Intellectual Property

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. "

Bits, Bands and Books

In his New York Times column, Paul Krugman reflects on the the digitization of everything and how this will change the economics of publishing as we know it.

"Basically, the Kindle’s lightness and reflective display mean that it offers a reading experience almost comparable to that of reading a traditional book. This leaves the user free to appreciate the convenience factor: the Kindle can store the text of many books, and when you order a new book, it’s literally in your hands within a couple of minutes.

It’s a good enough package that my guess is that digital readers will soon become common, perhaps even the usual way we read books.

How will this affect the publishing business? Right now, publishers make as much from a Kindle download as they do from the sale of a physical book. But the experience of the music industry suggests that this won’t last: once digital downloads of books become standard, it will be hard for publishers to keep charging traditional prices. "

Little Orphan Artworks

Op-ed by Lawrence Lessig in the New York Times:

CONGRESS is considering a major reform of copyright law intended to solve the problem of “orphan works” — those works whose owner cannot be found. This “reform” would be an amazingly onerous and inefficient change, which would unfairly and unnecessarily burden copyright holders with little return to the public.

Full op-ed here.

Libraries: Eliminate DRM!

Hey Hey Ho Ho This DRM Has Got To Go! DefectiveByDesign asks you to send a message to all libraries that they too should respect their patrons' freedom, and urges you to sign their open letter. To take action against your local library, they urge you to customize a letter from the template.

Calls Needed TODAY to HOUSE JUDICIARY SUBCOMMITTEE Opposing “Dark Archive” Provision of Orphan Works Act

The American Association of Law Libraries on their "Washington Blawg" has the following appeal: Take Action! Calls Needed TODAY to HOUSE JUDICIARY SUBCOMMITTEE Opposing “Dark Archive” Provision of Orphan Works Act


Copyright and the World's Most Popular Song

Copyright and the World's Most Popular Song: Happy Birthday to You" is the best-known and most frequently sung song in the world. Many - including Justice Breyer in his dissent in Eldred v. Ashcroft - have portrayed it as an unoriginal work that is hardly worthy of copyright protection, but nonetheless remains under copyright. Yet close historical scrutiny reveals both of those assumptions to be false. The song that became "Happy Birthday to You," originally written with different lyrics as "Good Morning to All," was the product of intense creative labor, undertaken with copyright protection in mind. However, it is almost certainly no longer under copyright, due to a lack of evidence about who wrote the words; defective copyright notice; and a failure to file a proper renewal application.

Stealing via the internet is like stealing a kiss.

I was reading the Patent,Trademark, and Copyright Journal and there is a story today titled "Indian Film Maker Faults Failure To Address Counterfeit Movie Sales in U.S.". The gist of his argument is that a massive amount of Indian films are pirated in the U.S. and that just like Hollywood is cracking down in India, Bollywood needs to crack down here. I did some quick reading about the film maker Bobby Bedi and found that he presented a paper to WIPO (WORLD INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ORGANIZATION). The paper has many of the arguments that were discussed in the Patent, Trademark, and Copyright Journal article.

It also has some great quotes:
"At the end of the day, the creative space is an emotional
space and if ever there is a solution to the piracy issue it will be emerge out of emotion and passion, not technology and logic."

There is a “Robin Hood” in all of us that believes that it is less of a crime to steal from the rich than it is to steal from the poor. We think we are stealing from limo driving, red carpet walking stars, not the two hundred people who helped create the IP and still struggle to make ends meet.

Stealing via the internet is like stealing a kiss. “There’s plenty more there, isn’t it?”.

You can read his full report here. (And you can see the quotes in context, which is important)

A new kind of pirated books

A shiny new $100 book features the contents of an art blog, including interviews with assorted illustrators and reproductions of their work. The book publishers, however, have no affiliation with the blog nor the artists. They simply "scraped" and printed the work. And, of course, are not sharing the proceeds.

BBC wins battle over Dalek book

A BBC book about Doctor Who's legendary foes the Daleks has been cleared of infringing copyright in London.

The case was brought by publishers JHP, who printed four books with stories by Dalek creator Terry Nation in the 60s.

Harry Potter case illustrates blurry line in copyright law

In short, by deciding to sell his material, Vander Ark was stepping across a line. He was no longer just an enthusiastic fan, but a professional and potential competitor — fair game for the lawyers.

The question now for the courts is whether the lexicon itself violates copyright law, and the decision may not be easy.

U.S. rules allow for the "fair use" of copyrighted material in unauthorized works, but there are limits. Journalists may quote from films and books when writing a review. Scholars can use excerpts from a novel while penning an author's biography.

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