Copyright/Intellectual Property

Oculus lawsuit ends with half billion dollar judgment awarded to ZeniMax

1 February 2017
Comments Off on Oculus lawsuit ends with half billion dollar judgment awarded to ZeniMax

From Polygon:

A Dallas, Texas jury today awarded half a billion dollars to ZeniMax after finding that Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey, and by extension Oculus [a company now owned by Facebook], failed to comply with a non-disclosure agreement he signed.

In awarding ZeniMax $500 million, the jury also said that Oculus did not misappropriate trade secrets as contended by ZeniMax.

. . . .

It remains unclear what sort of impact this will have on the daily retail sale of the Oculus Rift headsets. Facebook is expected to announced its fourth-quarter earnings after the market closes today.

. . . .

The Zenimax versus Facebook trial kicked off in January with testimony from a number of experts and those involved directly in the case including id Software co-founder John Carmack, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Oculus co-founders Iribe and Palmer Luckey.

. . . .

During his day in court, Zuckerberg was grilled about his company’s seemingly rushed acquisition of Oculus for $2 billion. And during the first week of the trial, Carmack was questioned about his decision to copy some code from id Software computers before leaving the company to work at Facebook with Luckey.

. . . .

According to ZeniMax’s complaint, Oculus co-founder and Rift inventor Palmer Luckey — along with a half a dozen ex-ZeniMax employees who are now working at Oculus — are building the Rift based on years and millions of dollars’ worth of ZeniMax’s research and copyrighted code.

Link to the rest at Polygon

Industry, ISPs End Controversial “Six Strikes” Copyright Alert System

31 January 2017

From Consumerist:

Since the Napster era began in 1999, content creators and distributors have really, really hated it when you share their stuff online without paying up. Industry groups have tried many ways to stem the tide but one, a four-year-old cooperative alert system, is being scrapped after basically proving not to work.

Variety reports that the pact among internet service providers, movie and TV studios, and record labels that created the Copyright Alert System is being allowed to expire, and will not be renewed and the end of this particular system has come.

The Copyright Alert System (CAS) is also known as the “Six Strikes” program, because that’s how many warnings suspected infringers get.

If your ISP participates in Six Strikes, it first gives you two “educational” alerts when you are suspected of unlawfully sharing copyrighted material. After that come two “acknowledgement” alerts, that require you in some way to indicate you received and read them, and after that come two “mitigation” alerts, that can include throttling your connection speed, redirecting all of your browsing to a landing page that makes you acknowledge the warning on it, or other “minor consequences.”

. . . .

By Feb. 2014, one year later, Comcast was reportedly sending out 1,800 CAS notices per day to some of its millions of broadband subscribers. At most, if every single alert Comcast ever sent in the first year went to a different account-holder, roughly 3% of Comcast subscribers would have received one.

. . . .

Meanwhile, a court ruled in 2015 that an IP address is not enough information to identify someone as an actual file pirate: anyone using the network can show as coming from the same IP address.

Link to the rest at Consumerist

A Bounty Hunting Service for E-Book Piracy

30 January 2017

From Copyright and Technology:

We’ve been talking a lot here about blockchain applications for transaction processing in the music industry; in fact we had a panel on it at last week’s conference in NYC.  Yet the latest application of blockchain technology to the media industry, from Custos Media Technologies, has nothing to do with music or royalty transaction processing.  It has to do with e-books, and the application is copyright monitoring.  What does this have to do with blockchain?  It enables users to collect bounties for finding potentially infringing files, and the bounties are paid in Bitcoin.

Custos’s technology, which spun out of the MIH Media Lab at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, embeds unique watermarks in EPUB-formatted e-books.  It runs a watermark detection service that bounty hunters (yes, the company uses that term) can use to find watermarked files and report them, in return for a private key to a Bitcoin wallet.  When a file is reported, Custos returns the identity of the original purchaser to the e-book distributor, which can take legal action or whatever other steps it sees fit.

Custos’s COO Fred Lutz says that the solution is targeted “through online forums such as Reddit and Twitter” to “college-age users who are short on cash and long on time, and who are typically already involved in piracy communities.”

. . . .

Techniques used to embed invisible watermarks in e-books include things like embedding hidden data in illustrations, algorithmically altering content other than the actual substance of the book (such as text on a copyright page, index, or page header/footer), inserting non-printing characters, and using identifiers as input to kerning algorithms (for computing the spacing of characters in a line of text).  A worst-case solution to any of these techniques is to strip out everything except the actual text and basic markup (paragraph, chapter, bold, italic, etc.).

