DMCA doesn’t protect databases

Even after the DMCA, copyright does not protect databases. News.com: Court doesn’t extend database protection

U.S. District Judge Naomi Buchwald said in an opinion released this week that Berkshire Information Systems did not run afoul of the controversial 1998 copyright law by allegedly downloading up to 85 percent of a proprietary advertising-tracking database from the Web site of competitor Inquiry Management Systems (IMS).

Update (3/1/04): Ernest Miller has read through the decision (Inquiry Management Systems v. Berkshire Information Systems) and finds: Confusing DMCA “Database” Decision Not About Databases

Apple takes Apple to court

Reuters: Apple War Pits Beatles Label Against Computer Maker

Apple Computer and the Beatles’ record company Apple Corps went to court in Britain on Wednesday over who gets to use the fruity name now that the computer company has entered the music business on the Internet. The two companies reached a deal in 1991 after a fight over the trademark, signing an agreement that set out who could use the name and logo, and when.

The Register: ‘I’m an iPod user’ admits Apple vs Apple judge
BBC News: Rocking the bench: “The idea of a be-wigged member of Her Majesty’s judiciary downloading banging tunes off the internet is somewhat at odds with the traditional image of the profession.”

Copyright in Comics Characters

Here’s another Seventh Circuit copyright decision from Judge Posner: Gaiman v. McFarlane. At issue is the ownership of copyrights in comic book characters, particularly Count Nicholas Cagliostro, Medieval Spawn and Angela introduced in a Spawn comic book written by Gaiman and illustrated by series creator McFarlane. This is a very concise and well-written ruling, so I recommend reading the entire decision yourself (and this is why I’m not summarizing it. Really.)
Joe Gratz: Gaiman Wins

Even if the contribution is not itself copyrightable, the contributor is a co-author if the joint work would lose its copyrightability absent the contribution in question. This makes the present case come out the right way (Count Cogliostro ends up being jointly owned by Gaiman and McFarlaine), and makes the important co-authorship precedents come out the right way too.

Neil Gaiman: Last Legal Post for a long time

My own hopes for all this are that we’ve helped clarify copyright law in favour of creators… and helped to protect authors and artists and creators from unscrupulous publishers up the line.

Scrivener’s Error: Character Defects: “On the whole, this is a victory for authors’ rights, even if it does contain a small potential landmine.”
(via How Appealing, of course)

EFF’s File-Sharing Future

EFF: A Better Way Forward: Voluntary Collective Licensing of Music File Sharing

The concept is simple: the music industry forms a collecting society, which then offers file-sharing music fans the opportunity to “get legit” in exchange for a reasonable regular payment, say $5 per month. So long as they pay, the fans are free to keep doing what they are going to do anyway — share the music they love using whatever software they like on whatever computer platform they prefer — without fear of lawsuits. The money collected gets divided among rights-holders based on the popularity of their music.

Grey Tuesday

Downhill Battle declares that today is Grey Tuesday, “a day of coordinated civil disobedience: websites will post Danger Mouse’s Grey Album on their site for 24 hours in protest of EMI’s attempts to censor this work. ”
Last week, I wrote I remain unconvinced that sampling culture requires a radical reinvention of copyright. In fact, I’m not sure that something like The Grey Album, which borrows so heavily from the White Album should not require obtaining a license from the copyright owner.
However, some reform will have positive effects. If preemptive licensing is not widely adopted, then a compulsory license may offer the best compromise between the artistic interests of samplers and original artists. A compulsory sampling license could allow artists to use short to moderate-length samples without using more than some percentage of an individual source work.
Larry Lessig notes the problems for a preemptive licensing regime: The Black and White about Grey Tuesday:

Under American law, you don’t need permission to make a cover album. That freedom has been assured since 1909 when Congress granted creators a compulsory right to remake music, so long as a small fee was paid. The record companies have fought hard to defend that compulsory right.

Andrew Sinclair: Grey Tuesday Thoughts:

In my opinion, we do need legal tools that allow works to be used as building blocks for future works. On the other hand, creative works need to be protected to some degree to provide incentives to the creators. I think the law is too rigid in the sense that it protects works for such a long time period (the social costs of which outweigh the incentives to create). I don’t, however, think that people should be able to take large portions of another’s work when that person clearly intends to enforce their rights in, for example, a famous album that is less than 40 years old.

Kevin Heller (Tech Law Advisor): Today is Grey Tuesday:

This will be an interesting one for the courts if the case precedes in state court on common law copyright infringement grounds (since The White Album is a pre-1972 work).

Joe Gratz: Grey Tuesday Sites C&D’d:

The C&D’s do two things, one appropriate, one inappropriate. First, they put the webmaster on notice that the Grey Album contains copyrighted material, so if they go on and post it, the infringement will be willful and the penalties will be greater. (Edit: That assumes that willfulness increases penalties under whatever state copyright law will be used. I don’t know anything about state copyright law, and neither, by and large, does anybody else, so it’s hard to say for sure.) Second, they scare the bejeezus out of the recipient by making demands for which there is no legal basis.

Michael Carroll: Whose Music is it Anyway? How we Came to View Musical Expression as a Form of Property

Prompted by the dispute over unauthorized music distribution, this Article explores how those who create and distribute music first came to look upon music as their property and when in Western history the law first supported this view.

Wired News: Grey Album Fans Protest Clampdown
NY Times: Defiant Downloads Rise From Underground

To create a collection like “The Grey Album” legally, an artist would first have to get permission to use copyrighted material. Then he would have to negotiate compensation with the copyright holder. Many artists, however, like the Beatles, will not allow their music to be sampled. But even if permission is granted, it is common for a copyright holder to request more than 50 percent of publishing rights for a new song created from the copyrighted work.

Suing Diebold

E-Voting activists file law suit against Diebold

Bev Harris on behalf of the California members of BlackBoxVoting.org, and Jim March, Joseph Holder, Jim Hamilton, Douglas McDonald, and the Community Labor Alliance have filed this lawsuit, which seeks an order requiring the DIEBOLD defendants to disgorge and make restitution of any money or property acquired by means of their unlawful, unfair and fraudulent acts and practices.

Source Documents
More coverage is at BlackBoxVoting.org
Note: In a different suit, Nonprofit ISP Online Policy Group (OPG) and two Swarthmore college students are seeking compensation from Diebold for misuse of copyright law.