Intellectual Property

Judge Blocks the Potter Lexicon


News today that a ruling has been made in favor of author J.K. Rowling in her copyright infringement lawsuit against fan, Web site operator and former librarian, Steven VanderArk, who was set to publish a Potter encyclopedia. The judge found that the lexicon "appropriates too much of Rowling's creative work for its purposes as a reference guide."

U.S. District Judge Robert P. Patterson said Rowling had proven that Vander Ark's "Harry Potter Lexicon" would cause her irreparable harm as a writer. He permanently blocked publication of the reference guide and awarded Rowling and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. $6,750 in statutory damages.

From the Muskegon Chronical, the would-be Lexicon publishers response to the ruling. Says Roger Rapoport of RDR Books: "We are encouraged by the fact the Court recognized that as a general matter authors do not have the right to stop the publication of reference guides and companion books about literary works. As for the Lexicon, we are obviously disappointed with the result, and RDR is considering all of its options."

Lessons Learned After Twitter Blackout

Recently two librarians had their accounts torched by Twitter due to coming up in an anti-spam sweep. Their accounts were considered to have been false positives and it took time for access to be restored. Two librarians in particular, Connie Crosby and Patricia Anderson, were affected.

As an aid to others, Anderson has posted a lessons learned review. In light of the recent Gmail outage some lessons are worth considering in other contexts.

First It Was Song Downloads. Now It’s Organic Chemistry.

AFTER scanning his textbooks and making them available to anyone to download free, a contributor at the file-sharing site PirateBay.org composed a colorful message for “all publishers” of college textbooks, warning them that “myself and all other students are tired of getting” ripped off. (The contributor’s message included many ripe expletives, but hey, this is a family newspaper.)

All forms of print publishing must contend with the digital transition, but college textbook publishing has a particularly nasty problem on its hands. College students may be the angriest group of captive customers to be found anywhere.

Full story in the New York Times

Yahoo and The Dangers of DRM

This week, Yahoo Music e-mailed customers who purchased music from their site and let them know that as of September 30, 2008, Yahoo Music will go dark.

And they will take the DRM key servers down with it.

That means that anyone who legally purchased tunes through Yahoo Music will lose the right to transfer that music to other devices or computers, even though they paid for that right.

Microsoft's MSN Music sent a similar notice out earlier this year, but acquiesced to leaving the DRM servers online until 2011.

Once again, this truly provides food for thought for libraries signing up for content services who cripple their wares with DRM. When they decide to leave, they can take their toys with them. Unfortunately, they can also take your toys with them too.

Family Loses Narnia Web Name

For £70, a father bought his son a present, the web name www.narnia.mobi. The 11 year old is a huge fan of CD Lewis and he used the domain for his e-mail address.

Then the estate of CS Lewis demanded that they hand over the name and WIPO concurred.

More from the BBC.

Piracy of books on the increase, publishers start taking notice

The MPAA is taking a heavy hand with piracy, as is the RIAA, but that only covers audio and video. What about books?

According to book publishers the threat of piracy from illegally downloaded text books is growing. Rather than students spending as much as US$100 per book to get the texts they need, they are turning to the Internet to download scanned versions for free.

Full article here.

U.S. copyright renewal records available for download

For U.S. books published between 1923 and 1963, the rights holder needed to submit a form to the U.S. Copyright Office renewing the copyright 28 years after publication. In most cases, books that were never renewed are now in the public domain. Estimates of how many books were renewed vary, but everyone agrees that most books weren't renewed. If true, that means that the majority of U.S. books published between 1923 and 1963 are freely usable.

How do you find out whether a book was renewed? You have to check the U.S. Copyright Office records. Records from 1978 onward are online (see http://www.copyright.gov/records) but not downloadable in bulk. The Copyright Office hasn't digitized their earlier records, but Carnegie Mellon scanned them as part of their Universal Library Project, and the tireless folks at Project Gutenberg and the Distributed Proofreaders painstakingly typed in every word.

Thanks to the efforts of Google software engineer Jarkko Hietaniemi, we've gathered the records from both sources, massaged them a bit for easier parsing, and combined them into a single XML file available for download here.

Twitter Scooped NBC on Russert's Death

In the world of broadcast news, it's normally a given courtesy that, when a well known news personality dies, the station they worked for will be the first to break the news after the family has been notified. It's one of the unwritten rules of journalism.

In the case of beloved NBC newsman Tim Russert, Twitter scooped the massive network on the big story.

Turns out that a minor lackey at the station heard the news and, assuming it was public knowledge, edited Russert's Wikipedia page to reflect the death. Someone at the station caught it, which makes me wonder who they pay to watch Wikipedia, and changed it back some eleven minutes later.

Too late.

By the time they made the changes, the story was already out on Twitter.

The Associated Press to Set Guidelines for Using Its Articles in Blogs

The Associated Press, one of the nation’s largest news organizations, said that it will, for the first time, attempt to define clear standards as to how much of its articles and broadcasts bloggers and Web sites can excerpt without infringing on The A.P.’s copyright.

The A.P.’s effort to impose some guidelines on the free-wheeling blogosphere, where extensive quoting and even copying of entire news articles is common, may offer a prominent definition of the important but vague doctrine of “fair use,” which holds that copyright owners cannot ban others from using small bits of their works under some circumstances. For example, a book reviewer is allowed to quote passages from the work without permission from the publisher.

Full article here.

Discovering the Undiscovered Public Domain

The University of Michigan has begun a project to determine the copyright status of books in it's collection, as described in John Wilkin's blog post.

"At Michigan we're engaged in an activity that I hope will one day seem ordinary and a routine part of library work. Resources from several departments are devoted to determining the copyright status of works typically presumed to be in copyright. For now, we're focusing on US monographic imprints (books, that is) published between 1923 and 1963, but plan to turn our attention to non-US publications in the future. "

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