The National Pork Board has apologized for threatening to sue "The Lactivist" blog for using the slogan "the other white milk." This is no joke, though the Board's legal theory was laughable.
After warning blogger Jennifer Laycock that using the slogan on a T-shirt infringed and diluted the Pork Board's trademark on "the other white meat", perhaps the Board expected the blogger to cave immediately. Instead, Laycock took her case to the court of public opinion, blogging about the letter and asking her readers to contact the Pork Board to complain about it. Laycock and her readers were particularly offended by the letter's implication that Laycock was an advocate of adult breastfeeding.
Good news today from the great state of Oklahoma. Debbie Foster, a single mom who was improperly sued by the RIAA back in 2004 for file sharing, has won back her attorneys' fees. The decision today is one of the first in the country to award attorneys fees to a defendant in an RIAA case over music sharing on the Internet.
Last year, Judge Lee R. West dismissed the case against her with prejudice after it became clear that Ms. Foster was simply the Internet access account holder in her home and had no knowledge or experience with file sharing software. EFF, Public Citizen, the ACLU, and the American Association of Law Libraries filed an amicus brief in the case, supporting Ms. Foster's motion for fees.
Today, Apple's Steve Jobs publicly threw down this gauntlet: "If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store... Apple will embrace this wholeheartedly."
Why should the labels listen?
In Washington D.C. on Tuesday, EFF proudly supported the reintroduction of Rep. Rush Holt's (D-NJ) Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007 (HR 811). Below the fold, we've posted EFF's statement released in conjunction with Tuesday's press conference. Take action now and tell your representatives to support this bill.
As an RIAA spokesperson famously put it when asked about the spectacle of file-sharing lawsuits against innocent grandparents, "when you go fishing with a driftnet, sometimes you catch a dolphin."
This week, Hollywood started to ramp up its lobbying efforts by holding a symposium in D.C. called "The Business of Show Business." During a luncheon speech, Warner Bros Chairman and CEO Barry Meyer took some shots at Consumer Electronics Association President and CEO Gary Shapiro and stated, "history shows that [the major movies studios] are often adapters and embracers of new technologies."
...except for all those times when they've tried to crush innovation instead. In response, CEA has published this open letter [DOC] from Shapiro that makes the real historical record plain: (links, mine)
"In the last few decades, the motion picture industry came late to digital television and actually used every means possible to block new useful technology. Consider:
Today, the PC industry needs Hollywood more than Hollywood needs the PC. Most consumers rely on traditional consumer electronics devices to view DVDs and TV content, but companies like Microsoft are betting on the converged digital home and desperately want a bigger piece of the media device market. Because of the DMCA, Microsoft has to get permission to build devices compatible with Hollywood's DRMed content. So when Hollywood demanded that Microsoft lard Vista with restrictions to access high-def DVD and digital cable content, the software giant was in a weak bargaining position.
- Data Retention Bill Resurfaces in Congress
Europe's data-hoarding regulations slide west.
- EMI Considers Dropping DRM
If true, Steve Jobs may get his dream.
- Warner: Dropping DRM Is "Without Logic or Merit"
The majors remain stubbornly attached to the DRM status
- DVD Jon's Thoughts On Jobs' DRM Memo
DVD Jon takes a closer look at Steve Job's anti-DRM
As if suing thousands of music fans isn't bad enough, now the RIAA wants to conscript ISPs into helping them streamline the shakedowns. The major record labels sent a letter to ISPs across the country asking them to trade away customers' rights and make the overzealous file sharing lawsuits more profitable -- and the RIAA even has the audacity to suggest that this is all for your own good.
ISPs currently have no obligation to maintain IP log files, and that's a good thing when it comes to protecting your privacy. Those log files can serve as Internet breadcrumbs -- your ISP and any third party that has access to them can retrace your online activities.
Copyright law has long caused headaches for documentary filmmakers. Fair use allows for the use of brief excerpts of copyrighted material, but that doesn't stop some copyright holders from threatening lawsuits and demanding exorbitant licensing fees. Unless they clear every snippet, filmmakers are generally unable to get "errors and omissions" insurance, and, without that, it's basically impossible to get a film distributed and released in the theaters or TV.
To help clarify the principle of fair use, a group of five national filmmakers organizations put together a Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use in 2006. The Statement provides guidance for lawyers, broadcasters and insurers as to what constitutes fair use.
During the 2006 election in Florida, electronic voting machines may have "undercounted" to the tune of 18,000 votes in Sarasota County. But because the new machines were not designed to provide paper receipts, there is no way to double check the vote.
Now, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California has taken action. Last week, she asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate electronic voting systems that do not provide voter-verified paper ballots. Senator Feinstein specifically highlighted the problems in Florida, and asked for a "top to bottom investigation".
"Should the GAO become aware of any systems that are prone to software malfunctions, are susceptible to fraud, or use hardware design that would lead to voting system problems, I would request that you also inspect those systems," writes Senator Feinstein.
Whistleblower Mark Klein will get some well-deserved acknowledgement when he receives a James Madison Freedom of Information Award next month. The award could hardly find a more deserving recipient — Klein is the former AT&T technician who exposed the extent of the government's warrantless wiretapping program.
