Medium adds Creative Commons licensing for writers

7 May 2015

From The Verge:

Writing platform Medium is following the lead of services like Flickr and Vimeo and introducing Creative Commons copyright options for its authors. As of today, writers will be able to select between a variety of licenses that go beyond the standard “all rights reserved,” letting readers republish, translate, or otherwise remix their work. It’s partly a concrete attempt to expand the reach of Creative Commons, and partly an attempt to educate people about the range of options between traditional copyright and the public domain.

“Copyright is everywhere. It’s on everything, from the minute you put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard,” says Creative Commons CEO Ryan Merkley. “That means that we’re all copyright holders, whether we want to be or not.” But “even simple sharing under permissive terms is not easy,” he says. By default, copyright can cover a wide (and sometimes confusing) range of potential uses, some of which creators might not actually want to restrict — like a fan translating a blog post into another language.

There are six Creative Commons licenses, which range from only asking for attribution to barring commercial use and derivative works; users can also choose to release their work from copyright altogether. Existing Medium articles, meanwhile, will default to standard copyright protection. “We explicitly put in a description of what the licenses mean,” says Jamie Talbot of Medium. “Part of this is about educating the public that ‘all rights reserved’ is not the only option, and that there are these specific ways that you can give some freedoms to other people.”

. . . .

Individual authors could say that they’re using any of these licenses with or without Medium’s help. But creating a built-in option on other services has helped turn them into Creative Commons hubs. Flickr’s straightforward licensing options, for example, have made it a source of free, high-quality stock photos. Fiction platform Wattpad includes Creative Commons licensing as an option for its writers. Several other sites, like Wikipedia, have also incorporated the Creative Commons framework. “Ideas are most useful when they’re built upon and combined with others, and stories live through being reinterpreted, retold, modified, embellished,” says Talbot. “I think the Commons is a little-understood, but very valuable part of our culture, and we want to enable and be a part of that as much as we can.”

Link to the rest at The Verge and thanks to Jan for the tip.

Amazon Prime Video at 35,000 Feet

5 May 2015

From the Amazon Media Room:

Amazon and JetBlue today announced that they will bring unlimited, on-demand entertainment to airline travel later this year through JetBlue’s free high-speed Fly-Fi broadband internet, the industry’s fastest complimentary inflight internet service, to create an unmatched entertainment experience in the sky.

The collaboration will enable Fly-Fi for Amazon Prime members to instantly access tens of thousands of movies and TV episodes, including exclusive Amazon Original Series such as Transparent, Mozart in the Jungle and Bosch, at no additional cost to their membership. In addition, all JetBlue customers will be able to rent or purchase hundreds of thousands of titles in the Amazon Instant Video store, including new-release movies and day-after TV programming, over the free broadband internet.

“We want to provide the best digital video experience to our customers and we’re excited that, with JetBlue, we will raise the bar in airline entertainment,” said Michael Paull, Vice President of Digital Video at Amazon. “We’re thrilled that Fly-Fi technology will give Prime members and customers unlimited, on-demand access to the full catalog of titles from Amazon’s digital video library while they’re in the sky—without the need to rush to download one more episode or movie before taking off, we’re helping make airline travel more enjoyable.”

Fly-Fi uses satellite technology to give customers internet speeds that feel like what they have at home or work. Amazon and JetBlue worked together to ensure that the inflight entertainment system met the premium experience expected by customers when streaming movies and TV episodes from Amazon. Access to Amazon’s entertainment library will be built into the JetBlue Fly-Fi Hub, giving customers instant access to watch titles from Amazon on their laptops, Fire devices, iPhones, iPads and Android phones and tablets—no pre-flight download needed. JetBlue’s free Fly-Fi broadband internet will be available on all of JetBlue’s Airbus A321 and A320 aircraft this year, and on JetBlue’s Embraer E190 aircraft in 2016.

“Just like at home, customers will be able to access movies and TV shows from Amazon from 35,000 feet in the sky over our super-fast and free Fly-Fi,” said Jamie Perry, Vice President, Brand and Product Development, JetBlue.

Link to the rest at Amazon Media Room

It occurred to PG that some of the companies and individuals that own rights to movies and television shows didn’t realize that granting the right to display video over the internet included showing it at 35,000 feet in an airplane.

