Internet Archive ending free e-books program over publisher lawsuit, National Emergency Library to close for 2 weeks

Copyright law being behind the times is why we can't have nice things. Read the rest

Video of restaurant headbutt removed with copyright claim, ensuring everyone sees it

A man in Florida was filmed headbutting a guest in a restaurant and subsequently being restrained by another, larger guest. The clip did the rounds but, in a world beset by more ostentatious insanity and rancor, didn't quite reach the viral heights it might once have achieved.

But it's gone viral now due to the Streisand Effect: someone attempted to get the video removed from social media with a copyright claim, ensuring that all eyes were immediately upon it. Torrentfreak reported it out:

Last summer, Steve Heflin was on business in Fort Lauderdale [and] encountered “two guys in suits” sitting at the bar. Steve tells us that after one left the other was involved in a dispute and was asked by the management to leave. Things didn’t go well.

Due to the apparent level of intoxication, the valet wouldn’t return “drunk guy’s” keys, informing him that his car would be safe where it was parked and he should get an Uber home instead. There was an altercation and the valet ended up hiding behind the manager. The confrontation escalated and as can be seen in the video embedded below, something pretty awful happened to the first person in line.

The awful thing was an ineffective headbutt.

The widespread assumption is that the copyright claimant is the headbutter in the video, as a publized depiction of the copyright claim asserts that this is the case. But something about this has me suspect that someone is identifying that person via the fraudulent DMCA takedowns in order to humiliate them. Read the rest

A federal judge declared that a famous song about public property is still private property

Woody Guthrie originally wrote "This Land Is Your Land" as a kind of screed against the exploitations of private property ownership. When he submitted the song for copyright, Guthrie allegedly wrote that it was, "Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright # 154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don’t give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that’s all we wanted to do." Although the copyright should have expired in 1973, the actual ownership of the rights has long been contested.

More recently, the lawyers who successfully returned "Happy Birthday" and "We Shall Overcome" into the the Public Domain tried to take a similar approach to win back "This Land Is Your Land" for the people. Unfortunately, it didn't go as well. From The New York Times:

In the case, a young musical group called Satorii sued the song’s publishers, Ludlow Music and the Richmond Organization, after paying $45.50 for a license to release a cover version of “This Land Is Your Land,” which Guthrie wrote in 1940. In their complaint — filed by the same lawyers behind the “Happy Birthday” and “We Shall Overcome” suits — the group used a detailed timeline of decades-old paperwork and Guthrie’s own hand-decorated songbooks to argue that Guthrie had essentially forfeited his copyright to the song decades ago by failing to renew it properly.

Read the rest

A pair of musicians recorded every possible MIDI melody just to get around copyright law

Motherboard has an interesting new piece about musical copyright law, and the fact that there are only so many musical sequences using half-step frequencies possible. What happens when they're all used up, and the copyright trolls take everyone to court for any song that even remotely resembles another one, just by virtue of the fact that it relies on the same music theory?

Think about Lana Del Rey accidentally ripping off of Radiohead, who had accidentally ripped off of the Hollies. It's not crazy to write a song that goes from the I to the extra tension of a Chromatic Mediant III before resolving on a IV, which then walks down to a minor iv and returns to the tonic.

(Or, in simpler terms, as Motherboard puts it: Sam Smith's "Stay With Me" ripping off of Tom Petty's "Won't Back Down")

To get around the potential future copyright trolls, Damien Riehl and Noah Rubin developed a MIDI algorithm to automatically generate a series of melodies, then released those datasets into the public domain using a Creative Commons Zero license. The method for achieving this is pretty neat:

To determine the finite nature of melodies, Riehl and Rubin developed an algorithm that recorded every possible 8-note, 12-beat melody combo. This used the same basic tactic some hackers use to guess passwords: Churning through every possible combination of notes until none remained. Riehl says this algorithm works at a rate of 300,000 melodies per second.

Once a work is committed to a tangible format, it's considered copyrighted.

Read the rest

How the "monkey selfie" is affecting copyright law for art and writing produced by artificial intelligence

Earlier this month, the United States Copyright Office and the World Intellectual Property Organization co-sponsored a symposium titled Copyright in the Age of Artificial Intelligence.  The purpose of the symposium was to examine "how the creative community currently is using artificial intelligence (AI) to create original works," and "what level of human input is sufficient for the resulting work to be eligible for copyright protection," among other topics.

