Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Roger L. Mayer, Pioneer of Film Preservation, Dies at 88; New York Times, 3/29/15

Sam Roberts, New York Times; Roger L. Mayer, Pioneer of Film Preservation, Dies at 88:
"Roger L. Mayer, a film executive who was instrumental in preserving and restoring countless classic movies and who also courted controversy by coloring some black-and-white ones, died on Tuesday in Los Angeles. He was 88...
At the 2005 Oscar ceremonies in Hollywood, the director Martin Scorsese, a leading advocate of saving films, presented Mr. Mayer with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in recognition of his chairmanship of the National Film Preservation Foundation, which has rescued more than 2,100 “orphaned” movies that were abandoned by their copyright holders. He also served on the Library of Congress’s National Film Preservation Board, which each year chooses 25 of what it calls “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant films” worth safeguarding."

Access denied: Reporters say federal officials, data increasingly off limits; Washington Post, 3/30/15

Paul Farhi, Washington Post; Access denied: Reporters say federal officials, data increasingly off limits:
"Tensions between reporters and public information officers — “hacks and flacks” in the vernacular — aren’t new, of course. Reporters have always wanted more information than government officials have been willing or able to give.
But journalists say the lid has grown tighter under the Obama administration, whose chief executive promised in 2009 to bring “an unprecedented level of openness” to the federal government.
The frustrations boiled over last summer in a letter to President Obama signed by 38 organizations representing journalists and press-freedom advocates. The letter decried “politically driven suppression of news and information about federal agencies” by spokesmen. “We consider these restrictions a form of censorship — an attempt to control what the public is allowed to see and hear,” the groups wrote.
They asked for “a clear directive” from Obama “telling federal employees they’re not only free to answer questions from reporters and the public, but actually encouraged to do so.”
Obama hasn’t acted on the suggestion. But his press secretary, Josh Earnest, defended the president’s record, noting in a letter to the groups that, among other things, the administration has processed a record number of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, established more protection for whistleblowers and posted White House visitor logs for the first time."

The White House’s first chief data scientist is no stranger to Washington; Washington Post, 3/29/15

Amrita Jayakumar, Washington Post; The White House’s first chief data scientist is no stranger to Washington:
"DJ Patil, who was named the nation’s first chief data scientist last month, shares credit for coining the term “data science.” He is the latest Silicon Valley transplant to join the Obama administration, working under former Google executive Megan Smith, the White House’s chief technology officer...
Q. What does the first chief data scientist do?
A. To me, the government says, “Okay, we have data, but how do we use that responsibly to create efficiencies, to create transparency, to unlock economic potential? How do we get that data to preserve American competitiveness and advance innovation?”
The mission of this role is an amplification of things that have been happening.
How will you achieve those goals?
There are three areas where we have the biggest chance to succeed in our mission...
The next one is open data. We’ve got data.gov [a Web site that features machine-readable government data], which has really changed the game. Think about the billions of dollars that rest on open data infrastructure. People do research on that data, that research turns into insight, that insight turns into wisdom and that wisdom is put back into models and scientific results. The foundation of all this is open data. How do we enhance that across-the-board?"

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Meerkat, Game of Thrones and a Brewing Copyright Nightmare; Natinonal Journal, 3/26/15

Kaveh Waddell, National Journal; Meerkat, Game of Thrones and a Brewing Copyright Nightmare:
"Meerkat, a weeks-old service that allows users to broadcast live video over the Internet via Twitter, is the app du jour. It hit the popularity jackpot at this month's South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. And political media have fallen in love with the prospect of live streaming every speech and candidate interaction for the next 18 months...
But as Meerkat tries to keep up with its exploding user base (Rubin says the app hit the 400,000-user mark Tuesday) it may be loping into a legal minefield. The same characteristics that make the app attractive to the hundreds of thousands of people who are downloading it—its ease of use and engaged users—make it perfect for another of the Internet's favorite pastimes: piracy.
Copyright infringement has been a problem since before the Internet existed, and every new generation of technology presents an easier, faster way to share movies and TV without paying."

EU announces plans to banish geo-blocking, modernize copyright law; Ars Technica, 3/271/5

Glyn Moody, Ars Technica; EU announces plans to banish geo-blocking, modernize copyright law:
"At the heart of the European Union lies the Single Market—the possibility for people to buy and sell goods and services anywhere in the EU. So it is ironic that the European sector least constrained by geography—the digital market—is also the least unified. To remedy that situation, the European Commission has announced its Digital Single Market Strategy, which addresses three main areas.
The first is "Better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services" and includes two of the thorniest issues: geo-blocking and copyright. As the EU's strategy notes, "too many Europeans cannot use online services that are available in other EU countries, often without any justification; or they are re-routed to a local store with different prices. Such discrimination cannot exist in a Single Market."
There is strong resistance to removing geo-blocking, particularly from copyright companies that have traditionally sold rights on a national basis and which therefore want geo-blocking to enforce that fragmentation."

