Thursday, February 25, 2010

Video Mad Libs With the Right Software; New York Times, 2/25/10

Paul Boutin, New York Times; Video Mad Libs With the Right Software:

"It is April 1945. In his underground bunker, Hitler huddles over a map with his top generals. The room is insufferably tense. Members of the German high command, sweating in their uniforms, wonder who will dare to break the terrible news to Der Führer.

“The iPad won’t support multitasking,” one general confesses. Hitler erupts in impotent rage, “I wanted to watch videos of lolcats while laying on the couch. But no, they won’t even give it Flash support.”

This four-minute video, available on YouTube, is one of hundreds of goofy edits to the English subtitles of a powerful scene from a 2004 German-language movie titled “Downfall” in the United States. In various home-subtitled remakes over the last few years, Hitler explodes when told that the McMansion he was trying to flip is in foreclosure, that the band Oasis has split up, that the Colts lost the Super Bowl or that people keep making more “Downfall” parodies. When Hitler learns Sarah Palin has resigned as governor of Alaska, he pounds his chest. “Every time she winked,” he moans, “I thought it was just for me.”

Making your own Hitler video turns out to be refreshingly easy, which is why so many of them can be found on YouTube. All you need is a PC and Microsoft’s Movie Maker, a program included with both Windows XP and Vista. (If you run the new Windows 7, you will need to download the old Movie Maker 2.6, rather than the new but less powerful Windows Live Movie Maker. If you’re a Mac user, Apple’s built-in iMovie application will handle the job.)...

A brief word about “fair use.” When you are playing with copyrighted material, you have to be aware that all your hard work can be for naught. While you may be well within your rights to use a portion of copyrighted material in a parody — the law is murky on how much material and in what fashion constitutes fair use — your parody might get squashed. Downfall’s copyright holder, Constantin Film, had a dozen remixes removed from YouTube earlier this year. But the company seems to have since yielded to the phenomenon. And YouTube recently removed the clip that began the 2007 fad of rickrolling, long after the meme had worn itself out."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Issue Brief on Streaming of Films for Educational Purposes; ACRL Insider, 2/22/10

Kara Malenfant, ACRL Insider; Issue Brief on Streaming of Films for Educational Purposes:

"Last Friday, the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) released an issue brief that reviews the legal status of streaming entire films to students located outside of physical classrooms. The discussion was prompted by recent news of a disagreement between the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and a media equipment trade association over the streaming of films to students as part of an online courseware system. Innovations in secure streaming and online courseware systems hold significant promise for institutions serving faculty and students who demand increased access to institutional and library holdings. Many questions have been raised concerning the use of these technologies and copyright law, and the LCA issue brief aims to dispel some of the mystery and uncertainty that surround this issue, and to foster a balanced discussion.

The LCA issue brief explains characteristics that could increase the likelihood that a particular use will be allowed as well as the arguments that could lead a court to find in favor of educational uses. It also explains how these statutory provisions interact, and, most importantly, how the scope of fair use is affected by the other provisions in the Act.

The Copyright Act includes several provisions that allow users to copy, perform, distribute, or display works without permission from a rightsholder. The LCA issue brief surveys three provisions of the Copyright Act—Sections 107, 110(1), and 110(2)—that could arguably support streaming entire films. The strongest argument is grounded in Section 107—the fair use provision. Fair use is a flexible, evolving doctrine that is often helpful to scholarly and educational users and users of new technology. Section 110(1) and (2) specifically address the issue of educational use of films, but they are less flexible. Whether these provisions will allow for a particular use will depend on the details of the use as well as how a court chooses to interpret certain key parts of the Act. View the full issue brief online.


The Library Copyright Alliance is a coalition of library associations made up of the Association of Research Libraries, the American Library Association, and the Association of College and Research Libraries. Read more about LCA."

Textbook Publishers Win Court Ruling Against File-Sharing Web Site; Chronicle of Higher Education, 2/24/10

Jeffrey Young, Chronicle of Higher Education; Textbook Publishers Win Court Ruling Against File-Sharing Web Site:

"In a victory for textbook publishers, a German court has ruled that RapidShare, a file-trading Web site, must do more to stop the unauthorized swapping of some copyrighted books on its service.

The Landgericht in Hamburg, a district court, issued a preliminary ruling against RapidShare this month, prohibiting the company from making available certain copyrighted books on its site. The order took effect February 17.

Six major publishers brought the legal action against RapidShare, and they specified a list of 148 titles that are frequently pirated on the site. Those are the works covered under the court order, and many of them are textbooks.

