Copyright/Intellectual Property

Billie Eilish Cancels Fashion Line After Designer Admits Plagiarism

13 August 2019

From Clash:

Billie Eilish has been forced to cancel a new fashion line after a designer involved admitted plagiarism.

The new capsule was crafted in association with Siberia Hills, and on its launch last week fans noted a t-shirt and hoodie which made use of anime character Nozomi Tojo from the Long Live! show.

The close-knit anime community soon pointed out, however, that the designs were incredibly close to previous work by Makoto Kurokawa.

. . . .

After the comparison went viral Siberia Hills had an internal discussion, with the line now being pulled.

A full message was placed on Instagram, apologising to Kurokawa and explaining that Billie Eilish and her team were completely unaware of the infraction.

They wrote: “To the talented artist Mr. M_Qurokawa, we apologize for taking from your artwork for our merchandise collaboration with Billie Eilish. Billie and her team were not aware we used your art, they just believed in the product.”

Link to the rest at Clash

PG says copyright infringement and plagiarism that, in prior eras, would likely have gone undiscovered for years, maybe forever, won’t work anymore.

Publication of creative works online effectively crowd-sources the discovery of “borrowed” or copied works to a much wider range of eyeballs than would have been possible during the pre-internet era.

Google Is Monetizing Human Tragedy: Why Aren’t They Held Accountable?

12 August 2019

From Hugh Stephens Blog:

My wife and I had just been visiting our daughter in her new home when we turned on the car radio. It was an interview on CBC with Andy Parker, whose daughter Alison had been murdered, live on TV, by a deranged former employee, back in 2015. The killer recorded and later uploaded video of Parker’s death to the internet, in addition to the live broadcast of the tragedy. The radio story was about the trials of a father who was being trolled by hate-mongers and conspiracy theorists, and about his ongoing efforts to get the videos of his daughter’s murder taken down by YouTube.

. . . .

One wonders why a corporation of this size and influence, one with such reach and the power to influence people’s lives for the better, doesn’t get it. When Parker first learned that videos of Alison’s death were circulating on YouTube, he contacted them and was informed that according to the company’s “moment of death” policy, the content could be removed. There is an online form available that states;

If you’ve identified content showing your family member during moment of death or critical injury, and you wish to request removal of this content, please fill in the information below. We carefully review each request, but please note that we take public interest and newsworthiness into account when determining if content will be removed. Once you’ve submitted your report, we’ll investigate and take action as appropriate.”

So far, so good. But then Parker found out that he would have to flag each and every posting of the atrocity in order to get YouTube to act. Videos taken down today could be up again tomorrow, posted by people ranging from conspiracy theorists to plain vindictive sociopaths. YouTube refused to institute a blanket ban on the video, even though it had the technical means to do so. Moreover the algorithms that recommend content to viewers continue to serve up content related to the video. In frustration, Parker is now bringing a lawsuit against YouTube.

One has to ask why YouTube could not take the necessary steps to police its own content. Under pressure from copyright owners it has instituted a system of sorts that will take down all videos of a proven copyrighted work. While the system is unsatisfactory to many, at least there is a functioning system to take down copyright infringing works, as YouTube is required to do under the DMCA in order to keep its safe harbour. And there is other content that YouTube is required by law to block, and by and large it manages to do so, such as child porn, and sex trafficking. In addition, there are other forms of undesirable content that the platforms, YouTube among them, ought to block, as a matter of common sense, but here they do a poor job. Facebook’s slow-off- the-mark response to block the dissemination of the filmed violence against the mosque and worshippers in Christchurch, New Zealand, is but one example, as is the ongoing issue of hate speech and incitement to violence and terrorism as witnessed on the website 8Chan.

What really upsets Mr. Parker is that not only does YouTube require him to constantly police its site to identify postings of his daughter’s death (just as copyright owners have to spend the time to notify YouTube of infractions, although some of this is automated through ContentID), the clicks that it attracts enable YouTube to monetize the hateful video.

Link to the rest at Hugh Stephens Blog

PG understands that digital fingerprinting has reached the point where it can accurately identify specific digital content – video, audio, ebooks, etc. – with a high degree of accuracy and that, at least some providers of this service do so in a way that can’t be defeated with changes to the file hash, length, additions and deletions, etc., digital characteristics of the file. He understands that Audible Magic is a major player in digital fingerprinting.