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Judge Hears Copyright Fight Over 'Happy Birthday To You'; National Law Journal, 3/23/15

Amanda Bronstad, National Law Journal; Judge Hears Copyright Fight Over 'Happy Birthday To You' :
"In a court battle involving perhaps the only song more popular than “Blurred Lines,” a federal judge is set to decide whether a Los Angeles-based music publisher has unlawfully been collecting licensing fees for the copyright to “Happy Birthday to You.”
U.S. District Judge George King of the Central District of California heard more than two hours of arguments on Monday on whether to declare Warner/Chappell Music Inc.’s copyright invalid and find that “Happy Birthday to You” should be in the public domain.
At stake are potentially millions of dollars in licensing fees to what the complaint calls the “world’s most popular song.”"

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Seth MacFarlane Wins in Lawsuit Claiming He Stole 'Ted' Idea; Reuters via New York Times, 3/24/15

Reuters via New York Times; Seth MacFarlane Wins in Lawsuit Claiming He Stole 'Ted' Idea:
"A California production company that sued Seth MacFarlane for allegedly stealing its idea for a foul-mouthed talking bear with a penchant for drinking, drugs and prostitutes for his 2012 hit movie "Ted" has withdrawn its copyright lawsuit.
Bengal Mangle Productions LLC had contended in a July 2014 complaint that Ted was "strikingly similar" to its own teddy bear Charlie, who was created in 2008 and has appeared on websites such as YouTube and FunnyorDie.
But in a Monday court filing, Bengal Mangle said it cannot pursue its case, being "satisfied that, based on discovery produced in the action, the character Ted was independently created by Seth MacFarlane using his own efforts and creativity and was not copied from plaintiff's Charlie character.""

Bill Would Limit Use of Student Data; New York Times, 3/22/15

Natasha Singer, New York Times; Bill Would Limit Use of Student Data:
"Is the digital revolution in the classroom giving the education technology industry carte blanche to exploit student data?
That was the question some teacher and parents groups have posed in their public responses to the news last week that Pearson, the education publisher, had been covertly monitoring social media sites to identify students who might have disclosed questions from its assessment tests.
In an effort to ease parent and teacher concerns, two congressmen are planning to introduce a bill on Monday that would place limits on how education technology companies can use information about kindergarten through 12th-grade students.
Called the Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act, the bill would prohibit companies that operate school services — like online homework portals, digital grade books for teachers or student email programs — from knowingly using or disclosing students’ personal information to tailor advertisements to them. It would also bar them from collecting or using student data to create marketing profiles."

Saturday, March 21, 2015

In the Age of Information, Specializing to Survive; New York Times, 3/19/15

J. Peder Zane, New York Times; In the Age of Information, Specializing to Survive:
"Of course, not all information is equal. Those exabytes do include a few great novels, stirring films and groundbreaking scientific discoveries. Most are flotsam wrapped in jetsam: insipid blog posts and text messages, YouTube videos of cuddly cats and pornographic acts, ignorance that poses as knowledge.
“We are overloaded with junk,” said Daniel Levitin, a professor of psychology and behavioral neuroscience at McGill University whose books include “The Organized Mind.” “It’s becoming harder and harder to separate the wheat from the digital chaff. The problem with the Internet is anyone can post, so it’s hard to know whether you are looking at a fact or pseudofact, science or pseudoscience.”...
If the information age makes knowledge seem like a straitjacket, David Galenson, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago, notes that progress often hinges on those rare individuals who have escaped its bonds. Artists from Picasso to Bob Dylan and entrepreneurs including Bill Gates and Steve Jobs changed the world by finding “radically new ways of looking at old problems,” Mr. Galenson said. “They cut through all the accumulated stuff — forget what’s been done — to see something special, something new.”...
For many who don’t share that kind of vision, the response to information overload is simple: Just search and forget (repeat as necessary). Even more ambitious absorbers of knowledge like Jonathan Haber will most likely find that the key to lifelong learning is a human mediator, someone who has engaged in the ancient task of searching and sorting through knowledge.
Until, of course, a modern-day Leonardo invents a machine that can do that too."

