an LCSH near you

Awesome librarian (and friend) Jenna Freedman has been on the LCSH (“Library of Congress Subject Headings”) for a while for its many failures to recognize current topics and language. She just posted about the new and revised headings, including a new heading for Fair use (copyright).

150 Fair use (Copyright) [May Subd Geog] [sp 85046891]
* 450 UF Fair use (Copyright)–Law and legislation
* 550 RT Library copyright policies

You can follow the ongoing saga of feminism, freeganism, and other opportunities for in-cluing the LC, at Jenna’s blog.

music inspired by Expelled

So at the end of this long post about Expelled and copyright infringement, I appended some rewritten lyrics to the tune of “Spirit in the Sky” :

When I copy and they tell me “desist”,
Gonna go to the place that’s the best
When I get caught in a lie,
Goin’ up to Designers in the sky
Goin’ up to Designers in the sky
That’s where I’m gonna go when I lie
When I lie and they tell me desist
Gonna go to the place that’s the best.

DJ actions might come a bust
Gotta have a friend in Jesus
So you know that when you lie
He’s gonna recommend you
To Designers in the sky
Gonna recommend you
To Designers in the sky
That’s where you’re gonna go when you lie
Steal in God’s name but they tell you desist
You’re gonna go to the place that’s the best

I sorta copied and I maybe infringed
I got a friend in Jesus
So you know that when I lie
He’s gonna set me up with
Designers in the sky
Oh set me up with Designers in the sky
They’ll protect me when I lie
Texas judges might not let me rest
But Designers will protect me the best
Gonna go to the place that’s the best.

I thought it was free will but it was all part of some greater cultural zeitgeist. Today, PZ Myers linked (in a post called “RIAA bait” — boy, their reputation sucks, doesn’t it?) to two others that must be read and hummed along to:
* Imagine (Ben Stein’s Ethics) (from MJS on Corrente)
* Bensteinian Rhapsody (from MartinC posted on Stranger Fruit)

And then in the comments thread many people started posting their own rewritten lyrics — there are some amazing ones. (I posted these there too.)

Do I sense a phenomena? Will Expelled inspire all the rewritten lyrics the way Fellowship of the Ring (1) inspired a gajillion rewritten poems? (I still love the one I did based on Whitman’s Song of the Open Road).

Expelled copyright infringement, cont’d

update 4/16: Both a commenter here and also P.Z. Myers have reported that Expelled filmmakers Premise filed on Monday a DJ (“declaratory judgment”) motion on XVIVO‘s copyright claims against them — i.e., asked a judge to look at the evidence & say that they are not infringing. Premise v. XVIVO, N.D. Tex., 4/14/2008.

Here are links to the PDFs of the
* complaint , and
* the statement of interested parties.
And may I just note that PACER is a pain in the ass?

Also via that same post @ pharyngula, Sarah S @ ERV reports that they copied not just the XVIVO video but other sources as well. Quel surprise.

Previous posts:
* Copyright claims against Expelled
* “Expelled” music licensed or not?

Thoughts on reading the complaint below the fold:

Copyright claims against Expelled

4/11: I had previously (3/27) drafted a brief commentary on Expelled‘s use of copyrighted material. Then, I unposted it while I checked on something, to try to make it more complete. I hadn’t gotten back to it, when the other shoe dropped: One of the copyright holders’ whose material was used in Expelled wrote a published a draft cease & desist letter to the filmmakers. So, I’m re-posting my original comment, even though I haven’t yet had a chance to figure out the licensing status of the animations in question, and I’m doing a more detailed analysis below of the current set of claims. Consider this a rough draft of an analysis.

In part, I’m rushing this out because there are a few misconceptions about copyright and fair use on the Pharyngula blog comment thread. I’ll have to come back & add in the relevant cites when I’ve got a bit more time (probably not before Sunday), and I may have more considered analysis at that point. Right now, this is my quick first impressions on the merits of the claims that XVIVO is making, and the merits of the likely defenses that Expelled could raise.

