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

Who invented the Kiini Bikini?

Ipek Irgit mass-produced a novel bikini design, making millions and soon getting into furious legal fights with anyone who would dare copy it.

In fashion, there is a fine, sometimes indistinguishable line separating inspiration and theft. Most apparel companies try not to get distracted by items that are derivative of their own. The trend cycle moves so quickly that experts tend to believe the best use of resources isn’t litigation, but creating next season’s styles.

Ms. Irgit, though, could not abide the idea of rival versions of colorful crocheted bikinis.

But then—spoilers!—a competitor tracked down the Brazilian beach artist, Solange Ferrarini, who was the true creator of the Kiini. Katherine Rosman's story in the New York Times makes a ripping yarn of the decade's wildest and wooliest design theft.

Photo: Jens Mortensen / The New York Times Read the rest

Failed white supremacist "law-and-order" Toronto mayoral candidate is now breaking the law by selling Canadian coat-of-arms merch

Faith Goldy is the white supremacist who failed in her bid for mayor of Toronto (despite an endorsement from US white supremacist Congressman Steve King); during her campaign, she unsuccessfully sued Canadian media monopolist Bell Media for refusing to run her ads, saddling her with an order to pay $43,117.90 in Bell's legal fees. Read the rest

Metal band Arch Enemy bans concert photographer after he complains their fashion designer swiped a shot

J Salmerón, a Netherlands-based concert photographer, took a fantastic shot of Arch Enemy singer Alissa White-Gluz at a festival gig in Nijmegen. He posted it to his Instagram, to White-Gluz and fans' general delight.

A company named Thunderball Clothing, operated by Marta Gabriel, reposted Salmerón's photo to their own Instagram account. Thunderball created the leather vest White-Gluz wore in the post, and used the photo, without the photographer's permission, to market its services.

Salmerón sent a request: give €100 euros to a charity, the normal licensing fee, and he wouldn't ding Thunderball with a €500 unauthorized use invoice.

So Gabriel told the band that Salmerón threatened her. And the band itself told him that, as far as they were concorned, they could also use his photos however they please.

Salmerón, who as luck would have it is also a lawyer, explains that this is a dangerous misunderstanding of copyright law:

This made no sense since, although there are some restrictions (for example, I can’t use a photo of Alissa to promote a product, unless she expressly authorizes me to do so) I am the only one who gets to decide how and where my work is used. To put it in legal terms: I own the copyright over my photos.

The message also sought to perpetuate the ridiculous system that some bands expect to have with photographers: They let them come into the pit, expect to have the absolute and perpetual right to use the photos in whatever way they want, and pay photographers in “exposure,” by using their work before a massive audience.

Read the rest

YouTube let a contentID scammer steal a popular video

At considerable expense, Christian Friedrich Johannes Büttner, the man behind successful YouTube channel TheFatRat, recorded and posted an original music video. It ran up 47m views, helping to place him among the higher echeleons of YouTube's hitmakers.

But then a scammer—someone with no posted videos, no working contact info and no significant internet presence—claimed ownership of it through YouTube's ContentID system.

Büttner appealed and was denied.

Worse, it was clear that YouTube had simply allowed the scam account to wait until the last possible moment to respond, then to decide for itself whether it was a legitimate appeal.

Büttner, being a serious channel operator with millions of subs, tried to get relief from his liaison at YouTube. He was told he had to work it out with the scammer (who was still being paid the revenue the video was generating) through the scammer's fake email address. YouTube gave him no other recourse and refused to provide more information.

It got sorted out only after he went public and got lawyers involved.

In this enraging video, Büttner explains what happened with remarkable calmness and professionalism, exposing in detail just how awful and broken ContentID is -- and how grossly vulnerable it is to bad-faith exploitation by frauds, scammers and wannabe censors.

One trick that Büttner misses, however, is that ContentID isn't copyright law. The scammer probably didn't issue a fraudulent DMCA takedown, so won't end in trouble for that.

ContentID is exactly the thing YouTube claims it doesn't do: it privately mediating ownership of content without involving the law. Read the rest

Podcast: Don't let the EU ruin the internet for everyone else!

On the latest Copy This podcast (MP3) (previously), the amazing Kirby "Everything is a Remix" Ferguson talks to Paul Keller about the new EU Copyright Directive, which will impose mandatory copyright filters on all online platforms, opening the door to rampant censorship and ensuring that only the biggest (American) tech companies will be able to afford to operate in the EU. Read the rest

Petition for Disney to give up "hakuna matata" trademark

In 1994, Disney trademarked the use of the phrase "hakuna matata" on clothing, footwear, and headgear. The common Swahili phrase, meaning "no trouble," was the name of a song in Disney's movie The Lion King. Now, a petition for Disney to give up the copyright, has more than 50,000 signatures.