Friday, March 20, 2015

As Artworks Enter Public Domain, Rules Remain Confusing; New York Times, 3/13/15

Nina Siegal, New York Times; As Artworks Enter Public Domain, Rules Remain Confusing:
"Piet Mondrian, the Dutch modern master, died 71 years ago. Are his works now copyright-free?
The answer — a highly qualified “yes, but” — has ramifications for scholars, publishers, museums, heirs and anyone else who has an interest in seeing and studying works of art in a global context.
The issue turns on a discrepancy between European and American copyright law that is coming to light this year because, as of Jan. 1, 2015, Mondrian’s works enter the public domain in Europe. Under European Union law, the term of copyright for works of art expires on the 1st of January following 70 years after the author or artist’s death.
But the case is particularly complex with Mondrian because he produced part of his work while living in Europe and part of it in the United States, where copyright laws are different.
Although the lack of uniformity in national copyright laws affects reproduction rights for works by any artist, it is becoming a more complicated issue with the growth of online sharing, especially as museums are increasingly interested in offering the public access to their collections on the web."

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Healthful alliance: UPMC, Pitt and CMU join forces in a big way; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 3/19/15

Editorial Board, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Healthful alliance: UPMC, Pitt and CMU join forces in a big way:
"The announcement Monday by the heads of UPMC, the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University that they were forming the Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance was the unveiling of no mere partnership or collaboration. The alliance aims to marshal the strengths of all three institutions on behalf of the public’s health and well-being.
The initiative, which will be funded largely by UPMC to the tune of $10 million to $20 million a year, will process massive amounts of electronic health data — from insurance records, patient information, genomic profiles, wearable sensors and other sources — to help guide an individual’s medical treatment. This “big data” could also help physicians detect when a new outbreak in a personal ailment might occur and respond more rapidly, before a health problem grows larger.
Success of the alliance will hinge on UPMC’s vast patient data, Pitt’s health science research capabilities and CMU’s leadership in computer science and machine learning. Beyond the real-world diagnosis and care benefits for individual patients, the effort also seeks to spin off commercial businesses and create jobs."

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Musicians Can Avoid Copyright Suits by Showing Sense and Respect; New York Times, 3/17/15

Jonathan Horn, New York Times; Musicians Can Avoid Copyright Suits by Showing Sense and Respect:
"Fortunately, there is a simple solution – seek and obtain any arguably necessary clearances and permissions. Do so in advance. It happens every day – and it works.
Artists and producers, show your affection for the music that came before you and your respect for those who created that music by erring on the side of caution. If you are not sure whether or not you need permission to use something, run it by your team. Ask your counsel. When in doubt, ask for a license!
If you've been asked to license your music, take to heart your responsibility to mentor and assist younger musicians. Be thoughtful and reasonable when evaluating requests for licenses – and instruct record labels and publishers who hold rights in your works to do likewise. It is a tangible way to connect generations. Extend yourself even when the discussion about permission comes later than it should (i.e., after a record has been released). Remember, too, that a new song can rekindle interest in the original and in the original artist. Finally, keep in mind that while you are on the receiving end today, you may be the one seeking permission tomorrow."

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Update Our Culture, Not Just Copyright Laws; New York Times, 3/17/15

M.K. Asante, New York Times; Update Our Culture, Not Just Copyright Laws:
"A much-needed change in copyright laws will certainly usher in a ton of new cases. Cases even more egregious and blatant than “Blurred Lines.” Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def) reminds us in his song “Rock N Roll”:
You may dig on the Rolling Stones
But they ain't come up with that ... on they own
He was speaking about the dark history of copyright infringement, and often downright theft, from black musicians. The Rolling Stones biographer Stanley Booth described their music as “the songs of old black men too poor to put glass in their windows.""

Pitt, CMU and UPMC hope to remake health care via new big data alliance; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 3/16/15

Bill Toland, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Pitt, CMU and UPMC hope to remake health care via new big data alliance:
"Pittsburgh is making a big bet on big data.
UPMC, the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University on Monday announced the formation of the Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance to “revolutionize health care and wellness” by using data to detect potential outbreaks as well as create health care innovations that will spawn spinoff companies.
The clinical goal, the leaders of the three institutions said, is to remake health care so that it is at once more computerized, yet more personalized, using millions of gigabytes of accumulated health records to predict and treat patients’ health issues in a manner far more specific than is possible today.
And the business development goal, the leaders said, is no less than a Pittsburgh-based “moonshot” for health information technology, one that could make Pittsburgh the global epicenter for such research.
If the alliance unfolds as outlined, it someday could rival the scope of the nation’s largest university-led data-sharing projects (such as the ongoing Dartmouth Atlas health policy research partnership with Dartmouth College) and its biggest artificial clinical intelligence projects (such as the IBM Watson team’s foray into the health care realm)."