I’ve gotta say, I’m rarely so personally sympathetic with a cease and desist as I am with this one, a letter from Peter Irons on behalf of XVIVO to the makers of Expelled, for using without permission a biology animation that XVIVO did.


The misuse of science is not the same thing as the misuse of intellectual property, and I have, unfortunately, a number of problems with this cease & desist letter. My problems are more tactical and, of course, from the perspective of a fair use / information policy attorney. But I’ll go through a bit of legal analysis first, because there are some interesting questions. If you don’t find details of copyright interesting, skip to the last 3 paragraphs.


“Expelled” music licensed or not?

Josh Timonen wrote a detailed synopsis of the movie “Expelled”, the creationist film that tries to argue that creationist views are “unfairly” excluded from the academy.

What piqued my interest about this particular post (there have been hundreds by now about how bad the movie is, the deceptiveness of the filmmakers, P.Z. Myers’ being prevented from attending, the NCSE’s excellent “Expelled, Exposed” website, and so on) was that Timonen noted the proliferation of popular commercial music, including John Lennon’s “Imagine”, and a song from “The Killers”; maybe others. Timonen says:

Either Expelled has a disproportionately-large music budget (for how bad of a film it is), or they are using songs they haven’t paid for in their Director’s Cut private screenings (that may be changed before the official nationwide release). John Lennon’s “Imagine” is played (original version) over B&W scenes of what looked like communist China, with a parade of soldiers. The lyrics to the song were subtitled on the bottom of the screen. I think I remember a shot of Stalin saluting somewhere in here as well. The part of the song played was of course “…and no religion too…”, implying that no religion equals communist China. Does Yoko know about this? I doubt she’d be pleased.

The excellent “Mad Hot Ballroom Dancing” got dinged for a lot of money for a lot less music use than this. Could the Expelled filmmakers really not have known they needed to license music? Did they have a giant music budget? Are they relying on fair use? Maybe one could make a fair use case for using “Imagine” to illustrate communist China, although it seems a bit of a stretch to me since the point of the film isn’t China or John Lennon, or even atheism per se.

I’ll be interested to see what happens when it’s officially released. Same music? And what’s the story with the licensing? Does Yoko Ono not control the Lennon estate? Would she really license the music for that purpose? Questions, questions.

Supposedly, the film also includes animations of cellular functions. There have been lots of such animations made in the last few years. P.Z. Myers of Pharyngula described one such animation out of Harvard and XVIVO being edited and used without in creationist lecture tours. What’s the licensing on these, I wonder? Studio Daily describes the animation process and says they can’t provide it, because it belongs to Harvard & XVIVO; there’s a version at Harvard’s MCB website. These were funded by the HHMI and the licensing notes the copyright to Robert Lue & Alain Viel, Harvard University, and says “For educational use only. The use, duplication, or distribution of this material for any commercial purpose is strictly prohibited.” Well, creationist lectures are arguably “educational”, at least in the broadest possible sense, but editing it to create a derivative work — that seems a bit different.

Nine Inch Nails offers CD downloads for remix

Machinist at Salon has the scoop. Yaay Nine Inch Nails! It’s been a while since I’ve broken out my NIN collection but this inspires me to dip back in.

It’s not just a web download, either; there’s a torrent at PirateBay.

Wow, this sort of means that NIN is to BitTorrent was Mr. Rogers was to the VCR. Heh.

mostly information law news round-up

* Judge White withdrew his order requiring the shutdown of wikileaks.org. See also 3/1 bits blog. (NYT 3/1)

* The music industry has yet to pay artists any of the money it has received in settlements and lawsuits; the artists are pissed. NY Post 2/27)

* The owners of the game scrabble are pissed off at Scrabulous. (NYT 3/2)

* Daniel Solove’s new book, The Future of Reputation, is available online with a creative commons license, thanks to Yale University Press. Annoyingly it’s chapter-by-chapter. badgerbag read it and promises a scathing review, so I’m looking forward to seeing what she has to say.

