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From Information Today:
For anyone interested in copyright, electronic databases, and freelance writers, there’s a new Canadian decision you should know about that promises to be a landmark case: Robertson v. Thomson Corp. [2001 O.J. No. 3868]. The case has not yet been reported in printed Canadian law reports, but a summary of the decision is available.
Robertson v. Thomson Corp. is a major Canadian copyright decision in a CDN $100 million class-action suit between Heather Robertson, on behalf of freelance authors, and Thomson Corp.; its electronic publishing affiliate, Information Access Co.; and The Globe and Mail newspaper (recently sold and now owned by Bell GlobeMedia). This is the first Canadian case to examine the ownership of—and the subsequent right to be compensated for the use of—articles by freelance writers in online databases . . .
The Canadian government is making select public comments on proposed modifications to the Copyright Act available - and the response appears to be overwhelmingly critical. A sample:
I am a student of Computer Science . . . a programmer, designer and user. I have been following the legal developments in our neighbour countries with respect to technological measures for preventing copyright infringement and I am dismayed to see our liberal country considering the adoption of such extreme concepts of copyright \"protection\" reinforcement.
I protest the planned legal reinforcement of such technological measures. As noted in the \'Consultation Paper on Digital Copyright Issues\', technological measures have failed in the past and are often a serious hindrance for legitimate users. Reinforcing technological measures with the law encourages corporations to ineffectively attempt to stall infringement at the expense of legitimate users. These users become forced to endure odious constraints and limitations on the private use of media they have legally purchased and copyrighted information they have licensed.
This story from AP reports on the recent court decision about online
access to some government docs. Federal criminal filings are no longer
\"Though court records remain publicly available on paper at
courthouses, they were deemed too public when it came to the Internet.
Existing surveillance measures are sufficient, the American Civil Liberties Union contends. Here is an excerpt from their statement that relates to patron confidentiality:
Under current law, a law enforcement agent can get a pen register or trap and trace order requiring the telephone company to reveal the numbers dialed to and from a particular phone. It must simply certify that the information to be obtained is \"relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation.\" This is a very low level of proof, far less than probable cause. The judge must grant the order upon receiving the certification. The new bill would extend this low threshold of proof to Internet communications that are far more revealing than numbers dialed on a phone. For example, it would apparently apply to law enforcement efforts to determine what websites a person had visited. This is like giving law enforcement the power - based only on its own certification -- to require the librarian to report on the books you had perused while visiting the public library. This is extending a low standard of proof -- far less than probable cause -- to \"content\" information (emphasis added.)
The Association of American Publishers is offering a reward for \"information leading to a criminal arrest, criminal conviction, civil fine, or other penalty in association with piracy of American books, journals, and other AAP member products.\"
More information is available here. To be fair, it remains to be seen how this will relate to electronic publishing and the DMCA, though AAP\'s statements to date do not bode well. Hats off as usual to Politech.
ALA\'s \"Q&A on the confidentiality and privacy of library records\" is available:
What guidance does the American Library Association give libraries regarding privacy and confidentiality?
The American Library Association encourages all librarians, particularly those in public libraries, to work with their local legal counsel to ensure they understand state confidentiality laws so they may respond quickly to any requests from law enforcement. Forty-eight of 50 states have such laws on the books, but the language varies from state to state. The ALA recommends that each library adopt a policy that specifically recognizes the confidentiality of information sought or received, and materials consulted borrowed or acquired by a library user. These materials may include database search records, circulation records, interlibrary loan records and other personally identifiable uses of library materials, facilities, programs or services, such as reference interviews. Libraries are advised to rely on existing laws to control behavior that involves public safety or criminal behavior.
Libraries should have in place procedures for working with law enforcement officers when a subpoena or other legal order for records is made. Libraries will cooperate expeditiously with law enforcement within the framework of state law.
Links to other relevant ALA documents, including the \"Policy Concerning Confidentiality of Personally Identifiable Information about Library Users\" are included.
It appears to require that computer manufacturers install government-approved filtering software on their equipment in a hamhanded attempt to prevent the exchange of private or copyrighted material:
The SSSCA and existing law work hand in hand to steer the market toward using only computer systems where copy protection is enabled. First, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act created the legal framework that punished people who bypassed copy protection -- and now, the SSSCA is intended to compel Americans to buy only systems with copy protection on by default . . .
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has issued a call to arms regarding proposed changes to the Copyright Act that mirror many provisions
of the DMCA:
Canadian citizens, and others, are urged to contact the Canadian government and express their opposition to legislation, similar to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in the U.S., that would outlaw circumvention of technological restrictions put in place by copyright holders. The Canadian government is accepting public comment until September 15, 2001 on its proposed \"Consultation Paper on Digital Copyright Issues\" which considers such measures. . . Canada is considering adopting anti-circumvention legislation in response to the World Intellectual Property Organization\'s (WIPO) 1996 Copyright Treaty. This treaty, however, does not require enacting national legislation that outlaws technology with many lawful uses. Given the dismal US experience with the DMCA, other countries should learn from and steer clear of the U.S. Congress\'s mistake.
This case tested just one provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and the DMCA failed.
Judge Robert J. Kelleher dismissed Hendrickson\'s request for damages from eBay, saying among other things that the copyright infringement actually occurred offline. Although it may facilitate the sale of pirated material, \"eBay does not have the right and ability to control such activity,\" a standard required by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the judge wrote.
Hopefully this will be the first in a long line of DMCA releated defeats.
What looks to be a very interesting article on the corrosive effects of emerging intellectual property laws on intellectual freedom:
One of the more confusing paradoxes of the Internet Era is that even as more information is becoming readily available than ever before, various commercial forces are converging to make information more scarce, or at least more expensive and amenable to strict market control. More than an oddity, this paradox may be an augury about the fate of the free information ecology that has long distinguished our democratic culture . . .