Officials for RapidShare, which is based in Switzerland, could not be reached on Tuesday. In the past, the company has argued that it quickly takes down any copyrighted material that users post to the service once officials become aware of it, and that it follows all legal requirements regarding copyright.

The ruling said the company must go further: "It is not only necessary to promptly block access to the specific file, but rather to also take precautions going beyond this in order to prevent to the largest possible extent the occurrence of further similar infringements."

The court said it will issue fines of up to 250,000 euros (about $340,000) or jail time for company executives of up to two years per instance that a specified book is present on the file-sharing site.

On Tuesday afternoon, one of the books, Advanced 2D Game Development, by Jonathan S. Harbour, was still listed on the service, but an attempt to download it drew only the following error message: "Due to a violation of our terms of use, the file has been removed from the server."

Officials for the book publishers said they have been too busy writing a news release about the Hamburg court's decision to check whether all of the selected books have been removed from the site.

In an interview with The Chronicle, Tom Allen, chief executive of the Association of American Publishers, called the decision "a big deal," describing RapidShare as one of the largest provider of illegal books.

A recent study by Attributor Corporation, which helps companies search for pirated works, found that the vast majority of pirated books appear on just two sites, and RapidShare was one of them.

The publishers involved are among the largest in the world when it comes to textbooks: Bedford, Freeman & Worth; Cengage Learning; Elsevier; the McGraw-Hill Companies; Pearson; and John Wiley & Sons.

They brought the suit in Germany because courts there have been friendly to publishers in the past. "The German courts had dealt with this issue and did it in a way that respected copyright and did it quickly," said Mr. Allen, of the publishers' association."

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Google book scanning: Cultural theft or freedom of information?; CNN, 2/8/10

CNN; Google book scanning: Cultural theft or freedom of information?:

"A proposed partnership between the French government and Google is stoking fears in France that the country's literary treasures will fall under commercial control of a U.S. technology company.

Frederic Mitterand, the French minister of culture, has said that Google came to France with "the attitude of a conqueror" signing "unacceptable" and "one-sided" deals.

He told Le Monde newspaper that the deals involved "excessive confidentiality, impossible exclusivity and casual --even leonine --clauses on copyright."

For some, however, Mitterand's reaction is puzzling -- including one of the libraries concerned. Believing that access to their archives can promote French culture, the city of Lyon's library has signed an agreement with Google, hoping to scan as many as 500,000 books in 10 years.

The first text uploaded online was a rare 16th century collection of doomsday predictions from the French philosopher Nostradamus.

Under the Lyon Library contract, Google will scan its books and manuscripts for free. In exchange, the library gives Google the right to use the scanned documents commercially for the next 25 years.

"I find it normal and good that that book is scanned in Lyon where it was written. So I don't see the problem between using a method developed in the U.S. to promote heritage and culture in France or Europe. I don't understand the problem," Patrick Bazin, Director of the Lyon Library, told CNN.

The library's collection includes national literary treasures and collectibles, such as a 16th century bible, in 12 languages.

That means security is a top concern and Google is therefore keeping the location of its scanning secret.

"By putting them on the Internet, much larger circles of society, including non-specialists, can read these works and enjoy them and find them useful," Bazin added.

"They are works that touch upon all sorts of subjects of life, of the universe," he continued.

"They concern everyone and so they matter to everyone, and so they have to be made available to everyone by scanning them."

At the national level, officials like Mitterand have expressed a strong preference to keep the digitizing an internal affair, and even develop a rival to Google. So far the government has earmarked $1 billion dollars to boost its own online database, known as Gallica.

However, in January, an independent review for the French culture ministry criticized the lack of progress made by Gallica, and recommended a public-private partnership with Google.
Since starting in 1997, Gallica has scanned less than one million documents and about 145,000 books, according to the UK's Financial Times newspaper.

At the same time, the report concluded that deals between Google and libraries around Europe were disproportionately favorable for Google, and a better distribution would need to be brokered without the exclusivity clauses for France.

Philippe Colombet, the head of Google Books in France, has said in the past that exclusivity was needed to guarantee a return on the investment of scanning, but that he welcomes a partnership with the state.

In a statement emailed to CNN, Colombet reiterated "Google's commitment to work more than ever in partnership with publishers and other actors in the book industry to help create a virtuous ecosystem for books in the digital era."

Currently Google has seven library partners in Europe, including Lyon. It is only scanning out-of-copyright works in Europe.