Major music association calls Grooveshark’s death an ‘important victory’ for artists

2 May 2015

From Business Insider:

Grooveshark was one of the first online services that let you play almost any song you wanted, on demand, with no restrictions.

It closed down Thursday and it won’t be coming back, according to a statement on the web site.

The site shut down as part of a legal settlement with copyright holders — the artist, publishers, and music labels who owned the rights to a lot of the music on the service.

. . . .

In its early days, a lot of the music on Grooveshark was not licensed. Users were uploading the songs, not the company itself, but that argument has been tested on other services, like Napster, and so far it’s never held legal water.

Link to the rest at Business Insider and thanks to Dennis for the tip.

Green party plan to limit copyright attacked by writers and artists

23 April 2015

From The Guardian:

The Green party may be forced to backtrack on its proposals to limit UK copyright terms to 14 years after a howl of protest from prominent writers and artists including Linda Grant, Al Murray and Philip Pullman.

The Greens’ manifesto said the party aims to “make copyright shorter in length, fair and flexible” with the party’s policy website saying it would “introduce generally shorter copyright terms, with a usual maximum of 14 years”. Representatives of the party said on Thursday that length could be revised after a consultation.

Kate Pool, deputy chief executive of the Society of Authors, said it would be an “appalling injustice” and that artists and writers would be first to lose out under the proposal, with more money being made by manufacturers or distributors.

“It could lead to all sorts of unfairness, and I can’t see how it’s in any way ‘green’,” Pool said. “Writers are human beings, and they deserve to be able to earn a living. After 14 years, the only person making money would be those producing the physical copy of the work, not the person who created it.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Simon for the tip.

Goebbels estate sues Random House Germany

20 April 2015

From The Bookseller:

The estate of Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler’s minister for propaganda during the Second World War, is suing publisher Random House Germany for using an extract from his diaries.

The biography Goebbels, published in Germany in 2010 under the Siedler imprint, is by Peter Longerich, professor of modern German history at Royal Holloway University. Random House did not pay a fee to the Goebbel’s estate, run by Cordula Schacht, for using the diary extracts.

. . . .

Rainer Dresen, general counsel of Random House Germany, told the Guardian the publisher does not want to pay, saying: “We are convinced that no money should go to a war criminal.” When first contacted by Schacht, he “did not want to believe that anyone can claim royalties for Goebbels’ words”.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Author Suing Joss Whedon, Claims Cabin In The Woods Is Based On His Book

16 April 2015

From io9:

The Cabin in the Woods was one of the most original takes on the “kids encounter scary things in the woods” story that we’ve seen in ages, but one man is claiming that it’s not original at all. Author Peter Gallagher is suing the filmmakers, claiming that the film is infringing on his 2006 novel The Little White Trip: A Night In the Pines.

. . . .

It’s hard to say how profound these similarities are without reading the book (it’s available for free as an ebook through Scribd), but Gallagher’s complaint lists two dozen side-by-side, including similarities between some of the names. In The Little White Trip, for example, the female characters (one blonde, one brunette) are named Jules and Dura and they visit a cabin called “Brinkley house.” In The Cabin in the Woods, the female characters (one blonde, one brunette) are named Julie and Dana and they visit a cabin called “Buckner house.” In both books, the five protagonists receive a dire warning before arriving at the cabin, rummage through the cabin’s storage area, drink and flirt, and are subsequently terrorized by murderous forces.

Link to the rest at io9 and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

Tuning Music Royalties to the Times

6 April 2015

From The Wall Street Journal:

For some time, performers a notch below Beyoncé and Taylor Swift have complained about the change in music delivery from CDs to downloads to streaming, today’s dominant system, as the progression has chipped away at their already-modest royalties. These gripes are legitimate, but even worse off is the nonperforming songwriter, who can’t go on the road and sell signed CDs and merch, and who takes home significantly lower royalties.

