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Copyright reform

UK intellectual property review frees up copying, parody
March 31, 2014 | 2:20 pm

The UK government has introduced a series of changes to copyright law across various media, including books. "These changes will affect how you can use content like books, music, films and photographs," says the introductory text at the UK Intellectual Property Office. "They will also introduce greater freedoms in copyright law to allow third parties to use copyright works for a variety of economically and/or socially valuable purposes without the need to seek permission from copyright owners." These remove the UK's anomalous legal restrictions on, for instance, ripping CDs and DVDs for backup and private home use, and open up...

SFWA to participate in Copyright Office orphan works roundtables
March 9, 2014 | 5:42 pm

The SFWA actually can do some useful things when it’s not getting embroiled in scandals. A press release on its web site notes that former SFWA President Michael Capobianco will be attending some US Copyright Office roundtables on the problem of orphan works on March 10th and 11th. The problem posed by orphan works is becoming more obvious the longer copyright lasts. However, the SFWA suggests that the problems may not be as severe as some copyright reform advocates claim. The SFWA’s full position on the orphan works matter is laid out in a white paper (PDF) that it...

An Interesting Perspective on Life+70 Copyright
December 9, 2013 | 12:15 pm

copyrightTechdirt has a story trending right now on the copyright extension debate. Their write-up is a fairly standard one: the US Copyright Office has finally caught on to the possible detriments of the absurdly long 'Life+70' copyright extension and there is talk of lowering it, or not lowering it, or who knows what. The true gem in the story, though, comes from the comments. A poster named 'oldgeezer' had this analysis to offer: Let's do some math. I am 61 and was 12 when I first heard the Beatles. Paul McCartney is 71. Let's assume he lives to 80. (Year 2022). Ringo...

LSE study suggests creative industries don’t gain from copyright enforcement
October 8, 2013 | 10:20 am

The Department of Media and Communications at the UK's prestigious London School of Economics has just released a policy brief, entitled "Copyright & Creation: A Case for Promoting Inclusive Online Sharing," which suggests that policy-makers and Big Media are gaining little from their efforts to enforce heavy and restrictive copyright rules. Online piracy, in fact, could bring more benefit than harm to the creative sector. "Evidence does not support claims about overall revenue reduction due to individual copyright infringement," claims the brief, in its introduction. "The experiences of other countries that have implemented punitive measures against individual online copyright infringers indicate...

Copyright vs. Common Sense
September 12, 2013 | 11:21 am

Two tales of copyright idiocy crossed my inbox yesterday. The first, by Techdirt's Mike Masnick tells the tale of the Village People's Victor Willis, who has regained the right's to many of his band's famous songs under the 'termination rights' clause, which allows artists to regain copyright of their songs after 35 years, no matter to whom they had assigned it. Willis, as Masnick reports, is trying to use his new ownership rights to stop the current version of the band from performing songs such as YMCA for which they are known. The second story comes my way via BoingBoing, who...

Does copyright still help hold back Martin Luther King’s dream?
August 29, 2013 | 10:08 am

The 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's march on Washington seems a good time to resurrect, as many columnists have, the controversy over the copyright status of his "I have a dream" speech, delivered 50 years ago yesterday on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The conundrum was typified by the 1999 court case Estate of Martin Luther King, Jr., Inc. v. CBS, Inc., which hinged on whether the speech had gone into the public domain by being broadcast. King's estate held that it hadn't. The parties settled out of court, so a final judicial ruling was never made, but the...

YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley says let my freebies go
August 4, 2013 | 10:08 pm

YouTubeThe Australian House of Representatives committee report on hardware and software pricing, geographical restrictions, copyright law, and other issues around tech and digital media in Australia, hasn't exactly vanished into the legislative waste basket. Indeed, it's sparked comment and reaction across the Internet thanks to the spectacle of a developed economy siding with the little guy against Big Media. And one of the highest-level comments so far comes from Chad Hurley, former CEO of YouTube, courtesy of the Australian Financial Review. “I definitely think we are in a global consumer environment now,” he opines in the AFR. “I think the business models...

Finnish Direct Democracy Does Damage to Copyright Hawks
July 23, 2013 | 3:55 pm

copyrightI always knew that all that lobbyist-driven cranking up of copyright infringement penalties to ridiculous and indefensible heights would prove self-defeating and fuel its own backlash. Now, thanks to a recent direct democracy reform that allows citizens to kickstart legislation or law reform, Finnish citizens have voted to submit copyright revision proposals to parliament for debate and a vote. This doesn't mean that the Pirate Bay Party has set sail for Helsinki. Rather, the proposals, entitled "The Common Sense in Copyright Act," bring together a slew of measures, including removal of unfair clauses in recording deals, a wider scope of fair...

Is ‘Happy Birthday’ Still Under Copyright?
June 14, 2013 | 9:59 pm

happy birthday[caption id="attachment_86884" align="aligncenter" width="553"] Photo by Emma Glover |[/caption] Mike Masnick has a great write-up about a pending lawsuit that finally challenges the copyright claim Warner/Chappell Music has been enforcing for decades over the 'Happy Birthday' song. I remember first hearing about this odd little copyright issue during an episode of the late but great sitcom, "Sports Night." The main characters were two sports newscasters, and in one episode, one of them sings "Happy Birthday to You," briefly, to his co-worker on air. He is later visited by a dour rep from legal who advises him that the station was fined by...

Europe’s Database Right: A scary concept
February 13, 2013 | 5:48 pm

Techdirt has a write-up on something I had never heard of--a special copyright introduced in 1996 which protects the contents of databases, even if all the works they list are public domain. The case Techdirt profiles involves a company which wanted to obtain some government records from the 1700s and 1800s and were told they could not: "In order to justify an exclusive right to its database, the department of Vienne told the court it had "committed more than €230,000 [about $300,000] to this project and that the digitization of documents archive had taken eight years." This is a scary story for...

The Suicide of Computer Genius Aaron Swartz: Time for presidential peacemaking in the online copyright wars
January 14, 2013 | 10:03 am

After Henry Louis Gates, Jr., an African-American Harvard professor, was erroneously arrested for breaking and entering, Barack Obama spoke up. The President at first overdid his criticism of the police, but in the end played the meritable role of peacemaker, inviting both Prof. Gates and the arresting policeman to the White House for a “Beer Summit.” In time, Sgt. James Crowley even gave Prof. Gates a pair of the handcuffs used on the professor. Now President Obama should help make peace in a separate Cambridge case and consider another “Beer Summit”—in fact a whole series—between copyright lobbyists and America’s librarians, educators and consumer activists. Dead in the copyright...

Republican paper on copyright reform lasts less than 24 hours, but there may still be hope
November 20, 2012 | 8:17 pm

Given the state of Republican rhetoric in recent years, I was very surprised to find them endorsing a cause I can actually wholeheartedly support—but they did so this past weekend, for less than 24 hours before they hastily retracted it. I refer to a paper issued by the Republican Study Committee, the caucus for House Republicans, stating that current US copyright law is stifling creativity instead of encouraging it, and is in dire need of drastic reforms. (The paper is embedded below this article.) The paper pointed out that copyright is all about encouraging the progress of the useful...