While the final details remain to be hammered out, the pace of Google's process makes it hard to eschew.

Google has already scanned more than 12 million books into its global index since the Google Books project launched at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2004."

Monday, February 22, 2010

Yo, Ho, Ho, and a Digital Scrum; Chronicle of Higher Education, 2/21/10

Jeffrey Young, Chronicle of Higher Education; Yo, Ho, Ho, and a Digital Scrum:

History shows that intellectual property is more complex than either its creators or copiers care to admit, says a Chicago scholar

"The history of publishing is swimming with pirates—far more than Adrian Johns expected when he started hunting through the archives for them. And he thinks their stories may hold keys to understanding the latest battles over digital publishing—and the future of the book.

Johns, a historian at the University of Chicago, has done much of his hunting from his office here, which is packed so high with books that the professor bought a rolling ladder to keep them in easy reach. He can rattle off a long list of noted pirates through the years:

Alexander Pope accused "pyrates" of publishing unauthorized copies of his work in the 18th century. At the beginning of the 19th century, a man known as the "king of the pirates" used the then-new technology of photolithography to spread cheap reprints of popular sheet music. In the 1950s, a pirate music label named Jolly Roger issued recordings by Louis Armstrong and other jazz greats from LP's that the major labels were no longer publishing. A similar label put out opera recordings smuggled from the Soviet bloc.

Along with the practice itself, "pirates" in publishing just keep resurfacing, and Johns argues that the label is no accident. He sees it as the pirates' attempt to evoke romantic notions of seafaring swashbucklers. Sure, the copying done by culture pirates may be technically illegal, but they have long claimed the moral high ground, arguing that they are not petty thieves, but principled heroes rightfully returning creative work to a public commons by making free or cheap copies available.

"There is an association with a certain kind of liberty—living perhaps alongside the law rather than in direct opposition to it," Johns says. "What the pirate community can represent is a kind of alternative that has its own virtues."

Johns has collected these and other pirate lessons in a new book, Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars From Gutenberg to Gates (University of Chicago Press). The weighty work, more than 550 pages, covers hundreds of years of history of copyright and intellectual property in the West, focusing on the stories of those angling to disrupt prevailing practices.

The codified rules and laws allowing an author or publisher to claim exclusive rights to a literary work—what we now call "copyright"—did not develop until the 18th century, long after the printing press was invented. And since then the notion has been challenged again and again—sparking controversy long before the latest disputes over the pirating of music, movies, and other material over high-speed digital networks."

Friday, February 19, 2010

Who's afraid of digital book piracy?; (London) Guardian, 2/18/10

Alastair Harper, (London) Guardian; Who's afraid of digital book piracy?:

With the iPad and e-readers on the rise, will pirated books become as common as illegal music and films?:

"For years, we have been able to combine our taste for music and film with our desire to stick it to the man, and all from the safety of our PCs. Our literary habits, however, have perforce remained largely legal. The closest we could come to the same thrill is by wearing a deep-pocketed coat to WH Smiths – which is such an analogue approach to theft. Soon, however, even the bookish will be able to frustrate Lord Mandelson because, at long last, thanks to the iPad, digital book piracy is almost upon us.

The surest sign of this is that industry figures have started producing dubious statistics to show how endemic it is. In the US, it's just been announced that 10% of books read are now pirate texts. The same report claims that piracy has cost US publishers $3bn. But the source of the statistics was a company named Attributor, who provide online piracy protection for the publishing industry. Like a plumber tutting over the state of your pipes, they have a vested interest in finding problems.

A glance at the top seeded ebooks on Pirate Bay shows that Christopher Ricks isn't about to lose much sleep over the downloaders. Filling the top slots are Windows 7 Secrets, Adobe CS4 for Photographers and, shamelessly playing up to the stereotype of all geeks being lonely boys, the Jan/Feb edition of Playboy magazine. According to Freakbits, the only non-technical or sexual downloaded book in 2009 was the Twilight series – a choice that only goes to show how masturbation and Photoshopping mess with the mind.

More mainstream books are found on Scribd, a site you might well use – it's great for finding free books, citations and excerpts. It's also home to an awful lot of copyright infringements. You can find everything: Tintin in America, Martin Amis's Time's Arrow, Alastair Campbell's The Blair Years, Richard Brautigan. Heck, there's even a bunch of Guardian book bloggers, bundled together in a self-published book of literary quotations.

