Copyright

Google Wins Victory in Row With German Publishers

24 August 2014

from re/code:

A German regulator handed Google a victory on Friday as it said it would not pursue a complaint brought against the Internet search engine operator by a group of publishers for giving users access to their news articles.

Several publishers including Axel Springer SE and Burda had banded together in a group called VG Media to demand Google pay them for making their online articles available to the public.

“Sufficient suspicion is always necessary to initiate an abuse procedure. The complaint from VG Media did not establish this,” Andreas Mundt, president of Germany’s Federal Cartel Office, said in a statement on Friday.

Link to the rest at re/code and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

US officials say monkey selfies can’t be copyrighted

22 August 2014

From Engadget:

Here’s a friendly tip for all wildlife photographers out there: don’t let mischievous monkeys (and other jungle animals) push the shutter button in your stead. The U.S. Copyright Office just released a new public draft of its compendium of practices, and in it, the agency clearly states that it will only recognize original works created by human beings. This new section’s first example of works it cannot register? “A photograph taken by a monkey.” 

Link to the rest at Engadget and thanks to Joshua for the tip.
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Standing Against Plagiarism

7 August 2014

From author Rachel Anne Nunes:

My life was torn apart this weekend when it came to light that an anonymous author on the Internet, who is known only by a logo and a fake name, had plagiarized my novel, A Bid for Love (formerly entitled Love to the Highest Bidder), which is the first of a trilogy.

. . . .

I finished my novel in late 1996, and it first came out in August 1998. It was actually the second novel accepted by my publisher, but they made me write two sequels to my first novel before they released A Bid for Love (then called Love to the Highest Bidder).

After being advised of infringement on my copyright, I waited a few days to see if Mullens would explain herself. When she didn’t, I searched for her email and sent off a direct message, asking for an explanation and the ARC, in the hopes of verifying that it wasn’t copied. I also sent a few of the reviewers a query asking them to either read my novel to verify if what I’d heard was true or to send me an ARC.

. . . .

[A] follow up from the same reviewer: Rachel I have had quick skim through your story A Bid For Love and I agree that your concerns are warranted. The similarities between The Auction Deal and A Bid for Love are too many for me not to conclude that The Auction Deal may not be an original work.

Reviewer #2: I received an email today stating the author cancelled the book tour, this may be why. I don’t mind reading your book and letting you know if it seems plagiarized to me . . . I am sure this is why the tour was unexpectedly cancelled, this promoter doesn’t even have an explanation.

. . . .

Reviewer #3: Hi Rachel. I have to tell you that at first I blew off this message . . . I then looked up your book and realized that they seem very similar. The author has since stated that she will not be publishing “her” book. I am going to remove my review of The Auction Deal. I am terribly saddened that your book has been plagiarized. You have a great story. I do have to say that I read this authors first two books and this one was nothing like the first two, I was surprised but thought maybe she had expanded her writing. Anyways I will be removing the review.

. . . .

When Mullens heard of my contacting the reviewers directly, she immediately requested that all the reviewers delete the ARC.

Link to the rest at Rachel Anne Nunes and thanks to Sariah for the tip.

Here’s a link to Rachel Anne Nunes’ books

Just another monkey-copyright story

7 August 2014

From The Washington Post:

I posted a short article about a peculiar little copyright dispute involving a picture of a macaque monkey that had allegedly been snapped by the monkey itself (using a camera that the monkey had pilfered from the tent belonging to David Slater, a noted wildlife photographer):

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I wrote then:

The photo bears a copyright notice: “Copyright Caters News Service.” Raising the odd but interesting question: who assigned the copyright to the Caters News Service? Slater? Perhaps, but that can’t be a valid assignment, for the simple reason that he doesn’t own the copyright just because his camera was used to snap the photo.

That leaves the monkey.

The question is not an entirely ridiculous one — well, OK, it is a ridiculous one, but it is at least closely related to some very difficult and interesting copyright questions concerning the requirement (if there is one) that human creativity is a requirement for copyright to exist in a work of authorship — questions that come up in contexts ranging from the ridiculous (creations by psychics ostensibly “channeling” voices from beyond the grave, animal creations — monkey photos, elephant drawings, chimpanzee-created music) to the more sublime (the copyright status of works “authored” by computer programs or Artificial Intelligence engines).