* Clay Shirky’s new book, Here Comes Everybody, has a hold list at least 3-deep at the Boston Public Library. )-8

* Paul Cash, the principal of Burleson High School in Burleson, Texas, is censoring the school yearbook’s article about students who are also parents, in part because it conflicts with the school’s “abstinence-only” education program. A program that was, umm, manifestly not successful. As illustrated by the kind of head-in-the-sand attitude that seems to think that if only the principal can censor the yearbook, he can change reality, or lie to the community about it. “I believe that as principal of the school it is my obligation to make sure that whatever our students put into press accurately reflects the ideals and values of the community.” Apparently the students think that the press should reflect reality. I guess the teachers have been doing their jobs. Student Press Law Center has the scoop (2/13). (link from pharyngula, 3/2)

* Schwarzenegger’s administration is defending California’s gay marriage ban before the California Supreme Court; a ruling is due by June. There’s a certain gross irony in this: A couple of years ago, Schwarzenegger vetoed a gay marriage act passed by California’s legislature, saying that this was something that should be left to the courts. That was itself yet another proof that the so-called federalist style of conservatism is really just window-dressing outcome-based politicking as principled ideological opposition to particular forms of government. (SJ Mercury, 3/2)

* Some people in Namibia are worried that schools and libraries are getting away with too much using information, so they’re starting a new copyright enforcement body just to go after the lucrative school and library market. Watch out for the Namibian Reproduction Rights Organization (NamRRO), which isn’t enforcing any rights to reproduce that I’d like to see enforced: The rights to reproduce for fair use, the rights to reproduce or not to reproduce biologically …. The organization is being started by “Moses Moses”, whose name seems a little reproductive itself. Good idea, Moses; way to start killing creativity at the most upstream possible place. (All Africa, 2/29)

* In Illinois, reproductive rights are being upheld: A very silly law that attempts to mandate good parent-child relationships and communications, specifically requiring that pregnant minors must tell their parents if they are having an abortion, continues to be enjoined. A “pro-life” group described the decision as, “a major defeat for the people of Illinois,” apparently forgetting that teenagers are people too. (AP 3/1)

* Heather Morrison at her awesome blog “Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics” has pointed out that plagiarists should avoid open access like the, ah, plague, since it’s so much harder to catch them without open access. Peter Suber at Open Access News gathered several of her related posts in one excellent introduction to Morrison’s concept, “aiming for obscurity”. Read it or wish you had.

* Rebecca MacKinnon reviews the latest round of lawsuits against Yahoo! by Chinese dissidents who, among other things, got screwed over by Yahoo!’s release of their information. (RConversation, 3/3)

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.

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.

fair use audio clips for commentary

A perfect example of how copyright paranoia can be used as an excuse to stifle the very uses which copyright law ought to foster:

KSFO asks liberal critic to stop using audio clips

good fair use news for collage artists

A great decision from the 2d Circuit in another case about Jeff Koons. Collage artists haven’t had a lot of caselaw to work with before Blanch v. Koons, and it’s reassuring to get a positive spin on transformative artistic uses. More analysis coming.

Fair Use Revisited talk in DC, Sept. 21

Judge Alex Kozinski, renowned for his copyright and trademark jurisprudence, will be delivering a lecture on “Fair Use Revisited” Thursday, Sept. 21, 2006, at Washington College of Law, American University, Room 603. Judge Kozinski is always entertaining as well as enlightening, so this is an event not to be missed. More information at .

Fair Use Network website

The first stage of our new fair use project is online — the Fair Use Network website, at http://fairusenetwork.org/ .