Thursday, March 12, 2015

What’s Wrong With the ‘Blurred Lines’ Copyright Ruling; New York Times, 3/11/15

Jon Caramanica, New York Times; What’s Wrong With the ‘Blurred Lines’ Copyright Ruling:
"Besides, in an age in which popular music is incredibly diverse, with more sonic references, instruments and digital trickery available than ever, using sheet music as a measure of a song’s originality is a weak tactic, and possibly an irresponsible one. The “Blurred Lines” verdict is a victory for an outmoded law, but also an outmoded way of thinking about music.
There are untold things that static sheet music can’t capture: tone, feel and intensity or texture, all of which are as important to modern songwriting as the notes, and probably more so. Relying on the sheet music exposes a generational bias, too — implicit in the premise of the case is that Mr. Gaye’s version of songwriting is somehow more serious than what Mr. Williams does, since it is the one that the law is designed to protect.
There is, it should be said, a similarity in the bass lines of the two songs, and perhaps, more broadly, in their shared lite-funk feel. And it’s likely that Mr. Thicke and Mr. Williams didn’t help their case by contending in interviews around the song’s release — including one in The New York Times — the psychic and literal debts they owed Mr. Gaye, and specifically “Got to Give It Up.” (Mr. Thicke testified, though, that he had barely any input in the writing of the song, a different explanation from what he gave the news media.) Often in the credits that come with an album, the phrase “contains an interpolation of” will appear. That generally means the song borrows from something else, but in a way that’s less than an actual sample or a heavily repurposed lyric or melody. It can feel like a legally codified version of a good-will gesture — certainly “Blurred Lines” might have benefited from such a designation up front."

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Industry Urges Congress to Support Copyright Law; Hollywood Reporter, 3/10/15

Alex Ben Block, Hollywood Reporter; Industry Urges Congress to Support Copyright Law:
"The industry group CreativeFuture and the Copyright Alliance announced Tuesday they have joined forces to have more than 1,200 of their members send letters to members of the Senate and of Representatives in support of copyright law, which is under review by the 114th Congress.
“Our copyright system is not perfect,” say the letters, “but, like democracy, it is better than the alternatives. It works. We urge Congress to resist attempts to erode the right of creatives to determine when and how they share their works in the global marketplace.”"

‘Blurred Lines’ Infringed on Marvin Gaye Copyright, Jury Rules; New York Times, 3/10/15

Ben Sisario and Noah Smith, New York Times; ‘Blurred Lines’ Infringed on Marvin Gaye Copyright, Jury Rules:
"According to the jury’s decision, Nona and Frankie Gaye, two of Marvin Gaye’s children, are to receive $4 million in damages, plus $3.3 million in profits attributed to Mr. Thicke and Mr. Williams, as well as about $9,000 in statutory damages for the infringement of copyright. Clifford Harris Jr., better known as T.I., who contributed a rap in the song, was found not liable.
The decision is one of the largest damage awards in a music copyright case, some legal experts said. In one of the few comparable cases, Michael Bolton and Sony were ordered to pay $5.4 million in 1994 for infringing on a 1960s song by the soul group the Isley Brothers."

Jurors hit Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams with $7.4-million verdict; Los Angeles Times, 3/10/15

Victoria Kim, Los Angeles Times; Jurors hit Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams with $7.4-million verdict:
"A federal jury found Tuesday that the 2013 hit song "Blurred Lines" infringed on the Marvin Gaye chart-topper "Got to Give It Up," awarding nearly $7.4 million to Gaye's children.
Jurors found against singer-songwriters Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke, but held harmless the record company and rapper T.I."

CrowdFlower Launches Open Data Project Covering Everything From Climate Change To #ThatDress; TechCrunch, 3/3/15

Anthony Ha, TechCrunch; CrowdFlower Launches Open Data Project Covering Everything From Climate Change To #ThatDress:
"Crowdsourcing company CrowdFlower allows businesses to tap into a distributed workforce of 5 million contributors for basic tasks like sentiment analysis. Today it’s releasing some of that data to the public through its new Data for Everyone initiative.
Founder and CEO Lukas Biewald (a friend of mine from college) told me that last year, the company quietly began asking some of its customers if they were willing to make the data they gathered through CrowdFlower public, and now it’s officially launching the initiative with its first batch of data sets.
Biewald said this grew out of his own frustrations about the lack of open data during his time as a grad student and as a scientist at search startup Powerset. His hope is to turn CrowdFlower into a central repository where open data can be found by researchers and entrepreneurs. (Factual was another startup trying to become a hub for open data, though in recent years, it’s become more focused on gathering location data to power mobile ads.)"