Undoubtedly, licensing digital fingerprinting software and solutions costs money, but, particularly in situations like the one described in the OP, PG would think that YouTube might take action, if only to avoid future legislative or regulatory supervision over the company’s policies and business practices.

While many indie authors understand the Digital Millenium Copyright Act allows them to send take-down notices when someone offers their book online without the author’s consent. However, one of the significant benefits the DMCA provided online information providers like YouTube, Google, Facebook, etc., was freedom from claims by copyright holders if the online giants published copyright-protected content so long as the online publishers responded to takedown notices with reasonable speed.

For reasons that seemed sensible at the time (1998 for the US version of the DMCA), the onus of discovering copyright infringement placed on the owners of the copyright included no requirement that the online information provider notify or make it easy for the copyright holder to discover the publication of infringing copies by YouTube, etc.

PG will note that the fast-moving pace of innovation and change typical of the online world is a terrible match for the ponderous and sometimes witless process of getting legislation passed in the US and elsewhere.

Despite that unfortunate fact, PG suggests an amendment to the DMCA that permits efficient and accurate technical methods of identifying copyrighted works to be used by creators as and when they become commercially available. This would include methods for creating digital fingerprints or other tamper-resistant means of identifying protected works.

When such methods become reasonably available, online information providers would be required to check uploaded content against databases of digital fingerprints generally published or made available by third parties for the purpose of identifying infringing uses. Alternatively, copyright owners could submit digital fingerprints in a standard form directly to the online information providers so such organizations could create and host such databases themselves.

I Am Dyslexic

9 August 2019

The original post is by a tenured law school professor who is a respected expert on copyright law.

PG is posting this because he suspects most of the visitors to TPV have had little or no trouble learning to read and reading as children or adults. That has been PG’s experience.

For PG, OP has some of the most approachable and understandable descriptions he has seen of dyslexia and about someone experiencing this condition.

From Matthew Sag:

If you don’t know that I am dyslexic, you really don’t know anything about me. That would not be your fault, I have spent most of my life trying to hide the fact that I am dyslexic. In fact, I used treat my ability to hide my dyslexia as a measure of how well I had overcome it. But mostly I hid for the same reason people always hide, for fear of exposure. Years of bitter experience at school and in the workforce  had taught me that if you have a learning disability, many people think you are stupid. Some of those who don’t think you are stupid think that you are just lazy or a liar instead.

Even though I knew early in my teaching career that I would have no trouble meeting the tenure standard at my school, I still worried that if my colleagues realized that I was dyslexic they would hold it against me when it came to tenure and promotion. I know other people in the academy who feel the same way, even now in 2019.

You might think that these fears are uncharitable to my colleagues, but I feared their ignorance more than their malice. When I became a tenured full professor I really did (mostly) stop worrying about what people thought. More importantly, I hope that by sharing my experiences I might offer encouragement to others coping with learning disabilities and help change attitudes towards dyslexia.

Reading with dyslexia

Dyslexia is characterized by difficulty with learning to read fluently and with accurate comprehension despite normal intelligence. American Academy of Pediatrics “Joint Statement—Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia, and Vision” 124 Pediatrics 837 (2009)

Dyslexia can mean a lot of different things. The term is used as an umbrella term for a combination of auditory, visual and attentional disorders that manifest as learning disabilities.  I can’t say what it means in general to be dyslexic, I can only say what it means to me.

My type of dyslexia is visual/attentional, but mostly visual. When you look at worlds on a page, chances are that you see words on a page. For most of my life I have had 20/20 vision, so I see the words too – but I don’t really see them. For some reason I just don’t process combinations of letters very well. I see what you see, but what I see is not very stable. The word reversals and word skipping associated with dyslexia seem to be the result of a software failure in the brain, rather than a hardware failure in the eyes. [Although the instability is more of a hardware issue than I had previously understood.]

