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Tag Archives: IP

Google Working to Revise Digital Books Settlement

The Justice Department’s filing on Friday, echoing other critics, said that the settlement could give Google a virtually exclusive license to millions of out-of-print “orphan books,” whose rights holders were unknown or cannot be found, making it impossible for anyone else to build a comparable digital library; the interests of some class members, including authors of orphan works and foreign authors, might not have been adequately represented; and the efforts to notify class members about the settlement might have been inadequate.

But unlike some of the more strident opponents, who have argued that the settlement is so flawed that it must be rejected, the Justice Department said it hoped the accord could be fixed so that its benefits — most notable the unprecedented access to millions of out-of-print books it would offer — could be achieved. And it said the parties appeared willing to make changes to address such concerns.

Laying out a path forward, the department said some of its antitrust concerns could be mitigated by “some mechanism by which Google’s competitors’ could gain comparable access to orphan works.” And it said that concerns about the fair representation of some authors could be addressed if some rights for Google to profit from out-of-print books were granted only if their authors agreed, rather than by default.

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Copyright law threatening

On Dec. 13, 1981, Poland’s communist government declared martial law to put down the Solidarity movement. Telephone lines went silent across the country, and once service was restored, each time anyone picked up the telephone they were greeted with a voice: “Rozmowa Kontrolowana.”

“This conversation is being monitored.”

Since telephone service was still a rare privilege in a country where the political establishment feared citizen-to-citizen communication, some could shrug their shoulders because it did not directly apply to them. When, days later, the government set up regional censorship offices to read everyone’s mail, shrugging one’s shoulders ceased to be an option.

Not quite 30 years have passed, and tales like these remain common, from the Egyptian government’s efforts to register and track users at Internet cafes, to Iranian government agents showing up on Twitter this spring to intimidate protesters.

That dictatorships treat their citizens this way is no surprise. What is surprising is that democracies are beginning to do the same.

It is increasingly apparent that modern copyright law is utterly and completely incompatible with the right to privacy. This is at the core of the Pirate movement in Europe which broke through to elect its first members of the European Parliament this summer, and the Pirate Party of Canada, which is collecting signatures on its website to register as an official political party as we speak.

While the name may sound a little humorous, the cause is very serious indeed. Whether you spend a lot of time online or not, the Pirate movement aims to keep the bounds of your and your children’s relationship with their government in a reasonable place, and to make certain that the balance between citizen rights and the bottom line does not tilt in the wrong direction.

What has changed?

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(Hat tip: 3Quarks Daily =)

Lawyer and Author Adds His Objections to Settling the Google Book Lawsuit

Alternative title:

“Whenever I hear capitalism proclaiming noble motives something makes me check my wallet.”
Christopher Buckley

In the latest objection, Scott E. Gant, an author and partner at Boies Schiller & Flexner, a prominent Washington law firm, plans to file a sweeping opposition to the settlement on Wednesday urging the court to reject it.

“This is a predominantly commercial transaction and one that should be undertaken through the normal commercial process, which is negotiation and informed consent,” Mr. Gant said in an interview. Google and its partners are “trying to ram this through so that millions of copyright holders will have no idea that this is happening.”

Unlike most previous objections to the project, which focused on policy issues and recommended modifications to the settlement, Mr. Gant argues that the agreement, which gives Google commercial rights to millions of books without having to negotiate for them individually, amounts to an abuse of the class-action process. He also contends that it does not sufficiently compensate authors and does not adequately notify and represent all the authors affected.

Legal experts, who had not seen the filing but heard a description of it, said it could be the most direct attack on the agreement so far.

“It may be the most fundamental challenge to the settlement yet,” said James Grimmelmann, an associate professor at the Institute for Information Law and Policy at New York Law School, a critic of the agreement whose blog tracks filings and commentary related to it.

The court has set a Sept. 4 deadline for briefs on the settlement and has scheduled a hearing for early October.

Objections to the settlement have been raised by groups including the National Writers Union, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, representatives of the faculty of the University of California and the literary arm of the William Morris Endeavor entertainment agency.

Movie Monsters, The Grateful Dead… And Fair Use Even In Commercial Use

from the good-news-for-fair-use dept

There’s some good news on the fair use front. Many people seem to falsely believe that if a work is used for commercial purposes it cannot be fair use. They think fair use only applies to non-commercial efforts. But that’s not true. Commercial use is factored into the analysis, but just because it’s commercial does not mean that it’s not fair use. A few years ago, an important case made this point, involving Grateful Dead concert posters that were used in a book. The Bill Graham Archives, who owned the posters in question, claimed that because the book was published commercially, it wasn’t fair use. But the court ruled that even though the images were used commercially, and even though they were used in their entirety without modification, the fact that they were used in the context of a book describing the history of the band, made it fair use.

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Porn and music: two industries fighting with free

musci

In a documentary called Porn: Business of Pleasure, Wired’s Nick Thompson points out the similarities between adult filmmakers and record companies.

“We’ve seen the music industry transformed by people uploading music, by file shares, by people thinking that albums should only be available for free, and we’re seeing similar things happen to the adult industry.”

The following voice-over claims that, “what Napster was to music, tube sites are to porn,” which is something that porn filmmakers are gunning to change. Many are taking control of sites like YouPorn and XTube, posting snippets from feature length films with ads at the end to buy the whole movie. Even if a very low percentage of the 15 million monthly viewers (according to a 2007 Portfolio article) actually click, companies will still turn a profit.

‘Hobbit’ Heirs Seek $220 Million From Time Warner Over ‘Rings’

J.R.R. Tolkien sold movie rights to his “Lord of the Rings” novels 40 years ago for 7.5 percent of future receipts. Three films and $6 billion later, his heirs say they haven’t seen a dime from Time Warner Inc.

The accounting methods used by New Line Cinema, the Time Warner unit that made the movies, will face a jury’s scrutiny in October, when the heirs’ lawsuit against the New York-based media company is set for trial in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The case, if not settled by then, may provide a window into accounting practices that let Time Warner deny proceeds of the Oscar-winning films to Tolkien’s heirs. The litigation also threatens to derail two “The Hobbit” films that, if their predecessors are a guide, could generate $4 billion in sales.

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Bezos: We’ve got issues with Google Book Search
(Just like the rest of us, dear!)

“There are many forces of work looking at that and saying it doesn’t seem right that you should do something, kind of get a prize for violating a large series of copyrights,” Bezos said.

Bezos was speaking at the conference, which had the subtitle “Disruptive by Design,” to talk about Amazon’s legacy of shaking up the retail industry and now potentially the publishing industry with its Kindle e-reader device. Most of his talk was focused on the sort of business advice that one might expect a tech company to provide to a room full of big-business and old-media types (“be stubborn on the big things and very flexible on the details,” “you have to be willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time”), but he did get a few minutes to talk about how he thinks the Kindle is changing things.