Custos addresses this by embedding multiple redundant watermarks in each e-book file using different types of techniques.  This way, though it’s possible for a hacker to strip out a watermark, the hacker can’t be confident that all of the watermarks have been removed.

Link to the rest at Copyright and Technology

Paul McCartney is suing Sony to finally obtain ownership of The Beatles’ catalog

19 January 2017

From COS:

Last March, it was reported that Paul McCartney had begun the process that would allow him to legally regain the rights to his portion of The Beatles’ catalog from Sony/ATV. Facing resistance from the music publishing company, McCartney has now filed a lawsuit in a New York court seeking a judgement affirming that he’ll regain ownership to the songs he co-wrote with John Lennon by the end of 2018.

McCartney is invoking the US Copyright Act of 1976 in his argument. The legislation allows for songwriters to reclaim copyrights 56 years after a legal transfer by filing a termination notice. With the earliest Lennon-McCartney compositions hitting that mark on October 18th, 2018, Macca has issued numerous such notices to Sony/ATV over the last decade. However, the company has refused to acknowledge his rights, hence the new lawsuit. “For years following service of the first Termination Notices, Defendants gave no indication to Paul McCartney that they contested the efficacy of Paul McCartney’s Termination Notices,” reads the complaint.

. . . .

For their [part], Sony may be hoping to employ a legal tactic currently being used against Duran Duran in a similar legal situation. In that case, an English court ruled that British interpretations of contract law supersede the US termination law. Essentially, if a British contract says an artist promises not to transfer its stake in a copyright, the artist can’t then try to issue a termination without breaching the original agreement.

. . . .

This whole mess started in the 1980s when McCartney famously advised Michael Jackson to invest in song publishing rights. Jackson then went out and bought ATV, which owned the Lennon-McCartney catalog. A decade late, Jackson agreed to a merger between ATV and Sony in which the latter gained half his stack. The publishing company acquired the other half from Jackson’s estate in early 2016.

Link to the rest at COS and thanks to Matthew for the tip.

Here’s a copy of the complaint:

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Copyright Vultures Are At It Again!

19 January 2017

From American Thinker:

The Copyright Industry, especially the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), and MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) have suppressed every form of innovation, and technology to protect their questionable rights.  In the 80s, they sued to stop video recorders, but were thankfully held back by the Supreme Court in the famous Betamax case.  The Media Industry forced manufacturers of blank cassettes, tapes, and CDs to pay a royalty to reimburse the industry because the blank recording media might be used to infringe copyright. That is right; your preacher’s sermon tapes actually were forced to subsidize Hollywood.

In 1998, the RIAA sued to stop the first portable Mp3 player, Diamond Rio, from being sold.

In 1999, they took down Napster, the breakthrough file sharing program upstart.  Then they cut a swath of destruction going after a plethora of file sharing services, with such vicious tactics as suing children who downloaded songs for unconscionable amounts of money.

Upping the outrage, they tried to gut the First Amendment with the SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act), which imperiled the whole Internet by making search engines and hosting companies liable for piracy that the technology companies had nothing to do with. Only when technology giants apprised Congress that technology produced more jobs than the media, did Congress back off. Temporarily!

In 2014, the RIAA considered suing Google for even listing sites that people could use to rip media.

. . . .

Hollywood media moguls are intent on preserving a dying business model. Worse yet, they expect technology companies to provide the technical expertise to protect their quasi-monopoly.  It is much cheaper to have Google, Microsoft, and Facebook pay programmers to fight piracy than the RIAA actually hiring programmers to come up with the technology themselves.

Then again, their incompetence in this area has been humiliating.

In an attempt to curb music piracy, major labels such as Sony started selling music CDs that have built-in “copy-proof” technology. The technology was meant to stop people from copying music from these discs onto recordable CDs or hard drives. There’s a fatal flaw in this technology, however, which allows you to bypass the copy protection with a simple marker pen, and a recent upsurge in Internet newsgroup talk about this flaw has brought it to light again.  — Geek (2002)

Link to the rest at American Thinker and thanks to Doug for the tip.

Case of ‘fattened’ Jorge Luis Borges story heads to court in Argentina

11 January 2017

From The Guardian:

One of the best-known stories by the Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges takes the form of a fake literary essay about a Frenchman who rewrites a section of Don Quixote word for word and is showered with praise for his daring.

It is probably safe to say that Borges’s 79-year-old widow, María Kodama – sole heir and literary custodian of his oeuvre – takes a dimmer view of such rewrites.

The novelist and poet Pablo Katchadjian is facing trial for “intellectual property fraud” after publishing a reworking of Borges’s 1945 story The Aleph. The Fattened Aleph – originally published by a small press in 2009 – extended Borges’s work from its original 4,000 words to 9,600.