Some common illustrations on the Internet can give you some idea of what a dyslexic might see, but they are not exactly right either. (These two are from the Irlen website)

Screen Shot 2013-08-12 at 11.39.16 AMScreen Shot 2013-08-12 at 11.38.22 AM

The best way I can explain it is that when I read a word, I can only process two or three letters at a time. A word like “detection” becomes

de – et – te – ct – ti -io – n

But I compensate by sort of flitting over the words so “detection” might actually be more like

det – [bla] [bla] [some kind of tall letter] [bla] – ion

Defection! That sounds like an interesting book, … why is it all about detective stories?

It took me a long time to learn to read. When I was in grade one I would chose my books for quiet reading time on the basis of which ones had the most pictures. I would figure out one or two words per page and then just make up the rest of the story. Even when I supposed to read out loud I found that making things up was pretty good substitute for actually reading.

All through primary school, my reading age lagged my actual age by two or three years. This confused my teachers because I seemed to have “normal intelligence” and my vocabulary was quite strong. I did the usual range of remedial exercises and vision therapy (this mostly involved crossing my eyes and making red and green circles come together). These things helped a bit but I still read poorly, and only when forced. [I recently did some more vision therapy and found it quite helpful. I had not realized how much vision had destabilized since I was a teenager, but it still was not the cure that some hold it out to be.]

In year seven, thanks to the loving tyranny of the diminutive Mrs. Johnson, I realized that I had to start reading. The first book I read was Battlestar Galactica, not a literary masterpiece but easy to follow since I had already seen all the TV episodes more than once. I spent weeks reading Battlestar Galactica at the glacial pace of about 10 pages an hour. After that I very slowly worked my way through my older brother’s sci-fi collection. I loved the escapism, but reading gave me a kind of dull headache and left me exhausted.

Reading in color

In year eight (the first year of high school in Australia) my English teacher told me that my written work showed that I was either stupid or lazy. He then explained that he could see (I am not exactly sure how) that I was not lazy and that he knew from my standardized testing (I was always good at multiple choice tests) that I was not stupid. My new school’s special education teacher referred my on to a psychologist who tested me for “scotopic sensitivity syndrome” also known as Irlen syndrome. The psychologist ran me through a battery of tests and then we spent about two hours trying different colored lenses while doing yet more tests to see which color worked best for me.

Reading with colored lenses was, and remains, a totally different experience. I began to read much more quickly and without headaches. By year 11 I had transformed from a C student in everything but math to an A student. Colored lenses have not cured my dyslexia, but they make it manageable. I still have a shorter than average span of visual focus and words still tend to swim around on the page, but now it is more like

det -ect-ion


de – et – te – ct – ti -io – n

How do colored lenses help? Do they really help at all?

This is very difficult to explain. Irlen syndrome and the associate Irlen colored lenses are controversial. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Joint Statement—Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia, and Vision”

“Most experts agree that dyslexia is a language based disorder. Scientific evidence does not support the efficacy of eye exercises, behavioral vision therapy, or tinted lenses.”

There are studies showing the effectiveness of colored lenses, but the American Academy of Pediatrics does not think that much of them. I wear non-tinted lenses for social activities that don’t involve reading. When I forget to change back to my tinted lenses all my old symptoms come back. This is as close to proof as you can get that colored lenses work for me and that this is not just a placebo effect. On the other hand, it also seems clear that these lenses don’t work for everyone. Likewise, vision therapy is great for some people, but again, may not work for everyone.

What is it like to be dyslexic?

People who know me now think of me as confident, perhaps even a little brash. I did well at university and as a lawyer, but have only really excelled as an academic. I have published in Nature and many of the top U.S. law reviews (California, Northwestern, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Iowa, Vanderbilt, Ohio State, …) and I receive great teaching evaluations. So, yes, I am fairly self-confident — though not confident enough to leave these achievements unstated.

I have not always been so self-assured. For most of the time I was in school I my greatest intellectual aspiration was to be normal or average. I told myself that I was average and that it was just my dyslexia that held me back. For a long time this anchored my self perception, to the extent that when I started excelling in high school I wondered why 95% of my classmates were below average. I did not know about Bayesian inference then.  When my sister told me that I would never get the grades to get into law school I resented her because even though I was determined to prove her wrong, I also thought deep down that she was right.

Being dyslexic means being misunderstood, dismissed and underestimated. I was almost held back at the end of third grade. I failed the recorder in year 8. I always did poorly in English when it was graded on in class exams and then I was accused of cheating when I handed in high quality short stories and essays that my mother typed for me. [Thanks mum!]

