Obama turned the Queen of England into a copyright crook!

Hugh from the Electronic Frontier Foundation sez, "EFF's Fred Von Lohmann asks whether President Obama broke any laws when he gave an iPod loaded with music and video to the Queen."
First, let's imagine that the President (or his staff) bought the 40 show tunes from the iTunes music store. Do you "own" the music that you buy from iTunes? The nearly 9,000 words of legalese to which you agree before buying don't answer that question (an oversight? I doubt it). Copyright owners have consistently argued in court that many digital products (even physical "promo" CDs!) are "licensed," not "owned," and therefore you're not entitled to resell them or give them away. (And the Amazon MP3 Store terms of service are even worse for consumers than iTunes -- those terms specifically purport to strip you of "ownership" and forbid any "redistribution.")
iPods, First Sale, President Obama, and the Queen of England (Thanks, Hugh!)


  1. In the words of Tricky Dick, ‘If the President does it, that means it’s not illegal’

  2. We can’t even get the courts to investigate years of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by W. I think we’ve established that the president is above a little copyright piracy.

    And besides, the RIAA wouldn’t be that stupid. I mean, they’re stupid, but they’re not THAT stupid.

  3. Non-commercial use is a-ok, I care not what the Law says…
    As to tricky dick and his spiritual heir dubya: that’s the definition (ie if pres/Emperor does it as part of Official duties, it is therefore legal) of an Emperor’s absolutist power, in Ancient Rome: it is personal despotism, a tyranny. Ordering the assassination of people without hearing or trial, on the “authority” of one’s elected Office? Proposing the ability to strip a citizen of citizenship, as a subservient Repub Congress proposed (so as to be able to torture/assassinate them, no doubt, under the previous doctrine )?
    Americans are perilously close to (voluntarily!) establishing tyranny and despotism….albeit an elective tyranny: but with big $$ controlling the elections, due to the felt need to pay for lots and lots of media ad time, every cycle: good for media cos. and their owners, to become so central to the process. Not so good for democracy, or for the voice of the non-$$ people to be heard, and therefore, considered.

  4. The U.S. seems to have trouble understand that its laws end at its borders.
    Let’s say it would be illegal for Obama to give away music in the U.S., but not in England. If he gave it to her here, then it would be illegal, but giving it to her in England? Not illegal. Even if its illegal in AngolLand, he didn’t break an American law because it didn’t occur on American soil.
    If I smoked dope 101 miles offshore, where it’s legal, I could return and be prosecuted or fired from a job, even tho I broke no law. That sh*t’s f’d up!

  5. I still think the real story is that the Obamas seem to just send an aide to Best Buy every time they need a gift for a foreign head of state.

  6. The Brits -do- realize that any Presidential expenses come out of the Presidential salary, right? I don’t know how they do it in Britain, but here, the President is required to pay out-of-pocket for food, personal items, etc.

    If you ask me, this is Obama’s way of saying, “Times are tough. No lavish gifts until we’re all back on our feet.”

    Also, you guys really ought to check out those photos of the Obamas meeting the Queen and Price Philip. For those of you not in the know, Prince Philip is a bit of a racist asshole, ergo, he has rather funny expressions throughout that series of photos.

  7. I don’t think copyright infringement enters this — what would be more relevant would be the license for the iTMS. It allows for syncing an unlimited number of iPods with your computer (and, remember, this was negotiated with the labels)… but I’m not sure what it says about what happens if you sell or give away your iPod. Nor what it says about taking the music out of the country.

    And I’m too lazy to go look, so maybe someone else will :).

  8. @ Troofseeker #5:

    I’m pretty sure you couldn’t be prosecuted in the U.S. for smoking dope outside its borders. Losing your job is different because employers don’t need to show you broke any law to fire you.

    Copyright law, on the other hand, is protected by international treaties. (The existing laws are still totally effed-up, though.)

  9. The Prince is a product of his times as is Mr. Obama….what do you really expect of people who are taught that birth establishes social precedence?

  10. How lovely indeed if Herself released all contents to the inhabitants of this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.

  11. @ #7 posted by phillamb168:

    The Brits -do- realize that any Presidential expenses come out of the Presidential salary, right?

    Yeah, but he’s still a millionaire with a sizable personal staff. I’m pretty sure I could come up with a better gift for the Queen of England, and I’m a freakin’ teacher.

  12. @ #14 Brainspore

    Well – the real question is, did she already have an iPod? If not, maybe she -really- wanted one, but was waiting for someone to get it for her? And after all, what do you get for the Highness who already has everything?

  13. What exactly was on the iPod?

    I thought it was video and images from the Queen’s trip to Virginia in 2007. And possibly speeches?

  14. Ogus Monk@3: What I think you meant to say was:

    …God saves files for the Queen…

    There. Fixed that for you.

  15. well brainspore, it is indeed tough to get a possession of marijuana charge to stick if there’s no possession while under US jurisdiction (BUT: does that boat carry a US registration?): OTOH his employment would certainly be in jeopardy, depending on who he worked for. Discrimination and prejudice based upon this behavior is encouraged by the US Gov, after all.

  16. Above the law? Not the law of code! I hope we get follow up on how the Queen needed special help from Apple to make the iPod sync, or to transfer music, etc..

  17. Isn’t it possible that all these little things Obama’s been handing out to England and other world leaders all have common threads. The zone 1 videos, the Ipod, maybe he’s trying to see how many crazy copyright problems he can create for world leaders so they’ll have to acknowledge that there should be some changes made to the laws.

  18. #27: It’s quite possible that one day the things Obama is handing out won’t bow to the whims of their new queen. Once they have matured, they’ll start killing the pupae of their captors, destroying as many as two-thirds of the colony’s brood…

  19. The slippery part is that no EULA, however draconian and no matter how many times you click on it, can strip you of existing rights (as far as I know.)

    Most EULAs acknowledge this in the last paragraph.

  20. Chris @16

    That’s how I read it too. So the real question is will the Queen’s staff be able to pull this data off the iPod and archive it properly?

  21. Am I the only one that thinks buying used cd’s because the price is perfect and that ripping ones own music is always better? And, when buying from the Amazon mp3 store, always remove Amazon’s id tag in the comments, along with several other meta data tags, so it is cleaned up?

  22. Well, if you buy something and then give it to someone else all willy-nilly, how is the government supposed to track who owns what?

  23. The title of this post suggests the Queen is a “copyright crook.” This was NOT suggested by Fred Von Lohmann who focuses on whether Obama violated the law, not the queen. How does receiving a gift violate the law? Copyright does not criminalize possession, but copying and performance. Assuming the queen merely listened to the songs, no copyright problem that I see for the queen.

  24. Obama isn’t the first hip American guy to give a gift of music to the queen. In 1958, Duke Ellington wrote, recorded, and pressed one vinyl copy of a piece of music he called “The Queens Suite”, which he presented to Elizabeth while on tour in England. The rest of the world got to hear this music only after Duke died, when Fantasy Records released it in the 1970s.

    I wonder if the Queen is even a music lover?

  25. #10 posted by Ugly Canuck , April 2, 2009 2:10 PM

    The Prince is a product of his times as is Mr. Obama….what do you really expect of people who are taught that birth establishes social precedence?

    He’s also living proof that anyone taught anything different is being lied to.

  26. Also, Apple explicitly sells ownership not a license now, so this is all just Cory’s form of spin to support the RIAA with his nonsense about how they’re the victims of the oppressive iTunes store.

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