Saturday, 14 October 2017

I Made It, They Own It: How Copyright Robs Artists

Albert Namatjira was an aboriginal landscape painter from Central Australia. Born in 1902, he died in 1959. His story continues, though, not because of his undoubted talent as an artist but because of the legal wrangling his family had to endure over the copyright to his work.

In an effort to regain the rights to use their relative's work as they see fit, they have resorted to distributing a film, The Namatjira Project, in major Australian cities, to bring word of their plight to the public. ABC News has posted a timeline of events to explain the story.

The matter was finally resolved when a high-profile millionaire intervened, but this aspect of the story opens a huge can of worms; was racism part of the reason for appropriating the copyright on Namatjira's work in the process? The insane length of copyright terms (70 years after death of the artist) is also a factor in play here: keeping the artwork out of the public domain prevented the family from making and selling their own reproductions of Albert's work, and would have done so until 2029. Copyright is widely regarded as a cash cow but the beneficiaries will only ever be those who get to milk it.

h/t @australian

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Affectionate Nickname Banned In Barry Island?

Barry Island, Wales, is probably best known for being the home of the female lead in TV's Gavin and Stacey. It's also a resort town with many attractions, including a colourful ferris wheel that the locals like to call the Barry Eye. I mean, it's not as if it could possibly be confused with the London attraction of the same name, right?

Friday, 28 October 2016

Ancillary Copyright Measure Might Infringe On Social Media

The ancillary copyright juggernaut trundles on despite the debacle that ensued when Google packed up and left Spain over it. While the hotly-disputed link tax element has gone, the insistence on charging for headlines and snippets shared online remains.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Who Owns A Band's Performance?

Rock band promoter Sid Bernstein helped to bring the Beatles to the USA and to set up gigs for them in prestigious venues. Footage from the concerts  was later used in the Beatles film "Eight Days A Week" and in an assortment of documentaries about the band and their role in rock history. This has been the subject of an "intellectual property" rights battle in which the company that held the rights is complaining of infringement of its copyrights — by the Beatles, no less — because they're streaming concert footage on

Monday, 10 October 2016

Africa Not Really Using IPR, IPR Lawyers Not Happy

African countries with fossil fuel and mineral resources are experiencing a growth spurt brought on by investment from Western countries and by China. As a result, the IPR maximalists are being drawn to the nascent opportunities to Lock Away All The Things! like flies to dung. Here's the fun part: despite the creation of the OAPI and the fact that a number of nations have signed up to the Madrid Protocol those dang Africans aren't registering patents, copyright, and trademarks on any and every idea. As a result it seems that there may be issues with the validity and enforceability of IPR that has been registered so far.

You know how IPR is supposed to create and maintain jobs? They're basically in the administration and enforcement of IPR, not in any actual creativity. Still, it's nice work if you can get it. Will you tell Wayne that African countries don't have the kind of mass affluence required to support a parasite industry like IPR enforcement or shall I?


That Time Harvard Claimed Copyright On Native American Pottery

When Native American trader Steve Elmore wrote In Search of Nampeyo, The Early Years 1875 - 1892 for the Peabody Museum Press at the behest of Harvard University, little did he know that his intellectual endeavour would turn into a nightmare. Having rejected the book in 2014, Harvard recommended that Mr. Elmore publish elsewhere, so he published the work himself. Then Harvard sued him for infringing the copyright of its photos of the pottery discussed in the book.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Copyright Bot DMCA's Warner Brothers Website

If you've ever wondered why "Shoot first, ask questions later" was considered a bad idea by Pirates like myself, the following story is one of them. It seems that anti-piracy outfit Vobile has auto-reported many links to authorised content, including those of its trading partners, to Google for infringement under the DMCA and requested that the links be removed from its search index.

I realise that checking links first can be problematic, particularly if there are loads of them, but wouldn't it be a good idea to whitelist the domains of legitimate purveyors prior to attempting to get them delisted from the search engine results?

