Copyright troll Rightscorp must pay $450,000 over robocalls

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Copyright shakedown company Rightscorp, which threatens suspected music sharers with lawsuits unless they give Rightscorp money, has agreed to pay $450,000 to settle claims it illegally targeted thousands of people with recorded messages.

Morgan Pietz, an attorney who played a key role in bringing down Prenda Law, sued Rightscorp in 2014, saying that the company's efforts to get settlements from alleged pirates went too far. Rightscorp's illegal "robocalls" violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), a 1991 law that limits how automated calling devices are used. The class-action lawsuit claimed that some Rightscorp targets were receiving one robocall on their cell phone per day. It's generally illegal to have automated devices call cell phones.

Earlier this week, Pietz and his co-counsel filed court papers outlining the settlement. Rightscorp will pay $450,000 into a settlement fund, which will be paid out to the 2,059 identified class members who received the allegedly illegal calls. Each class member who fills out an "affidavit of noninfringement" will receive up to $100. The rest of the fund will pay for costs of notice and claim administration (about $25,000) and attorneys' fees and costs, which cannot exceed $330,000. Rightscorp will also "release any and all alleged claims" against the class members. The company had accused the 2,059 class members of committing 126,409 acts of copyright infringement.

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DMCA exemption carved to help preserve old games

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The US Library of Congress has created an exemption to copyright law to make it legal to preserve abandoned video games, including online server code required to play them. Read the rest

After 80 years, Happy Birthday song is finally in the public domain

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A federal judge in Los Angeles today delivered “a stunning reversal of decades of copyright claims,” as the LA Times put it. Warner/Chappell Music does not hold a valid copyright claim to the "Happy Birthday To You" song. The royalties they demanded were not theirs to demand.

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Why copyright should not be infinite, in a nutshell

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Well-funded arguments are often made that copyright should last forever, replacing its original purpose (encouraging the creation of new works) with a plainly proprietary system of cultural ownership. Eric Crampton explains why this is a bad idea.

Even from the perspective of a profit-seeking artist, copyright is a double-edged sword. Stronger copyright both increases the rewards from having produced a piece of work and increases the cost of creating new works.

Too weak of copyright can mean that too few works are created, although artists have gotten far better at working out alternative ways of earning a living when, regardless of the letter of copyright law, enforcement has become difficult. Further, at standard time discounting rates, a 20-year extension to copyright’s term might provide only about a two percent increase in the value of any earned royalties. It is not particularly plausible that many new works would come into existence because of that slight increase.

On the other side, too strong of copyright can surely kill new creation. Artistic works feed off each other. New works build on older traditions, reinterpreting old folk tales and old folk tunes for new generations. The Brothers Grimm collected and published older folk tales like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty in the 1800s. In the 1900s, Walt Disney brought those stories to life in a new form. In the 2000s, well, it is hard for new innovation to occur because copyright law, at least in the United States, has frozen the usage of most important works produced since 1923.

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Darren Dutton's weird comedy remix masterpiece: Badgers

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A very funny pastoral pastiche, handmade from 100% recycled vintage sound clips.

Anti-piracy dolts gobble up content with "pixels" DMCA takedowns

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Several Vimeo members whose videos had "pixels" in the title are victims of the latest overly broad DMCA takedown request by Entura International, working on behalf of Sony's summer schlockbuster Pixels. Read the rest

The twisted history of the Happy Birthday song—and the copyright shenanigans that keep it profitable

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I've obtained the 1922 book that demonstrates this classic song should rest in the public domain.

Stop the Music

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A chilling piece of science fiction projects the future of our most frightening tech-law trends: what will the mission-creep for memory erasure look like?

Lawsuit claims Conan O'Brien stole jokes from Twitter

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In a lawsuit against Conan O'Brien, San Diego resident Robert Kaseberg says his lulzy tweets about Tom Brady, Caitlyn Jenner, airlines, and the Washington Monument all made it into the late night host's monologue. Read the rest

Twitter joke thieves are getting DMCA takedowns

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Among professional comedians, joke theft is no joke. Now Twitter is allowing members to use DMCA notices to take down tweets posted by accounts that copy and paste them without attribution. PlagiarismBad's name-and-shame campaign has already netted a few celebrities. Read the rest

Reddit's going to remove "copyrighted material?" As if.

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Reddit's proposed new policies continue its principled ideological commitment to ignoring problems. But it also wants to do something about copyright infringement. Perhaps Reddit can brush its white supremacy and rape advice subreddits under the rug! But can it live without copyrighted material? Get real, Reddit! Read the rest

Fair Use App: a guide to fair use for online video creators

Art from New Media Rights writes, "We spend our time working with online video creators on fair use, so we created The Fair Use App. We filtered down our experiences working with video creators to create an app that can help them better understand:" Read the rest

Hakim, the Masked Gamer of Minneapolis

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Internet madness, Gamergate, and the special happiness of farewells.

EFF asks US Copyright Office for your right to fix your car

It's that time again: every three years, the Copyright Office allows the public to ask for exceptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's ban on "circumvention," which prevents you from unlocking devices you own. Read the rest

Harvard's amazing Copyright X online course taking applications

Nathaniel from Harvard's Berkman Center writes, "Copyright X -- AKA 'The MOOC the New Yorker actually liked' and 'the butt-kickingest free copyright class you didn't even know you'd love' -- is gearing up and taking applications for its third run." Read the rest

"Copy Me" episode 3: "Early Copyright History"

Alex writes, "It features censorship, hangings, dissent and criticism, a whole bunch of state and church control, angry queens, sad Stationers, and, of course, our terrible culprit: the printing press." Read the rest

The Clown Egg Register

Our friends at Futility Closet (hosts of Boing Boing's wonderful Futility Closet podcast) have a short item about The Clown Egg Register. Apparently, a clown's face can't be copyrighted, but if you decorate an egg with the clown's face, you can copyright that, which stops unscrupulous clowns in their tracks. Read the rest

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