Sunday, January 31, 2010

Fears Australian piracy case could shut off net; Sydney Morning Herald, 2/1/10

Madeleine Coorey, Sydney Morning Herald; Fears Australian piracy case could shut off net:

"Australian Internet rights groups fear a piracy court case could force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to become "copyright cops" and cut web access to customers who make illegal downloads.

The Federal Court is on Thursday expected to hand down its judgement in the case, which has pitted Hollywood and Australian film and television producers against Australia's third-largest Internet provider iiNet.

The entertainment companies, which include Village Roadshow, Paramount Pictures Australia and Twentieth Century Fox International, say iiNet has not done enough to stop its customers illegally sharing movies on the net.

But iiNet argues it has never encouraged or authorised the illegal sharing or downloading of files in breach of copyright laws and specifically warned its users against doing so.

Electronic Frontiers Australia, which aims to protect the civil liberties of Internet users, said the case goes further than any other similar case seen around the world in holding an ISP responsible for a customer's illegal activities.

"It doesn't seem to be a paradigm that we are used to seeing in the rest of offline life," spokesman Geordie Guy told AFP."

Amazon Caves To Macmillan’s eBook Pricing Demands; TechCrunch, 1/31/10

Leena Rao, TechCrunch; Amazon Caves To Macmillan’s eBook Pricing Demands:

"A new development in the Amazon vs. Macmillan fiasco. Amazon just posted an announcement indicating that will be “capitulating” to Macmillan by selling the publishers’ books for their desired prices.

Macmillan is trying to price their e-books at $15, while Amazon prices e-books at $9.99. Macmillan’s CEO John Sargent said that unless Amazon sets the price of new e-books to $15, the publisher will not distribute new books to Amazon when they are released. On Friday, Amazon basically banned titles, both paper and digital, published by Macmillan by refusing to directly sell them. And Macmillan took out an ad in the Publishers Marketplace magazine protesting the tactics being used by Amazon regarding pricing.

Amazon is now giving into Macmillan’s demands because of the publisher’s monopoly over its titles. In a passive aggressive manner, Amazon says that readers will decide whether its reasonable to pay $14.99 for e-books. And that other publishers will compete by offering their books and lower prices."

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Google Book Search Settlement 2.0: The Latest Scorecard; Chronicle of Higher Education, Wired Campus, 1/29/10

Jennifer Howard, Chronicle of Higher Education, Wired Campus; Google Book Search Settlement 2.0: The Latest Scorecard:

"We hope you enjoyed a holiday break from news of the Google Book Search settlement. A month into the new year, though, it's time to check back in with the case. January 28 was the deadline to file objections to the revised version. Denny Chin, the federal district judge charged with reviewing the settlement, is scheduled to hold a fairness hearing on Settlement 2.0 on February 18th.

Here are some of the latest developments and reactions to catch our eye. If you have come across other useful commentary or reactions, please share those in the comments.

--A group of some 80 professors, led by Pamela Samuelson, a professor of law and information at the University of California at Berkeley, has sent Judge Chin a letter explaining some academic authors' concerns over Settlement 2.0. The letter-signers write that "whatever the outcome of the fairness hearing, we believe strongly that the public good is served by the existence of digital repositories of books, such as the GBS corpus. We feel equally strongly that it would be better for Google not to have a monopoly on a digital database of these books." The letter reiterates many of the points made by Ms. Samuelson et al. in an earlier letter sent to the court. The Daily Californian also reported that Hal Varian, a professor of economics, business, and information at Berkeley, circulated a campus memorandum in response to Ms. Samuelson's most recent letter. "The agreement is not perfect, but I believe it to be a huge improvement over the status quo for authors, publishers, scholars, and the general public," Mr. Varian said in the memo. "In my view it deserves the enthusiastic support of all Berkeley faculty."

--The author Ursula K. Le Guin submitted a petition to the court with the signatures of 367 authors who dislike the proposed deal. "The free and open dissemination of information and of literature, as it exists in our public libraries, can and should exist in the electronic media. All authors hope for that," the petition states. "But we cannot have free and open dissemination of information and literature unless the use of written material continues to be controlled by those who write it or own legitimate right in it. We urge our government and our courts to allow no corporation to circumvent copyright law or dictate the terms of that control."

--On his blog The Laboratorium, Associate Professor James Grimmelmann of New York Law School—who has been bird-dogging the settlement since the beginning—has posted a nice list of "Essential Reading for Settlement Junkies." It features the most interesting filings that came in as the January 28 deadline approached. Highlights: Amazon's brief opposing the revised settlement is "a superbly executed piece of legal advocacy"; AT&T weighs in with a brief that confirms its "intense hatred of Google"; a group of Indian publishers objects too, saying that "while the scope of the proposed revised settlement has been narrowed by excluding India, it continues to provide Google with sweeping rights to exploit works of Indian authors/publishers under copyright protection without their express permission/consent."

--the British government declined to object, noting that "the UK Publishers Association strongly supports the revised settlement."

--The Open Book Alliance, whose memberhip includes GBS opponents, Microsoft, and the Internet Alliance, surprised no one by filing a friend-of-the-court brief opposing Settlement 2.0. "What one of Google's founders hailed last fall in the pages of The New York Times as 'A Library to Last Forever,' a modern-day equivalent of the Library at Alexandria, now reveals itself as more likely a sham and a fraud on the public," the alliance writes in one of the more rhetorically dramatic filings in the case.