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Here’s What Will Truly Change Higher Education: Online Degrees That Are Seen as Official; New York Times, 3/5/15

Kevin Carey, New York Times; Here’s What Will Truly Change Higher Education: Online Degrees That Are Seen as Official:
"The failure of MOOCs to disrupt higher education has nothing to do with the quality of the courses themselves, many of which are quite good and getting better. Colleges are holding technology at bay because the only thing MOOCs provide is access to world-class professors at an unbeatable price. What they don’t offer are official college degrees, the kind that can get you a job. And that, it turns out, is mostly what college students are paying for.
Now information technology is poised to transform college degrees. When that happens, the economic foundations beneath the academy will truly begin to tremble...
Free online courses won’t revolutionize education until there is a parallel system of free or low-fee credentials, not controlled by traditional colleges, that leads to jobs. Now technological innovators are working on that, too.
The Mozilla Foundation, which brought the world the Firefox web browser, has spent the last few years creating what it calls the Open Badges project. Badges are electronic credentials that any organization, collegiate or otherwise, can issue. Badges indicate specific skills and knowledge, backed by links to electronic evidence of how and why, exactly, the badge was earned.
Traditional institutions, including Michigan State and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, are experimenting with issuing badges. But so are organizations like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 4-H, the Smithsonian, the Dallas Museum of Art and the Y.M.C.A. of Greater New York."

What Happens When Mein Kampf's Copyright Expires?; New Republic, 3/6/15

Gavriel D. Rosenfeld, New Republic; What Happens When Mein Kampf's Copyright Expires? :
"Later this year, the official copyright for Mein Kampf expires—70 years after the demise of its author. Since 1945, the Bavarian State (which owns the copyright) has refused to allow anyone to publish the volume. But in expectation of the copyright’s expiration (and in the hope of getting a jump on neo-Nazis who may try to publish their own slanted versions of the text) the esteemed Munich and Berlin-based Institute for Contemporary History decided some years ago to publish its own, critically annotated version. The move has generated some opposition, with some arguing against the release of any new version; “Can you annotate the Devil?” one critic asks."

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Pharrell Williams Acknowledges Similarity to Gaye Song in ‘Blurred Lines’ Case; New York Times, 3/4/15

Ben Sisario and Noah Smith, New York Times; Pharrell Williams Acknowledges Similarity to Gaye Song in ‘Blurred Lines’ Case:
"How closely does Robin Thicke’s hit “Blurred Lines” resemble a classic by Marvin Gaye?
That question is central to a closely watched copyright case here, and on Wednesday, Pharrell Williams, the producer behind “Blurred Lines,” acknowledged a similarity to Gaye’s 1977 song “Got to Give It Up” but denied that there had been any intention to copy it.
“I must have been channeling that feeling, that late-’70s feeling,” Mr. Williams testified in the case, which pits him and Mr. Thicke against the family of Gaye, who died in 1984...
Mr. Busch then asked Mr. Williams whether “Blurred Lines” had a similar “feel” to “Got to Give It Up” and others from its era.
“Feel,” Mr. Williams said, “not infringement.”"

Monday, March 2, 2015

Industry Issues Intrude in ‘Blurred Lines’ Case; New York Times, 3/1/15

Ben Sisario, New York Times; Industry Issues Intrude in ‘Blurred Lines’ Case:
"Copyright cases can be esoteric affairs. But the “Blurred Lines” trial, which began Tuesday before Judge John A. Kronstadt in United States District Court for the Central District of California, has provided a rare window into an unseemly and embarrassing side of the music industry. Testimony and a flurry of pretrial documents have revealed lurid details of drugs, unearned songwriting credits, and intentional deception of the news media employed as a standard promotional practice...
If Mr. Thicke’s side loses, the potential damages could be large. “Blurred Lines” has sold 7.3 million copies in the United States, and Richard S. Busch, the Gaye family’s lawyer, claimed in his opening statement that the song had earned at least $30 million in profit — a figure Mr. Thicke’s lawyers disputed. If Mr. Thicke’s side is found liable of infringement, then the jury would decide what percentage of the song’s profits should be shared with the Gayes as damages."