The interesting thing is just how openly available these books are from the site's servers. In fact, Scribd has a very old-school approach to piracy. It pitches itself as a document-sharing service, just as Napster pitched itself as a way of sharing sound files – a euphemism as transparent as a newspaper ad offering "escorts".

Publishers' lawyers will most likely eventually compel Scribd to close, or to turn it into a legal online shop (authors such as Stephen King already sell their digital copies through the site). Certain juicy targets for piracy, such as Stephanie Meyer or JK Rowling, have already had their legal battalions ensure no illicit Potters or vegetarian vampires appear online. That the rest of the industry hasn't yet bothered shows how small the impact of piracy has been on publishers thus far. Faber clearly don't see the need to police the Alan Bennett plays available on Scribd, since most of their audience still prefer physical copies.

The blog The Millions recently hosted an amazing interview with an American book pirate who provides e-copies of books because of his open-source, anti-copyright beliefs. Dutifully, he scans and proofs every book he uploads. The thought of all that repetitive effort, a kind of digital ironing, is quaintly charming – like a farmer tending to his patch with a sickle, his back squarely turned to the rolling Google combine harvester. It's such a lot of work and, outside textbooks, it makes so little impact that publishers haven't needed to pay the lawyers' fees to stop it.

But this is about to change. As e-readers become ubiquitous, publishers know they need to go digital. And being digital, no matter how much drm you shove in, means content will be pirated. Anyone will be able to get any new book you want if you know how to look for it.

But, despite the statistics, I don't believe book piracy will ever be as endemic as it has become with music and film. We've moved on from the pre-iTunes days when the only way of getting an MP3 of a song was to find it on Napster. Publishers were keen to get on board with the iPad straight from launch because they knew it was the safest way to protect and to disseminate their product. One editor at a big publisher told me just how desperate his company have been to woo Apple over the last 18 months.

More importantly, though, publishers have a headstart on the music and film industries and already have some experience of what happens when controlled content is made widely available for free. Victorian publishers were convinced public libraries would ruin them: they didn't. Lending libraries brought books off the estates and into the tenements, and publishers were suddenly selling a lot more books to a lot more people. This happened as the result of a system that, like Spotify, allowed readers to legally obtain books for free while the authors still received some money. If the publishing industry can remember its own history, digitisation should be a doddle."

Judge Hears Arguments on Google Book Settlement; New York Times, 2/19/09

Motoko Rich, New York Times; Judge Hears Arguments on Google Book Settlement:

"The federal judge overseeing the proposed settlement of a class-action lawsuit filed against Google by groups representing authors and publishers heard from a handful of supporters and a parade of objectors to the deal at a hearing Thursday in Manhattan.

At the beginning of more than four hours of testimony in a packed courtroom, Judge Denny Chin of the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York said he would not rule immediately on the settlement because there was “just too much to digest.”

Among the supporters of the deal, which would allow Google to create an extensive digital library and bookstore, were the president of the National Federation of the Blind, the librarian of the University of Michigan and a lawyer for Sony Electronics, all of whom said that the agreement would make millions of hard-to-find books available to a vast audience.

Opponents — who cited various concerns relating to competition, privacy, abuse of the class-action process and the violation of copyright — included lawyers for rivals and Microsoft, representatives of various authors and estates, literary agents and speakers representing Pennsylvania and Germany.

William F. Cavanaugh, a deputy assistant attorney general with the Justice Department, reiterated points the department made in a filing this month that raised legal objections to the agreement. Mr. Cavanaugh said the Justice Department was continuing its antitrust investigation into the settlement.

While saying that the department “applauds the benefits of mass digitization,” Mr. Cavanaugh said that “our concern is that this is not the appropriate vehicle to achieve these objectives.”

The settlement, originally announced in October 2008, arose out of a copyright infringement suit brought by the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers against Google, which had been scanning millions of books from libraries. The complex agreement outlined a plan that would allow Google to make the scanned books available online for searching, as well as create new ways for authors and publishers to earn money from digital editions of works that had long been off the market in print form.

Speaking in support of the settlement, Lateef Mtima, director of the Institute of Intellectual Property and Social Justice at Howard University, said the settlement would aid in the “development of a thriving, vibrant culture.”

But because the settlement would allow Google to scan and profit from copyright-protected books without the explicit permission of individual authors, the deal generated a litany of complaints. Critics also pointed out that Google would have the right to scan and sell so-called orphan works, those whose authors could not be found or whose rights owners could not be identified.

“You can’t settle a claim for copyright infringement by authorizing the miscreant to continue to infringe copyright,” said Hadrian Katz, a lawyer for the Internet Archive, a nonprofit group that is scanning books for its own digitization project.

