"A federal office that has taken on the role of digital custodian and is now in charge of such 21st-century regulatory activities as approving mobile-phone jailbreaking and setting royalty rates for Internet radio says it needs out of its 19th-century home. The U.S. Copyright Office has been part of the Library of Congress since 1897, and the office's director, Maria Pallante, told a congressional panel Wednesday it's time for a change, saying her office's hands are often tied as a part of the Library of Congress. "The office's current organizational structure is under strain because the copyright system has evolved and because digital advancements have changed the expectations of the public," Pallante said in a written statement. She asked the committee to codify the Copyright Office's independence. In many ways, an independent Copyright Office would operate much like it does now, Pallante said. Although part of a legislative-branch entity, the Justice Department has recognized that the Copyright Office behaves like, and should be treated like, an executive-branch agency. In its current form, the office's uncertain legal status and subordination to the Library of Congress can create problems. A Government Accountability Office report last month found that the library's IT services, which the Copyright Office relies on, are stuck in the past and are detrimental to its work. And Pallante says it's difficult for her to hire the staff her office needs because of the conflicts between the mission—and the budget—of the Copyright Office and that of the Library of Congress."
Thursday, April 30, 2015
Kaveh Waddell, National Journal; Why the U.S. Copyright Office Wants to Run Away From Home:
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Steve Lohr, New York Times; Less Noise but More Money in Data Science:
"There is an apparent contradiction between the buoyant job market for big data practitioners and Gartner’s judgment that, on the perception scale, big data has moved from high expectations to what Gartner calls the “trough of disillusionment.” But, in fact, it fits a familiar pattern of technology absorption and use. Significant new technologies always take time to move into the mainstream as people and organizations learn to exploit them. It takes years. The classic study of the phenomenon, “The Dynamo and the Computer: An Historical Perspective on the Modern Productivity Paradox,” by Paul David, an economic historian at Stanford University, was published in 1990. In it, Mr. David noted, the electric motor was introduced in the early 1880s, but its real payoff in productivity was not evident until the 1920s. It took that long for businesses to reorganize work around the industrial production line, the efficiency breakthrough of its day, made possible by the electric motor. Similarly, it took a while for personal computers and the Internet to deliver big gains. And so too for big data, which harnesses computing, modern digital data and the software tools of artificial intelligence. A report this week from Forrester Research described the challenge ahead. “Businesses are drowning in data but starving for insights,” the report began. “Worse, they have no systematic way to turn data into action.”"
Mark Scott, New York Times; Google Reaches Out to European Publishers, With $165 Million in Hand:
"Less than two weeks after the European Commission filed antitrust charges against Google for abusing its dominant position in online search, the company said it would spend 150 million euros, or $165 million, over the next three years to help European publishers and newspapers adapt to the digital world. And by announcing the plan, the Digital News Initiative, Google was trying to assuage fears from many European newspapers, including Axel Springer of Germany, that the search giant held too much control over how Europeans access online content, analysts said. Google has a roughly 90 percent market share across the 28-member bloc, more than its stake in the American market. The creation of Google’s program also comes before new potential problems for the company in Europe, including potential changes to Europe’s copyright rules."
Saturday, April 25, 2015
Stephen Witt, New Yorker; The Man Who Broke the Music Business: The dawn of online piracy:
"Napster lasted barely two years, in its original incarnation, but at its peak the service claimed more than seventy million registered accounts, with users sharing more than two billion MP3 files a month. Music piracy became to the early two-thousands what drug experimentation had been to the late nineteen-sixties: a generation-wide flouting of both social norms and the existing body of law, with little thought for consequences. In late 1999, the Recording Industry Association of America, the music business’s trade and lobbying group, sued Napster, claiming that the company was facilitating copyright infringement on an unprecedented scale. Napster lost the lawsuit, appealed, and lost again. In July, 2001, facing a court order to stop enabling the trade of copyrighted files, Napster shut down its service. That legal victory achieved little. Former users of Napster saw Internet file-sharing as an undeniable prerogative, and instead of returning to the record stores they embraced gray-market copycats of Napster, like Kazaa and Limewire. By 2003, global recording-industry revenues had fallen from their millennial peak by more than fifteen per cent. The losing streak continued for the next decade. The R.I.A.A. tried to reassert the primacy of the industry’s copyrights. But civil suits against the peer-to-peer services took years to move through the appeals courts, and the R.I.A.A.’s policy of suing individual file-sharers was a public-relations disaster. To some at the music labels, Congress seemed disinclined to help. Harvey Geller, Universal’s chief litigator, spent years futilely petitioning legislators for better enforcement of copyright law. “Politicians pander to their constituents,” Geller said. “And there were more constituents stealing music than constituents selling it.”"