--Lawrence Lessig, the Harvard law professor of Creative Commons fame, published a long essay in The New Republic about what he sees as the urgent need to redraft U.S. copyright law. Otherwise, he fears, "we are about to make a catastrophic cultural mistake." For those short on time—or driven crazy by TNR's eye-taxing fonts—TechCrunch boils down Mr. Lessig's long argument to its essence here. See also Mr. Grimmelmann's Laboratorium analysis of Mr. Lessig's essay and reactions/rebuttals in the comments there."

Friday, January 29, 2010

Fairey Said to Face Criminal Inquiry in Obama Photo Case; New York Times, 1/27/10

Robin Pogrebin, New York Times; Fairey Said to Face Criminal Inquiry in Obama Photo Case:

"A criminal investigation is pending against the artist Shepard Fairey in connection with his use of an Associated Press photograph of Barack Obama, Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the Southern District of New York revealed in a hearing on Tuesday, a lawyer involved in the case said on Wednesday.

At the hearing, Judge Hellerstein denied a motion by Mr. Fairey to delay a deposition in a civil case while the criminal investigation is pending. In a letter obtained by The New York Times, an attorney for Mr. Fairey also alluded to a criminal investigation. The letter requested that Tuesday’s hearing be sealed “based on the fact that the motion relates to a grand jury investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”

“An open hearing on these issues would risk compromising the confidential nature of the criminal investigation,” added the letter, signed by Meir Feder, a lawyer at Jones Day. That motion was also denied.

The legal dispute hinges on whether Mr. Fairey had the right to use an A.P. photo of Mr. Obama for his “Hope” poster. In October, Mr. Fairey admitted that he had lied in court papers about using a different photograph of Mr. Obama, and that he had created false documents to cover the discrepancy."

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Ursula Le Guin leads revolt against Google digital book settlement; (London) Guardian, 1/22/10

Alison Flood, (London) Guardian; Ursula Le Guin leads revolt against Google digital book settlement:

As opt-out deadline approaches, writer launches petition asking for US to be exempt from controversial agreement

"The family of John Steinbeck has reversed its decision to oppose Google's controversial plans to digitise millions of books, but a growing chorus of authors led by acclaimed science fiction writer Ursula K Le Guin have registered their resistance to the scheme.

As the deadline of 28 January for writers to opt out of the Google book settlement approaches, Le Guin has launched a petition, signed by almost 300 authors, asking that the US "be exempted from the settlement", and that "the principle of copyright, which is directly threatened by the settlement, be honoured and upheld in the United States". Signatories to the petition include Kamila Shamsie, author of the Orange prize-shortlisted Burnt Shadows, respected science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson and Nick Harkaway, author of the hit debut novel The Gone-Away World.

"The free and open dissemination of information and of literature, as it exists in our public libraries, can and should exist in the electronic media. All authors hope for that," wrote Le Guin in her petition, having previously resigned from the Authors Guild over its support of the Google settlement, calling it a "deal with the devil".

"But we cannot have free and open dissemination of information and literature unless the use of written material continues to be controlled by those who write it or own legitimate right in it," her petition continued. "We urge our government and our courts to allow no corporation to circumvent copyright law or dictate the terms of that control."

The Google book settlement followed legal action by US authors and publishers against Google over its digitisation of works without consent. The search giant reached a deal with the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers in 2008, but following objections from groups including the US Department of Justice it amended the $125m (£77.5m) deal, presenting a revised version of the settlement to a New York federal court in November. A final hearing is scheduled for 18 February, but authors have until 28 January to decide whether to opt out of the settlement or to raise objections to it.

Harkaway and Shamsie, both signatories to Le Guin's petition, have taken different approaches, Harkaway opting out and Shamsie deciding to opt in despite her opposition, as she believes it will give her greater control over what happens to her books. "It comes down to this: are you willing to legitimise the Google book settlement by opting in in order to exercise greater control over your work, while recognising there's no absolute guarantee of control, or would you prefer to opt out, have no part in the Google book settlement, and hold on to your rights to sue, even if this means your control over what happens with your books is vastly diminished?" she said.

She "very reluctantly" decided to opt in and instruct Google that she doesn't want her books used if they've already digitised them, and doesn't want them to be digitised if they haven't already done so. "I think like a lot of authors I woke up to the situation fairly late. I was always dimly aware of it but I wasn't paying it enough attention," she said. "When the deadline started approaching I realised I would have to look more closely [and realised] there were too many grey areas, too much which can go horribly wrong for writers."

The Steinbeck family, however, has reversed the opposition to the deal it aired last year, and decided to opt in.

"While we continue in our belief that what Google did was an imperious act of copyright infringement, it is time to step off the battlefield and evaluate our losses and our gains. When we look at the new conditions of the revised settlement, it meets our standards of control over the intellectual properties that would otherwise remain at risk were we to stay out of the settlement," wrote Gail Steinbeck, wife of Thomas Steinbeck, the author's son, in a statement yesterday.

Le Guin said she would be sending her petition, for which she is still gathering support, to the judge overseeing the case by 28 January."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Google Settlement Opponents Ask Congress for Nonprofit Alternative; American Libraries, 1/19/10

Gordon Flagg, American Libraries; Google Settlement Opponents Ask Congress for Nonprofit Alternative:

"A month before the February 18 final fairness hearing for the proposed settlement of lawsuits challenging Google’s Book Search project, the Open Book Alliance called on Congress to instead help establish a digital book database operated by a neutral, nonprofit organization.