My grade seven teacher asked me once, how do you expect to get a job if you can’t spell? I had just read Isaac Asimov’s Foundation where one of the characters  dictated into her screen and the words appeared in her own handwriting, so I pronounced that by the time I entered the workforce computers would spell for us. It actually only took until I was in year 12. I love words and I love language, but if not for spell check I probably would have become an accountant.

I am still a terrible speller, especially when writing by hand. Spell-check has made my life possible, but even without it, there is something about the muscle memory of typing that works better than the fine-motor skills required for handwriting. My spelling embarrasses me. Even today, I will do almost anything to avoid letting other people see my handwriting. If I have to write a card I usually type it on my computer and then carefully check each word.

When I write on the whiteboard in class I know that my students can see how poorly I spell and that I often write words out of sequence and then add in the missing letters. This used to be excruciating (a word I would never try to write on the whiteboard), but I try to think of it as a demonstration of how amazing I must be to be a successful law professor with this kind of spelling ability.

Proud to be dyslexic

Not all differences are defects. I grew up thinking of dyslexia as a problem to be overcome, a disability that was holding me back. It took me a while to realize that dyslexia is also a gift. I am a bad speller and my attention to detail is inconsistent. On the other hand, I am a great problem solver and and excellent generalizer. I can grasp general patterns based on what seems like insufficient data to most people. I am usually the first person in a movie theatre to get the joke. I also have great listening skills. When I was 26 I moved to the United States and studied for the California bar exam purely by listening to audio tapes from a cramming course. Life with dyslexia is an obstacle course — it is frustrating at times, but there are benefits if you can learn when to avoid and when to overcome. Dyslexia has made me creative and resourceful; it has also pushed me into a career path where these faculties are valued more than penmanship and spelling.

Link to the rest at Matthew Sag

As a bonus, Professor Sag makes available a collection of copyright materials he uses in his classes. You can find downloadable copies of Extended Readings on Copyright HERE. Note that the MS Word version of this document is 834 pages long (yes, PG did download it). Note further that Extended Readings on Copyright is available under the generous terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license.

‘Going down’ Is a Trade Mark That Causes a Bad Influence on Morality, Says the Beijng High Court in China

8 August 2019

From The IPKat:

‘Going down’ is a common English phrase whose meaning is descending or sinking. But when it tried to be registered as a trade mark for some sex-related products in China, it encounters the issue whether such a phrase leads to a bad influence on morality.

Similar to Article 7(1)(f) EUTMR, Article 10 (8) of the PRC trade mark law prevents a mark from registering if it is harmful to socialism morality or has other bad influence.

In its recent decision (here, in Chinese), the Beijing High Court affirms that ‘going down’ is a trade mark that causes bad social influence when it is designated for sex-related products.

. . . .

The trade mark office of the PRC refused the application because it held that the pronunciation of ‘going down’ is identical to that of Chinese words ‘够淫荡’ (pronounced as ‘Gou Yin Dang’ and translated to English is ‘enough to be lascivious’). This sexual implication of the trade mark harms Socialism morality and causes negative social influence. It shall then not be registered in accordance with Article 10 (8) of the PRC trade mark law.

. . . .

The applicant filed an appeal to the Beijing IP Court. Not siding with the trade mark office, the Court held that ‘going down’ is a regularly used phrase whose meaning is ‘descending or sinking’. The English words themselves have no immoral meaning, and the relevant public will not generally relate ‘going down’ to ‘够淫荡’. Thus, the use of the sign for the designated goods would not cause bad influence. Such a trade mark can be registered.

. . . .

Unsatisfied with the judgement of the Beijing IP Court, the trade mark office filed an appeal to the Beijing High Court. The Court sided with the trademark office and held that ‘going down’ is a trade mark that causes bad influence. The Court reasoned as follows:

1. What is a trade mark that causes other bad influence? 

A sign could be held to be a trade mark resulting in bad influence if it or its constituent element(s) may cause a negative influence on public interests and public order. The term ‘other bad influence’ in Article10 (8) of the trade mark law is used to refine an absolute ground to refuse the registration of a trade mark. The ‘other bad influence’ shall not be interpreted in an unduly broad way to restrict the freedom of expression and creativity. Nor shall it be interpreted in an unduly narrow way to allow the registration of a trade mark which has a negative effect on political, economic, cultural, religious and ethical public interests and orders.