Friday, April 24, 2015
Dice Loaded Against Public in Canada's Copyright Term Extension; Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), 4/22/15
Jeremy Malcolm, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF); Dice Loaded Against Public in Canada's Copyright Term Extension:
"The announcement of the Canadian Government's plan to extend copyright terms for sound recordings came as a surprise when it was released in Canada's federal budget yesterday. The smooth stage management of the announcement has to be admired, accompanied as it was by pre-prepared soundbites from Canada's music A-list extolling the benefits of this handout. In fact, with all the drama and glamor of the announcement, all that was missing was any prior public consultation or debate that could give the government an actual mandate to make this sweeping change to Canadian law. This extension only applies to copyright in sound recordings and performances, which have always been treated differently to the copyright of authors. The rights of authors, for example songwriters, continues on from their death under international copyright law, which recognizes the qualitative difference in the creativity involved."
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Woman Who Designed 'Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas' Sign Dies; Associated Press via New York Times, 4/21/15
Associated Press via New York Times; Woman Who Designed 'Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas' Sign Dies:
"The woman who came up with a neon sign that has welcomed countless visitors to "fabulous Las Vegas" since 1959 has died. Betty Willis, credited with designing the "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign, died in her Overton, Nevada, home on Sunday, according to an obituary on the Virgin Valley & Moapa Valley Mortuaries' website. The 91-year-old artist's often-copied sign sits in a median in the middle of Las Vegas Boulevard south of the Strip. "It's the most recognizable icon in the world," said Danielle Kelly, executive director of The Neon Museum in Las Vegas, where the signs of Sin City's past are retired and on display. The welcome sign's design, which doesn't have a copyright owner, has become a fixture on travel tchotchkes from Vegas and everywhere else, Kelly said."
Michael R. Bloomberg, Huffington Post; Why I'm Betting On Cities And Data:
"Technology has unleashed an explosion of new information for city halls to work with. The possibilities for how cities can use that data to improve lives -- and improve the way services are provided to citizens -- are limitless. To help more cities embrace those possibilities, today Bloomberg Philanthropies is launching a new national program called What Works Cities. It is the most comprehensive effort yet to help city leaders use data and evidence in their decision-making to improve the lives of residents. The $42 million program will do that by offering technical support and guidance to cities who want to do more with data. Working with a group of world-class partners, we'll help cities create plans for using data and evidence to reach concrete goals that their mayors identify as high priorities. We'll also provide a forum for cities to work together and learn from each other. Sharing ideas and experiences is important, because cities face many common challenges. They shouldn't have to reinvent the wheel -- wasting employees' time and taxpayers' money -- when they don't have to. By giving cities a way to study the best examples of how others are using data, we'll help them take big steps forward. City governments have a responsibility to make the most of every dollar, and data helps them do that."
Kaveh Waddell, Comic Book Resources; Proposed Update to Copyright Rules Eases Barriers to Security Research:
"Researchers who hack into everything from thermostats to Facebook so they can identify and help patch security holes may get a little assistance from Congress. Legislation proposed last week would change copyright law to make it easier for these security researchers—not malicious hackers—to find and expose software vulnerabilities without getting in trouble for it. The 1998 Digital Millenium Copyright Act made it illegal to get around technology protections—that includes ripping DVDs, copying video games, and in some cases, even jailbreaking your own smartphone. One provision of the act offers exemptions for certain activities. Ostensibly, security research is one of those activities, but the way the law is set up makes it difficult to get exemptions for research, critics say... The bill likely faces an uphill battle."