In a January 19 letter sent to members of Congress and digitization advocates, OBA cofounder Peter Brantley called for Google “to halt its current strategy, which focuses on fattening its profits and ensuring its continued domination of the Internet search market at the expense of broader social responsibilities.” Instead, he asked the parties to the proposed settlement to join a “new inclusive process” to develop a comprehensive digital public library that would “foster competitive instead of exclusive markets” and promote “long-term benefits for consumers … over isolated commercial interests.” Brantley asked that OBA’s proposed alternative “be done in a way that respects authors’ rights and copyright.”

The letter (PDF file) went on to say that such a library must result from “an open and deliberative conversation in Congress“ that would “appropriately weigh the concerns of all stakeholders [and that it] should be entrusted to a neutral, civic, not-for-profit organization … such as the Library of Congress” and “must not be exclusive to a single for-profit company.”
The OBA is a coalition of opponents of the settlement proposed by Google, the Authors Guild, and the Association of American Publishers. Its members include Google competitors Microsoft,, and Yahoo, as well as the Internet Archive, the National Writers Union, the Special Libraries Association, and the New York Library Association."

For the Heirs to Holmes, a Tangled Web; New York Times, 1/19/10

Dave Itzkoff, New York Times; For the Heirs to Holmes, a Tangled Web:

"For a 123-year-old detective, Sherlock Holmes is a surprisingly reliable earner.

Though readers were not always informed of his compensation for, say, uncovering the truth of the Red-Headed League or bringing the Hound of the Baskervilles to heel, Holmes remains a valuable literary property.

His adventures in books, plays, television shows and movies continue to pay dividends for the heirs of his creator, Arthur Conan Doyle. Holmes’s latest appearance on film, directed by Guy Ritchie, has sold more than $311 million in tickets worldwide, and on Sunday won a Golden Globe award for its star, Robert Downey Jr.

At his age, Holmes would logically seem to have entered the public domain. But not only is the character still under copyright in the United States, for nearly 80 years he has also been caught in a web of ownership issues so tangled that Professor Moriarty wouldn’t have wished them upon him.

“It is,” said Jon Lellenberg, the American literary agent for the Arthur Conan Doyle estate, “enough to make lawyers’ eyes roll up in their heads. Even British lawyers.”..."

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Call for study of threat from "offline" filesharing; (London) Guardian, 1/15/10

Katie Allen, (London) Guardian; Call for study of threat from "offline" filesharing:

Swapping of music and video on hard drives and memory sticks could be just as big a threat as online firesharing, says report

"Policymakers urgently need better information on people's attitudes to copyright law, according to a report out today warning that friends swapping hard drives and memory sticks could pose as great a piracy threat to media companies as online filesharers.

The Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Property (Sabip), a body set up to advise the government, has been looking into "offline" copyright infringement after its research last year into online piracy threw up questions about how consumers get films, music and games for free.

"There's a whole big question here around what is happening offline digitally, the swapping of discs and data in that world. There's a lot of it going on," said Sabip board member Dame Lynne Brindley.

Brindley, chief executive of the British Library, said existing research did not give a clear picture of consumer behaviour. While there was some data on the proportion of people buying counterfeit CDs, DVDs and video games – estimated at between 7% and 16% of the population – Sabip was concerned that more needed to be known about other copyright breaches, such as hard-drive swapping and files being shared by wireless Bluetooth connections.

David Lammy, minister for intellectual property, said such offline copying had to be addressed. He said the Sabip research moved the focus from "geeky teenagers" and on to adults as well.

He said: "The need for research into this area is hugely important so we can understand consumer behaviour, to understand how to enforce copyright and to understand the scale of the problems we are experiencing."

Sabip's review of available national and international research concluded: "Policymakers urgently need a better understanding of how consumers behave in both the online and offline digital environment."

The review, conducted by BOP Consulting, also sought to show that consumers were "more interested in factors such as price, quality, and availability of material, rather than its legal status". It said: "Consumer behaviour online and offline in the digital world needs to be looked at from a new perspective – one that encompasses consumer choice rather than just from the viewpoint of criminal behaviour."

Lammy said that highlighted the need for "public education and for the right pricing and business models to adapt to this environment".

The review also concluded that "evidence" was mixed as to whether illegally consuming content complemented legal consumption – a point of much contention among music industry figures. Some artists claim filesharing can lead people to buy more legal products.

Duncan Calow, a media lawyer at DLA Piper, said the prevalence of offline copyright infringement – whether wilful or unwitting – underlines the need for media companies to better explain to consumers what they could and could not do with the products they bought.

As technology improves and film companies and publishers become more affected by piracy, he expects to see more copyright guidance from rights holders but not necessarily finger-wagging and a list of "don'ts". No one wanted a repeat of the bad press sparked by record labels' pursuit of individual filesharers in the courts.

"Hollywood has learned from looking at the music industry. Those same concerns are also in the publishing industry with the rise of the ebook. They are all desperate to avoid that kind of stand-off," he said.

"So they are starting to try in a fairer way to explain to their consumers what it is they are selling to them ... what is being offered in terms of how you can enjoy content.""