At present, we’re focusing on consumer resources, and version 1.0 includes resources for recipients of copyright cease-and-desist letters or DMCA § 512 takedown notices. Similar resources for trademark will be coming online later. Version 2.0 will include more resources oriented toward “gatekeepers” and users of copyrighted & trademarked material, before they get a C&D. And Version 3.0 will include more network resources for attorneys serving these clients.

some notes

(1) Today’s NYT article on “tough questions” for gubernatorial candidates on abortion: all the gubernatorial candidates quoted are men. [NYT 6/5]

(2) Mercury Rising discusses what happened to Wen Ho Lee after the racist government debacle a few years back. [sideshow 6/4]

(3) I don’t believe I’ve plugged Ann Bartow’s “Fair Use and the Fairer Sex” article on the blog, although I’ve referred many people to it by now — It’s going to be a critical work in the developing scholarship on IP and critical theory. [info & link]

(4) I can’t make Octavia Butler’s memorial in NYC tonight (it was sold out and I’m in Boston anyway) but I snapped some pix from a Barnes & Noble memorial. Yes, it’s Barnes & Noble. I snapped them anyway because it was a lovely memorial. [x-posted w/ pix @ fsfblog 6/5]

(5) I’m setting up a listserv for folks in SF/fandom who are interested in IP issues particularly; and information more generally (telecomm, open distribution, libraries & information industries, media, censorship/First Amendment, etc.). The SF community has been, for years, an exemplar of the fact that consumers are creators are consumers, and that might explain why there’s less polarization among copyleft/copyright than in other genres/creative communities. Also, SF folks are particularly smart at realizing that rules and regulations are choices, and we can make different ones, and that technology can change everything. So I think that by pulling together SF/fandom to talk about IP/media we can have some interesting and hopefully really productive discussions.

I haven’t set up the list yet because I don’t have a snappy name for it — fandomIP? fanip? sfanip? sort of like turnip, isn’t it? pernip? parsnip? anyway – I’m taking suggestions for names, and offline emails if you’re interested in joining.

comedies & tragedies of fair use

5/3 update: variant version of this post (an older version of the post but marked-up with hyperlinks) + other blog commentary from Joy Garnett @ newsgrist … liveblogging the meeting and this session
@ iptablog –

The Comedies of Fair Use meeting wrapped up a few hours ago. Among the best presentations were the art panel Saturday morning, in which Joy Garnett and Susan Meiselas each discussed their side of the incident that became known as JoyWar. (There were other panelists in this session too; for instance, Art Spiegelman, who was hilarious.)

“JoyWar” began when Joy Garnett appropriated a photograph she found on the Internet, and repainted it. Shortly after exhibiting it, she got a cease-and-desist letter from the photographer, Susan Meiselas. Joy’s art rapidly became a cause celebre among Internet artists and activists, who reposted Joy’s art and remixed it with many new works.

Susan and Joy had never met before the conference, but they both agreed to come and tell their story in a joint session.

Joy explained that she sought images on the Internet of people exhibiting strong emotions; she found the images, and then set them aside for a time, specifically seeking to decontextualize the images so she could later focus solely on their aesthetics. She then repainted the photo, and exhibited it as part of an exhibition called “Riot”. Mieselas’ photograph was perfect for Joy’s intended project: it showed a young man about to throw a molotov cocktail, an expression of intensity on his face.

Susan introduced herself by explaining that her goals as a photographer were precisely the opposite of Joy’s: That it was critical to her to contextualize the photograph, to embed the image in the subject, the historical and political moment in time. The photo, she explained, was of a young man on July 16, 1979, the night that Somoza was finally driven out of Nicaragua, and the Sandinistan revolution triumphed. The photograph of this young man in fact became emblematic of the entire movement, of the revolution itself, and was stenciled and appropriated by all kinds of people, with no objections (or permission) by Susan. Susan felt a strong social contract with the subjects of her photographs, and went back years later to contact them. This young man, it turned out, was still deeply committed to the movement.

