President Obama reportedly gave an iPod, loaded with 40 show tunes, to England's Queen Elizabeth II as a gift. Did he violate the law when he did so?
You know your copyright laws are broken when there is no easy answer to this question.
Traditionally, it has been the job of the "first sale" doctrine to enable gift giving -- that's the provision of copyright law that entitles the owner of a CD, book, or other copyrighted work, to give it away (or resell it, for that matter), notwithstanding the copyright owner's exclusive right of distribution.
Last month, a group called The Author's Guild raised loud objections to the
text-to-speech feature in Amazon's new Kindle 2. They claimed that reading a book out-loud is a violation of US copyright law.
We had hoped that Amazon would stand up to this legally baseless bullying and support their customers. But, instead, they caved, and allowed publishers to deactivate the Kindle's text-to-speech capabilities using the device's built-in DRM.
Presumably, Amazon and The Author's Guild hoped this back-room deal would go unnoticed. Instead, consumers have taken a stand and formed The Reading Rights Coalition:
In a what could be a potentially serious blow to Google's AdWords business, and to consumers’ ability to find information about competing offerings on the Internet, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that a trademark owner can sue Google for trademark infringement for selling its mark as a keyword as part of the AdWords program. This is likely to have a chilling effect on Internet intermediaries generally, as they will likely fear the costs of trademark litigation if they use marks to help speakers find their audiences.
In recent weeks, we've repeatedly covered Warner Music's (mis)use of YouTube's Content ID (i.e., audio fingerprinting) tools to remove lots of videos that are clearly fair uses. Now ZDNet columnist Jason Perlow reports that Warner Music came after his wife's video slideshow on Vimeo, another video hosting site:
We had hoped this would go differently.
Friday evening, in a motion to dismiss Jewel v. NSA, EFF's litigation against the National Security Agency for the warrantless wiretapping of countless Americans, the Obama Administration made two deeply troubling arguments.
First, they argued, exactly as the Bush Administration did on countless occasions, that the state secrets privilege requires the court to dismiss the issue out of hand. They argue that simply allowing the case to continue "would cause exceptionally grave harm to national security." As in the past, this is a blatant ploy to dismiss the litigation without allowing the courts to consider the evidence.
Why is Michigan set to issue new Enhanced Drivers' Licenses (EDLs) that include long-range RFID (Radio Frequency ID) technology? That's the question that Michigan Rep. Paul Opsommer wants answered.
Michigan entering into a federal agreement to put unencrypted, long range RFID computer chips into our driver's licenses presents a huge privacy risk with very little benefit. I don't think we need RFID in our licenses period, but even if we did, there is absolutely no reason it couldn't be short range and encrypted.
Now, the people who would have benefited most from the new feature — the blind, and others with reading disabilities — have made it clear that they're not going to stand for it.
- Social Network Sites "Monitored" in UK
The UK government proposed rules that would allow the use of social networking sites to monitor criminal activity.
- Freedom on the Net
Freedom House takes a comprehensive look at government tactics for controlling communications around the world.
- "Playmobil Priest" Faces Company's Wrath
A priest who transformed Playmobil figures into biblical characters is facing copyright infringement claims.
- Couric Asks Holder About Spying
There's a new bill working its way through Congress that is cause for some alarm: the Cybersecurity Act of 2009 (PDF summary here), introduced by Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME). The bill as it exists now risks giving the federal government unprecedented power over the Internet without necessarily improving security in the ways that matter most. It should be opposed or radically amended.
On Friday, EFF and the law firm of Fish and Richardson filed an emergency motion to quash [pdf] and for the return of seized property on behalf of a Boston College computer science student whose computers, cell phone, and other property were seized as part of an investigation into who sent an e-mail to a school mailing list identifying another student as gay. The problem? Not only is there no indication that any crime was committed, the investigating officer argued that the computer expertise of the student itself supported a finding of probable cause to seize the student's property.
The warrant application [pdf] cites the following allegedly suspicious behavior:
The term "machinima" (machine + cinema) has been coined to describe movies made using video games. In addition to being an inspiring new "film" genre, it's also at the cutting edge of many important legal questions at the intersection of copyright, trademark, and contractual restrictions (i.e., EULAs and ToS). At the same time, some video game vendors have begun reaching out to embrace machinima.
On April 24-25, 2009, Stanford Law School will be hosting "Play Machinima Law," a timely conference examining these issues, where I'll be one of the speakers. Recommended!
