Legal Issues

Authors Guild Petitions Supreme Court to Rule on Google Copying Millions of Books Without Permission

Today, the Authors Guild, the nation’s largest and oldest society of professional writers, filed a petition with the Supreme Court of the United States requesting that it review a lower court ruling that allowed Google, Inc. to copy millions of copyright-protected books without asking for authors’ permission or paying them. At stake, the Guild claims, is the right of authors to determine what becomes of their works in the digital age. Read the full press release here.

From Authors Guild Petitions Supreme Court to Rule on Google Copying Millions of Books Without Permission - The Authors Guild

'Mein Kampf' Enters Public Domain; Arguably, Anne Frank's Diary May, Too

It's been more than 70 years since the end of the Holocaust, but by a fluke of fate — and international copyright law — two stark reminders of the genocide may be entering the public domain in Europe on Friday. Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler's anti-Semitic manifesto, sees its European copyright expire after Dec. 31; so too for Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl, according to several French activists.

http://goo.gl/KTo9i5 (NPR)

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‘Happy Birthday’ Copyright Case Reaches a Settlement

After more than two years of litigation, “Happy Birthday to You” — often called the most popular song in the world, but one that has long been under copyright — is one step closer to joining the public domain.

From ‘Happy Birthday’ Copyright Case Reaches a Settlement - The New York Times

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Librarians and privacy advocates ally to condemn cybersecurity bill

US librarians have joined with a host of civil liberties groups to condemn a cybersecurity bill now passing through Congress they claim will be both “unhelpful” and “dangerous to Americans’ civil liberties”.

From Librarians and privacy advocates ally to condemn cybersecurity bill | US news | The Guardian

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How the TPP Will Affect Libraries, Archives, and Museums

Libraries, Archives, and Museums

Excessive copyright terms harm the availability of books, photographs, and all creative works in the public domain. It also worsens the orphan works problem, when obtaining permission to use works is impossible because the rightsholder is unknown, deceased, or is nowhere to be found, and so preserving or archiving copies of them could be legally risky.
Heavy penalties for infringement, in the form of pre-established statutory damages that are not connected to the actual harm from infringement, chills preservation and archival efforts, where copying or changing the format of existing works is already legally risky.
Research and quotation can be hampered by bans on circumventing DRM on books or other kinds of digital content, and also limit the availability of digital works
Despite explicit exception for libraries and museums, a ban on tools for circumvention limits their ability to take advantage of it because they often lack the knowledge or tools to do so.
Weak exceptions and limitations language gives no incentive for countries to give legal certainty to activities of libraries, archives, and museums that involve technical acts of copying or DRM circumvention—such as enabling the use of copyrighted works for research and quotation, preservation, and copying material for educational purposes.

From How the TPP Will Affect You and Your Digital Rights | Electronic Frontier Foundation

New copyright law in Poland heralds new era for libraries

The new Polish Copyright Act [link in Polish] enters into force on 20th November 2015 bringing library services in Poland into the twenty-first century.

Major new provisions enabling digitization for socially beneficial purposes, such as education and preservation of cultural heritage, are the centrepiece for libraries of the new law.

The law also implements a European Directive enabling the use of orphan works (in-copyright works where the copyright holder cannot be identified or found to obtain permission), and an EU Memorandum of Understanding on the use of works that are no longer commercially available. In addition, the introduction of public lending right is limited to works in public libraries.

From New copyright law in Poland heralds new era for libraries | EIFL

TPP's Copyright Trap

One of the defining battles in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations is whether its signatory countries will standardize copyright terms lengths to a minimum term of the life of the author plus 70 years. This would effectively set the maximum duration of copyright holders' monopoly rights to over 140 years. This is the demand from rightsholder groups such as the RIAA and MPAA who advise the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). A precedent for such a provision has been set in previous Free Trade Agreements with countries like Australia and Singapore.

From TPP's Copyright Trap | Electronic Frontier Foundation

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Official Release of TPP Text Confirms Massive Loss to Canadian Public Domain

Unchanged from the leaked text is the confirmation of the extension of the term of copyright to life of the author plus an additional 70 years. This marks a 20 year extension in the term of copyright, dealing a massive blow to access to Canadian heritage and resulting in hundreds of millions in cost.  For example, there are 22 Governor-General award winning fiction and non-fiction authors whose work will not enter the public domain for decades.  These include Margaret Laurence, Gabrielle Roy, Marian Engel, Marshall McLuhan, and Donald Creighton.

From Official Release of TPP Text Confirms Massive Loss to Canadian Public Domain - Michael Geist

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'Fair Use in the US Economy' (2010)

PDF of a report from 2010:

This report employs the latest data available to answer a very important
question: what contribution is made to our economy by industries that
depend on the limitations to copyright protection when engaged in
commerce? As this report shows, such industries make a huge contribution.
In an era of highly competitive markets for information goods and
services, changes to the boundaries of copyright protection will alter
the economic landscape. Broader regulation of economic activity by
copyright might encourage additional creativity, but it will deter certain
types of technology innovation, and may undermine competition and
free expression. Our information policy must therefore balance the
incentives that IP regulation creates against the disincentives that
result. For 300 years, copyright law has recognized this fragile balance.

From Wired.com PDF [PDF]

Release of the Full TPP Text After Five Years of Secrecy Confirms Threats to Users’ Rights

Now that we finally have the final text of this agreement, we'll be digging deeper into the implications of this sprawling agreement in the days and weeks to come. However, if there's one thing we can take away from this, it's that the TPP's secretive, lobbyist-controlled policymaking process has led to a deal that upholds corporate rights and interests at the direct expense of all of our digital rights. We’re going to do all we can to ensure this agreement never gets ratified by the United States Congress or any other country that is a party to this deal. To do so, government officials need to hear from us loud and clear that we won’t stand by and let them trade away our rights to powerful multinational corporations.

From Release of the Full TPP Text After Five Years of Secrecy Confirms Threats to Users’ Rights | Electronic Frontier Foundation

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