Intellectual Property

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 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 <A HREF="">John Wilkin's blog post.</A> "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.

Bits, Bands and Books

In his <A HREF="">New York Times column</A>, 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.

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)


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