Copyright Week: the law shouldn't be copyrighted

The Electronic Frontier Foundation continues to publish its excellent series of Copyright Week posts (here's yesterday's installment). Today, Corynne McSherry describes the fight over copyrighted laws. Not copyright laws -- laws about copyright -- but, rather, laws that are copyrighted, and that can't be read without paying hefty fees.

This odd situation crops up often in the realm of public safety standards (the last kind of law you'd want to hide away from the public, really): lawmakers commission private standards bodies to write these standards, then write a law that reads, "In order to comply with the law, you must follow standard such-and-such." So now you've got this weird situation where the law is a secret, it is proprietary, it cannot be published, and you can't see it or know what it says unless you're willing to pay the standards body.

But that's just the beginning: Read the rest

'Destroy all Patent Trolls,' by Jonathan 'Song a Day' Mann (music video)

Man oh man, Mr. Mann. I didn't know if it was possible to adore the unfathomably prolific Jonathan "Song a Day" Mann any more, but yes, yes it is. Song a Day #1728, "Destroy all Patent Trolls." Lyrics: Read the rest

You buy a music CD. Who gets what?

The BBC's Natalie Donovan breaks down the £8 that one pays for a music CD in the UK: 30% to the label, 17% to the retailer, 13% to the artist, 8% to manufacturers, 7% to distributors, and 5% on "administering copyright." The rest appears to be eaten by taxes. It's an anachronistic and vaguely boosteristic thing to cover, but it's also true that the CD remains a popular format: 70% of (ever-declining) album sales. Read the rest

German newspapers go back to Google after winning right to be excluded from it

After lobbying for laws to allow them to opt out of Google's search results, German newspapers have opted right back in again. The publishers claim it's a temporary measure while they figure out how to "charge aggregators for their use of its material." Which might be a problem, because Google says it would rather just let them stay opted-out than pay to link to them. [AP] Read the rest

Who Owns Omni?

Glenn Fleishman on the legendary science and science fiction magazine's murky proprietorship.

Copyright threat issued over gorilla dressed as Freddy Mercury

A sculpture depicting a gorilla wearing a Freddy Mercury-style jacket was removed from Norwich City Center following a legal threat from the Mercury Phoenix Trust. The trust claims copyright on the outfit's design, so the company in charge of Norwich's gorilla statue program is repainting it: "That's being sorted. To save any bother we will change it." [Daily Mail] Read the rest

Annoying lawsuit for Annoying Orange

An advertising agency is suing the creators of Cartoon Network's The Annoying Orange, accusing them of ripping off a character, The Talking Orange, that they created for a 2005 public information ad. [Mercury News] Read the rest

Lawsuit: Warner Brothers a cat meme copycat

Media companies have dirty hands when it comes to copyright infringement? Timothy B. Lee at Ars:

Warner Brothers is facing a federal lawsuit for using two feline-themed Internet memes in a video game without their creators' permission. The authors of "Keyboard Cat" and "Nyan Cat" have sued the media giant arguing that the game Scribblenauts, published by WB Games, infringes their copyrights and trademarks. The game's developer, 5th Cell, is also named in the lawsuit.

Read the rest

Cellphone unlocking is the first step toward post-SOPA copyright reform

Derek Khanna was a Professional Staffer for the Republican Study Committee in the House of Representatives. Khanna, 24, previously worked on Mitt Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign and in the office of Senator Scott Brown (R-MA).

Crazy copyright bot threatens those who tweet tiny poem

This has to be some kind of brilliant hoax: a Twitter 'attribution troll' is showering threats on anyone who tweets a popular one-line poem. Read the rest

No new public domain works for US until 2019

At The Economist, Glenn Fleishman laments the freezing of the public domain in America under relentless entertainment-industry lobbying, even as Europeans enjoy an annual movement of cultural history to it: "While much of the rest of the world may take cheer from mass migration of material to the public domain each year, America has not seen one since the 1970s, nor will it until 2019." Read the rest

Tracking Oscar screener piracy, the 2013 edition

Since 2003,'s Andy Baio has been documenting evidence of pirated/leaked Oscars screeners— in other words, copies of nominated films sent to Academy Awards voters which then make their way on to filesharing networks. The 2013 edition of his spreadsheet is out. He'll post analysis tomorrow. "Most shocking find so far," he tweets, "The Les Misérables screener hasn't leaked online yet. Everyone knows pirates love musicals!" Read the rest

Dale Chihuly at VMFA, and photography and accessibility of art

I visited a new Dale Chihuly exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, VA today. A guard told me that while photography is generally prohibited in the museum, Chihuly explicitly demands photography of his work be allowed, and that there be no physical barriers between visitors and the glass creations. This desire for accessibility and openness made me appreciate his work in a new way. Here are some snapshots I took of the show.

The coming civil war over general purpose computing

Even if we win the right to own and control our computers, a dilemma remains: what rights do owners owe users?

Electronics Arts files lawsuit against Zynga

There are plenty of boots out there trying to squish this bug, but Electronic Arts' are the biggest yet. What was that Aliens vs. Predator tagline again? [NYT] Read the rest

Charles Carreon drops lawsuit against The Oatmeal

The EFF reports that Charles Carreon has withdrawn his mad lawsuit against Matthew Inman, creator of The Oatmeal.

Attorney Charles Carreon dropped his bizarre lawsuit against The Oatmeal creator Matthew Inman today, ending his strange legal campaign against Inman's humorous and creative public criticism of a frivolous cease and desist letter that Carreon wrote on behalf of his client Funny Junk.

To recap briefly: website FunnyJunk hosted many unauthorized copies of Inman's work. Inman mocked it. FunnyJunk threatened to sue him for mocking it. Inman mocked it again and established a wildly successful charity drive to lampoon FunnyJunk and fight cancer. Carreon soiled his legal drawers and dragged Inman, the charities, anonymous critics, and the entire Internet's attention into a demented knot of litigation. Now this. What will the new dawn bring?

Update: Charles Carreon: "Mission accomplished" Read the rest

EU: software licenses may be sold by consumers

The European Union's Court of Justice ruled today that software licenses may be resold.

By its judgment delivered today, the Court explains that the principle of exhaustion of the distribution right applies not only where the copyright holder markets copies of his software on a material medium (CD-ROM or DVD) but also where he distributes them by means of downloads from his website. Where the copyright holder makes available to his customer a copy – tangible or intangible – and at the same time concludes, in return form payment of a fee, a licence agreement granting the customer the right to use that copy for an unlimited period, that rightholder sells the copy to the customer and thus exhausts his exclusive distribution right.

The case concerned Oracle, which sued UsedSoft, a German company which bought and resold "used" software licenses which provided access to software downloads. Read the rest

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