2. Has ‘going down’ an immoral meaning?

The words ‘going down’ (phonetically) have immoral, negative and low-taste meaning when it is used for the designated goods such as vaginal syringes, condoms, non-chemical contraceptives and sex dolls, although the literal meaning of these words is ‘descending or sinking’. The trade mark office’s decision shall be upheld for the purpose of leading the public to build a positive mainstream culture and value; of prohibiting the act of meeting the ‘three forms of vulgarity’ (inelegant, indecent, and insipid) in a way of ‘play edge ball’; and of realizing the judiciary’s duty to preserve and pass on mainstream awareness and value.

3. Is ‘going down’ causing bad influence?

A trade mark is a commercial sign attached to products that disseminate to the public. In addition to distinguishing goods and services from others and bearing reputation, a trademark can also disseminate value and culture. A trade mark’s influential power and contact in the public are wide and uncertain. The cultural taste and the value represented by a trade mark would be widely disseminated through the use.

. . . .

In addition, the decision of the Beijing High Court briefly states that the freedom of expression and creation may play a role in trademark law. In this case, it relates to the assessment of whether a trade mark could cause bad influence. This statement echoes the recent decision of the Supreme Court of the US in Lancu v. Brunetti and the opinion of the AG Bobek in Constantin Film Produktion v. EUIPO. Both of the cases address the freedom of expression and creation and the trade mark consisting the immoral elements or words. The US Court directly claims that prohibiting registration of a trademark consisting of or comprising immoral or scandalous violates the First Amendment (free speech clause). In EU case, AG Bobek holds that the freedom of expression as a fundamental right does play in the field of the trademark. It is still waiting for the decision of the CJEU on the EU’s position on the freedom of expression and trade mark law.

. . . .

Lastly, it is also worth to mention that the Beijing High Court recognizes a potential new function of a trade mark, namely, disseminating culture and values. As argued by the Court, with the distribution of goods attaching a trade mark, the culture and value represented by the trademark could be also disseminated. If a trade mark disseminates a low-taste or inferior culture, it shall harm the society or public morality.

Link to the rest at The IPKat

A couple of months ago, the US Supreme Court struck down a law barring the registration of vulgar trademarks.

From The New York Times:

The Supreme Court on Monday struck down a federal law barring the registration of “immoral” or “scandalous” trademarks, saying it ran afoul of the First Amendment.

. . . .

The trademark case concerned a line of clothing sold under the brand name FUCT. When the case was argued in April, a government lawyer told the justices that the term was “the equivalent of the past participle form of the paradigmatic profane word in our culture.”

Justice Elena Kagan, writing for a six-justice majority, did not dispute that. But she said the law was unconstitutional because it “disfavors certain ideas.”

She gave examples. Government officials have granted trademark protection to antidrug messages but not to “Marijuana Cola,” to pro-religion messages but not to “Madonna” wine and to antiterrorism messages but not to “Baby Al Qaeda.”

The decisions were understandable, Justice Kagan wrote. “The rejected marks express opinions that are, at the least, offensive to many Americans,” she wrote.

. . . .

But a bedrock principle of First Amendment law, she wrote, is that the government may not draw distinctions based on speakers’ viewpoints.

In 2017, addressing a companion provision in the trademark law, a unanimous eight-justice court struck down a restriction on trademarks that disparage people, living or dead, along with “institutions, beliefs or national symbols.”

The decision, Matal v. Tam, concerned an Asian-American dance-rock band called the Slants. The court split 4 to 4 in much of its reasoning, but all of the justices agreed that the provision at issue in that case violated the Constitution because it took sides based on speakers’ viewpoints. (The decision also effectively allowed the Washington Redskins football team to register its trademarks.)

Link to the rest at The New York Times

Amazon Takes Aim at Patent Infringement in Its Marketplace

6 August 2019

From The National Law Review:

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos recently disclosed that gross merchandise sales in the Amazon Marketplace by independent third party sellers (as opposed to sales made directly by Amazon itself) had grown to 58% of total sales. According to data company Statista, 73% of those sellers were small businesses with between 1-5 employees. For many of them, sales on Amazon comprise their entire revenue.

