Legal Issues

Making Laws More Public

Carl Malamud, government transparency advocate and president of public.resource.org believes safety standards should be easily accessible to all citizens for free. Yet many of these standards -- from the design of bicycle helmets to water treatment components to hazmat suits – are the copyrighted creation of the industry organizations that have promulgated them. So Malamud has ponied up the dough to purchase exactly 73 of these standards, which he will publish online, copyright or no copyright.

Full piece

The DOJ E-Book Lawsuit: Is It 1934 All Over Again?

The DOJ E-Book Lawsuit: Is It 1934 All Over Again?

Essay at NPR

The next cyber security bill is even worse than SOPA

The next cyber security bill is even worse than SOPA
Just when you thought it was safe to go out on the InterWebs comes a new effort by Congress to put a snoop on every cellphone and two spies in every cable modem. Contrary to what you may have read, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act is not SOPA II. But in many ways, it's worse.

Justice Dept. Sues Apple and Publishers Over E-Book Pricing; 3 Publishers Settle

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., center, leads a news conference describing a lawsuit in which the Justice Department charges Apple and book publishers with raising e-book prices.

Full article in the NYT

Washington library wins suit to leave filters on

Washington library wins suit; it can filter porn
A rural Eastern Washington library system may continue to filter the Internet to block porn and gambling sites, a federal court judge ruled Tuesday.

Judge Edward Shea of the Eastern Washington Federal District Court ruled that the North Central Regional Library (NCRL) is not violating the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by filtering some adult Internet content on library computers.

The lawsuit was brought by the ACLU of Seattle which argued that the library’s filtering was overly broad and illegally censored material based on content.

Copyright Stagnation

Copyright stagnation
Paul Heald demonstrated the effect of the stagnant US copyright wall in seminar at Canterbury last week.

Recall that books published through 1922 are in the public domain in the US; those published since then are covered by copyright.

Heald dug through some Amazon stats to see what happens to books as they come out of copyright. Here's the rather stunning graph.

School District Told to Replace Web Filter Blocking Pro-Gay Sites

CAMDENTON, Mo. — Students using the computers at Camdenton High School here in central Missouri have been able to access the Web sites for Exodus International as well as People Can Change, antigay organizations that counsel men and women on how to become heterosexual.

But the students have not been able to access the Web sites of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, or the Gay-Straight Alliance Network.

They have been able to read Bowers v. Hardwick, the 1986 Supreme Court ruling that upheld a Georgia statute criminalizing sodomy. But they have been blocked from reading Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 Supreme Court ruling that held that laws criminalizing sodomy were unconstitutional.

They have been given access to scores of antigay sites, but not to those supportive of gay people.

A clear-cut case of censorship? Actually, not so clear. “These filters are a new version of book-banning or pulling books off the shelf,” said Pat Scales of the American Library Association. “The difference is, this is much more subtle and harder to identify.”

Copyright isn't dead just because we're not willing to let it regulate us

Copyright isn't dead just because we're not willing to let it regulate us

The "copy" in copyright is there because of an accident of history: once upon a time, to "copy" was to do something industrial. Copying required physical plant, employees, premises, trading. While not everything industrial could be reduced to "copying," all copying was presumptively industrial. There were ways of non-industrially copying things – a sculptor could copy another sculptor's work by application of her eye and hand and chisel, a writer could dip his quill and set out the lines of another writer – but it wasn't really necessary to explicitly declare that this wasn't the kind of thing regulated by copyright. Such activity was almost always invisible to rights-holders, and even if an individual work happened to rise to the attention of a rights-holder, he would seem like a bit of a fool trying to apply industrial rules to individual actors. It's like asking your neighbours to register as a bed and breakfast because they've got guests in for the weekend who've chipped in for groceries.

Facebook asserts trademark on word "book" in new user agreement

Facebook asserts trademark on word "book" in new user agreement

Facebook is trying to expand its trademark rights over the word "book" by adding the claim to a newly revised version of its "Statement of Rights and Responsibilities," the agreement all users implicitly consent to by using or accessing Facebook.

Collection Society To Libraries: No Story Time For Kids Unless You Pay To Read Aloud

Collection Society To Libraries: No Story Time For Kids Unless You Pay To Read Aloud
If there's a common trait of the various rightsholders groups around the world, it is their sense of entitlement. If anyone does anything with a work under copyright, they feel they have a right to regulate it and be paid for it. A good example is the claim by the Authors Guild that owners of Kindles weren't allowed to use an experimental text-to-speech feature, since that would infringe on the entirely made up concept of "audio rights" -- and hence, presumably, require further payment.

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