New York Times Ready to Charge Online Readers; New York Magazine, 1/17/10

Gabriel Sherman, New York Magazine; New York Times Ready to Charge Online:

"New York Times Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. appears close to announcing that the paper will begin charging for access to its website, according to people familiar with internal deliberations. After a year of sometimes fraught debate inside the paper, the choice for some time has been between a Wall Street Journal-type pay wall and the metered system adopted by the Financial Times, in which readers can sample a certain number of free articles before being asked to subscribe. The Times seems to have settled on the metered system.

One personal friend of Sulzberger said a final decision could come within days, and a senior newsroom source agreed, adding that the plan could be announced in a matter of weeks...

The Times has considered three types of pay strategies..."

Adventures of the ‘Wolverine’ Leaker; New York Times, 1/12/10

Michael Wilson, New York Times; Adventures of the ‘Wolverine’ Leaker:

"The man who stole Wolverine opened the door to his Bronx apartment with a grunt, his thin frame hunched at the waist, an unlikely villain with a bad back and pajama pants. “I’m a scapegoat for this,” said Gilberto Sanchez, 47, after flopping down at his desk — the crime scene — and dragging on a cigarette. “I’m gonna get crucified.”

It has been nine months since the theft of the superhero, or more accurately, the superhero’s story. On March 31, someone posted a “work print” — an unfinished copy — of the film “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” on a Web site. It was a full month before the movie, starring Hugh Jackman as the famous mutant, was to open in theaters. Hollywood analysts called the leak unprecedented and speculated whether its free, albeit brief, availability to the public — and the unkind buzz that followed — would dampen its box office draw. Mr. Jackman himself was said by the studio to be “heartbroken.”...

In an interview in his $695-a-month apartment in the Parkchester neighborhood, Mr. Sanchez, who was in and out of city jails in the 1990s on drug charges, told his story...

Wesley Hsu, an assistant United States attorney for the Central District of California, who is supervising the prosecution, said financial gain is not necessarily the sole motive for so-called pirates.

“It’s some sort of Internet prestige thing,” Mr. Hsu said. “That’s sort of how the culture works.”

Mr. Sanchez, who speaks to rehabilitation groups — “I’m Gilberto Sanchez, I’ve been to jail, I’ve been through this, I’ve been through that” — said he has no intention of fighting the charge. “I can’t say no,” he said, pointing to his computer. “That’s like DNA.”

His fate is unclear...

“Wolverine” went on to gross $373 million worldwide, despite mostly bad reviews, and despite the online adventures of a glass installer from the Bronx who, a day after his interview, was laid out flat on the floor of his apartment, the only comfortable position for his back.

He tried to imagine what Mr. Jackman might say to him if they ever met. He hoped it would go something like this: “Hey, you did what you did. You didn’t hurt us.”"

Courts to Rule on Fan - Created Music Videos; Reuters via New York Times, 1/15/10

Reuters via New York Times; Courts to Rule on Fan - Created Music Videos:

"More than a decade after the launch of Napster, the recording industry's complicated legal relationship with Web-savvy music fans seems no closer to resolution. But a number of cases winding their way through the courts may bring a bit of clarity in 2010 to one particularly fuzzy area of the law: fan-created online videos that contain music.

The major labels have all worked out deals with YouTube to split ad revenue with the site after a user uploads a music video. But considering that labels don't issue explicit licenses to users and YouTube continues to warn against uploading copyrighted material, it isn't clear whether the labels actually want fans to upload their music in the first place. Meanwhile, other copyright owners who don't have deals with YouTube, such as Viacom and music publisher Bourne, are still pursuing copyright infringement suits against the video-sharing giant...


There is surprisingly little case law on this topic. In September, a federal judge in Los Angeles ruled against Universal Music Group in its infringement suit against, saying the video-sharing site was protected by the DMCA. But that case isn't binding on a New York federal court, and UMG is appealing. And in a case involving peer-to-peer site isoHunt, a U.S. District Court judge ruled in December that safe harbors are simply unavailable to sites that "induce" infringement.

The other major legal question in the EMI suit is whether lip dubs and similar mash-ups of amateur and professional content are infringing. Copyright reform activists argue that they're examples of fair use tolerated under copyright law as an accommodation to noncommercial, transformative creativity. Of course EMI will point out that, whatever the motivation of the amateur lib-dubber, Vimeo is anything but "noncommercial."

Sources familiar with the labels' thinking on the issue acknowledge these videos' promotional value, but they also note that other video-sharing sites like YouTube have struck deals with the labels and dismiss the notion that copyright owners should forgo a revenue stream simply because it also promotes their artists.

Elsewhere, Stephanie Lenz is still battling UMG over its takedown of a video she had uploaded to YouTube of her toddler son dancing to Prince's "Let's Go Crazy." Lenz wants damages for the removal of a video she considers an obvious fair use; UMG maintains it acted in good faith to protect its copyright. And Don Henley's suit against U.S. Senate candidate Chuck DeVore (R-Calif.) over the use of "The Boys of Summer" and "All She Wants to Do Is Dance" in "parody" political videos is moving forward in federal court in Santa Ana, Calif.

U.S. courts have yet to provide clear guidance regarding the legality of pairing copyrighted music with amateur video and then broadcasting it to the world. That may finally change in 2010."

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Anti-piracy agency's logo broke copyright; (London) Telegraph, 1/12/10

(London) Telegraph; Anti-piracy agency's logo broke copyright: France's new internet agency set up to protect the rights of artists is facing legal action for using a copyrighted design for its logo:

"The French government's web police force – called Hadopi – was set up to stop piracy and clamp down on illegal downloaders.

