Cease and Desist pin

Kingdrippa makes and sells these fabulously trenchant mouse pins. It's $11. In fact, there's so many cool things in this store I might have to blog the lot.

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Legal advice to musicians, after "Blurred Lines": pretend you have no influences

It's been two years since Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke lost a lawsuit brought by Marvin Gaye's descendants, who argued that their song "Blurred Lines" infringed Gay's 1977 song "Got to Give It To You," not because it copied the music per se, but because it copied its "vibe." Read the rest

Intel declared war on general purpose computing and lost, so now all our computers are broken

It's been a year since we warned that Intel's Management Engine -- a separate computer within your own computer, intended to verify and supervise the main system -- presented a terrifying, unauditable security risk that could lead to devastating, unstoppable attacks. Guess what happened next? Read the rest

Unesco warns the World Wide Web Consortium that DRM is incompatible with free expression

Unesco's Frank La Rue has published a letter to Tim Berners-Lee, Director of the World Wide Web Consortium, warning him of the grave free-speech consequences of making DRM for the web without ensuring that lawful activity that requires bypassing it is also protected. Read the rest

Leaked Inspector General's report reveals millions lost to incompetence and waste at the US Copyright Office

A leaked report from the Inspector General reveals that the US Copyright Office blew $11.6m trying to buy a computer system that should have cost $1.1m (they ended up canceling the project after spending the money and no computers were purchased in the end), then lied to Congress and the Library of Congress to cover up its errors. Read the rest

On Jan 1, awesome stuff will enter the public domain: HG Wells, Gertrude Stein, Buster Keaton, Walt Disney, Lenny Bruce (but not in the USA)

In much of the world, copyright ends 50 years after the creator's death, in some of the rest of the world, it ends 70 years after the creator's death; in the USA, things have stopped going into the public domain until 2019 (unless America decides to retroactively extend copyright...again!). Read the rest

Samsung issuing copyright claims to remove videos mocking its exploding phones

YouTube users who post videos mocking Samsung's recently-recalled Galaxy Note 7 smartphone report they get removed because of copyright claims by Samsung.

The claims center on a popular add-on to the game Grand Theft Auto V, which lets players fool around with the hot handsets and use them as as grenades.

This is not how copyright works, the BBC says, and is likely to only focus more attention on Samsung's failings and YouTube's own shortcomings when it comes to copyright enforcement.

Samsung has not yet responded to repeated BBC requests for comment. Critics have warned that trying to remove gamers' videos will only draw more attention to them.

One US gamer - known as DoctorGTA - said restrictions had been put on his YouTube account as a result of Samsung's complaint.

"It's going to take three months to get the strike removed from my channel... I got my live stream taken away," he said in a video.

"If I submit a counter-notification to say 'sue me', I wonder what they will do. Will they sue me, the kid that has cancer and just makes money off YouTube playing a video game?"

The Note 7's propensity to burst into flames ultimately resulted in the handset being withdrawn from production and recalled from store shelves. The Federal Aviation Administration banned them from the skies, making it a federal crime to take one on board an airplane.

Here's a video still live. (Warning: moronic) Read the rest

Republican Mike Huckabee had to pony up $25k for playing Eye of the Tiger

When Mike Huckabee played Eye of the Tiger at a rally for a Kentucky county clerk who refused to marry same-sex couples, it cost him big. Sued by the song's owners, he forked over $25k to settle the lawsuit.

The failed Republican presidential candidate got the usual settlement gag clause, but decided to list the payment in election disclosures. Huckabee claimed the anti-gay rally was "noncommercial" and that his use of the song met the standards for "fair use," but...

...that argument fell apart when the songwriter's lawyer pointed out that Huckabee claimed the rally as a presidential campaign expense. He is now petitioning the Federal Election Commission to let him start a separate legal defense fund to pay off the settlement. However, the FEC just issued a draft opinion last week saying Huckabee should pay the costs himself.

Republican politicians routinely use Eye of the Tiger at rallies, and are routinely sued for it by Survivor's publishers, with Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney among the greatest hits. Read the rest

Jury rules that Led Zeppelin did not steal "Stairway to Heaven"

A federal jury in Los Angeles has just ruled that Led Zeppelin did not swipe the opening to "Stairway to Heaven" from the Spirit song "Taurus." From the New York Times:

Mr. Plant and Mr. Page both testified that “Stairway to Heaven” had been composed independently, and that while both bands had played on the same bill a handful of times, they did not recall ever seeing Spirit perform and had no familiarity with “Taurus” until the lawsuit was brought.

“I didn’t remember it then, and I don’t remember it now,” Mr. Plant said.

The jury found that, although Mr. Page and Mr. Plant had access to “Taurus” before the release of “Stairway to Heaven,” the two songs’ original elements did not contain enough similarities. Before reaching the verdict on Thursday, the jury asked to listen to audio recordings of the introductions to both songs twice.