The striking thing was the obvious pain that both women felt at the conflict. Though their artistic goals and methods clashed, both Susan and Joy were thoughtful and sincere. Susan, for instance, really seemed to feel that she was possibly “old-fashioned”; that she just didn’t get the new methods of appropriation. Joy, for her part, seemed to really appreciate Susan’s goals and interests; but stood firmly on her own principles. It really seemed in some respects a tragic conflict of interests, because, yes, Susan had real interests at stake. You couldn’t but respect Susan’s interests and the respect that she herself had for the subject of her work. I’m certain it took tremendous courage for Joy and Susan to come together in a public forum, after such a well-publicized conflict. And it’s a testament in particular to Susan’s courage and honesty that she presented her beliefs and reasons so articulately and passionately in the face of a potentially hostile audience.

The problem is that the interests Susan was seeking to uphold, through the tool of copyright, are not traditional copyright interests. Susan wasn’t particularly interested solely (or possibly at all) in trying to protect her licensing revenue. She was interested, rather, in protecting her right to be custodian of the image: an interest that isn’t even captured in moral rights as defined in Europe.

At the end of the day, Hank Shocklee, of Public Enemy, gave a “times they are a’changing” / “to the barricades, comrades” speech: He basically said that the old models of control are dead. It was a great moment, and I hope it’s true. There’s no question that we are paying too high a cost right now from excessive control over information. We are losing works, we are losing consumer rights, we are losing new forms of artistic expression.

But with every change, there are costs. Those who control information sometimes do it for a good reason. The hypertrophic growth of copyright law (as Jamie Boyle put it) has harmed the essential purpose of copyright law, the encouragement of creativity. But that same hypertrophic, harmful growth, nevertheless allowed Susan to pursue other interests not well protected in any other way: privacy, dignity, trust, political context and memory. I hope we find other ways — human, person-to-person ways — to protect those interests; they were never well served by copyright anyway. But it’s important to count the costs as well as the benefits for every change. I’m incredibly grateful I had the opportunity to see Susan and Joy speaking together so that I could see and hear the messy human values and reasons behind the legal conflict.

lost licensing revenue & Google Print

I just got around to reading the weekend’s Washington Post Google Print editorials, pro (Mary Sue Coleman, UMich Pres) & con (Nick Taylor, Authors’ Guild). Short editorials, and I suppose the format limits their ability to go beyond rhetoric (“access to vast libraries of content” … “this is a socialist plot!”) into any actual legal or policy nuances. But I was particularly disappointed with Nick Taylor’s editorial, in a few ways. Taylor wisely doesn’t actually make any legal arguments. Instead, his editorial boils down to the complaint that Google Print is lost licensing revenue for publishers. It’s okay, that he makes that point, because that’s actually the publishers and Authors’ Guild’s real (and only) point. I just resent the rhetorical slurs that are used to pad the actual argument.

  1. Red-baiting? “It’s been tradition in this country to believe in property rights. When did we decide that socialism was the way to run the Internet?” Man. Best response: Peter Suber, at Open Access News, who said:

    Nick Taylor’s piece shows that he’s as clueless as I feared. First, he doesn’t understand what socialism is. Second and more important, he complains that the Google project will deprive him of revenue but doesn’t offer a single reason to think so.

  2. Taylor uses socialism as a slur in one breath, and in the next apparently would like to see — what? a government panel passing over each and every use of a copyrighted work?

    Google contends that the portions of books it will make available to searchers amount to “fair use,” the provision under copyright that allows limited use of protected works without seeking permission. That makes a private company, which is profiting from the access it provides, the arbiter of a legal concept it has no right to interpret.

    <shaking my head in disbelief> What? A user has no “right to interpret” fair use? Okay, but I think that government bureaucracy’s gonna be pretty large when every teacher, every forwarded email, every reviewer, every parodist, every sampler, every quoter, and so on, and so on, has to file permission slips with the “arbiters” of “fair use”.