In his article for The Scholarly Kitchen, Todd A Carpenter read the discussion threads in WIPO's public consultation and learned that the court decision regarding the famous monkey selfie of 2011 could steer copyright law regarding works created by artificial intelligence.

In 2011, a nature photographer left his camera on a tripod and an endangered Celebes crested macaques, intrigued by its reflection in the lens snapped perhaps hundreds of pictures of itself. One of those photos ended up promoted by the photographer and it ended up in the British press. Other sites, such as Wikipedia and Techdirt reproduced the photo on their sites, that the photographer and PETA eventually perused in court to seek compensation as violation of copyright. Whether the photographer could assert copyright in the photograph was eventually dismissed by the Ninth Circuit court of appeals in 2018.

In the Copyright Office’s Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices, released on 22 December, 2014, the Office stated that, “only works created by a human can be copyrighted under United States law, which excludes photographs and artwork created by animals or by machines without human intervention” and furthermore, “Because copyright law is limited to ‘original intellectual conceptions of the author,’ the [copyright] office will refuse to register a claim if it determines that a human being did not create the work.

Read the rest

New claim of YouTube copyright strike extortion (Update: Jukin Media responds)

Jukin Media, one of several media companies that acquires rights to viral video clips, has managed unlicensed use of such clips by monetizing them through YouTube's contentID system. But Jukin has now reportedly threatened to use copyright strikes to shut down a channel while privately demanding money from its operator. It's extortion, says the target, hit with a $6000 "bill" over brief snippets of media.

They email us with a bill and they charge us fifteen hundred dollars per clip that was in our videos. And so today we got hit with a huge bill of six thousand dollars. I think it's because in the past we've we've paid them this amount of money, so they just they're like hey this guy's willing to pay this money, let's keep you know charging him for it, he'll just pay us. So we've paid about two thousand dollars in total and now we have another six thousand dollars to pay and if you don't pay then basically they'll start striking your channel.

To publish on YouTube, you agree to let YouTube define and enforce a private regime far more expansive than copyright law provides, with no effective provisions for fair use beyond a lengthy process likely to end with your channel shut down. YouTube claims not to arbitrate copyright, but no-one is fooled: it immediately enforces claims on the basis of a promiscuous algorithmic matching system designed from the ground up to serve claimants, while burdening targets with legal process and its own opaque policy-enforcement bureacracy. Read the rest

Horace Goes Copyright Striking

How an obscure game character from the 8-bit era ended up at the heart of a very modern YouTube takedown fight

GIF site Gfycat announces mass deletions, threatens Archive Team with lawsuit

Gfycat is a site that people upload GIFs to so they can share them with other people reliably. Used most conspicuously to host memes, clips from other media, and animated porn, it announced Wednesday that it was planning to permanently delete old, anonymously-posted images within days. Archive Team, a web preservation initiative coordinated by Jason Scott, set about archiving the site's soon-to-vanish content. So Gfycat's CEO, Dan McEleney, threatened it with a lawsuit, describing archival of the memes it hosts as a "denial of service attack" and demanding compensation.

The fallout is ongoing on Twitter, with users of the site panicking about their old content and the company asking for (and being refused) private negotiations with Internet Archive, which Scott points out is not the same entity as the legally-threatened Archive Team. Read the rest

Devastating remix of Ellen's lecture on befriending George W. Bush disappears after copyright takedown ... then reappears in force

Ellen DeGeneres's friendship with ex-President George W. Bush became controversial this week, in light of the progressive values she claims and the 600,000 corpses left by his occupation of Iraq. She delivered a monologue on her show in response, casting their friendship as an example of civility, overcoming political differences, and having "faith in America". So Rafael Shimunov added a simple backdrop of Iraq war scenes to her monolog, in the hopes DeGeneres might better understand the complaints. In response, copyright takedown notices flew and it was removed from the 'net, so it is at least getting under her skin.

Here's a copy, which I'll update if and when it disappears. Read the rest

Jury: Katy Perry's Dark Horse's infringes copyright of earlier song

Jurors found that Katy Perry's Dark Horse "improperly copied" an earlier song titled Joyful Noise by Flame, a Christian rap artist.

The case focused on the notes and beats of the song, not its lyrics or recording, and the questions suggested that Perry might be off the hook.