The agency's logo was unveiled this by French culture minister Frederic Mitterrand, who said that Hadopi "finally had a face".

But within hours of its launch, it was forced to apologise for using a typeface without permission that belonged to France Telecom.

The blunder was spotted by graphic designer Jean-Francois Porchez, who created the distinctive "Bonjour" font and sold it exclusively to France Telecom.

The design agency Plan Creatif that created the Hadopi logo has now admitted it used the typeface by mistake and the design had now been "tweaked".

But Mr Porchez said he was still considering legal action against the government for illegal use of his design.

He said: "My lawyer will contact the culture ministry and France Telecom in the hope of finding a solution.""

[Documentary] Copyright Criminals; PBS, Independent Lens, Airing 1/19/10 10 PM (in Pittsburgh area; check local listings)

PBS, Independent Lens, Airing 1/19/10, 10 PM EST in Pittsburgh area (check for local listing broadcast times); [Documentary] Copyright Criminals:

"Long before people began posting their homemade video mashups on the Web, hip-hop musicians were perfecting the art of audio montage through sampling. Sampling — or riffing — is as old as music itself, but new technologies developed in the 1980s and 1990s made it easier to reuse existing sound recordings. Acts like Public Enemy, De La Soul and the Beastie Boys created complex rhythms, references and nuanced layers of original and appropriated sound. But by the early 1990s, sampling had collided with the law. When recording industry lawyers got involved, what was once called “borrowed melody” became “copyright infringement.”

COPYRIGHT CRIMINALS examines the creative and commercial value of musical sampling, including the related debates over artistic expression, copyright law and money. The film showcases many of hip-hop music’s founding figures like Public Enemy, De La Soul and Digital Underground, as well as emerging artists such as audiovisual remixers Eclectic Method. It also provides first-person interviews with artists who have been sampled, such as Clyde Stubblefield — James Brown's drummer and the world's most sampled musician — and commentary by another highly sampled musician, funk legend George Clinton.

Computers, mobile phones and other interactive technologies are changing our relationships with media, blurring the line between producer and consumer and radically changing what it means to be creative. As artists find more inventive ways to insert old influences into new material, COPYRIGHT CRIMINALS poses the question: Can you own a sound?"

Report Says 9 Million Books Pirated Online; New York Times, 1/14/09

Motoko Rich, New York Times; Report Says 9 Million Books Pirated Online:

"A study by a company that helps track pirated digital books estimates that there were 9 million illegal downloads of copyrighted books in the final months of last year. Attributor, which works for publishers including Hachette Book Group and John Wiley & Sons, scanned 25 Web sites that offer readers downloadable content, looking for 913 titles across categories ranging from business and investing to fiction. It found, for example, that illegal copies of “Freakonomics,” by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, were downloaded 1,082 times and “Angels & Demons,” by Dan Brown, 7,951 times. The study did not track any titles published by the company’s clients, which would exclude the oft-pirated “Twilight” series published by Hachette. Rich Pearson, general manager of Attributor, said although not every pirated copy represented a lost sale, the potential loss to the publishing industry could be as high as $3 billion. Some analysts doubted that piracy was as big a problem for the book industry as the study suggested. Mike Shatzkin, chief executive of Idea Logical Company, a book industry consultant, said many people who might illegally download an e-book would never have bought it in the first place."

Monday, January 11, 2010

Google Apologizes to Chinese Authors; New York Times, 1/12/09

Andrew Jacobs, New York Times; Google Apologizes to Chinese Authors:

" Google has agreed to hand over a list of books by Chinese authors that it has scanned in recent years, company executives said on Monday, in an apparent effort to placate writers who say their works were digitized without their permission.

In a letter sent to an association of 8,000 Chinese writers, Google also apologized for any misunderstanding that might have angered authors and said it would work to forge an agreement on digitizing books by early summer.

“We definitely agree that we haven’t done a sufficient job in communicating with Chinese writers,” Erik Hartmann, who runs the Asia-Pacific division of Google Books, wrote in a letter to the China Writers’ Association, which posted the letter Sunday on its Web site."

Kirby family attorneys respond to Marvel lawsuit;, 1/9/10

Kevin Melrose,; Kirby family attorneys respond to Marvel lawsuit:

"Attorneys for the heirs of Jack Kirby call Marvel's assertion that the late artist's contributions were work made for hire "a standard claim predictably made by comic book companies to deprive artists, writers and other talent of all rights in their work."

The statement comes in response to a lawsuit filed Friday by Marvel asking for a judge to invalidate 45 copyright-termination notices issued in September related to such creations as the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, Thor, The Avengers, the X-Men and Spider-Man.

Marvel maintains that Kirby's work for the company was "for hire," invalidating the claims of his four children.

However, a press release issued late Friday by Kirby attorneys Toberoff & Associates points out that Marvel was unsuccessful when it made a similar argument in its legal battle with Joe Simon concerning Captain America.

"The truth is that Jack Kirby was his own man," the release states. "Like so many artists in the fledgling comic book industry of the late 1950's/early 1960's, Kirby worked with Marvel out of his own house as a free-lancer with no employment contract, no financial or other security, nor any other indicia of employment. ... Kirby's wonderful creations, which leapt from the page, were not Marvel's 'assignments,' but were instead authored by Kirby under his own steam and then published by Marvel. It was not until 1972 that Kirby by contract granted Marvel the copyrights to his works. It is to this grant that the Kirby family's statutory notices of termination apply."

