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Unauthorized Mass Effect RPG temporarily nominated for three ENnie Awards
July 2, 2015 | 11:37 am

mass-effect-fateHere’s an odd little self-e-publishing story that hits unexpectedly close to home for me—in the literal sense. Over the last few days, ENWorld announced the list of ENnie Award nominees for 2015—the yearly role-playing-game-industry fan-based awards that are given out at Gen Con here in Indianapolis. This list of nominees included the Mass Effect role-playing game in three different categories: Best Electronic Book, Best Free Product, and Product of the Year. Based on BioWare’s landmark sci-fi video game trilogy, Mass Effect was written by long-time RPG-industry veteran Dan Mappin. It used the Open Game Licensed Fate...

Another ‘Permission Culture’ Landmine
June 24, 2015 | 10:25 am

copyrightFrom our friends at Techdirt comes this insane story about yet another copyright landmine we all need to be worrying about falling into: the 'freedom of panorama' principle. As Tim Cushing explains: "Photographing public structures could soon become copyright infringement. At this point, there's no unified "freedom of panorama" across European countries. Some recognize this as a right inherent to citizens. Others feel any photographic reproductions of structures in public spaces are a violation of the creators' rights." Cushing goes on to comprehensively detail the ramifications a potential copyright reform to this law would have, including restricting the use of historical photographs...

Morning Links: Orphan works. Fighting the bad guys. WiFi-powered cameras and Big Brother.
June 5, 2015 | 9:36 am

U.S. Copyright Office Releases Report on Orphan Works and Mass Digitization (InfoDocket) The Report documents the legal and business challenges faced by good faith users who seek to use orphan works and/or engage in mass digitization projects. The TeleRead Take: Slow progress on this issue, but still, progress. I think this is an important, and often overlooked topic. -- Five Authors Who Will Inspire You to Fight the System (Book Riot) Activism is exhausting. It’s all very well to say that you’re going to be proactive and fight the power but actually doing it?...

UK Green Party digs itself in deeper over copyright
April 28, 2015 | 2:25 pm

logo@2x  In response to the earlier outcry from writers and other creatives against the UK Green Party's apparent proposal to reduce the duration of copyright to just 14 years - with also some initial ambiguity over whether this was 14 years after the creator's death or 14 years after the work's first appearance - the Greens have released a communique on their party website that only appears to make things worse. The UK Society of Authors said in response to the original furore: Our stance is that copyright needs ‎strengthening, not weakening. Authors and other creators make their livelihood from their intellectual creations and...

UK Green Party copyright limit proposal repels authors, artists
April 27, 2015 | 10:25 am

The UK Green Party, with just two weeks to go to the General Election, appears to have screwed its support with one influential constituency, writers and artists, through an ill-founded and poorly discussed policy proposal on copyright terms. The draft commitment to press for a shorter copyright term of just 14 years - versus the current UK norm of 70 years after the death of the author - apparently caught the entire creative community by surprise, and provoked a backlash when it did break cover. First tweeted by UK author Linda Grant (see the illustration), the Green Party proposal, with "to reduce the...

The Erosion of National Autonomy in Copyright
April 23, 2015 | 1:25 pm

copyrightThe fantastic and informative Michael Geist has a great analysis in today's Morning Links about the latest gambit in the copyright wars: a term extension which will protect sound recordings for an additional 20 years. Geist cites numerous reports done in other countries which suggest the benefit to artists from this extension will be extremely minimal. One report he cites---and a Canadian one, at that---says this: "Adding 20 years of protection would contribute 2.3% to the present value of royalties under a 7% discount rate, assuming that the flow of royalties remains unchanged during the whole period. Under identical assumptions, extending...

Should Copyright Live Forever?
March 25, 2015 | 2:25 pm

cpoyrightWe've probably all seen that little graph which was making the rounds last year, which showed that longer copyright terms---thought to protect authors and make them more money---can actually make authors LESS money by keeping legitimate works out of the marketplace. Techdirt has a fascinating case study up this week which illustrates how this happens. The short version is that a company called Night Dive has made a business out of sourcing obsolete computer games, cleaning them up for modern devices and then releasing them for sale in today's marketplace. This is not a shady operation, though---they do their legwork to...

Tales from the ‘Whacky Copyright Stories’ Crypt
March 11, 2015 | 10:25 am

copyrightOur friends at Techdirt have a great write-up about yet another bizarre little copyright story: musical group Hall & Oates is suing a health food company over their granola cereal, branded as 'Haulin' Oats.' The granola, a maple-flavoured cereal, is being challenged because it is 'obvious play upon Plaintiff’s well-known Hall & Oates mark, and was selected by defendant in an effort to trade off of the fame and notoriety associated with the artist’s and plaintiff’s well-known marks.' I have heard of stories like this before, and it's easy to chuckle and say, for instance, that nobody would confuse a dry-cleaner...