    Once again, if Google Print goes forward, that doesn’t mean that Google Print will be the only big database, and it doesn’t mean that Google is now the arbiter of, well, anything other than its own sweat-of-the-brow compilation of data (the words used in books and the order in which they are used).1

As for the actual argument, yeah, there’s lost licensing revenue. Every use of a work, including every fair use, involves potential licensing revenue.2 That, alone, won’t win their case. But I suppose they think red-baiting and appeals to public sympathy for starving artists (not exactly a coherent set of positions) can only help.

Footnote Meanderings

1. The total number of words, the presence of particular words, and the arrangement of those words in a work are, among other things, facts about the work. So are the author, the title, chapter titles, publication date, etc. Creation of an index to a work or multiple works includes gathering facts about the works. Conceptually, it’s quite distinct from the activities the Copyright Act is aimed at: copying and distributing works are clearly aimed at competitive copying, what used to be termed “piracy”. The copy(ies) that Google makes in the course of its scanning and indexing are technical copies, like RAM copies, and that would be an unpleasant route for courts to try to follow. (Although they have in the past; see, e.g., MP3.com, 92 F.Supp.2d 349 (SDNY 2000).)

The Google Print distributions are small pieces of the text, not easily framed with all the other pieces of that text, but instead contextualized with small pieces of other texts that match the search terms. Again, this isn’t the sort of competitive distribution which leaps easily to mind when one thinks of the exclusive right to distribute a work. [Note: this is true for Google Google Print Library program for copyrighted books, not the Google Print Publishers program, or Google Print for public domain works. I've seen several articles, like this one, that conflate or obfuscate the different programs.]

The derivative works right is aimed at translations, movie scripts, and the like. Again, not quite the right fit. I know some people will argue that an index is a derivative work, but treating derivative works in this way skirts too close to any and all fair uses. The caselaw shows this kind of interpretation, which is why the derivative works right is the most troubling of the exclusive rights, but I’m going to steer clear of that morass of a discussion for purposes of this footnote.

Performance and display are also aimed, obviously, at specific actions. Oddly, I think performance might be the best fit for Google’s use, in some kind of wierd philosophical way. A performance enacts a work, simultaneously interpreting it and creating the possibility of interaction with the audience. Interpretative performance necessarily demands recourse to information about the work, as well as the work itself. An index is also centrally about user interactivity, in a way that mere consumption of the text work is not. An index, then, performs the work, interpreting it by recourse to information beyond the text itself (for instance, bibliographic data; retail or location data; or the meta-structures of the work’s organization, in paragraphs, sections, chapters, parts, pages) and opening it to dialog with the audience.

Ahem. Or not. I confess to some recent exposure to critical continental literary queer performative prepoststructuralist theory stuff.

2. Hell, you could sell a copy of a book with a separate shrinkwrapped license that charges a new fee for each and every individual use. (I think Adobe may already have a patent for that method of doing business, though.)

google & not-for-profit libraries

More on Google and Siva’s response (and my responses to Siva):

Recap: In response to publisher anxieties & thinly-veiled threats of litigation, Google is implementing an opt-out provision in its scan-copyrighted-library-books program, and delaying scans of copyrighted books until November. [google blog] This has been widely reported as Google backing down. See, e.g., “Chilled by Publishers” (BoingBoing), “Google Sells Out Users” (Copyfight).

Siva Vaidhyanathan had a different take, predicated largely (it seems to me) on the fact that Google is a for-profit corporation. For once, I disagree with Siva, and on two grounds: both with library exceptionalism in this instance and the take on American Geophysical Union. Siva:

Google did not have the right to make wholesale copies of millions of copyrighted books without permission from the copyright holders. Google’s original plan fails every possible fair use test ever tried. See, for example, American Geophysical Union v. Texaco.

If copyright is to mean anything at all, then corporations may not copy entire works that they have never purchased without permission for commercial gain.