Desmond Child, the co-writer of Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer,” recently reported that the song had been played 6.5 million times on Pandora over three months, for which he had earned $110. There is also writer and performer Aloe Blacc, whose song “Wake Me Up” by Avicii “was the most streamed song in Spotify history and the 13th-most-played song on Pandora since its release in 2013, with more than 168 million streams in the U.S.,” as he wrote last year in Wired magazine. That yielded only $12,359 in Pandora domestic royalties, which were split among three songwriters and the publishers.

The entire U.S. system of music royalties is confusing, contradictory and inequitable, a monument to more than 100 years of haggling among creators, purveyors and users. To call it Byzantine maligns that great empire.

For one, a musical composition (“the publishing” in music-industry parlance) and its recording (“the master”) receive separate copyrights, with separate licensing systems. There are dramatically different rate-setting mechanisms: Broadcast radio pays royalties for the composition, but nothing for the recording. Digital media—Pandora and satellite radio, for instance—pay for both, but nobody pays for recordings made before 1972, which are not protected under federal copyright law. (They may soon carry a royalty in certain states, thanks to lawsuits filed by former members of the Turtles.) Hardly any music licenses are negotiated in the free market.

It has been 40 years since the last major overhaul to U.S. copyright law. Today’s technologies of music distribution bear no resemblance to those of the 1970s, and songwriters have borne the brunt of the ever-widening disconnect between law and reality.

But change may be afoot. In February the Copyright Office, part of the Library of Congress, issued a comprehensive study declaring that “the time is ripe to question the existing paradigm for the licensing of musical works and sound recordings.” To that end, the office put forth some “key principles,” including that music creators should be “fairly compensated,” that the licensing process should be “efficient,” that usage and payment rates should be “transparent and accessible,” and that a single standard “should apply to all music licenses.”

. . . .

The various interests have loud voices, varying agendas and, in the case of industry groups, deep pockets. Last year the Recording Industry Association of America spent more than $4 million on lobbying and the National Association of Broadcasters more than $18 million.

But another important stakeholder is involved—the public. “The immediate effect of our copyright law is to secure a fair return for an author’s creative labor,” Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart wrote in the 1975 case 20th Century Music v. Aiken . “But the ultimate aim is, by this incentive, to stimulate artistic creativity for the general public good.”

Lind to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

How Bitcoin’s Technology Could Revolutionize Intellectual Property Rights

24 March 2015

From CoinDesk:

The bitcoin block chain is well known for its use as a ledger for digital currency transactions, but it has the potential for other, more radical uses too – uses that are only now beginning to be explored.

The online service Proof of Existence is an example of how the power of this new technology can have applications far beyond the world of finance, in this case, giving a glimpse of how bitcoin could one day have a substantial impact in the fields of intellectual property and law.

Although in its initial stages, Proof of Existence can be used to demonstrate document ownership without revealing the information it contains, and to provide proof that a document was authored at a particular time.

. . . .

Proof of Existence allows users to upload a file and pay a transaction fee to have a cryptographic proof of it included on the bitcoin block chain. The actual file is not stored online and therefore does not risk unwanted publication of the user’s material.

After anonymously uploading the document and paying the network fee, a hash of the document (or any other type of digital file) is generated as part of the transaction.


. . . .

This, in effect, uses the public and ledger-like nature of the block chain to store the proof of your file, which can later be verified should an issue of authorship or dating arise.

“Basically, by inserting the cryptographic hash of the document in a transaction, when that transaction is mined into a block, the block timestamp becomes the document’s timestamp,” said Aráoz.

As well as time-stamping, Proof of Existence is also a way to make sure that files are what they are supposed to be.

As Proof of Existence says: “All we store is a cryptographic digest of the file, linked to the time in which you submitted the document. In this way, you can later certify that the data existed at that time.”

. . . .

Given this potential, it’s possible that the implications of solutions like Proof of Existence might be even more valuable than the per-bitcoin price many investors are fixated upon today.

Digital property can sometimes also be considered intellectual property, and block chain technologies could essentially prove ownership of such digital property, according to Aráoz, who explained:

“For example, if you are writing a paper or you have an idea for a patent, in some cases you need to prove that you owned the idea or the paper before someone else.”

Link to the rest at CoinDesk and thanks to L for the tip.

PG always likes cool new digital ways of doing old tasks, but he has to point out a couple of things:

1. For copyright purposes, there is seldom a problem with two people coming up with the same copyrightable work at the same time.