But in a decision that left many in the courtroom surprised, jurors found all six songwriters and all four corporations that released and distributed the songs were liable, including Perry and Sarah Hudson, who wrote only the song’s words, and Juicy J, who only wrote the rap he provided for the song. ...

Gray’s attorneys argued that the beat and instrumental line featured through nearly half of “Dark Horse” are substantially similar to those of “Joyful Noise.” Gray wrote the song with his co-plaintiffs Emanuel Lambert and Chike Ojukwu.

Here's Joyful Noise:

Here's Dark Horse. The infringement begins 18 seconds in.

Though the distinctive, whining 8-note loop was the matter at hand, jurors found all involved in the song to be infringers, irrespective of their role in its production. You might say they did the RICO.

It surely can't have helped Perry that both songs start with a guy shouting "y'all know what this is". Even if it didn't factor into the legal analysis, her song is showing up to court unshaven, without a necktie, and smirking at the judge.

It's nonetheless a a disturbing outcome, writes Vox.

But Charlie Harding of the Vox podcast Switched on Pop explains that the striking similarities should be free to use by both artists, despite their similarities.

Read the rest

Author hid funny messages on the copyright page of his book

When my first couple novels came out, I lobbied to add some kind of notation about "fair use" and "limitations and exceptions to copyright" on the copyright notice page and was told not even to try because legal would never allow even the slightest variance from the boilerplate; apparently Steve Stack is better connected than I am, because his book 21st Century Dodos, has a copyright notice that is full of whimsy and gags, as Rebecca discovered and documented. Read the rest

An Indian research university has assembled 73 million journal articles (without permission) and is offering the archive for unfettered scientific text-mining

The JNU Data Depot is a joint project between rogue archivist Carl Malamud (previously), bioinformatician Andrew Lynn, and a research team from New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University: together, they have assembled 73 million journal articles from 1847 to the present day and put them into an airgapped respository that they're offering to noncommercial third parties who want to perform textual analysis on them to "pull out insights without actually reading the text." Read the rest

Cooperative porno copyright troll gets 5 years in prison, while his co-conspirator got 14 years

Last month, Paul Hansmeier was sentenced to 14 years in prison and ordered to pay $1.5m in restitution for the copyright trolling his firm, Prenda Law, engaged in: the firm used a mix of entrapment, blackmail, identity theft, intimidation and fraud to extort millions from its victims by threatening to drag them into court for alleged infringement of copyright in eye-watering pornography, thus forever associating their victims' name with lurid pornography in the public record. Read the rest

Countries with longer copyright terms have access to fewer books (pay attention, Canada!)

Rebecca Giblin (previously) writes, "We've just dropped a new study we've been working on for a year. You know how it keeps being claimed that we need longer copyrights because nobody will invest in making works available if they're in the public domain? Heald and some others have done some great work debunking that in the US context, but now we've finally tested this hypothesis in other countries by looking at the relative availability of ebooks to libraries. It's also the first time anyone has been able to compare availability of identical works (by significant authors) across jurisdictions. The books we sampled were all in the public domain in Canada and NZ, all under copyright in Australia, and a mix in the US (courtesy of its historical renewal system)." Read the rest

A non-aboriginal business has licensed the copyright on Australia's aboriginal flag, and are making copyright claims against aboriginal businesses

In 1971, the Australian indigenous artist Harold Thomas created the iconic Australian Aboriginal Flag which has since been named one of the "official flags of Australia," which resulted in Thomas successfully suing to assert copyright over the design. Read the rest

How #Article13 is like the Inquisition: John Milton Against the EU #CopyrightDirective

Censorship before or censorship after? The EU Copyright Directive rekindles the oldest fight in the history of free speech debates, first waged by John Milton in 1644. Then, like now, policy-makers were considering a radical change in censorship law, a switch from censoring material after it was published to requiring a censor's permission to publish in the first place. Read the rest

The European Copyright Directive: What is it, and why has it drawn more controversy than any other Directive in EU history?

During the week of March 25, the European Parliament will hold the final vote on the Copyright Directive, the first update to EU copyright rules since 2001; normally this would be a technical affair watched only by a handful of copyright wonks and industry figures, but the Directive has become the most controversial issue in EU history, literally, with the petition opposing it attracting more signatures than any other petition in change.org’s history. Read the rest

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