Mr. Katz, along with the Justice Department and several other objectors, suggested that Google and its partners amend the settlement to require that authors choose to participate.

Daralyn J. Durie, a lawyer for Google, said the deal was fair because it compensated authors and publishers for any works sold through Google. She said it would be prohibitively expensive to track down millions of authors and negotiate individual deals to display or sell their works digitally.

Michael J. Boni, a lawyer for the Authors Guild, said that a rights registry that would be set up as part of the settlement would make every effort to find authors of orphan works."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Library Associations Support Online Software Reseller in Vernor v. Autodesk infringement lawsuit; District Dispatch, ALA Washington Office, 2/16/10

District Dispatch, ALA Washington Office; Library Associations Support Online Software Reseller in Vernor v. Autodesk infringement lawsuit:

"On Thursday, February 11, the American Library Association (ALA), the Association for College & Research Libraries (ACRL) and the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) – the Library Associations – joined a coalition of public interest and consumer groups in urging a federal appeals court to preserve consumers’ rights and the First Sale Doctrine (which allows libraries to lend books) in a battle over an Internet auction of used computer software.

An amicus curiae brief was filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, the Electronic Frontier Foundation – joined by the Library Associations, the Consumer Federation of America, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, and Public Knowledge – in support of plaintiff Timothy Vernor. Vernor is an online software reseller who tried to auction four authentic packages of Autodesk’s AutoCAD software on eBay. Autodesk sent takedown notices to block his auctions and threatened to sue him for copyright infringement, claiming that its software is only “licensed,” never sold.

At the heart of the case is the First Sale Doctrine – an important limitation under Copyright law that gives copyright holders control over the first vending or sale of their work(s). The first sale doctrine steps in after an individual copy has been sold and puts further disposition of the copy beyond the reach of the copyright owner. The first sale doctrine is fundamental for libraries and other organizations such as archives, used bookstores and online auctions, as it allows a “second life” for copyrighted works.

The brief argues, in part, that the first sale doctrine is well-established, serves critical economic and democratic values, and promotes access to knowledge, preservation of culture, and resistance to censorship. Libraries rely on provisions in the Copyright Act, such as first sale, to accept donations of special collections and to preserve these works. If Autodesk wins this case, software vendors would potentially be permitted to evade the first sale doctrine via contractual license agreements. Such a ruling could allow other copyright owners to follow suit with licenses on books, CDs, DVDs, and other media, with strong implications for libraries and our users.

The full amicus brief can be viewed here."

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Publishers Win a Bout in E-Book Price Fight; New York Times, 2/8/10

Motoko Rich, New York Times; Publishers Win a Bout in E-Book Price Fight:

"Google’s e-book retail program would be separate from the company’s class-action settlement with authors and publishers over its book-scanning project, under which Google has scanned more than seven million volumes — mostly out of print — from several university libraries. That settlement was recently imperiled by a filing from the Department of Justice that said it still had significant legal problems with the agreement, even after a round of revisions. The settlement is subject to court approval.

Google users can already search up to about 20 percent of the content of many new books that publishers have agreed to enroll in a search program. According to publishers, Google originally said it would automatically enroll any book sold through Google Editions in the search program. An executive from at least one of the six largest publishers said the company did not agree with those terms. Mr. Clancy said that Google would not require books sold through Google Editions to be part of the search program.

Last May Tom Turvey, director of strategic partnerships at Google, told publishers at the annual BookExpo convention in New York that Google’s program for selling new e-book editions would allow consumers to read books on any device with Internet access, including mobile phones, rather than being limited to dedicated reading devices like the Amazon Kindle.

Google, without its own e-reader, wants to be a Switzerland of sorts, competing with Barnes & Noble and other e-book sellers to become the preferred digital bookstore on devices other than the iPad or the Kindle, such as Android smart phones.

In general, publishers are eager for Google to enter the e-book market because they want more competition. “We would love to have a diverse marketplace for e-books,” said Maja Thomas, senior vice president for the digital division of Hachette Book Group, which publishes blockbuster authors like James Patterson and Stephenie Meyer. Since Google would contribute to such diversity, Ms. Thomas said, “we welcome them.”"

Monday, February 8, 2010

Google: We will bring books back to life; (London) Guardian, 2/5/10

David Drummond, (London) Guardian; Google: We will bring books back to life: We at Google could make that wealth of knowledge available at a click. And authors would earn too:

"If you love books and care about the knowledge they contain, there is a problem that needs to be solved. Somewhere in the region of 175m books exist in the world today. A tiny fraction of those are in print and for sale in bookshops or on the web. ­Another small portion are so old that they are out of copyright and anyone can use them.