According to Toberoff & Associates, the Kirby terminations would become effective beginning in 2014. However, it's unclear to which property that date refers. (What notable Kirby co-creations debuted at Marvel in 1958?)

When Congress increased the duration of copyright, lawmakers included a provision that, after a lengthy waiting period, permits authors or their heirs or estates to terminate the grant of rights. However, if the property is determined to be "work made for hire," the copyright would belong to the company that commissioned it."

World's Fair Use Day; 1/12/10

World's Fair Use Day:

"World’s Fair Use Day (WFUD) is a free, all-day celebration of the doctrine of fair use: the legal right that allows innovators and creators to make particular uses of copyrighted materials. WFUD will take place at the Newseum in Washington D.C. on Tuesday January 12, 2010, and will be organized by Public Knowledge (PK), a Washington D.C.-based non-profit, consumer-advocacy group. PK works to ensure that communications and intellectual property policies encourage creativity, further free expression and discourse and provide universal access to knowledge. As part of its campaign to return balance to copyright law, PK hopes to use WFUD to educate the public about the importance of fair use in an information society.

WFUD will be widely attended and will provide attendees with a unique opportunity to network with policymakers, artists, academics, business innovators, media professionals, press, and consumer advocates."

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Lawsuit accuses Fox News of copyright infringement; Yahoo News, 1/8/09

Anthony McCartney, Yahoo News; Lawsuit accuses Fox News of copyright infringement:

"A former adviser to Michael Jackson sued Fox News on Thursday for copyright infringement, claiming the cable channel aired portions of an interview with the singer's ex-wife without proper payment or permission.

The lawsuit in federal court by producer F. Marc Schaffel seeks damages from Fox News for airing portions of the 2003 interview with Debbie Rowe after Jackson's death in June. The filing states the interview made up a significant amount of Geraldo Rivera's July 5 show.

Schaffel, who once sued Jackson and won a judgment against him, owns the copyright to the Rowe interview. Portions of the interview were aired on the Fox network in 2003 as part of a special intended to balance out a damaging interview aired earlier that year.

A spokesman for Fox News, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., said the channel does not comment on pending litigation. The lawsuit states Fox News has claimed a "fair use" right to air the footage as part of news programming.

The filing chides Murdoch, who has threatened to sue the British Broadcasting Corp. and others for copyright infringement because he claims they are stealing content from his company's newspapers.

"Fox sanctimoniously operates unencumbered by the very copyright restrictions it seeks to impose on its competitors," the lawsuit states."

A case of Holmesophobia?; (London) Guardian, 1/6/10

Ben Walters, (London) Guardian; A case of Holmesophobia?:

"Sir Arthur Conan Doyle famously had a soft spot for fairies. The same cannot, it seems, be said of the keepers of his literary flame – not, at least, of Andrea Plunket, who lays claim to the remaining US copyrights relating to Conan Doyle's most iconic creation.

According to IMDB, Plunket has reacted with fury to Robert Downey Jr's suggestion on The Late Show with David Letterman that Sherlock Holmes, whom he plays in Guy Ritchie's film, could be perceived as "a very butch homosexual". Introducing a clip in which Holmes lets off some steam bare-knuckle boxing after offending Watson, Downey also floated the possibility that Rachel McAdams's character, with whom the detective is apparently besotted, "could be a beard. Who knows?"

"I hope this is just an example of Mr Downey's black sense of humour," Plunket reportedly fumed in an interview with Total Film. "It would be drastic, but I would withdraw permission for more films to be made if they feel that is a theme they wish to bring out in the future. I am not hostile to homosexuals, but I am to anyone who is not true to the spirit of the books."

It's hard to think of the last time so much befuddled, hateful knee-jerk reaction was funnelled into so few words. Oh, wait, no, it isn't – Jan Moir's Daily Mail article on Stephen Gately will be hard to top on that front for some time. Still, Plunket does awfully well, insisting that the idea of a beloved character being gay is not just a joke but a sick joke before offering a declaration of tolerance to stand alongside "I've nothing against black people" and "Don't get me wrong, I love women"."

Leading Author Groups Call on Congressional Authors to Oppose Google Book Search 2.0; Resource Shelf Blog, 1/7/10

Resource Shelf Blog; Leading Author Groups Call on Congressional Authors to Oppose Google Book Search 2.0:

"The National Writers Union, the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Science Fiction Writers of America today reached out to fellow authors in the U.S. Congress to highlight the flaws of the most recent Google Books Settlement proposal. The letter to sent to more than 60 Congressional authors focused on the copyright, monopolistic and contractual ramifications of an approved GBS 2.0.

Today’s letter from prominent author groups further extends momentum against the proposed settlement between Google and the Author’s Guild and the Association of American Publishers. In the last month, award-winning author Ursula K. Le Guin’s resigned from the Authors Guild because “[The Author's Guild] has decided to deal with the devil, as it were, and have presented your arguments for doing so. I wish I could accept them, but I can’t. ”"

Authors want out of Google Books deal; (Montreal) Gazette, 1/9/10

Roberto Rocha, (Montreal) Gazette; Authors want out of Google Books deal:

"A group of writers wants Canada out of the Google Books settlement, which would create a huge digital library of books for anyone to see, and asks the federal government to loudly oppose the deal.

An online petition by authors Sarah Sheard and David Bolt contends Google has no business setting copyright precedents in the United States for Canadian works, and too many affected writers don't know or understand the details of the settlement.