Discussion of the opportunity Amazon Marketplace represents for small business, however, is joined by the voices of many retailers complaining about sales of counterfeit and stolen goods. To better police its online sales, Amazon has launched initiatives such as Project Zero which allows owners of brands to delete counterfeit products.

The online retail giant’s latest enforcement effort—designed to combat patent infringement—has been dubbed the Utility Patent Neutral Evaluation Procedure (UPNEP). Under this new trial program, a company that believes certain products for sale on the Amazon Marketplace infringe its patents can request an evaluation by depositing $4,000. If the seller does not dispute the accusation, Amazon removes the infringing products from the marketplace, and refunds the deposit to the patent owner. If the seller decides to fight the claim, it also deposits $4,000. Amazon then assigns a lawyer with patent expertise to resolve the dispute. The patent owner submits an opening brief, the merchant files a response, and then the patent owner may submit a reply. The lawyer reviews the submissions, and decides whether the listing should be removed or maintained. The winner gets its money back, and the loser’s $4,000 gets paid to the lawyer. There is no discovery, and no appeal or request for reconsideration. The whole process takes just a few months from start to finish.

Many stakeholders in the Amazon ecosystem have applauded the UPNEP as providing both patent owners and Amazon merchants with a quick and cost-effective mechanism for resolving infringement disputes arising from third-party listings. While participation in the program does not prevent a patent owner from commencing a lawsuit, many sellers do not reside in the United States, and thus may not be subject to service of process in a U.S. federal court. Without UPNEP, patent owners would have little to no recourse in such cases.

. . . .

Expert Peter Kent, who has served as an expert in several Amazon-related cases, is monitoring developments closely. “A critical question in my mind about the UPNEP program,” explains Kent, “is whether it will be exploited by larger companies trying to knock out competitors using spurious patent claims. For instance, if a small merchant who can’t afford the $4,000 doesn’t respond, their product listings are automatically removed, regardless of the merits of the petitioning company’s patent claims.”

Link to the rest at The National Law Review

The Vexed Question of Samples and Songwriting Credits

5 August 2019

From The Economist:

The thorniest question in popular music at the moment is this: who owns a melody? This week two court cases addressed the issue. In California, a jury decided that Katy Perry’s song “Dark Horse” had plagiarised the beat of “Joyful Noise”, a track by Flame, a Christian rapper. Meanwhile the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled in favour of Kraftwerk, a pioneering German electronic-music group, in their 20-year-long case against Moses Pelham and Martin Haas. The hip-hop producers had used a two-second sample from Kraftwerk’s “Metall Auf Metall” in the song “Nur Mir” without seeking permission. The ECJ decided that any recognisable sample from a recording should only be used if the original producers had authorised it. Modified, unrecognisable samples could still be used without authorisation, the court clarified.

In 1991 sampling in America—the home of hip-hop—was forever altered by Grand Upright Music Ltd v Warner Bros Records, a federal court case. Grand Upright Music successfully argued that Biz Markie, a Warner artist, should not have taken a sample from the Gilbert O’Sullivan song “Alone Again (Naturally)”. Since then, American artists have had to seek permission from the copyright holders before using excerpts of a record (or take care to sample from records so obscure that no one will notice). The immediate effect was that songs built around samples became prohibitively expensive to make, but artists and producers soon found a way around the restrictions: they would simply recreate the relevant section of music with new musicians, paying the original songwriters for what was, in effect, a miniature cover version, but without having to pay a licence fee.

. . . .

With only 12 notes in a chromatic octave, the quest to find new ways to construct melodies in pop songs has become ever harder. And new songs are studied ever more closely for their resemblance to records of the past, even when they don’t rely on samples. Ms Perry was merely the latest artist at the centre of a copyright case. A controversial ruling in 2015 found that “Blurred Lines”, a hit song by Robin Thicke released in 2013, had plagiarised Marvin Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up”, released in 1977. The judgment seemed to be based primarily on the style of the songs, rather than any similarity in melody, harmony, rhythm or lyric. The five writers of “Oops Upside Your Head” (1979) now collect 17% of the publishing royalties of Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” (2014) after filing a legal action in 2015. Ed Sheeran settled a copyright infringement claim against him in 2017; Taylor Swift listed Right Said Fred as writers on her song “Look What You Made Me Do” as it made melodic reference to “I’m Too Sexy” (1991). The landscape of songwriting credits has been irrevocably altered.