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Radiohead's "Creep" vs. The Hollies' "The Air That I Breathe"

All the news about the "Stairway to Heaven" lawsuit reminded me of this lovely arrangement of another creative dispute: Radiohead's "Creep" vs. The Hollies' "The Air That I Breathe." Read the rest

AMC threatens to sue fansite over Walking Dead spoilers

AMC claims that spoilers (and even predictions) of its show, The Walking Dead, infringe copyright. As spoilers are other people's descriptions of something they've seen, in their own words, this would put all unauthorized reviews and commentary in the same boat. But that hasn't stopped it issuing legal threats to fans.

AMC finally reached out to us! But it wasn’t a request not to post any info about the Lucille Victim or any type of friendly attempt at compromise, it was a cease and desist and a threat of a lawsuit by AMC Holdings, LLC’s attorney, Dennis Wilson. They say we can’t make any type of prediction about the Lucille Victim. Their stance is that making such a prediction would be considered copyright infringement. AMC tells us that we made some claim somewhere that says we received “copyright protected, trade secret information about the most critical plot information in the unreleased next season of The Walking Dead” and that we announced we were going to disclose this protected information. We still aren't sure where we supposedly made this claim because they did not identify where it was. ...

Basically what it all comes down to is if we post our Lucille Victim prediction and we're right, AMC says they will sue us. Whether there are grounds for it or not is not the issue, it still costs money to defend. That is the way our justice system works. Would we have defenses? Sure. But it also costs money to mount that defense.

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Appeals court rules brief "Vogue" horn sample was not copyright infringement

The 9th Circuit Court affirmed today that a quarter-second sample used by Madonna didn't infringe the copyright of the original artist. Billboard reports that 1990 hit Vogue's use of a brass hit from 1976's "Love Break" was so small as to be trivial.

"After listening to the audio recordings submitted by the parties, we conclude that a reasonable juror could not conclude that an average audience would recognize the appropriation of the horn hit," writes 9th Circuit judge Susan Graber in today's opinion. "That common-sense conclusion is borne out by dry analysis. The horn hit is very short—less than a second. The horn hit occurs only a few times in Vogue. Without careful attention, the horn hits are easy to miss. Moreover, the horn hits in Vogue do not sound identical to the horn hits from Love Break... Even if one grants the dubious proposition that a listener recognized some similarities between the horn hits in the two songs, it is hard to imagine that he or she would conclude that sampling had occurred."

The ruling seems to run counter to other recent courtroom action where a song was found to infringe a Marvin Gaye classic despite containing no samples of it at all. But things are complicated in copyright! Note that the court listens to the recordings: subjective similarity is at hand, not just technology. Which perhaps explains why an extensively imitative passage with no direct sampling might be found infringing, but a short sample re-used in a novel and transformative way is not. Read the rest

Indie singer sues Bieber over unlicensed sample, but is it even her?

Singer Casey Daniel accused Skrillex and Justin Bieber of using a sample of her voice without permission, but the targets of her lawsuit seem to have a good defense: the sample was of another singer entirely, and Skrillex posted video showing how he produced it.

Daniel's 2014 song Ring The Bell opens with a distinctive whooping cry from Daniel, repeated throughout:

You can hear it—according to Daniel—in Bieber's Skrillex-produced 2015 megahit Sorry:

Here's Daniel, on Facebook:

Like most artists that sample music, Bieber could have licensed my song for use in “Sorry.” But he chose not to contact me. After the release of “Sorry,” my lawyers sent Bieber a letter regarding the infringement, but Bieber’s team again chose to ignore me. I offered Bieber’s team an opportunity to have a private dialogue about the infringement, but they refused to even acknowledge my claim, despite the obviousness of the sample. Justin Bieber is the world’s biggest artist, and I’m sure that he and his team will launch a full attack against me. But, in the end, I was left with no other option. I believe I have an obligation to stand up for my music and art.

In response, though, Skrillex posted a video that seems to make obvious that the sample was in fact of a session singer.

“SORRY but we didn’t steal this,” Skrillex tweeted, with a prayer emoji. Bieber retweeted it, adding “#wedontsteal”. Read the rest

A copyright troll took down one of our favorite Tumblrs. Here's why it could happen to you.

Regular Boing Boing readers have seen me credit This Isn't Happiness many times for wonderful visual and audio finds. We've been linking to Peter Nidzgorski's work since way back in 2008. Recently, his wonderful tumblog—a mix of art, music, film, urban ennui, and sexy design ephemera—went dark. No! Why? Automated DMCA takedowns, spurred by the complaint of a well-known copyright troll.

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Copyright troll Rightscorp must pay $450,000 over robocalls

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

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

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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