"We want the government to get really loud about this," said Bolt, who owns the estate of his late wife, author Carol Bolt. If opposition is strong enough, he argues, Google might remove Canadian books from its project, as it did with other nations, like France and New Zealand.

The petition has about 230 signatories."

Marvel sues to keep Spider-Man, X-Men copyrights; Associated Press, 1/9/10

Associated Press, via Yahoo; Marvel sues to keep Spider-Man, X-Men copyrights:

"The home of superheroes including Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and the X-Men sued one of its most successful artists Friday to retain the rights to the lucrative characters.

The federal lawsuit filed Friday in Manhattan by Marvel Worldwide Inc. asks a judge to invalidate 45 notices sent by the heirs of artist Jack Kirby to try to terminate Marvel's copyrights, effective on dates ranging from 2014 through 2019.

The heirs notified several companies last year that the rights to the characters would revert from Marvel to Kirby's estate.

The lawsuit said Kirby's work on the comics published between 1958 and 1963 were "for hire" and render the heirs' claims invalid. The famed artist died in 1994.

The lawsuit was dismissed by Kirby's attorney Marc Toberoff, who issued a statement saying the heirs were merely trying to take advantage of change to copyright law that allows artists to recapture rights to their work.

"It is a standard claim predictably made by comic book companies to deprive artists, writers, and other talent of all rights in their work," the statement said of Marvel's lawsuit.

"The Kirby children intend to vigorously defend against Marvel's claims in the hope of finally vindicating their father's work."

The statement claimed Kirby was never properly compensated for his contributions to Marvel's universe of superheroes.

"Sadly, Jack died without proper compensation, credit or recognition for his lasting creative contributions," the statement said.

Comic book characters such as Spider-Man and the X-Men have become some of Hollywood's most bankable properties in recent years.

The lawsuit said the comic book titles in the notices to which Kirby claims to have contributed include "Amazing Adventures," "Amazing Fantasy," "Amazing Spider-Man," "The Avengers," the "Fantastic Four," "Fantastic Four Annual," "The Incredible Hulk," "Journey into Mystery," "Rawhide Kid," "Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos," "Strange Tales," "Tales to Astonish," "Tales of Suspense" and "The X-Men."

John Turitzin, a Marvel lawyer, said in a statement that the heirs were trying "to rewrite the history of Kirby's relationship with Marvel."

He added: "Everything about Kirby's relationship with Marvel shows that his contributions were works made for hire and that all the copyright interests in them belong to Marvel.

Marvel Entertainment, a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Co., sought a judge's order that the Kirby notices have no effect."

Marvel sues to invalidate copyright claims by Jack Kirby's heirs;, 1/8/10; Marvel sues to invalidate copyright claims by Jack Kirby's heirs:

"Marvel struck back today at the heirs of Jack Kirby, asking a judge to invalidate notices sent in September to terminate the copyrights to such characters as the Fantastic Four, the X-Men and Spider-Man.

In a lawsuit filed today in New York City, lawyers for Marvel assert that Kirby's work for the company was "for hire," invalidating the claims of the heirs.

"The notices filed by the heirs are an attempt to rewrite the history of Kirby's relationship with Marvel," John Turitzin, Marvel's general counsel, said in a press release. "Everything about Kirby's relationship with Marvel shows that his contributions were works made for hire and that all the copyright interests in them belong to Marvel."

The heirs, represented by Marc Toberoff -- he's the attorney who helped the wife and daughter of Jerry Siegel regain a share of Superman -- issued 45 copyright-termination notices to Marvel, Disney, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures and others who have made films and other forms of entertainment based on characters that Kirby co-created.

Under U.S. copyright law, authors or their heirs and estates may file to regain copyrights, or partial copyrights, at a certain period of time after the original transfer of rights. However, if the property is determined to be "work made for hire," the copyright would belong to the company that commissioned it.

Marvel argues that the company's editors determined which titles Kirby and other creators worked on, "and always retained full editorial control."

"If, for example, Marvel gave a writer or artist an assignment to create a comic book story populated with new characters or to illustrate a comic book story with depictions of its characters -- and paid the writer or artist for carrying out the assignment -- the publisher, not the writer or artist, would own the copyright," the press release asserts. "All of Kirby's contributions to Marvel comic books the heirs are claiming for themselves fall into this category."

If the Kirby children are successful, they would reclaim their father's portion of the copyright to key characters and concepts from the Marvel Universe as early as 2017 for the Fantastic Four. In most cases, that would seem to mean co-ownership with Marvel, as Stan Lee agreed to waive claim to any of the characters. With Spider-Man, one-third ownership could be possible if the Kirbys were to prevail yet the judge recognized Steve Ditko's interests."

[Podcast & Transcript] Google's Goal: Digitize Every Book Ever Printed, PBS NewsHour

[Podcast & Transcript] PBS NewsHour; Google's Goal: Digitize Every Book Ever Printed:

"GARY REBACK: People no longer see any big difference between Google and Google's competitors. They're in it for money. And we need to depend on the competitive system to protect us.

SPENCER MICHELS: Does that go for Amazon and Microsoft as well?

GARY REBACK: It absolutely does. In this case, for example, Amazon was digitizing books long before Google was. Microsoft wanted to digitize books. Neither of them got the same deal that Google got -- got secretly, but, if they had, we would be -- all be better off because of it.