In preparation for WIPO's initiative on Exceptions & Limitations to Copyright, the US Copyright Office is currently soliciting comments on the topic of "facilitating access to copyrighted works for the blind or persons with other disabilities". Written comments are due next week (April 21st, 2009), and there will be a public meeting in Washington on May 18th. EFF will be sending our own submission, as will many other IP and disability groups. But if you've worked on software or hardware to overcome your own visual or other disabilities, or co-operated informally (perhaps in an open source project) to provide wider access to content for users with disabilities, or have dealt with a publisher regarding the accessibility of texts, we'd like to encourage you to send the copyright office your own stories — and cc: us at email@example.com.
The Obama Administration’s shocking decision to assert Bush-era arguments in its motion to dismiss EFF’s case against the government for warrantless wiretapping, Jewel v. NSA, has been slowly working its way into the mainstream news. We’re still hoping for more coverage, but for now there are several examples of recent reporting that are worth pointing to.
Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald and others in the left blogosphere were on the story early, just as they were throughout the fight over telecom immunity last year. Greenwald declared the Obama position to be worse than Bush:
The New York Times reported today that the National Security Agency (NSA) "had been engaged in 'over-collection' of domestic communications of Americans," by which the NSA would spy on "groups of Americans and collect their domestic communications without proper court authority." According to the Times, a review conducted over the course of the Presidential transition revealed "that the N.S.A. was improperly capturing information involving significant amounts of American traffic."
We have often observed that one of the most pernicious aspects of U.S. copyright law is the outrageously disproportionate statutory damages an infringer may have to pay--from $750 to $150,000 per work, no matter how minimal the actual harm caused by the infringement. And we are not alone: last September, after a jury awarded $222,000 in damages based on a peer to peer file-sharer's alleged infringement of just 24 songs, a federal judge implored Congress to revisit the damages provisions of the Copyright Act. The threat of a similar award (however unlikely) has chilled far too many fair uses--few people are willing to gamble with their life savings even if they firmly believe their use is legal.
The New York Times story with new revelations of surveillance abuses under the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program is making big news today (Associated Press, Washington Post, Salon,) as well it should. Beyond the allegations of an out-of-control spying program, the story casts new light on last spring's surveillance battle in Congress.
The free expression community lost a giant with the passing last weekend of Judith Krug, longtime director of the American Library Association's Office of Intellectual Freedom. Dating back to the late 1960s, Judith was one of the nation's fiercest defenders of the First Amendment, often provoking the ire of those who sought to remove material they didn't like – for a variety of subjective (and usually narrow) reasons – from the shelves of our libraries.
- Which Congressman Was Wiretapped?
New reports that the NSA spied on a Congressman has people wondering which one it might be.
- Goldman Sachs v. Blogger
Goldman Sachs is trying to silence a blogger that has criticized the bank.
- Lessons From the Privacy Trail
A new book examines academic work on questions of privacy and identity in a networked society.
- Mashup the FTC DRM Testimony
Last month, the US Sentencing Commission considered new sentencing guidelines that would classify the use of proxy servers as "sophisticated means" when used in the commission of a crime, thus requiring extra prison time. EFF spoke out against these guidelines, sending Staff Technologist Seth Schoen to appear before the Commission to argue (PDF) that the use of anonymizing technologies is a widespread practice that requires no special knowledge or skills.
Happily, it appears the Commission has decided, at least for now, not to classify the use of proxies as a sign of sophistication.
When President Obama – in one of his first official acts – committed his new administration to an "unprecedented" level of transparency, EFF applauded the change in policy. Likewise, when Attorney General Holder, at the President's direction, issued new guidelines liberalizing agency implementation of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), we welcomed it as a "particularly promising development." But we also noted that it remained to be seen whether reality would match the rhetoric as the new policy was applied, particularly in the context of pending lawsuits – several of which EFF is pursuing – that challenge Bush-era decisions to withhold requested information.
In a reprise of his famous argument against DRM delivered to Microsoft executives in 2004, Cory Doctorow recently appeared before book publishers at the O'Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing Conference to explain to leaders of the publishing industry why DRM on digital books is bad for customers, bad for authors, and bad for business.
Cory reminded his audience of something they have probably already heard from their own customers: no one likes DRM.
No one woke up this morning and thought, "gee, I wish there was a way I could do less with my music, maybe someone's offering that product today."
Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) published a detailed opinion column in the New York Review of Books today, proposing "legislation to keep the courts open to suits filed against several major telephone companies that allegedly facilitated the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program."
While telecom immunity legislation passed Congress last year, EFF's litigation against the telecommunications giants remains pending before the Court, as Judge Vaughn Walker considers whether the controversial legislation is constitutional. Senator Specter's bill "would substitute the government as defendant in place of the telephone companies."