(Zimbabwean activist Shelton) Mpala told CNN he started the petition "to draw attention to the appropriation of African culture and the importance of protecting our heritage, identity and culture from being exploited for financial gain by third parties. This plundered artwork serves to enrich or benefit these museums and corporations and not the creators or people it's derived from."

(image: a selection of goods from Alibaba.com) Read the rest

Copyright and the "male gaze": a feminist critique of copyright law

Film theorist Laura Mulvey coined the term "male gaze" to describe the "masculine, heterosexual perspective that presents and represents women as sexual objects for the pleasure of the male viewer": in a paper for the Harvard Journal of Law and Gender, Southwestern Law School professor John Tehranian applies Mulvey's idea to the complex and often nonsensical way that copyright determines who is an "author" of a work and thus entitled to control it, and shows how the notion of authorship reflects and amplifies the power imbalances already present in the world. Read the rest

New, "unbreakable" Denuvo DRM cracked two days before its first commercial deployment

Denuvo bills itself as the best-of-breed in games DRM, the most uncrackable, tamper-proof wrapper for games companies; but its reputation tells a different story: the company's products are infamous for falling quickly to DRM crackers and for interfering with game-play until you crack the DRM off the products you buy. Read the rest

Australia's 2015 copyright censorship system has failed, so they're adding (lots) more censorship

In 2015, Australia created the most aggressive copyright censorship system in the world, which allowed the country's two major movie studios (Village Roadshow and Fox) along with an assortment of smaller companies and trolls to get court orders forcing the country's ISPs to censor sites that had the "primary purpose" of infringing copyright. Read the rest

Public domain scores a huge appeals court victory: the law cannot be copyrighted (UPDATED)

For years we have chronicled the tireless fight of rogue archivist Carl Malamud (previously) whose Public.Resource.org has devoted itself to publishing the world's laws, for free, where anyone can see and share them. Read the rest

EFF just sent this letter to every official negotiating the EU's Copyright Directive

To Whom It May Concern: Read the rest

"Free is not fair" won't make authors richer, but fixing publishers' contracts will

Australia is about to radically expand its copyright and the publishing industry has forged an unholy alliance with authors' groups to rail against fair use being formalised in Australia, rallying under the banner of "Free is not fair." Read the rest

Something Awful receives legal threat over hotlinked image of Hitler fan

Christopher Sadowski is, his lawyers submit, a most accomplished photographer of... Hitler admirer Heath Campbell? The New York-based shooter is threatening to sue the website Something Awful over a photo of the nazi spotted in its forums unless they pay $6750.

The unauthorized use of my client's work threatens my client's livelihood. While Christopher Sadowski,[sic] does have the right to bring a lawsuit for damages, my client is willing to settle this in an amicable way, out of court and without a lawsuit. I was asked to contact you and see if we can negotiate a settlement and save everyone the stress and costs of going to court.

It turns out, however, that the image isn't actually posted on Something Awful. It's hotlinked from another website, Imgur, which is the image's actual host and the one providing the embedding snippet. It's still there. Sadowski's lawyers, Higbee & Associates, haven't figured it out—or maybe they have, but removing the image isn't the business plan.

Rich Kyanka (pictured above) explains:

This garbage dicked law firm generates nearly $5 million a year by encouraging photographers to sign up with their company, then performing a reverse image search for anything matching their client's submitted photos. An automated system then flags the suspected offending site, spits out a super scary legal threat based off a template, and delivers it to the site owner. Upon receiving the notice of possible legal action, many victims freak out and pay these idiots the stated arbitrary amount of cash, under the looming threat of being taken to court for $150,000.

Read the rest

Tomorrow: come to our University of Chicago seminar on Renaissance censorship and internet censorship

Ada Palmer is a University of Chicago Renaissance historian (and so much more: librettist, science fiction novelist, and all-round polymath); she has convened a series of seminars at the University in collaboration with science and piracy historian Adrian Johns, and me! Read the rest

Retrial ordered in Led Zeppelin 'Stairway to Heaven' music copyright lawsuit

A new trial will be held in a copyright dispute over Led Zeppelin's hit song 'Stairway to Heaven.' An earlier trial ruled in the band's favor, but an appeals court has now ruled the judge in that trial gave misleading information to jurors. Read the rest

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