But the remainder of the world's books – indeed the majority – are out of print but in copyright. They are hard for people to find unless they know exactly what they are looking for, and it's very difficult for copyright holders to exploit them commercially. Although copies may be available in libraries, they are effectively dead to the wider world.

Imagine if it were possible to bring those books back to life, to enable people who might be interested in the knowledge they hold to find them, buy them and read them. This is what the Google Book Search Settlement seeks to achieve. It's not just our vision, it's one we share with authors and ­publishers groups.

Google's founders recognised the problem back when Google was just a start-up in the late 1990s. They ­proposed a project to digitise all the world's books, but at that time the idea seemed so far-fetched they couldn't ­persuade anyone in the company to work on it. It took a further five years before Google Books was born. Today, users can access information contained in more than 10m books.

Like many things that have not been tried before, the project has proven to be very controversial. In 2005, Google was sued by the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers. Since then we have worked closely with those groups to reach a settlement aimed at a shared goal – to unlock the wealth of information held in out-of-print books and to fairly ­compensate those who hold the rights to the works involved. We believe that the settlement is a good one, not only for authors and publishers but also for readers.

Yet doubts remain, and there is particular concern among authors that they are in danger of handing control of their work to Google. Let me address that concern and dispel some of the myths.

The settlement aims to make access to millions of books available either for a fee or for free, supported by advertisements, with the majority of the revenue flowing back to the rights holders. A new not-for-profit registry will be ­created to identify the rights holders of lost books and to collect and distribute revenues.

And the rights holders will remain in control. The reality is that they can at any time set pricing and access rights for their works or withdraw them from Google Books altogether.

Some have questioned the impact of the agreement on competition, suggesting it will limit consumer choice and hand Google a monopoly. In reality, nothing in this agreement precludes any other organisation from pursuing its own digitisation efforts. We wish there were a hundred such services. But despite a number of important projects to date – and Google has helped fund some of them – none has been on the same scale simply because no one else has yet chosen to invest the time and resources required. But if there are to be a hundred services in future, we have to start with one.

If we successful, others will follow. And they will have an easier path. The road towards the digitisation of the world's books has so far been ­anything but smooth and there are, no doubt, further obstacles ahead. In Europe there will need to be new arrangements involving authors and publishers, as the current settlement will benefit only readers in the United States. We believe that it is a journey well worth undertaking.

The truth is that readers around the world who seek the information locked in millions of out-of-print books currently have little choice other than to travel to a small number of libraries in the hope of finding what they are looking for. And if you're an author, you have no way to make money from your work if it's out of print.

Imagine if that information could be made available to everyone, ­everywhere, at the click of a mouse. Imagine if long-forgotten books could be enjoyed again and could earn new ­revenues for their authors. Without a settlement it can't happen."

Don't leave Men at Work to face the music; (London) Guardian, 2/8/10

Tom Service, (London) Guardian; Don't leave Men at Work to face the music: The Aussie band is being sued for plagiarising a three-second riff. But musicians have always borrowed from one another – just ask Mozart:

"Poor old Men at Work. The ludicrous decision by an Australian court to make them pay up to 60% of the royalties of Down Under to Larrikin Music because of the similarity of band member Greg Ham's flute riff – which plays precisely three times in the song – to a 1934 ditty written for the Aussie Girl Guides, should strike fear into all musicians. If that kind of micro-sampling is to become the subject of court cases the world over, no song that has ever been released is safe. Maybe we should look for the first-ever recorded example of the 1-4-5 harmonic progression, the staple of so much rock and pop through the ages, and argue that every song using it should pay royalties too. That sound you can hear is the hands of music companies and their lawyers being rubbed together at the prospect of making musicians and bands pay back everything they've ever earned because somebody else first came up with the idea of an E-major chord.

Men at Work's "unconscious" (their words) use of a fragment of a tune that had become an Australian folk song by the time they released Down Under in 1983 is in any case a creative slice of Australiana in a song that's all about the land "where the beer does flow and men chunder".