Most of the alterations consist of the addition of adjectives and descriptive passages and do not change the original plot, which revolves around a “a small iridescent sphere” in a Buenos Aires basement, through which a person can see the entirety of creation.

. . . .

After five years, a court hearing has finally been set for 14 February, and the judge in the case appears to be leaning in Kodama’s favour. “The alteration of the text of the work by Borges is evident,” Judge Guillermo Carvajal stated in his ruling for a trial.

Kodama’s lawyer Fernando Soto dismissed Katchadjian’s claims that the work was a literary experiment. “Only Katchadjian’s name appears on the cover. It doesn’t say ‘The Aleph by Borges, altered by Katchadjian’. Borges is not mentioned in the index or the copyright page either. The only place Borges appears is in a brief postscript at the end of the text,” Soto said.

. . . .

Katchadjian has rarely spoken in public about the case (and did not respond to an interview request), but he did discuss it at at an event last year at the National Library in Buenos Aires.

“The Fattened Aleph is not plagiarism because no plagiarism is open about its source,” Katchadjian said. “Neither is it a joke that went wrong, or one that went right. It is a book I wrote based on a previous text.”

. . . .

Katchadjian’s laywer, Ricardo Strafacce, said he was confident the lawsuit would not prosper. “Legal forensic experts have already established that The Fattened Aleph is a new work of art. Secondly, the court will also take into account that there was no intent by Katchadjian to deceive the reader as to Borges’s authorship of the original The Aleph, which is clearly stated in Katchadjian’s book.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Defending Copyright on “A Summer Fling”

4 January 2017

From author Sarah Madison:

A lot of people have asked for the details surrounding my current copyright dilemma with Amazon. Here they are to the best of my recollection:

As you can see from the book cover and the banner at the head of this website, there has been a longtime connection between myself and A Summer Fling. It was originally titled Surf’s Up and is part of the 2011 Don’t Read in the Closet fest with the M/M Romance Group on Goodreads. It was a light frothy story written to a photo prompt and included in the anthology produced by the group.

In 2013, I edited the story and bundled it with a short story I’d written for the Just One Bite contest, using the fictional character Mikhail Frost created by my fictional author, Ryan McFarland. I thought it would be fun to put the two stories together–kind of like Rick Castle writing the Nikki Heat stories. I created a cover based on my website’s banner and submitted the new combination to Smashwords on July 28th, 2013. A short while later (the actual date is unclear–I can’t access it any longer on the websites in question), I submitted the story to Amazon and ARe. The story has largely been a permanent freebie ever since.

Over the weekend, I modified my bio within the story to include a link for my website. When I went to upload the new version on Amazon, I could no longer set the price to zero. I didn’t worry too much about it–I’d pulled it from Smashwords and ARe had folded. It was my intention to place it in KU (though in retrospect, its previous incarnations would prevent that) so I left the price as 99 cents and went on with my day.

That evening I received an email from Amazon. At first, I thought it was just a glitch, a red flag triggered by something I did in the update. But here’s the crucial statement that belies that:

“Prior to your submission, we received a notice and takedown for a book that matches to yours, from a third party claiming that the distribution of the book above was not properly authorized due to copyright infringement.”

So someone out there is ACTIVELY claiming this work belongs to them, not me, and though I provided Amazon with all the information they requested, it’s not good enough. Moreover, this attempt to snag the book took place prior to my making changes, so it isn’t that I did something to trigger a red flag. Someone is trying to steal it, but Amazon is laying the burden of proof on me and refusing to publish something that’s been on their website under my name for years. At least they are no longer threatening to ban me for life. I’ve asked for more information, but I have not heard back from them yet.

Process of elimination and the unethical behavior of All Romance Ebooks makes them the most likely suspect in my mind. Not just because they closed their doors with little warning, offering 10 cents on the dollar in owed royalties, but only if we promise not to take legal action. Not just because of the timing–within 24 hours of ARe’s closure. But because whoever this third party is laying claim to my story, they have a strong enough stance that Amazon is taking them seriously–despite my sending them all the information they requested to prove my copyright.

Link to the rest at Sarah Madison and thanks to P.D. for the tip.

Here’s a link to Sarah Madison’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Only one thing

3 January 2017

Only one thing is impossible for God: To find any sense in any copyright law on the planet.

Mark Twain

Facebook Faces Copyright Issues Amid Video Explosion

3 January 2017

From Copyright and Technology:

It’s fairly well established by now — thanks to court decisions like Viacom v. YouTube and UMG v. Veoh — that online service operators have no legal duty to proactively police their services for potential copyright infringement.  But that doesn’t mean that some services don’t do it anyway.  The biggest example is Google’s Content ID system for YouTube, which uses fingerprinting technology to flag uploads that contain copyrighted material.

