November 2010 Archives

National Library Policy

Should the US have a national library policy? In The Atlantic, David Rothman argues for the development of a national digital library: Why We Can't Afford Not to Create a Well-Stocked National Digital Library System, "Old-fashioned literacy, in fact, rather than e-book standards, should be the foremost argument for a national digital library system--as a way to expand the number and variety of books for average Americans, especially students. Without basic skills, young people will not be fit for many demanding blue-collar jobs, much less for Ph.D.-level work, and economic growth will suffer."

At the very least, some kind of library lending standard that will allow libraries to standardize on a format for storage and inter-library loans as well as allowing device manufacturers to have a standard to display could be excellent for readers.

Studios Sue Another DVD 'Cleaning' Service

Eriq Gardner, THR, Esq, Studios Sue to Stop 'Family-Friendly' DVD Service - THR, Esq.: "A coalition of major studios including Paramount, Warner Bros., MGM, Disney, Universal and Fox has filed a lawsuit against a defendant who has taken movies such as Iron Man 2, The Hurt Locker, Prince of Persia and Date Night, altered them to be free of objectionable content, and is distributing them to consumers as "family-friendly." The lawsuit was filed on Thursday in Arizona District Court against Family Edited DVDS, Inc. and its leader, John Webster."

Paramount Pictures Corp. v. Family Edited DVDs (Complaint)

In 2006, Clean Flicks of Colorado v. Soderbergh ruled on a similar service, "Creating and distributing edited versions of films to 'sanitize' the films to make them more 'family-friendly' constitutes copyright infringement as a matter of law under the §106(1) right of reproduction and 106(3) right of distribution."

In response, Congress passed the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2005, now 17 USC §110(11)

(11) the making imperceptible, by or at the direction of a member of a private household, of limited portions of audio or video content of a motion picture, during a performance in or transmitted to that household for private home viewing, from an authorized copy of the motion picture, or the creation or provision of a computer program or other technology that enables such making imperceptible and that is designed and marketed to be used, at the direction of a member of a private household, for such making imperceptible, if no fixed copy of the altered version of the motion picture is created by such computer program or other technology.

This allows manufacturers of DVD players that are designed to avoid possibly offensive content avoid liability from copyright owners whose works are played on those players. But it does not change the rights that Clean Filcks was found to be infringing.

Peering into the Pipes

Cecilia Kang, The Washington Post: Level 3 Communications calls Comcast fees for Netflix feeds unfair: "An online networking company that carries video feeds for Netflix has accused Comcast of demanding unfair fees to provide that video to home subscribers, raising questions about the cable giant's power to control consumers' access to the Internet."

Brian Stelter, New York Times, Media Decoder: Netflix Partner Says Comcast Fee 'Threatens' Open Internet: "Those issues cut to the heart of Comcast%u2019s imminent acquisition of NBC Universal, which is in the final stages of review by the F.C.C. and the Justice Department. The F.C.C. is considering attaching a condition to the merger that would aim to keep Comcast%u2019s Internet network open to competitors, according to public filings this month."

Jessica E. Vascellaro, Wall Street Journal, Internet Giants Spar Over Fees: "The dispute fans the flames of the so-called net neutrality debate over how to handle Internet traffic. Federal regulators, who have yet to adopt rules that require Internet service providers to treat similar types of traffic equally, are set to decide this week whether to vote soon on proposed new guidelines. Consumers are caught in the middle. Comcast argued that Level 3 wants to pass the costs to Comcast and its customers. If Level 3 bears the costs, they will eventually fall to users of services like Netflix, according to a person familiar with Level 3's thinking."

Without knowing the specific details of the peering agreements between Comcast and Level 3, it's difficult to say whether this is simply a business dispute over who pays for more bandwidth between Comcast and Level 3 or if it is in fact about charging a competitor more money to send video streaming service into Comcast's network.

If this is about blocking or impeding Comcast subscribers' access to the Netflix streaming service, while making it easy to access Comcast's or NBC's competitive services for broadband, that's a prime example of why, in the absence of a truly competitive broadband internet access market, network neutrality regulations are important. If a customer who lives in Comcast's service area wants to get broadband and also subscribe to Netflix, they may not have any other choice but to use Comcast's internet service for that access.

Susan Crawford, Bad Timing: Comcast, Netflix, NN, Cable Modems, and NBCU: "The takeaway from today:  No market forces are constraining Comcast - or any of the other major cable distributors, none of which compete with each other.  How will consumers and innovation be protected from their machinations?  The FCC is currently facing two defining moments in US telecommunications policy, and it’s unclear what the Commission is going to do in either case.  Will the FCC act to relabel high-speed Internet transmission services, reversing the radical Bush-era deregulatory turn? Will the FCC block the Comcast/NBCU merger?  Can we expect that anything will happen (at all) to ensure that local monopoly control over communications transport isn’t leveraged into adjacent markets for devices and content?"

Kyle VanHemert, Gizmodo, Comcast Is Bullying Netflix Partners Into Paying a Toll to Deliver Streaming Video: "This is presumably the first volley in what will be a long battle between companies like Netflix and broadband providers, nearly all of whom have their own video on demand services to peddle. And this type of thing is precisely the reason that net neutrality—ensuring that internet providers don't discriminate in how they deliver their content—has been and will continue to be such a big deal going forward. When service providers strong arm comparatively little guys like Netflix (and the partners upon whom Netflix relies, like Level 3) into paying higher fees, that turbulence eventually shakes down to the customer, either in the form of higher prices or interrupted service."

