First there was Eldred v. Ashcroft, in which Internet publisher Eric Eldred challenged Congress's power to extend the term of copyright seemingly ad infinitum--and failed. Then there was Golan v. Ashcroft, in which music conductor Lawrence Golan continues to fight Congress's "restoration" of copyrights to works that have passed into the public domain.
At a time when the FCC is working itself into a lather over the notion that the "f-word" might be spoken on the air, it's good to be reminded that not all countries share our obsession with George Carlin's famous list of words. The UK's Channel 4 crafted an especially an artful (and hysterically funny) reminder -- a channel ID spot that includes many of your favorite American TV stars saying what can't be said in the land of the First Amendment.
Gives us another reason to be thankful that free speech on the Internet is not subject to FCC regulation.
"Pundit watch: you'll be able to identify a pundit who has not read either Eldred or the complaint when they suggest the case is the same as Eldred was. It is not. Indeed, the claims are fundamentally different. The only relation between the two is that Kahle/Prelinger v. Ashcroft follows the rules suggested in Eldred for challenging Congress's transformation of the traditional contours of copyright law. Eldred said: tradition matters. This case says: the tradition was radically changed."
BusinessWeek published an interview last week with Scott McGregor of Phillips Semiconductor. Phillips is a leader in developing radio frequency identification (RFID) technology; Mr. McGregor breezily waves away concerns about the impact RFID use would have on privacy.
EFF's Chris Palmer took a quick look at the article; below, he responds to Mr. McGregor's assertions:
McGregor: "When I buy a garment, one of the first things I do when I get it home is cut off the tags. You can cut off RFID tags the same way."
Walt Crawford's latest issue of Cites & Insights, entitled "The Broadcast Flag and Why You Should Care," digests the entirety of the broadcast flag debate--precisely the kind of thing we would do if we weren't so busy fighting it.
Former FCC counsel Kevin Werbach sounds a bit like EFF board member Larry Lessig in his recent speech at Wireless Future/SXSW--and it's not just because he's talking about building a (wireless) "supercommons." It appears that both are forced to navigate slowly over the speedbump of binary thinking before tackling the subject at hand. "[Unlike] communism," writes Werbach (PDF), "the commons position is neither anti-property nor anti-markets."
Okay--got it. But then, what exactly is a wireless supercommons?
Explains Werbach @ SXSW:
You may not agree with the recording industry's litigation campaign against people who use peer-to-peer file-sharing networks. No matter. Under legislation introduced Thursday by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), you'd still have to pay for it.
The legislation in question is the Protecting Intellectual Rights Against Theft and Expropriation Act (PIRATE Act). It would allow federal prosecutors to bring civil copyright infringement suits--meaning a lower burden of proof and no need to show that a defendant had knowledge of her wrongdoing and willfully engaged in it.
Two million dollars are earmarked, four U.S. Attorney's offices must set up a "pilot" program, and the Department of Justice is required to file annual reports with the Judiciary committee to identify how many civil actions have been brought.
We would certainly be remiss if we didn't point you to AKMA's project to spread Larry Lessig's Free Culture to the four corners of the Internet. He's now in the process of recruiting volunteers to record portions of the book and make them available as digital audio files; sign up to record one of the remaining portions here.
"Lessig is telling stories that are designed to pump certain intuitions--to put us in the right frame of mind for what is to come. I am reading the book as I write these posts, so I am not sure what is coming next, but I have a suspicion. I think that the Internet is going to play a role vis a vis intellectual property law that is similar to the role that air travel played vis a vis traditional property law. 'Common sense' is going to tell us that IP must give way to the new reality, if the public interest is to be served."
In the wake of a Harvard/UNC study (PDF) asserting that the effect file sharing has on music sales is "statistically indistinguishable" from zero, the recording industry has decided to take its P2P litigation campaign global.
Says IFPI Chairman Jay Berman, "I can't sit here and count all the new opportunities for delivering music to consumers, whether it may be over the Internet or into people's wireless telephones or anything else." Rather, argues Berman, the focus should be on bringing lawsuits against people, without "prescreening" to discriminate among "the old or young."
Needless to say, we disagree.
Some folks keep asking why more artists aren't breaking into the mainstream through file sharing. This article suggests that they are--but that the record labels are taking all the credit:
"Record-label executives discreetly use Garland's research firm, BigChampagne, and other services to track which songs are traded online and help pick which new singles to release. They increasingly use such file-sharing data to persuade radio stations and MTV to give new songs a spin or boost airplay for those that are popular with downloaders.
Some labels even monitor what people do with their music after they download it to better structure deals with licensed downloading services. The ultimate goal is what it always has been in the record business: Sell more music."
A Canadian court today denied the recording industry's effort to force Canadian ISPs to disclose the names of 29 alleged file sharers. This alone is news enough (and thanks are due to CIPPIC and Electronic Frontier Canada for their efforts in the proceeding).
But the court went on to say quite a bit more about file sharing and copyright law in Canada, including:
When considering what to make of the recording industry's current rants against peer-to-peer file sharing software, it may help to remember how the record industry got its start -- by pirating the works of famous American songwriters. Consider this article, written by John Philip Sousa in 1906:
"I foresee a marked deterioration in American music and musical taste, an interruption in the musical development of the country, and a host of other injuries to music in its artistic manifestations, by virtue -- or rather by vice -- of the multiplication of the various music-reproducing machines."