Sunday, April 19, 2015
Michael Franco, CNet; 'Fantastic Four' trailer leaked, pulled fast on copyright grounds:
"Summer's the season for blockbuster movie releases, which means spring is the time for blockbuster-movie trailers. And this spring, it seems leaked trailers are going to be all the rage. Just last week, director Zack Snyder announced that a special screening for the trailer for the upcoming "Batman v Superman" film was to be held in IMAX theaters around the US on Monday. Then the trailer leaked online, forcing the studio to release the official trailer earlier than they'd have liked. Now we have a just-leaked version of the new "Fantastic Four" film that's been posted online a day earlier than its official release date on Monday. The trailer was leaked by a YouTube user going by the name of lioonelx. It's the only video posted by the user, who remains completely anonymous in his YouTube profile."
HBO tracking down pirates who downloaded leaked Game of Thrones episodes; Sydney Morning Herald, 4/20/15
Sydney Morning Herald; HBO tracking down pirates who downloaded leaked Game of Thrones episodes:
"If you've received a letter in the mail, you'll be relieved to know it carries no legal ramifications, as it's impossible to determine the individual who breached copyright from an IP address. However, repeated incidents could put a user in breach of their ISP's terms of service and result in termination of their account. It's likely HBO simply hopes notifying users will make them think twice about their options before pirating next time (those options currently being Foxtel or wait, as HBO has announced they'll be blocking Australians from sneaking into their HBO Now service). The reminder that rights holders can track users down is particularly timely for viewers in Australia, where Dallas Buyers Club LLC recently won the right to request ISPs hand over subscriber details, and the looming Trans-Pacific Partnership has scary implications for pirates as well. Of course any BitTorrent users hiding their locations behind virtual private networks (VPNs) — which are used increasingly in Australia — would have been invisible to HBO's investigations."
Friday, April 17, 2015
David Kravets, Ars Technica; Copyright claims asserted in viral video of cop shooting fleeing suspect:
"The April 4 viral video of a South Carolina police officer shooting a fleeing suspect has cost the cop his job and his freedom. But there's now another cost attached to the video, perhaps in the $10,000 range or more. A publicist for the man who captured the footage—which led to homicide charges against North Charleston officer Michael Slager— says news outlets must pay a licensing fee to carry the footage."
Thursday, April 16, 2015
Margot E. Kaminski, New York Times; Don’t Keep the Trans-Pacific Partnership Talks Secret:
"WHEN WikiLeaks recently released a chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, critics and proponents of the deal resumed wrestling over its complicated contents. But a cover page of the leaked document points to a different problem: It announces that the draft text is classified by the United States government. Even if current negotiations over the trade agreement end with no deal, the draft chapter will still remain classified for four years as national security information. The initial version of an agreement projected by the government to affect millions of Americans will remain a secret until long after meaningful public debate is possible. National security secrecy may be appropriate to protect us from our enemies; it should not be used to protect our politicians from us. For an administration that paints itself as dedicated to transparency and public input, the insistence on extensive secrecy in trade is disappointing and disingenuous. And the secrecy of trade negotiations does not just hide information from the public. It creates a funnel where powerful interests congregate, absent the checks, balances and necessary hurdles of the democratic process. Free-trade agreements are not just about imports, tariffs or overseas jobs. Agreements bring complex national regulatory systems together, such as intellectual property law, with implications for free speech, privacy and public health... Secrecy also delegitimizes trade agreements: The process has been internationally criticized as undemocratic. The European Parliament, for example, rejected the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement in large part over legitimacy concerns."