. . . .

In the recently-released transparency report issued by the Wikimedia Foundation, it appears that David Slater, the owner of the ill-fated camera, has asked Wikipedia to take down the photograph from its site on the grounds that it infringes his rights in the photo. Wikipedia apparently declined – not (as some have reported) because it has decided that the monkey owns the copyright, but because it has decided that nobody owns the copyright in the photo.

Link to the rest at The Washington Post

Another Legal Victory Keeps Sherlock Holmes In The Public Domain

5 August 2014

From io9:

Last year, a federal judge ruled that Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are no longer covered by U.S. copyright law. But, the Conan Doyle Estate continued its litigation — and today, another federal judge issued a blistering statement, saying that the estate might also be violating anti-trust laws.

“The Case of the Greedy Estate” is a story in three parts. First, in 2013, editor Leslie Klinger filed a complaint against the Conan Doyle Estate regarding an anthology of new Sherlock Holmes stories. The estate had threatened to block sales of the anthology unless it received a licensing fee for the use of elements of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories.

. . . .

Then, in Part II of our saga, 7th Circuit Judge Richard Posner rejected an appeal made by the estate, concluding in June 2014 that, “The spectre of perpetual, or at least nearly perpetual, copyright … looms, once one realizes that the Doyle estate is seeking 135 years (1887–2022) of copyright protection for the character of Sherlock Holmes as depicted in the first Sherlock Holmes story.”

. . . .

And then came the real zinger: that the Doyle estate could be in violation of U.S. anti-trust laws:

We note finally that the estate was playing with fire in asking Amazon and other booksellers to cooperate with it in enforcing its nonexistent copyright claims against Klinger. For it was enlisting those sellers in a boycott of a competitor of the estate, and boycotts of competitors violate the anti-trust laws. The usual boycott is of a purchaser by his suppliers, induced by a competitor of the purchaser in order to eliminate competition from that purchaser…..This case is different, in its facts but not in economic substance or legal relevance, because the boycotters enlisted by the Doyle estate were buyers from the victim, rather than sellers to it. But functionally they were suppliers—suppliers of essential distribution services to Klinger.

“It’s time the estate, in its own self-interest, changed its business model,” concluded Posner.

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

Wattpad Expands Creative Commons Options Enabling Fan Fiction

23 July 2014

From Galleycat:

Digital writing community Wattpad is making it easier for writers to make their work available to be the basis of fan fiction. The social network has expanded its Creative Commons licensing option to level 4.0, which essentially means that they are giving writers more options to rework and remix the work of other writers.

. . . .

“The biggest question facing new writers today isn’t how to protect their work; it’s how to find a readership for it,” stated Doctorow. “It makes complete sense that so many Wattpad writers are gravitating toward Creative Commons licenses: by giving others permission to share your writing, you can open doors to new audiences and new creative opportunities.”

Link to the rest at Galleycat and thanks to AD for the tip.

Dutch court lets ebook reseller stay online

22 July 2014

From PC World:

Dutch publishers have failed in their efforts to immediately close down ebook reselling site Tom Kabinet.

The Amsterdam District Court ruled Monday that the reseller can stay in business, after the Dutch Publishers Association (DPA) filed a preliminary case at the beginning of July to urgently close the site for copyright infringement.

Tom Kabinet offers a platform that it says lets users legally sell used ebooks. Sellers have to declare they obtained their copies legally and agree to delete their versions when a sale is made. While the service has no way to verify whether a copy is legal or whether copies were deleted by their original owners, it does add a water mark to the ebook before it is sold in order to track down possible illegal distribution.

Tom Kabinet argued that its activities are legal under a 2012 ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) that permitted the trading of “used” software licenses.

Link to the rest at PC World

Sherlock Holmes and the mystery of copyright

21 July 2014

From SCOTUSblog:

Are Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson still under a legal cloak (or cape, if you will) of copyright law?  The Supreme Court may have to solve that mystery, to decide a new legal plea filed Tuesday by the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the Scottish creator of that fictional detective and his far less colorful companion.

The estate has been attempting to block a California lawyer and Holmes fancier, Leslie S. Klinger, from publishing a new book about the two characters unless he is willing to get a license from the estate and pay a fee.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit rejected the estate’s copyright claim, calling it “quixotic.”

. . . .