Link to the rest at The Economist

Data-Mining Reveals That 80% of Books Published 1924-63 Never Had Their Copyrights Renewed and Are Now in the Public Domain

4 August 2019

From BoingBoing:

[T]here’s another source of public domain works: until the 1976 Copyright Act, US works were not copyrighted unless they were registered, and then they quickly became public domain unless that registration was renewed. The problem has been to figure out which of these works were in the public domain, because the US Copyright Office’s records were not organized in a way that made it possible to easily cross-check a work with its registration and renewal.

. . . .

Enter the New York Public Library, which employed a group of people to encode all these records in XML, making them amenable to automated data-mining.

Now, Leonard Richardson (previously) has done the magic data-mining work to affirmatively determine which of the 1924-63 books are in the public domain, which turns out to be 80% of those books; what’s more, many of these books have already been scanned by the Hathi Trust (which uses a limitation in copyright to scan university library holdings for use by educational institutions, regardless of copyright status).

Link to the rest at BoingBoing and thanks to HM for the tip.

PG notes that BoingBoing has a less than sterling reputation for accuracy in reporting, but thought the possibility that this item might be correct was interesting.

The Two Victims of Plagiarism

2 August 2019

From Plagiarism Today:

The narrative around plagiarism is often extemely simplified: There is a plagiarist and there is a victim.

It’s a simple and compelling narrative. There is a bad person that has stolen or lifted from a good person by using their work without the decency of at least giving them proper credit.

It’s a visceral and personal kind of theft, one that often feels more akin to identity theft than copyright infringement (which is the most common legal consequence, when there is one). Victims of plagiarism have every right to be angry and upset and society is right to throw support behind them.

However, simple narratives rarely tell the full story, especially with an issue as complicated and nuanced as plagiarism. Focusing as heavily as we do on the plagiarism direct victim not only misunderstands the nature of plagiarism, but risks giving a free pass to certain kinds of “victimless” plagiarism.

The truth is that there isn’t just one victim of most plagiarisms, there are two and it is time for that second victim to stand up and be heard. After all, they’re the ones being most directly lied to and the ones that may not realize they’re being misled at all.

. . . .

Plagiarism, at its most fundamental level, is a lie. It is the taking of works or ideas of others and passing them off as your own, either directly or indirectly. The misdeed itself is in the lie, the “I created this” when it is known to be untrue.

However, that lie isn’t being told to the original victim. It’s a lie about the victim, claiming that they didn’t create it or their contributions didn’t matter, but it’s not a lie to them. Instead, it’s a lie to the audience, which is the second victim and the actual target of the con.

A plagiarist doesn’t hope to fool their source. They know the source will recognize their work and plagiarists will often go to great lengths to hide their falsehoods from those they lifted from.

Instead, plagiarists attempt to fool the audience. They are trying to deceive whatever their target audience is whether that’s just one teacher in a classroom or the world at large. They are saying to that audience “I created this” and hoping that the audience trusts them and believes it even though it is untrue.

. . . .

There are two problems with putting so much emphasis on the original victim of plagiarism when discussing it:

  1. It ignores the intent of plagiarism. Plagiarists don’t aim to steal from others, but to fool an audience. They want to have created something without putting in the work. It was never about the victim.
  2. It excuses a wide variety of plagiarisms, even if the deception is exactly the same or even worse.

A good example is an essay mill. If a student buys a paper from an essay mill and submits it, the deception is the exact same as if they’d copied the paper from Wikipedia. The only difference is that the plagiarist went to much greater lengths to obtain the work and hide their misdeed. The plagiarism is no longer impulsive and stupid, but cold and calculating.

Yet, many ignore this or call it something other than plagiarism. The student is still presenting the work of someone else as their own. It doesn’t matter if the original author gives their approval, the fundamental lie is unchanged and there is still a very real victim.

. . . .

Expressions such as “Plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery” not only trivializes the act of plagiarism itself, but omits the fact, depending upon the nature of the plagiarism, many other people were likely lied to and deceived.

Link to the rest at Plagiarism Today

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