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
New State of America’s Libraries Report finds shift in role of U.S. libraries; American Library Association (ALA), 4/12/15
Macey Morales, American Library Association (ALA); New State of America’s Libraries Report finds shift in role of U.S. libraries:
"Copyright updates There were some positive developments in the realm of copyright. The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the ruling in Authors Guild v. HathiTrust, deciding that providing a full text search database and providing access to works for people with print disabilities constitutes fair use. In October 2014, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit handed down an important decision in Cambridge University Press et al. v. Carl V. Patton et al. (the Georgia State University e-reserves case). This decision emphasizes a thoughtful analysis of fair use and a rejection of the highly restrictive guidelines promoted by many publishers. Critically, this decision affirms the importance of flexible limitations on publisher’s rights, such as fair use. Overall, federal court cases continue to favor reasonable fair use rights, especially those that add value to an original work or serve a different, socially beneficial purpose. While Congress continues to hold hearings about various aspects of copyright, the US Copyright Office and the US Patent and Trademark Office (PDF) published studies on orphan works, music licensing, and other topics to inform decision-making."
Sunday, April 12, 2015
J.D. Biersdorfer, New York Times; Through a Touch-Screen Looking Glass:
"As Hollywood has repeatedly shown, dressing up well-worn stories in shiny packages can gain another generation of fans. App designers are now taking a turn at the reboot game with some of literature’s most beloved characters. Public-domain works have appeal because, with time-tested narratives in place, software makers can focus on creating a fresh storytelling experience aided by technology. Take, for example, Sherlock Holmes. Most of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s material is now out of copyright and reliably available in the “free” section of e-bookstores. But the great detective has traveled deeper into the digital realm than mere text in the immersive SHERLOCK: INTERACTIVE ADVENTURE for iOS ($1.99 for the full version)... While “Sherlock” and “Alice” date back to 19th-century Britain, even older stories from other cultures are popping up online with striking visual interpretations. PIXEL FABLE, created by the designer and illustrator Senongo Akpem, is a website devoted to reworking a handful of African folk stories like “Why the Sky Is Far Away.”"
Friday, April 10, 2015
Sam Roberts, New York Times; John E. Walsh, Who Distilled the Bible, Dies at 87:
"The abridged Reader’s Digest version, supervised by the Rev. Bruce M. Metzger, professor of New Testament language and literature at Princeton, did not skimp on any of the Ten Commandments and considered favorites like the 23rd Psalm and the Lord’s Prayer to be sacrosanct. But in the end, it boiled down the Old Testament by 50 percent and the New Testament by 25 percent. None of Jesus’ words were changed, but about 10 percent were deleted. Mr. Walsh said he was initially appalled by the notion of tinkering with Scripture, where the Book of Revelation warned against changing “the words of the book of this prophecy.” But Mr. Metzger concluded that the warning really amounted to “an ancient copyright notice.”"
YouTube’s copyright system has taken Rand Paul’s presidential announcement offline; Washington Post, 4/7/15
Philip Bump, Washington Post; YouTube’s copyright system has taken Rand Paul’s presidential announcement offline:
"During his announcement on Tuesday, Rand Paul entered and left to the song, "Shuttin' Detroit Down," as Business Insider notes. The song is a twangy lament about the state of the economy that dates back a few years; the copyright stamp on the YouTube video reads "(c) 2009 WMG." WMG, of course, is Warner Music Group. We've reached out to both WMG and YouTube for comment, and will update this article when we hear back. But it's hard not to see some humor in the situation. Rand Paul's spirited cry against government intervention has been blocked from view because YouTube lets huge music companies preemptively apply copyright law. Looks like Paul just got another plank in his campaign platform."
Wednesday, April 8, 2015
Kerry Hannon, New York Times; Over 50 and Back in College, Preparing for a New Career:
"Students not seeking degrees often can audit classes at a local college or enroll in massive open online courses, or MOOCs, at little or no cost, via Coursera, Udacity, EdX and Lynda.com. The Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes allow students 50 and older who aren’t seeking to earn credit to attend classes at more than 100 universities. One-year adult education programs aimed at professionals are also on the increase."