What what?

Eriq Gardner, THR, Esq: 'South Park' Sued for Stealing from YouTube "On Friday, Brownmark Films filed a copyright infringement lawsuit in U.S. DIstrict Court in Wisconsin, alleging that the infringement is 'willful, intentional, and purposeful, in disregard of and indifferent to the rights of Brownmark.'"

Complaint for Copyright Infringement in Brownmark Films, LLC v. Paramount Pictures Corporation et al

Here's the original video:

And South Park's take:

Brownmark Films: Brownmark vs Viacom et al. "We understand that fair use is an important legal concept, but the rules need to be more clear. Viacom’s position on fair use is contradictory: whenever they take copyrighted works from someone else, it is fair use; whenever someone takes copyrighted work from them, it’s copyright infringement. We don’t think Viacom should get to operate with a double-standard like that."

COICA

In the lame duck session, Congress may take further action on S.3804 Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, a bill that would give the federal government broad powers over internet domain names and blocking internet traffic in order to prevent the infringement of copyrighted works.

While the US government is opposed to other countries regulating speech online, Congress is willing to consider a measure that would allow the US to do the same.

Juliana Gruenwald, Tech Daily Dose, Senate Judiciary Backs Online Piracy Bill: "The Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation Thursday aimed at cracking down on online piracy and counterfeiting with a particular emphasis on rogue foreign websites."

Peter Eckersley, Electronic Frontier Foundation: The Case Against COICA, "COICA gives the government dramatic new copyright enforcement powers, in particular the ability to make entire websites disappear from the Internet if infringement, or even links to infringement, are deemed to be 'central' to the purpose of the site. Rather than just targeting files that actually infringe copyright law, COICA's 'nuclear-option' design has the government blacklisting entire sites out of the domain name system -- a reckless scheme that will undermine global Internet infrastructure and censor legitimate online speech."

Center for Democracy and Technology The Dangers Of S. 3804: Domain Name Seizures And Blocking Pose Threats To Free Expression, Global Internet Freedom, And The Internet’s Open Architecture "Copyright infringement is a serious problem, and CDT harbors no sympathy for websites whose primary purpose is to enable widespread violation of copyright and other intellectual property rights. But methods embraced by S. 3804, the “Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act,” would mark a sea change in U.S. policy towards the Internet. In particular, U.S. government action to seize domain names and to direct Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block government-blacklisted sites would set dangerous precedents with serious consequences for free expression, global Internet freedom, and the Internetʼs open and global architecture."

Law Professors’ Letter in Opposition to S. 3804 "The Senate Judiciary Committee is poised to consider a bill that, if enacted, will have dangerous consequences for free expression online and the integrity of the Internet's domain name system, and will undermine United States foreign policy and strong support of Internet freedom abroad."

An Open Letter From Internet Engineers to the Senate Judiciary Committee: "We are writing to oppose the Committee's proposed new Internet censorship and copyright bill. If enacted, this legislation will risk fragmenting the Internet's global domain name system (DNS), create an environment of tremendous fear and uncertainty for technological innovation, and seriously harm the credibility of the United States in its role as a steward of key Internet infrastructure. In exchange for this, the bill will introduce censorship that will simultaneously be circumvented by deliberate infringers while hampering innocent parties' ability to communicate."

Does the web devalue writing?

Monica Gaudio recently had an article published in Cooks Source magazine. This came as a surprise to her, since the magazine simply lifted it off the web, did some cursory copy editing and published it without asking permission. Copyright Infringement and Me. Gaudio is certainly not the first writer to have her work infringed, and Cooks Source is certainly not the first magazine to do so. What's made this story take off is the condescending and blatantly wrong response from Cooks Source's editor:

"I do know about copyright laws.… the web is considered 'public domain' and you should be happy we just didn't 'lift' your whole article and put someone else's name on it! It happens a lot, clearly more than you are aware of, especially on college campuses, and the workplace. If you took offence and are unhappy, I am sorry, but you as a professional should know that the article we used written by you was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than was originally. Now it will work well for your portfolio. For that reason, I have a bit of a difficult time with your requests for monetary gain, albeit for such a fine (and very wealthy!) institution. We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me!"

Copyright attaches to works when they are fixed, such as when they are posted to a web page. Just because a work is posted on the freely accessible web doesn't mean that the work itself is free to exploit. Remember: willful copyright infringement of works registered with the Copyright Office is subject to statutory damages of up to $150,000.

While traditional publishing may turn to the internet to avoid having to pay or talk to freelancers, it also has given freelance journalists the opportunity to write and edit search engine bait for tiny amounts of money. Jessanne Collins, The Awl, My Summer on the Content Farm

"If you’ve been keeping up with media musings on the Walmartification of service journalism by Demand—which runs sites like eHow and LiveStrong—and the other so-called “content farms,” like Yahoo’s Associated Content and AOL’s Seed, you know that this company's business strategy is regarded as “audacious and controversial”; that their content is algorithmically designed be narrow in focus and broad in reach in order to maximize ad potential, and that it’s also generally kind of "crappy"; that by paying insulting rates to the freelancers who churn out this copy, they devalue the work of people who attempt to write for a living; and that they might not be as profitable as they like to say they are."