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Perpetual Copyright Via Digitisation Of Existing Images

In the wake of the court decision in America that remastering a song gave the remastered version a copyright of its own (hail, perpetual copyright!), a German court has decided to do something similar with images. Yes indeed, if a photo of a painting is taken, the photographer has a copyright interest in the image. So basically if you have a website in which you discuss the works of Leonardo Da Vinci, for example, get your wallet out, there's a monopoly rent to pay to the museum or art gallery housing these things. I can understand them needing money to fund their conservation, etc., but this is emphatically not the way to go about it.

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Tuesday, 14 June 2016

"Thanks" Owned By Citigroup

My parents taught me the importance of good manners, namely that it oils the wheels of social discourse. Now that Star Trek's Ferengi have apparently taken over the world, being polite is going to cost you.

Citigroup Inc (C.N) sued AT&T Inc (T.N) on Friday, saying the phone company's use of "thanks" and "AT&T thanks" in a new customer loyalty program infringed its trademark rights to the phrase "thankyou."

The aim of the lawsuit is to stop AT&T from using the words in its literature. That everyday words like "Thanks" or "Thankyou" can be trademarked at all is a cause for concern. It's bad enough to fence off music, books, or films, etc., but now they're turning words into rent-generating real estate. It's not on. If you want to follow the case, it's Citigroup Inc v. AT&T Inc et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 16-04333.

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Sunday, 12 June 2016

Wendy Carlos V Lewis Bond: Reinterpreting Fair Use

Synth music pioneer Wendy (né Walter) Carlos collaborated with Robert Moog, the inventor of the Moog synthesizer throughout the 1970s, helping to pave the way for modern pop and dance music as we know it today. We owe her a great debt for what she has brought to our culture, let's get that straight. However, she herself owes her oeuvre to classical music; many of her best known works are remixes of pieces from Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique and Purcell's Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary. It's the Purcell remix, which was used in Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange (the last two minutes or so) that has got vlogger Lewis Bond into trouble. An aspiring fimmaker, he makes video essays analyzing films. That should be straight up fair use, end of discussion, but apparently it's not.

Apparently a Torrent Freak reader contacted Carlos to ask for an explanation for this mess and received this terse reply:

“There is much bad advice on the internet about copyright and the use of music on YouTube, but some very good advice that should be followed is not to post other people’s copyrighted music on the internet ‘because you like it and want others to hear it’.”

One presumes that Carlos (or representative) thinks there's no hypocrisy here because the works utilised by Carlos for her works were in the public domain. If this doesn't prove that we need fair use to be ring-fenced, I don't know what does.

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Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Axl Rose DMCAs Photos Of Him That He Doesn't Own

I've blogged in On t'Internet about how some people who engage in unwise behaviours and regret it later on try to excise their peccadilloes from the search results by trying to get Google to de-index the links, which draws unwanted attention to the items they're trying to hide. Techdirt's Mike Masnick calls this the Streisand Effect.

This also applies to unflattering photos. Smart people try to get them down at source, but where celebrity photos are concerned, forget it. Once it's up there the best you can do is try not to talk about it too much and try to bury it with other pics. Beyoncé's publisher tried to get pictures deemed unflattering off Buzzfeed, which Streisanded them all over the internet and the media. If that wasn't bad enough, SB Nation has taken it upon itself to remind Queen Bey that "this is the internet" by annually celebrating the failure of her publicist to shift one pic.

In the case of Mr. Rose, then, one has to ask who the hell he's getting his advice off, since he is NOW trying to get unflattering images of himself (some of which have been made into cruel memes) removed from internet search results using the DMCA notice and takedown procedure. Oh wait, it's Web Sheriff. Never mind. Whatever Rose is smoking, he really needs to stop: Web Sheriff's bogus takedowns are aimed at photos taken by one Mr. Boris Minkevich of the Winnipeg Free Press; he owns the copyright, not Rose, because the minute he pushed the button the image was fixed in a tangible medium and copyright automatically assigned to the photograher, i.e. Minkevich. Basically, Web Sheriff doesn't have a leg to stand on but given their creative interpretation of copyright law (which boils down to, "Because I said so, stupid!"), they're not planning to stop.