Grim and gritty Power Rangers fan film brings fanfic back into legal spotlight
February 25, 2015 | 7:27 am

power-rangers-video-124799A new legal battle over fanfic might be shaping up. In the last couple of days, music video director Joseph Kahn and producer Adi Shankar released a 15-minute short film reimagining Power Rangers as a grim and gritty dark future drama a la Pacific Rim. The film stars name actors, including James Van Der Beek, Katee Sackhoff, and Die Another Day’s Will Yun Lee. And it almost immediately ran into legal trouble. A “NSFW” version (violence, language, nudity) was up on Vimeo for a few hours before getting taken down by a DMCA infringement notice from Saban. A safe-for-work...

More Big Media behind-the-scenes bullying on view as Google takes regulatory payola to court
February 17, 2015 | 2:25 pm

Fresh evidence of Big Media tactics to push its IP agenda in private and through back  channels, including both lobbying and far more questionable practices, has been pushed into the spotlight by Google, which has taken Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood to court to forestall what it sees as improper attacks on it that far exceed his mandate. This follows the revelation via the Sony hack of Project Goliath, a coordinated move by Motion Picture Association of America members and their attorneys to put pressure on Google at the state level. Sony itself, as well as Universal, Fox, Paramount, Warner Bros., and...

Trans-Pacific Partnership still pushing to screw your rights in secret
February 16, 2015 | 2:25 pm

eff.gifChris Meadows reported almost a year ago to the day on the invidious attempts by US trade negotiators in hock to Big Media vested interests to impose onerous copyright, intellectual property, and public domain restrictions worldwide via the Trans-Pacific Partnership - in secret, without negotiation or public consultation. Sad to say, a year on very little has changed, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation has revealed courtesy of a leaked document on the TPP state of play. As the EFF says: The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) poses massive threats to users in a dizzying number of ways. It will force other TPP signatories to accept the United...

Harper Lee to publish sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird after 55 years
February 3, 2015 | 7:53 pm

For fifty-five years, To Kill a Mockingbird has been the only novel that Harper Lee published. It was successful enough that she simply didn’t need to publish another one. That one book, published 55 years ago, has kept her comfortable for the rest of her life. But it turns out that To Kill a Mockingbird was actually the second novel that Harper Lee wrote—and now HarperCollins is going to publish the first one, Go Set a Watchman. It is scheduled for release July 2015. Lee explains that when she first wrote Go Set a Watchman, her editor was intrigued...

Tess Gerritsen not letting Gravity pull her down in Warner Bros. court battle
February 3, 2015 | 10:25 am

"Internationally bestselling author" Tess Gerritsen has released the latest bulletin from the frontline in an ongoing court battle against Warner Bros., under the modest title "My GRAVITY lawsuit and how it affects every writer who sells to Hollywood." And while at other times I might be tempted to be snarky or suspicious, in this case I suspect there really is substance behind her words, and her case really is that significant. Tess Gerritsen's statement leads off as follows: Yesterday, the court granted Warner Bros’s motion to dismiss my lawsuit against them. While Warner Bros crows victory, the judge has in fact left...

Happy birthday J.R.R. Tolkien – but doesn’t ring in any public domain riches
January 5, 2015 | 12:25 pm

Tolkien bustJohn Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on January 3rd, 1892, and his long and richly productive life ended on September 2nd, 1973. That longevity, however, also means that enthusiasts are having to wait a very long time indeed for any of his great body of work to find its way into the public domain. As Everybody's Libraries noted back on Public Domain Day 2013, if the U.S.  had not passed its latest copyright extension act in 1988, "we would be seeing works published in 1937, such as the first edition of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, now entering the public domain. ...

The great European music copyright reboot
December 22, 2014 | 8:25 pm

bookstoreAs revisited in the New York Times, the music industry is going through one of its periodic reboots in order to refresh copyright on some legacy properties - like early recordings of Bob Dylan and the Beatles. All this thanks to the 2011 decision by the Council of the European Union to unilaterally raise EU music copyright from 50 to 70 years. This was not exactly an uncontroversial decision at the time, although at least we weren't lumbered with the legislators' (or media industry stooges/proxies') original target of 95 years. Even the EU's own inndependent experts objected to it. Professor P. Bernt...

Copyright Office posts DMCA exemption petitions
November 25, 2014 | 6:17 pm

A few weeks ago I discussed the need for a DMCA exemption for e-books, in light of the US Copyright Office requesting petitions for such exemptions. The Copyright Office has now posted all 44 petitions it received as PDFs. There are a number of interesting petitions there—not least of them my own. Now that I read my petition again, I see a few typos and other tweaks I wish I could go back and fix (and they miscategorized it under “Audiovisual Works – Multimedia E-Books,” rather than “Literature Distributed Electronically”), but on the whole I’m satisfied with it....

Why we need an e-book DRM DMCA exemption
October 30, 2014 | 8:54 pm

It’s that time again. Ars Technica reports that the Copyright Office is accepting petitions on activities to exempt from the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions, making it legal to crack DRM for certain restricted purposes. We’ve reported on this procedure a few times over the last few years. The way it goes is that various people or organizations make proposals and the copyright office considers whether to grant them for the next three years. The exemptions then have to be requested again at the next session if they are to continue. Public Knowledge will be submitting requests to legalize...

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