Usually I agree (not slavishly. who said slavishly?) with everything Siva (and his minions on Sivacracy) has to say, but I have to disagree with him here on a couple of points.

First, the for-profit corporation issue. Yes, Google is a for-profit corporation, and while they try not to be evil, one could argue that they won’t be able to help it. Siva wishes that libraries would take greater advantage of fair use, and so do I — libraries are wonderful and should be able to do anything they want including lots of things they don’t do now (like, yeah, scan in everything they own). But I take issue with this form of library exceptionalism. Libraries should push fair use in the service and interests of their users, history, and humanity. But libraries are not the sole beneficiaries of fair use, nor should they be. For-profit corporations, not-for-profit corporations, heck, even tax-exempt religions — all should be able to exercise fair use broadly.

Well, Siva says Google is not a library. It’s true that Google is not the mom-and-apple-pie ALA version of a downtown library, complete with modern atrium and skylights for Mayoral gatherings. But I think we have to push on “library” for a bit. The Internet Archive is certainly a library. My home collection is certainly a library. (It even circulates, and I have remote storage, and I recently began a belated investment in DVDs.) Libraries may be private, semi-private, public; for- or not-for-profit; paper or digital. Why is Google not a library?

And tactically speaking, it just doesn’t make sense for information activists / copyfighters to start downwardly limiting various users’ sets of rights. Ultimately, this will come back to bite us: what if libraries start to look more like corporations? In fact, library exceptionalism has not served the library community well: Despite numerous statutory exemptions for libraries, librarians have still retreated into deep conservatism and fear of copyright liability. Librarians realize that the laws governing information transmission are porous, and the laws that apply to for-profit corporations will also affect not-for-profit libraries.

Second, Siva cites American Geophysical Union, 60 F.3d 913 (2d Cir. 1994), very quickly in support of his point that “Google’s original plan fails every possible fair use test ever tried. See, for example, American Geophysical Union v. Texaco.”

AGU is not the law of the land, much less every possible fair use test ever tried. While influential, AGU is the law of the 2nd Circuit. (Not the Fifth, although my brain always short-circuits me there, linking “Texaco” to “Texas/5th Circuit”.) I like to remember that fair use is a fact-based, multi-factor analysis. Paraphrasing one of my copyright professors, multi-factor tests = completely unpredictable results. Each and every case looks quite different and yes, different caselaw applies. There’s a limit to how far you can draw even an influential appellate precedent, as the p2p cases show.

Unfortunately, Siva and everyone else likes to just drop-cite AGU: It was a broad decision that, famously, stands for the idea that potential licensing revenue counts as an (apparently significant) effect on the market. That’s scary, and big, and consequently the decision weighs heavily in the set of bad anti-fair-use opinions. But over-reading it has led to significant nail-biting in the library community. I do agree with Siva that it’s important to remember that AGU took place in a for-profit environment; in fact, I’ve argued that not-for-profit libraries & archives have a lot less to worry about than they think they do from AGU. But the for-profit/not-for-profit status is not the be-all and end-all of the story. AGU demonstrates a sophisticated relationship between the various fair use factors. The potential licensing revenue was significant in large part because of the for-profit status. That means that it’s not the horror story that librarians sometimes fear, but it also means that you can’t take the fair use factors as a simplistic checklist: for-profit or non-profit? market effect (including lost licensing) or no market effect? It doesn’t work that way. The market that is considered is necessarily shaped by the environment in which the alleged infringement took place. Texaco was a for-profit corporation with the resources to do licensing. Librarians have been scared because the lost-licensing-revenue aspect looks even more insane in a public or academic library context than it did in Texaco’s internal special library, routing & private desk copy context. But that particular horror has never fully paraded itself, probably because the outcome is so insane outside of the particular circumstances of Texaco. Context is everything.

And, again thinking tactically, I would argue we ought to work to limit the reactionary conservatism this case fosters, rather than trying to puff it up even more. By drop-citing AGU in the service of anti-corporate use of information, Siva made the copyright maximalists’ case. And that’s not good for libraries or Google.

