Intellectual Property

Ethics of Database Use

An anonymous patron pointed out this New York Times Magazine Column "The Ethicist" (second entry) about sharing library database passwords. In this case a university library user's password was offered a non-enrolled high school sibling. The Ethicist concludes that each "user must pay his or her fair share." Most university library database contracts provide for public access from within the library, however. This issue also comes up with serving non-affiliated users via consortial virtual reference systems.

Lawmakers to Weigh Database Protection Bill

Slashdot points to This Reuters article that says Lawmakers in the House of Representatives are circulating a proposed bill that would prevent wholesale copying of school guides, news archives and other databases which do not enjoy copyright protection.

The proposed bill would provide a legal umbrella for publishers of factual information, such as courtroom decisions and professional directories, similar to the copyright laws that protect music, novels and other creative works.

"Information, when not copyrighted, is something that can be shared. Once you start putting fences around information ... there's no freedom of inquiry, That doesn't make us smarter, it makes us dumber."

Copywrongs.org launches with free blog offer to RIAA targets

There aren't any blogs yet at Copywrongs.org, but it's any interesting concept.

"Copywrongs.org is a clearinghouse and connection point for individuals who are the subjects of P2P-related copyright enforcement actions, and a place for the public to learn first-hand about what's going on. Our first project is to offer blogs to all who have been subjected to digital copyright enforcement actions, particularly those who have been caught in the avalanche of RIAA music-trading subpoenas that began in July."

Madness Tribute Copyright Dispute

Yet another example from the topsy-turvy world of copyright, where emulating your pop culture heros gets you slapped with a law suit.

"A Madness tribute band has been told to pay £500 for copying the original group's famous walk during concerts.

On top of that, Ultimate Madness also faces having to pay a further £100 any time it uses the 20-second dance in future performances.""

Here's the full story.
[via Peter]

A Call for Stories in Support of a Robust Public Domain

Public Knowledge, Creative Commons, and The Center for the Study of the Public Domain are collaborating on a public-education campaign that will highlight the struggles of creators with intellectual property law. They are collecting stories of citizens who are hampered by restrictive intellectual property laws. If you have a personal story of copyright, trademark or patent laws needlessly hindering your work and ideas, they want to hear from you. Conversely, if your work has benefited from the availability of art and information in the public domain, they want to know about it.

Not sure Why the Public Domain Matters?

The Copyright Cage

Jonathan Zittrain, Assistant Professor for Entrepreneurial Legal Studies at Harvard Law School, has written The Copyright Cage an article that looks at copyright law.
He says almost all those who study and write about the law of cyberspace agree that copyright law is a big mess. He adds it's time for us to wise up and to redraw copyright's boundaries so that the law and reasonable public expectations fall into better alignment with one another.Via Slashdot.

Patent Bending

Here's a quick but interesting little piece from the recent New Yorker.
Here's an extended quote to pique your interest:

Innovators came up with new ways of selling products, handling suppliers, running organizations, or managing information. If the ideas were good, the innovators got rich, but they also got imitated, which made them less rich than they might have been. It was great for everyone else, though. The competition lowered prices and increased quality; the new ideas spread and were improved upon. The mail-order catalogue, the moving assembly line, the decentralized corporation, the frequent-flier mile, the category-killer store—none of these radical ideas were patented.

Those were the days. Now the first thing someone with a good notion does is press the government to protect it. Priceline patented its reverse-auction method for selling cut-rate airline tickets. I.B.M. patented a method for keeping track of people waiting in line for the bathroom.

The article has a tone and slant that many of us will appreciate. It places emphasis on the fact that the ownership of information and ideas isn't beneficial to the majority. It doesn't, however, go so far as to mention how our current economic system is quite distant to laissez faire Capitalism (and more like Corporate Socialism) becasue of copyright, IP, and other issues. /my opinion

Here's the article.

'Political nightmare' awaits Libs on National Archives bill

Some not so Encouraging News out of Canada, where The bill to amalgamate the National Archives and the Library of Canada moved one step closer to law last week -- complete with controversial proposed changes to the Copyright Act that would extend copyright protection for unpublished works for as long as 42 years after death.
They say what was supposed to be a simple housekeeping bill could turn into a political nightmare for the Liberals when the House resumes next fall now that committee members from both government and opposition sides of the table are claiming that Parliamentary Secretary Carole-Marie Allard (Laval East, Que.) broke a promise to remove the contentious copyright changes at clause-by-clause reading.

Harry Potter and the International Order of Copyright

Tim Wu, writer over over at Slate takes on the aggressive worldwide legal campaign against the unauthorized Potter takeoffs in This Article.
It began last year when Rowling and Time-Warner threatened the publishers of Chinese Potter, who agreed to stop publication. On April 4 of this year, Rowling persuaded a Dutch court to block the import of Tanya Grotter to Holland. Harry Potter in Calcutta, in which Harry meets up with various characters from Bengali literature, was recently pulled by its Indian publisher under threat. Potter takeoffs have become international contraband.

Expanding the Public Domain

Anne Karle-Zenith writes "Check It Out!

Bravo to Representatives Lofgren and Doolittle from California, who introduced this bill yesterday. This is an important issue that more information professionals need to be aware of and hopefully, get involved with. As a former music business employee, I am only too aware of how powerful copyright holders are on Capital Hill. This is our chance to speak out. I encourage everyone on this list to read up on this issue, sign the petition and write to your Representatives in support of this bill! "

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