And if Men at Work can be taken to the cleaners for a three-second riff, what would a court have made of Mozart's Requiem? It would never have made it through the copyright laws (if they had existed) if people had been familiar with Handel's Messiah. Have a listen to consecutive movements in the Requiem (the dotted rhythms in the strings in the Introitus, and the first fugue themes of the Kyrie and Part 2 of the Messiah (Surely, He Hath Borne Our Griefs and And With His Stripes, in these admittedly rather contrasted performances from John Eliot Gardiner and Thomas Beecham), and tell me Mozart didn't nick Handel's thematic material.

Of course, Mozart intensified his version and created a new expressive context for Handel's tunes, and his conspicuous borrowing of melodies from the baroque master is an obvious homage to a composer he loved (he made a new orchestration of Messiah just two years before writing the Requiem). It is part of the chain of ongoing, developing creativity that defines every musical tradition. But try telling that to the lawyers."

Friday, February 5, 2010

Hollywood Loses Landmark Copyright Case In Australia; New York Times, 2/4/10

Michael Perry, Reuters, via New York Times; Hollywood Loses Landmark Copyright Case In Australia:

"Hollywood studios lost a landmark copyright court case against an Australia internet provider on Thursday, when a court ruled iiNet could not be held responsible for unauthorized downloads of movies using its service.

The suit against iiNet was filed by a group of the biggest Hollywood studios including Village Roadshow, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, 20th Century Fox and Disney.

The consortium had hoped to prove iiNet not only failed to take steps to stop illegal file-sharing by customers, but breached copyright itself by storing and transmitting the data through its system.

Australia's Federal Court in Sydney ruled it was impossible to hold iiNet responsible for users infringing copyright.

"While I find that iiNet had knowledge of infringements occurring, and did not act to stop them, such findings do not necessitate a finding of authorization," Judge Dennis Cowdroy said in handing down the judgment.

"The evidence establishes that iiNet has done no more than to provide an internet service to its users," Cowdroy said.

iiNet told the court it was not required by law to act on allegations of copyright infringement, that customers were innocent until proven guilty in court, and that the case was like suing a power company for things people do with electricity.

Michael Malone, managing director of iiNet, welcomed the ruling, but added he hoped to be able to work with the film consortium on ways to prevent illegal downloads in the future.

"We would like to engage with all the movie studios and the other rights holders, and see if we can find a way to get this stuff legitimately online," Malone told reporters.

The Australian Digital Alliance, a coalition of libraries, universities, museums and galleries, said the ruling would benefit cultural institutions that make their collections available online and can be vulnerable to illegal downloads.

"The practical impact of the decision for ISPs has been to overrule the copyright industry's demands that they must police the activities of their users," said alliance chairman Derek Whitehead."

Justice Dept. Criticizes Latest Google Book Deal; New York Times, 2/5/10

Miguel Helft, New York Times; Justice Dept. Criticizes Latest Google Book Deal:

"In another blow to Google’s plan to create a giant digital library and bookstore, the Justice Department on Thursday said that a class-action settlement between the company and groups representing authors and publishers had significant legal problems, even after recent revisions.

Filing by the Justice Department (pdf)

In a 31-page filing that could influence a federal judge’s ruling on the settlement, the department said the new agreement was much improved from an earlier version. But it said the changes were not enough to placate concerns that the deal would grant Google a monopoly over millions of orphan works, meaning books whose right holders are unknown or cannot be found.

The department also indicated that the revised agreement, like its predecessor, appeared to run afoul of authors’ copyrights and was too broad in scope.

The revised agreement “suffers from the same core problem as the original agreement: it is an attempt to use the class-action mechanism to implement forward-looking business arrangements that go far beyond the dispute before the court in this litigation,” the department wrote.

The department asked the court to encourage the parties to continue discussions on further changes to the settlement, which it said had many public benefits.

While the Justice Department did not explicitly urge the court to reject the deal, as it had the previous version, its opposition on copyright, class action and antitrust grounds represented a further setback for Google and the other parties to the deal.

The settlement stems from copyright lawsuits filed by the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers over Google’s plan to digitize books from major libraries. The settlement, introduced in October 2008, would allow Google to make millions of books available online and commercialize them, while creating new ways for authors and publishers to earn money from digital copies of their works.

But the deal faced a chorus of critics who argued that it would give Google a monopoly on millions of out-of-print books and had failed to take into account the interests of many authors.
In a statement on behalf of Google and the author and publisher groups, a Google spokesman, Gabriel Stricker, said the Justice Department’s filing “recognizes the progress made with the revised settlement, and it once again reinforces the value the agreement can provide in unlocking access to millions of books in the U.S.” He said Google looked forward to the court’s review of the department’s views and those of the deal’s supporters.