Monday, April 6, 2015
Natasha Singer, New York Times; Online Test-Takers Feel Anti-Cheating Software’s Uneasy Glare:
Saturday, April 4, 2015
[Book Review of ‘Culture Crash,’ by Scott Timberg] Ben Yagoda, New York Times: CULTURE CRASH The Killing of the Creative Class By Scott Timberg 310 pp. Yale University Press. $26
"In 1999, recordings generated $14.6 billion in revenue to the music business; by 2012, the figure was down to $5.35 billion. Of course, owing to the change in the dominant distribution model from physical CDs to (first) downloading MP3 files and (now) streaming on services like Pandora and Spotify, performing artists get a thinner slice of the smaller pie. Timberg puts a human face on the statistics with portraits, scattered throughout the book, of poets, artists, moviemakers and reporters who had been doing good work and making not great but decent livings, when all of a sudden the rug was pulled out from under them..." As Timberg himself acknowledges elsewhere, artistic expression is essential to human existence. Its forms are rapidly changing. Its economics are, too, and at this moment artists are finding it harder and harder to make a living from their work. But it will persevere. Who knows? Maybe the commenters were right, and an old-fashioned symphony orchestra isn’t sustainable anymore. Music will survive — including, for the time being, in Louisville, where, after the bankruptcy filing, the orchestra cut back on its schedule and staffing, and suffered a musicians’ strike as a consequence, but posted a $20,000 surplus last August."
Friday, April 3, 2015
Editorial Board, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Card expired: The head of the Library of Congress must go:
"In a scathing report issued this week, the federal watchdog agency assigned much of the blame for the library’s inefficiency to director James H. Billington, an 85-year-old Ronald Reagan appointee who rarely uses a cell phone, does not use email and does not keep abreast of technological change. Mr. Billington’s annual salary is $179,700, so his reluctance to step down is partly understandable. But the Library of Congress has a $630 million annual budget and 3,200 employees whose primary task is to run the Copyright Office and provide Congress with research and legal advice. Among the problems identified in the GAO report is the institution’s lack of a chief information officer. Mr. Billington and his lieutenants have not moved to appoint anyone to this crucial role. They continue to run what is supposed to be one of the most important sources of information in the nation as if it were a neglected school library in rural America. The library doesn’t keep track of costs or log or respond to complaints... Mr. Billington should retire honorably and make way, after three decades, for fresh, tech-savvy management."
Wednesday, April 1, 2015
Michael Cooney, NetworkWorld.com; IT troubles plague Federal Copyright Office:
"A report out this week from the watchdogs at the Government Accountability Office points out a number of different technical and management woes that see to start at the top – with the CIO (a position that has a number of problems in its own right) and flows down to the technology, or lack-thereof. As the nation’s copyright center it is imperative that it operate efficiently to effectively protect all manner of written and recorded material but according to the GAO it doesn’t. And it is a big job. For example, according to the Copyright Office, which falls organizationally under the Library of Congress, in fiscal year 2014 it registered about 476,000 creative works for copyright, including about 219,000 literary works and 65,000 sound recordings and recorded 7,600 copyright records. In addition in fiscal year 2014 the office collected approximately $315 million in royalties and made disbursements in accordance with the decisions of the Copyright Royalty Board."
Citing ‘Greatest American Hero’ Case, Judge Rules ‘Three’s Company’ Parody Doesn’t Violate Copyright: Media; Deadline.com, 3/31/15
Jeremy Gerard, Deadline.com; Citing ‘Greatest American Hero’ Case, Judge Rules ‘Three’s Company’ Parody Doesn’t Violate Copyright: Media:
"In a significant free-speech victory, Loretta A. Preska, Chief United States District Court Judge for the Southern District of New York, ruled Tuesday that 3C, a play that parodies the 1970s sitcom Three’s Company, does not infringe on that copyrighted program. The ruling ends nearly three years of court tennis during which playwright David Adjmi was prohibited from publishing the script of his black comedy and pursuing new productions. And in her ruling, Judge Preska cites the famous Superman v. Greatest American Hero case still discussed today."