Reports in Congressional Quarterly and the New York Times indicate that a National Security Agency (NSA) wiretap authorized by the FISA Court recorded Rep. Jane Harman trading political favors with a suspected Israeli agent. When the FBI attempted to open a criminal investigation into the matter, Attorney General Gonzales allegedly intervened because he "'needed Jane' to help support the administration's warrantless wiretapping program."
Here was EFF's initial reaction to the scandal, as reported by ABC News:
The L.A. Times Technology Blog hits the nail on the head, responding to news that the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has sent out letters asking for help investigating security breaches caused when government employees and contractors who use P2P software accidentally share information on networks like Lime Wire.
Can a noncommercial critical website use the trademark of the entity it critiques in its domain name? Surprisingly, it appears that the usually open-minded folks at Wikipedia think not.
Last February, a pair of artists, working with several collaborators, created a Wikipedia article and invited the general public to add to it, following Wikipedia’s standards of credibility and verifiability. The work was intended to comment on the nature of art and Wikipedia. But Wikipedia editors did not take kindly to the project, and it was shut down within fifteen hours for being insufficiently “encyclopaedic.”
Fast forward a couple of months. The artists, Scott Kildall and Nathaniel Stern, have created a noncommercial website that documents the project, called Wikipedia Art. The domain name for the project: wikipediaart.org.
An enterprising YouTube user has completed a fascinating set of tests to figure out how sensitive the audio fingerprinting tools are in YouTube's Content ID system. (This is the system being used by Warner Music Group to do wholesale censorship of music, including clear fair uses, on YouTube.) After uploading 82 videos that include altered versions of The Waitresses' hit, "I Know What Boys Like," the experimenter comes up with a number of interesting conclusions:
Thanks to the generosity of Google, we can now offer scholarships to individuals who wish to attend the EFF Bootcamp on User-Generated Content taught by EFF attorneys on May 11 at Golden Gate University School of Law in San Francisco.
If you would like to attend the bootcamp, but cannot afford the fee, send us a short note at firstname.lastname@example.org, saying why a scholarship is appropriate for you. We'll make the decisions in early May. Sign up now!
The EFF Bootcamp will cover the following topic areas:
- EU Parliament Approves 70 Year Copyright for Recordings
Sound recordings would be copyrighted for 70 years under a new proposal passed by the parliament -- not the 95 years that had been sought -- but the Council of Ministers have yet to agree.
- Dude, Where's My Downloadable Movie Service?
The technology exists, the demand exists. So why aren't most movies available for instant download for a monthly fee? Slate explains the issue.
- Why Open Source is More Secure
Sun Federal COO Bill Vass explains why organizations that require security are turning to open source operating systems.
- The Best Open Government Programs
Opening shots were fired Friday in the RealNetworks v. DVD-CCA case. Unfortunately, the public was excluded from key parts of the battle, when the presiding judge, Marilyn Hall Patel, granted DVD-CCA's request to close the courtroom.
Today EFF issued a report about the Investigative Data Warehouse, a gigantic billion-document storehouse of information maintained by the FBI. In addition, EFF wrote to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy and House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, asking Congress to examine the IDW.
Today, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the Government's expansive view of the state secrets privilege, allowing an "extraordinary rendition" case against Jeppesen Dataplan to proceed. In the case, which was brought by the ACLU, the plaintiffs allege that "Jeppesen provided flight planning and logistical support services to the aircraft and crew on all of the flights transporting the five plaintiffs among their various locations of detention and torture."
The government had moved to dismiss the case pursuant to the state secrets privilege, and the federal District Court agreed, leading to the appeal. While the appeal was filed last year, Obama Administration adopted the Bush Administration's legal position.
In recent weeks, there have been a number of important developments relating to the the Google Book Search settlement, currently awaiting approval before a court in New York. As we've written previously, this settlement would end the litigation that has pitting book publishers and authors against Google over Google's massive book scanning and indexing project.
This Friday, May 1, the U.S. Copyright Office comes to Stanford Law School to hold hearings on proposed exemptions to the DMCA's prohibition on circumventing technical protection measures (i.e., DRM). The hearings will be open to the public, and are scheduled to run from 9a to 5p. (For more on the DMCA triennial rulemakings, take a look at the Copyright Office's website on the topic.)
Among the proposed exemptions that will be discussed will be three proposed by EFF:
- Rep. Boucher Pushes Internet Privacy Legislation
The Virginia congressman wants legislation that will protect the public against behavioral advertising and other new technologies.
- Obama's First 100 Days: High Marks for Science, Low for Privacy
Wired's Threat Level blog grades the Obama administration on issues of copyright, cyber security, transparency and privacy.
- Lessig Video Gets DMCA Takedown
Warner Music issued a takedown on a video by noted copyright law professor Lawrence Lessig.