A little aside: Derek Slater disagrees with Siva on AGU, too, from a different angle. Derek points out that the Appellate Court found “undue emphasis” on commerciality in the District Court’s opinion. Derek’s point is well-taken, but I still read the commercial context as significant. Between the District Court & the Appellate Court opinions, the Supreme Court issued Campbell, which expressly reversed any presumption that for-profit uses were not fair. The Appellate Court wanted to uphold the lower court’s ruling, but had to deal with Campbell; hence the nod to Campbell. But the Appellate Court was really pointing out that Texaco’s use was still a traditional library use, even if in a for-profit environment.

We do not mean to suggest that the District Court overlooked these principles; in fact, the Court discussed them insightfully, see 802 F. Supp. at 12-13. Rather, our concern here is that the Court let the for-profit nature of Texaco’s activity weigh against Texaco without differentiating between a direct commercial use and the more indirect relation to commercial activity that occurred here. Texaco was not gaining direct or immediate commercial advantage from the photocopying at issue in this case – i.e., Texaco’s profits, revenues, and overall commercial performance were not tied to its making copies of eight Catalysis articles for Chickering. Cf. Basic Books, Inc. v. Kinko’s Graphics Corp., 758 F. Supp. 1522 (S.D.N.Y. 1991) (revenues of reprographic business stemmed directly from selling unauthorized photocopies of copyrighted books). Rather, Texaco’s photocopying served, at most, to facilitate Chickering’s research, which in turn might have led to the development of new products and technology that could have improved Texaco’s commercial performance. Texaco’s photocopying is more appropriately labeled an “intermediate use.” See Sega Enterprises, 977 F.2d at 1522-23 (labeling secondary use “intermediate” and finding first factor in favor of for-profit company, even though ultimate purpose of copying was to develop competing commercial product, because immediate purpose of copying computer code was to study idea contained within computer program).

[38] We do not consider Texaco’s status as a for-profit company irrelevant to the fair use analysis.

The Appellate Court then goes on to talk about the value to the user of the allegedly infringing activity. This discussion is critical, because it sets up the fourth factor discussion about the lost revenues.

As a pragmatic reading, I see this tweaking of analysis as a way for the Appellate Court to deal with Campbell. In its effect, the case has been bad; it has, as I’ve stated, been an oft-cited case when librarians are playing conservative. In its reasoning, the case is also bad: the potential-lost-revenue argument is virtually boundless. But my sense is that the potential-lost-revenue argument, although terrible, has not yet fulfilled its potential — maybe because it is so boundless.

In short, I think American Geophysical Union is over-rated, and the commercial context is critical.

… a bit more coming later hopefully

update 8/14: The massive amounts of media coverage given to the Google withdrawal confirm my opinion that tactically this sucks, for libraries, authors, readers and anybody else who actually uses copyrights. So much of this coverage is described as a copyright flap, Google’s copyright misstep, etc. The bounds of fair use have just shrunk in the court of public opinion, and that’s a much longer-lasting loss than American Geophysical Union, Napster or any other case.

update 8/15: See, this is why I like Siva so well: I wish I had time today to respond to all of the good comments zooming around the blogosphere and e-mail. …. They are all helping me formulate my arguments better. I can’t help but compare favorably this response to certain other thread-baiting that’s happening on a nearby (non-IP-related) blog. And I know Siva will eventually come up with some very cogent ideas on this issue that will make me go hmm.

Related posts: interesting reading early saturday morning 8/13essence of library, 8/17

this. is. so. COOL.

Compare sizes of starships & other objects from various sf universes at Jeff Russell’s STARSHIP DIMENSIONS.

Only complaint: Firefly and the other vessels from the series are not yet there.

My spouse asks if this isn’t copyright infringement, since all the designs for fictional ships are individually copyrighted. Fair use, I assure her.