In early 2006, Klein came forward with internal documents that show the company cooperated with the NSA's secret program to eavesdrop on internet communications, in violation of federal wiretapping laws and the Fourth Amendment. Klein's evidence demonstrates that in at least one of AT&T's facilities, internet traffic was diverted to a secret, secure room to which only the NSA had access.
In the words of EFF Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl, Klein is "a true American hero." This public recognition of his bravery in defense of the public's right to know is richly deserved.
- Free Congress!
Coders gather to open up more of the legislature's
- Republicans, Democrats Spat Over IP Rights in Congress TV
After Speaker of the House Nancy Polosi is accused of
"pirating" C-SPAN, the TV service reiterates that it has no
copyright interest in the video.
- Chinese Lawyers Protest Sina's Blog Censorship
Fight the arbitrary nature of China's limits on free
- New York Times on the DJ Mixtape Arrests
"DJs continued to release tapes -- some with hastily added
tracks on which rappers cursed the RIAA"
The major record labels have stayed the course for the last five years with predictable results -- they've stuck by DRM, ratcheted up their file sharing lawsuit campaign, and let revenues continue to slide. Today, the LA Times suggests some reasons to think the labels may finally be coming around to a sensible solution that EFF has long advocated -- blanket licenses for music fans to share as much music as they like for a flat monthly fee.
"If Internet service providers 'want to come to us and look for a blanket license for an amount per month,' IFPI chief John Kennedy said, 'let's engage in that discussion....'
The major record labels are sending thousands more copyright nastygrams to colleges regarding student file sharing this year. Of course, file sharing continues unabated, and these P2P-related notices will simply push fans to use other readily-accessible technologies that the RIAA can't easily monitor -- copying music through iTunes over the campus LAN, swapping hard drives and USB flash drives, burning recordable DVDs, and forming ad hoc wireless networks.
WIPO's Provisional Committee on Proposals Related to a WIPO Development Agenda is meeting in Geneva this week to continue discussions about establishing a Development Agenda for WIPO - a set of proposals for measuring the impact of WIPO's work on social and economic development in its member states. Two years after they started, the Development Agenda discussions now involve a wide-ranging set of proposals, including requiring WIPO to recalibrate its technical assistance program (WIPO's practice of advising developing countries on how to set up their IP systems), and to develop mechanisms to protect the Public Domain. The discussions may be obscure, but they are important. The WIPO Development Agenda offers the possibility of creating global intellectual property laws that balance rightsholders' interests with the human rights of the world's citizens for access to medicine and knowledge.
If a parent sees pop-up ads and viruses on her computer, she can be sued for copyright infringement by the RIAA.
At least that's what the RIAA is arguing in a recent court filing in the Capitol v. Foster case, in which a federal judge made the RIAA cough up attorney's fees to a mother, Debra Foster, who had been sued because her daughter was file sharing. The RIAA lawyers had dawdled in dismissing their complaint against Foster, even after her child admitted to being the file-sharer in the house (the RIAA went ahead and got a default judgment against the child).
Fantastic news from Stanford Law School's Fair Use Project: documentarians who follow the Center for Social Media's Documentary Filmmakers' Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use can now get "errors and omissions" insurance from Media/Professional Insurance. The key was cementing a promise of pro bono or reduced fee representation to documentaries that follow the Best Practices guidelines:
This last week at WIPO has brought a series of welcome surprises. When the proceedings started on Monday, we had a Chairman who was new to both WIPO and the Development Agenda. The Member States faced a battery of 40 proposals that had to be reconciled into a unified document. To everyone's surprise, that happened by week's end. That WIPO was able to produce such a document is amazing. That the document is a powerful affirmation of many key parts of the original Development Agenda proposal is nothing short of astounding.
In the past, WIPO's process of closed-door "informal" meetings between countries has usually served to weaken strong public interest proposals. But this week, though most of the negotiation happened behind the scenes, the final product contains an array of policies for strengthening development concerns at WIPO. For example:
Call it the Universal Law of Bad Laws: the more problematic a proposed
piece of legislation is, the keener its advocates are to rush it through. When
that happens, it's often those in the system who call for delay that saves us
all from its unintended consequences.
Praise, then, is due then for
the Italian Member of European Parliament (MEP) responsible for guiding the
dangerous Second Intellectual Property Enforcement Directive (
href="http://www.ipred.org/">IPRED2) through the
Parliament. Zingaretti called last week for another delay in a key vote by
the EU's Committee on Legal Affairs (
originally scheduled for today.
Reps. Rick Boucher and John Doolittle's FAIR USE Act [PDF] would remove some of the entertainment industry's most draconian anti-innovation weapons and chip away at the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's (DMCA) broad restrictions on fair use. Take action now and tell Congress to help restore balance in copyright now.
- Supreme Court Debates Patentability of Software
Justices look skeptically at the details of software's
- Toward an Ethical Patent System
European citizens unite against over-broad patents....
- Bad Patents Are Bad for Business
... as does the European business community to go with it.
- Canada Turns Away Americans for Past Misdemeanors
Thanks to DHS data mining, Canada turned away a visitor who
shop-lifted during a fraternity prank 20 years ago and
others with minor criminal records.