Remember, you don’t copyright ideas, you copyright the unique expression of ideas. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl (or the reverse or Tramp meets Lady or amoeba meets amoeba) is not copyrightable because it’s just an idea. There are a zillion different copyrighted books, short stories, poems, movies and TV shows based upon the identical idea or variations thereof.

You’ll want to register your book with the US copyright office under any circumstances, so you may as well use them to certify when you wrote the book because they’re the gold standard.

2. For patent purposes, the US formerly had a first-to-invent standard where the first person to invent a patentable item was entitled to obtain the patent. This lead to some epic fights when inventors were independently working in the same field at the same time. Litigation about who first invented the laser, for example, relied on hand-dated notebooks describing elements of the invention.

While first-to-invent made for better stories, in 2013, the US joined most of the remainder of the world in awarding patents to the first inventor to file an application describing the invention, not the first to invent.

3. Finally, although PG loves this use of the BitCoin algorithm, if you search for digital notary on Google, you’ll find lots of other ways of obtaining a reliable and tamperproof or tamper-resistant date stamps on a document like a manuscript.

Sony fails to knock out 19’s Idol stars lawsuit

19 March 2015

From CMU:

Sony Music has failed to have a wide-ranging lawsuit filed by 19 Entertainment a year ago dismissed, though some elements of the case have been thrown out.

As previously reported, ‘American Idol’-owning 19 Entertainment, which also manages many of the finalists that appeared on the talent show franchise, last year sued Sony Music, which traditionally signed ‘Idol’ winners, claiming that it had found “systemically incorrect calculations” on two separate audits of royalty payments made by the major. It then added that the record company had failed to allow 19’s bean counters to access all the data they required to do a full audit.

. . . .

As previously noted, 19’s litigation includes one of the big fat debates of the moment in artist management circles, whether digital income should count as ‘licensing’ or ‘sales’ income with artist contracts that don’t specifically mention downloads and/or streams.

It’s an important distinction, because artists traditionally get a much bigger cut of the loot with licensing money that they do with sales income. Labels say that downloads and streams should be classified as sales for royalty purposes, but many heritage artists point out that what the labels negotiate with iTunes and Spotify are definitely ‘licensing deals’.

And this issue is one that will be allowed to proceed, potentially giving more court time to a dispute that has been subject to countless lawsuits and artist/label deals (some public, most under the radar), but which has generally had little judicial consideration, except in the famous FBT Productions case against Universal, which the majors have always insisted doesn’t set a precedent.

Among the other elements of the case also allowed to proceed is another favourite with artist managers and lawyers, the way labels sometimes confuse things when money moves between global subsidiaries, this time in relation to advertising spend. 19 accuses Sony of using “sleight of hand” tactics to reduce its royalty obligations to its artists.

Link to the rest at CMU

PG notes that since this case is in New York, it has the potential to provide some rulings that could impact a lot of tradpub publishing contracts.

Memphis Publisher Sues Salinger Estate

18 March 2015

From Publishers Weekly:

Memphis-based independent publisher The Devault-Graves Agency filed a lawsuit against the J.D. Salinger Literary Trust in a Tennessee court on March 16, claiming that the estate has, without legal basis, thwarted the press’s attempts to publish and distribute international editions of its collection of early Salinger short stories, Three Early Stories.

Devault-Graves released the U.S. edition of the title, which includes three stories from early in Salinger’s literary career which had fallen into the public domain, in July 2014. A culmination of what the publisher’s Tom Graves described to PW in July as an “exhaustive” and expensive process that involved a team of copyright lawyers, the book is, he said, the first legitimate Salinger book to be published in more than 50 years. Upon its release, the Salinger estate, after a brief investigation, confirmed it would not halt Devault-Graves’s publication in the U.S. But now, as the publisher attempts to sell the work abroad, Devault-Graves asserts the estate is “tortiously interfering with [its] contractual agreements with foreign publishers,” including those in the U.K. and Japan.

For its part, the Salinger estate contends that Devault-Graves is of the “erroneous view” that because the stories were in the public domain in the U.S., they would also exist in the public domain in countries where they were not previously published.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly and thanks to Ryan for the tip.

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