SPENCER MICHELS: Questions like those are being debated around the world. At Stanford, top librarians met recently to wrestle with how to adapt to the new online book resources and whether to cooperate with digitizations of their collections.

And bookstores like Berkeley's Pegasus, already in competition with discount booksellers, have to adapt as well. This store now sells digital books through its Web site. Besides the competition from online books, store owner Amy Thomas also worries about privacy of digital book buyers.

AMY THOMAS: They have a right to read without being -- having their reading records subpoenaed for whatever reason. They have a right to this privacy. And we will hope that Google will maintain, zealously maintain, defend those rights.

SPENCER MICHELS: Pam Samuelson is equally skeptical of Google's privacy policies. She puts her trust in libraries.

For its part, Google says it has been a huge advocate for user privacy. Antitrust concerns, copyright law, competition and privacy are all at issue in a flurry of lawsuits, friend-of-the-court briefs and interest from the Department of Justice. They will come to a head in February, when a federal judge holds a hearing on the Google case in New York."

‘Avatar’ Commandeers Film Piracy Record; New York Times, 1/6/10

Dave Itzkoff, New York Times; ‘Avatar’ Commandeers Film Piracy Record:

"As “Avatar” knocks down box office records, the film has hit another, less estimable milestone: it has become the fastest-pirated movie, according to one tracking firm’s figures. The Times of London reported that “Avatar,” starring ZoĆ« Saldana, right, was illegally downloaded 500,000 times in the first two days of its release and 980,000 times in the first week, citing figures from the Web site, which tracks usage of the file-sharing tool BitTorrent. In the days leading up to the film’s release last month, its director, James Cameron, seemed confident that the 3-D effects would essentially make it immune to piracy, telling The Times of London, “You can pirate a 3-D movie, but you can’t pirate it in 3-D, so you can’t bottle that 3-D experience.” But the numbers seem to tell a different story: “Avatar” was illegally downloaded far more often than its closest competitor, the “Twilight” sequel “New Moon,” which was downloaded 610,000 times in its first week of release. Still, 20th Century Fox, which released “Avatar,” seemed unconcerned that piracy would hurt box office grosses, which last weekend surpassed $1 billion in worldwide ticket sales. “Bootleg copies are unlikely to have much impact,” a studio spokesman told The Times of London. “Seeing the movie in 3-D in a cinema offers an experience that cannot be replicated.”"

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What Could Have Been Entering the Public Domain on January 1, 2010?; Center for the Study of the Public Domain, 1/5/10

Center for the Study of the Public Domain; What Could Have Been Entering the Public Domain on January 1, 2010?; Center for the Study of the Public Domain:

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Counterfeiting in China thrives: experts; Sydney Morning Herald, 1/3/09

Allison Jackson, Sydney Morning Herald; Counterfeiting in China thrives: experts:

"While China has talked up its recent progress in stamping out copyright piracy, the market for fake iPhones and bootleg DVDs still flourishes, and its trading partners say it could do better.

Late last month, the United States -- consistently critical of Beijing's failure to stop the illicit production of US brands -- issued an annual report saying piracy in the Asian giant remained at "unacceptably high levels".

Analysts say despite official crackdowns and successful prosecutions, graft and weak policing means factories continue to churn out fake goods, costing foreign and domestic firms billions of US dollars in lost revenue.

"Local protectionism and government corruption are the real issue," Daniel Chow, a professor at the Ohio State University College of Law, told AFP.

"The central government is probably sincere but enforcement occurs at the local level, and local governments have a direct and indirect interest in protecting counterfeiting, which is important to the local economy."

China's counterfeit and piracy market is the biggest in the world and employs millions of factory workers, distributors and shop assistants across the vast country of 1.3 billion.

Fake products are readily available in stores and on the Internet in China, as well as in overseas markets from New York to Sydney, at a fraction of the cost for the real thing.

"Avatar" is smashing box office records in North America but can be bought for about a dollar in Beijing shops. Cheap copies of Apple's iPhone were available in China long before the smartphone was officially launched in 2009.

"In China, you can get enforcement but no deterrence," said Chow.

"You can easily get a raid but there are no consequences to the counterfeiter, who usually pays a light fine and is back in business in two to three weeks."

In his annual report to Congress before Christmas, US Trade Representative Ron Kirk -- a key member of US President Barack Obama's delegation for his first official visit to China in November -- was damning.

"Despite repeated anti-piracy campaigns in China and an increasing number of civil IPR cases in Chinese courts, counterfeiting and piracy remain at unacceptably high levels and continue to cause serious harm to US businesses across many sectors of the economy," Kirk said.

Kirk's comments followed a decision by the US Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus to place China among the top five countries on its "International Piracy Watch List" for 2009.

But Beijing says it has made "notable progress" in the war on Internet piracy and copyright infringement, state media reported last month, citing an official from the National Copyright Administration of China."

Friday, January 1, 2010

Chinese author plans lawsuit over Google Books; CNet News, 12/28/09

Tom Krazit, CNet News; Chinese author plans lawsuit over Google Books:

"A Chinese author plans to sue Google for scanning one of her books into the Google Books database without her permission, according to a report.

Mian Mian intends to file suit this week against Google, claiming copyright infringement after discovering that her third book, "Acid Lovers," was scanned by Google as part of its book digitization project, according to AFP. The suit would be the first filed against Google in China over the Google Books project, which itself is no stranger to the courtroom."