The reason why Google implemented Content ID (in 2007) is simple: Google figured out a way to make money from it.  Copyright owners can choose to allow their content to be uploaded and take a share of revenue from ads that Google places in or alongside the video clips.  The major record companies participate in this arrangement for the vast majority of their content.  They aren’t thrilled with the per-stream revenue they are getting, but both sides agree that it’s better than having YouTube just block everything that matches.

Enter Facebook. Over the past couple of years, Facebook has become a bigger and bigger video-sharing service, one that is starting to rival YouTube in audience size and arguably exceed it in audience engagement.  This has led to “freebooting,” or capturing video streams from YouTube and re-posting them on Facebook.  And not just major record label or Hollywood studio content, but any popular YouTube video.

After a crescendo of complaints from native YouTube stars as well as the music industry, Facebook announced that it would be building a “Rights Manager” system based on the Audible Magic fingerprinting technology that it has been using for years to scan uploaded audio.  (YouTube also used Audible Magic before Content ID was implemented based on its own technology.)

Facebook’s Rights Manager allows copyright holders to “claim” their content and decide what they want Facebook to do with it.  Yet unlike Google’s Content ID, Rights Manager ultimately allows only two options: just allow the upload (and offer usage statistics to the copyright owner), or report it to the copyright owner as a potential violation.  There is no option to block the upload automatically.  Instead, rights holders must receive notices of matched content and then issue takedown notices to Facebook using Facebook’s DMCA process; then Facebook will “promptly remove those videos in response to valid reports.”

. . . .

The NMPA (National Music Publishers Association, the trade group for U.S. music publishers) has raised concerns about the growing amount of videos of cover versions of copyrighted songs (compositions) being uploaded on Facebook without licensing.  Recording a cover version of a song that’s in copyright normally requires a mechanical license from the music publisher.  Under the law, the publisher can’t refuse to grant the mechanical license, but the performing artist must notify the publisher (if the publisher is known), and the artist must pay a standard royalty.

This requires that Facebook detect cover versions of musical compositions.  Audible Magic can’t do that. Acoustic fingerprinting technology is good at matching recordings, but it’s not designed to match cover versions of compositions.

Link to the rest at Copyright and Technology

What Does Ownership Mean in the Digital Age?

22 December 2016

From Copyright and Technology:

When you hit a “buy” button on Amazon, iTunes, or another digital content retail service, do you actually own what you’ve paid money for?  If you look at most retailers’ terms of service, the answer is no: you are licensing it on some terms that the retailer sets, which usually don’t amount to ownership.  In their important new book, The End of Ownership: Personal Property in the Digital Economy, legal scholars Aaron Perzanowski and Jason Schultz assert that this is a problem, and that the law is the best way to solve it.

. . . .

[The book] raises this fundamental issue: as more and more objects in our daily lives incorporate software, and that software is conveyed to people under contract (license) and not ownership, we don’t really own those objects anymore.  Instead, we’re subject to limitations on our use and handling of those objects that are imposed by both law and technology.  DRM is the shorthand they use for that technology, even though some of it doesn’t fit the classic definition of DRM.

The authors take it as axiomatic that ownership is an important concept that needs to be preserved in the digital age — at least as a choice we can make when we obtain goods (physical or digital).  The book starts out with an explanation of the three types of property that the law recognizes: real property (like real estate), personal property, and intellectual property.  We have a longstanding intuitive grasp of these types of property; Perzanowski and Schultz explain how laws embody and facilitate that understanding.  They explain differences among these types of properties in terms of the balance of rights between owners and non-owners and, more importantly, what happens when you alienate (sell, give away, lend, or rent) your property.

The legal construct of exhaustion covers this.

. . . .

Perzanowski and Schultz say that it’s important to establish an ownership right in law, which should allow users to use and alienate digital property in any way they choose.  That includes interoperability across “walled gardens” like Amazon’s Kindle e-book or iTunes’s movie ecosystems as well as the right to resell files.

. . . .

Instead, their proposed solution is to create a law for digital first sale along the lines of current fair use law.  The fair use law (Section 107) contains four factors that a court should consider when deciding whether a copy that a defendant in a copyright litigation made is lawful. One of those factors is the effect that the use has on the market for the work being copied.  Similarly, Perzanowski and Schultz’s digital first sale law contains several test factors, one of which is whether the alienation affects the market for the work.  They point out that copyright law already sets exhaustion boundaries for music and software by preventing rental, lease, or lending.

Link to the rest at Copyright and Technology and thanks to Ruth for the tip.

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