At this point, the Doyle estate is only seeking a delay of the Seventh Circuit’s ruling, until it can file a petition for review of the decision itself.  The Seventh Circuit refused a stay on July 9.  But to deal with the application, the Court will have to decide whether the legal claim has any chance of ultimately succeeding and decide who might be hurt if a stay is, or is not, issued..

Doyle has been dead for eighty-four years, but because of extensions of copyright terms, ten of his fifty-six short stories continue to be protected from copying.

. . . .

The Doyle estate, though, is pressing a quite unusual copyright theory.  It contends that, since Doyle continued to develop the characters of Holmes and Watson throughout all of the stories, the characters themselves cannot be copied even for what Doyle wrote about them in the works that are now part of the public domain and thus ordinarily would be fair game for use by others.

. . . .

After the estate said that it would use its connections with Amazon.com and others to see that the new book did not get distributed, and added that it might sue for copyright violation, Klinger sued the estate in federal court to get the copyright issue settled.

In its ruling in mid-June, the Seventh Circuit found that nothing in the planned new volume will touch upon what Doyle wrote about his characters in the final ten stories that remain protected.  With its focus on those characters in the earlier, and no longer protected works, the new volume did not violate any of the estate’s copyrights, the court of appeals decided.

. . . .

That is the ruling that the estate is planning to appeal to the Supreme Court.   Its main argument is that, if other authors may exploit the Holmes and Dr. Watson characters, that “will stifle the estate’s ability to manage the Sherlock Holmes character’s further promotion and development through licensing agreements at a time when Sherlock Holmes movies and television shows are more popular than ever.”

Link to the rest at SCOTUSblog

HarperCollins digital direct platform has a problem: Free Narnia now!

2 July 2014

From TeleRead:

As reported earlier in TeleRead, HarperCollins launched its direct-to-consumer ebook sales platform, co-authored with Accenture, with C.S. Lewis and Narnia as its flagship media properties, in October 2013 in the form of the C.S. Lewis.com and Narnia.com websites. But that brave attempt at an end-run around Amazon and Smashwords has hit one little snag – C.S. Lewis’s works are now out of copyright in Canada and elsewhere, and the Narnia series is now available for free in its entirety from the Project Gutenberg Canada website.

“Find out how fans of C.S. Lewis are celebrating the life of this much-loved author 50 years after his death,” crows the banner on the HarperCollins Narnia.com website. Well, obviously Lewis fans at Project Gutenberg Canada celebrated by digitizing the entire Narnia series and putting it online, in HTML, text format, and very respectable-looking EPUB editions.

. . . .

Perhaps HarperCollins calculated that it could counter an inevitable dropoff in ebook sales of Narnia books with a strong promotional and branding effort, especially for markets with a longer copyright term than Canada and Australia’s 50 years. This is pure speculation, though.

Link to the rest at TeleRead

Supreme Court Rules Against Aereo in Broadcasters’ Challenge

25 June 2014

From USA Today:

The Supreme Court blocked an innovative Internet streaming service Wednesday from potentially upending the way Americans watch television.

The justices sided 6-3 with the nation’s major TV networks and cable companies against Aereo, an Internet startup that rebroadcasts live programs to subscribers without paying retransmission fees.

. . . .

Aereo had argued that it differed from cable and satellite services because each subscriber is assigned an individual, dime-sized antenna, often stored on rooftop circuit boards. But a majority of justices saw those antennas as just a way around copyright laws.

“Aereo’s system is, for all practical purposes, identical to a cable system,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the majority. “Both use their own equipment. Both receive broadcast television programs, many of which are copyrighted. Both enable subscribers to watch those programs virtually as they are being broadcast.”

In making their limited ruling against Aereo, the justices stressed that new technologies such as cloud computing should not feel constrained. During oral arguments in April, Aereo’s attorney, David Frederick, said “the cloud-computing industry is freaked out about this case.”

“We believe that resolution of questions about cloud computing, remote storage DVRs, and other novel matters not now before us should await a case in which they are clearly presented,” Breyer said.

Link to the rest at USA Today and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

PG thought Aero had done a masterful job of designing its system around copyright law as construed in prior Supreme Court opinions but, obviously, he (along with three Supreme Court justices) was wrong.

The case does illustrate one way of responding to disruptive technology – having it declared illegal.

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