Critics of the agreement include Amazon, Microsoft and a range of authors, academics and public interest groups.

Judge Denny Chin of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, who will rule on the settlement, scheduled a hearing on the agreement for Feb. 18."

[Colloquium] Copyright vs Community in the Age of Computer Networks; Prof. Richard Stallman, 2/19/10 1 PM

[Colloquium] Prof. Richard Stallman, University of Pittsburgh; Copyright vs Community in the Age of Computer Networks:

"Friday, February 19, 2010 1:00pm - 3:00pm - [University of Pittsburgh] William Pitt Union, Lower Lounge
Refreshments at 12:30pm
Hosted by Department of Computer Science


Copyright developed in the age of the printing press, and was designed to fit with the system of centralized copying imposed by the printing press. But the copyright system does not fit well with computer networks, and only draconian punishments can enforce it. The global corporations that profit from copyright are lobbying for draconian punishments, and to increase their copyright powers, while suppressing public access to technology. But if we seriously hope to serve the only legitimate purpose of copyright--to promote progress, for the benefit of the public--then we must make changes in the other direction.

Biography of Speaker

Richard Stallman launched the development of the GNU operating system (see in 1984. GNU is free software: everyone has the freedom to copy it and redistribute it, as well as to make changes either large or small. The GNU/Linux system, basically the GNU operating system with Linux added, is used on tens of millions of computers today. Stallman has received the ACM Grace Hopper Award, a MacArthur Foundation fellowship, the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Pioneer award, and the Takeda Award for Social/Economic Betterment, as well as several honorary doctorates."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Yahoo Keeps AP in Its Content Corner With New Deal; Associated Press, via New York Times, 2/1/10

Associated Press, via New York Times; Yahoo Keeps AP in Its Content Corner With New Deal:

"The Associated Press has signed a licensing deal with Yahoo Inc. that gives the news cooperative a steady stream of revenue at a time less money is flowing in from newspapers and broadcasters.

The announcement by both companies Monday didn't disclose the financial terms of the agreement, which allows Yahoo to continue posting AP content on its site.

The AP says it is still negotiating to renew its online licensing agreements with two other companies with far deeper pockets, Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp. Google stopped posting fresh AP content on its Web site in late December.

Stung by the AP's first downturn in revenue in years, AP's management has said the cooperative needs to make more money from the online rights to its stories, photographs and video as more people flock to the Web for information and entertainment."

In Europe, Challenges for Google; New York Times, 2/2/10

Eric Pfanner, New York Times; In Europe, Challenges for Google:

"Google’s most immediate challenges may be in Italy. This month, a decision is expected in a trial in Milan, where four Google executives were charged with defamation and privacy violations in a case involving videos posted on a Google Web site that showed the bullying of a boy with autism.

The company says a guilty verdict might require it to edit content on YouTube before it is posted, which it says, would be incompatible with the open spirit of the Internet, as well as European Union guidelines.

Prosecutors say Google was too slow to remove the video.

On another front, Italian authorities last summer raided the company’s offices in Milan, opening an investigation of Google News, which displays excerpts from online news articles. Italian publishers contend that Google News violates their copyrights, but say they cannot remove their articles from the service without slipping in Google’s search rankings, which would cost them ad revenue. Google says there is no such link between Google News and the search engine."

Monday, February 1, 2010

Colloquium: How to read 15 million books in one sitting; Bill Schilit , Google Research, 2/3/10 4 PM, Carnegie-Mellon University

Colloquium: How to read 15 million books in one sitting; Bill Schilit , Google Research; 2/3/10 4 PM, Carnegie-Mellon University, Newell Simon Hall 1305 (Michael Mauldin Auditorium):


Scanning books, magazines, and newspapers is widespread because people believe a great deal of the world's information still resides off-line. In general after works are scanned they are OCR'ed, indexed for search and processed to add links. In this talk I will describe a new approach to automatically add links by mining repeated passages. This technique connects elements that are semantically rich, so strong relations are made. Moreover, link targets point within rather than to the entire work, facilitating navigation. Our system has been run on a digital library of many millions of books (Google Book Search), has been used by thousands of people, and has generated the world's largest collection of quotations. I will also present a follow-on project based on the theory that authors copy passages from book to book because these quotations capture an idea particularly well: Jefferson on liberty; Stanton on women's rights; and Gibson on cyberpunk. These projects suggest that mining quotations for links and ideas is an important mechanism for understanding the knowledge contained in books.

(This work is in collaboration with Okan Kolak, Google Research and Google Book Search.)*"