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Should Tax-funded Works Be In The Public Domain?

If we pay for it, we own it, right? Wrong, if the California state government gets its way:

The public domain status of federal government works is enshrined in the Copyright Act. Until now California has followed the same core principle—documents, pamphlets, photos, videos, and datasets produced by the state are public domain. A.B. 2880, a bill quickly moving in the legislature, would overturn that idea, allowing governments—at the state, county, and local level—to exercise copyright restrictions on the materials they produce. This bill threatens government transparency and sets the stage for censorship and suppression of public information. - EFF: California: Public Records Should Be Public Domain

People who insist that copyright isn't widely used for censorship are the same ones who want to use it for control of the content and the terms of the distribution thereof. That's what censorship IS. In this case, as they pointed out, it's being used to subvert democracy by controlling access that people could use to make informed choices. If you are American, please get on board.

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Saturday, 4 June 2016

Trademark =/= Entirely Owning Words

If the purpose of trademarks is to enable consumers to distinguish between one legal entity and another, Caribou Coffee V Blue Caribou Cafe should have been thrown out of court on the grounds that there's no realistic chance of confusion.

I heard about this story a few weeks back from friends in Michigan who can't believe our court systems are so rigged that the big guy corporations can beat up a mom and pop shop that isn't even within the geographic sphere of the corporation's locations. TripMN, comment on Caribou Coffee Learns That Even When You Win As A Trademark Bully, You Can Still Lose (Techdirt)

And if the point of getting a trademark is to keep that sweet, sweet goodwill all to yourself where the use of your name is concerned, it seems that, for Caribou Coffee, this is backfiring over their control freakery over the word "caribou." Oh dear. Another commenter suggested that Caribou Coffee rescue its reputation by asking the Blue Caribou Cafe to sell its coffee product, thereby demonstrating the difference between the two entities, but as he wrote, it's probably too late. In any case, why try to be reasonable when it's easier to bash?

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Who Owns Your Given Name?

In answer to the above question, the response, "You do" should be a no-brainer, but actually it's not. In football (soccer) club manager Jose Mourinho's case, his given name and signature have apparently been the rightful property of Chelsea Football Club via a European trademark since 2005, for the purposes of selling swag with his name on. Okay, but the purpose of trademarks is to prevent consumer confusion; if the trademark was invalidated as being ridiculous Chelsea would still be able to sell swag with Mourinho's name and signature on, they just wouldn't be able to be the only ones doing so. But this has nothing to do with consumer confusion prevention and everything to do with exerting control over individual via control over licencing to use their own names. No artist or creator ought to be obliged to register an ownership interest in the use of their own name, even if only to stop others from doing so.

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Thursday, 2 June 2016

Google V Oracle: The Aftermath

Should telling both sides of the story mean letting inaccuracies slide?

Oracle lost its battle with Google to own APIs in a way 9th Circuit judge Barry Silverman would approve of

Once the [item] is fixed, it is tangible property (emphasis is mine) belonging to the copyright holder, and no one else has the right to take even a little of it without permission."

which is just as well; APIs are the bridges that join programs together. They define the way that computer programs communicate with each other, and therefore should emphatically NOT be copyrighted. Try telling that to the Federal Circuit court, which bought into the argument that if it's fixed, it's tangible property, so get a licence or do not sample. Allowing that mentality to fester would make it impossible for me to function as a blogger reporting on IPR abuse: I'd have to contact each and every source publication and ask for permission to quote from and link to their stories. If the maximalists get their way that is exactly what will happen. The trouble with maximalists is that when they're not lying they're being economical with the truth; they spent much of the trial ignoring the open source, free-to-use status of Java that included the 37 APIs that Oracle went to court over. Since the copyrightability of APIs couldn't be discussed, the copyright status couldn't be discussed (as far as I know), so the only way to return a fair verdict was to declare Google's usage of the Java APIs to be fair use. It's a mess, but that's what happens when you treat copyright like property.

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