February 3, 2006
The New "CSI" Effect
Some prosecutors and detectives think "CSI" and its ilk may assist and perhaps encourage criminals to try to get away with murder. Read more in Joe Milicia's story here. I wouldn't be surprised that perps are picking up pointers, but I would hope that such stories don't fuel the argument that the media folks involved are indirectly responsible for the crimes. After all, on "CSI", the bad guys also get caught.
February 2, 2006
Two Newspapers Mistakenly Release Customer Info
Two newspapers owned by the New York Times Company sent out subscriber information including credit card numbers with copies of the papers over the weekend. The information was written on the paper used to wrap multiple copies of newspapers for delivery to subscribers and news agents. The Boston Globe and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette said they would offer customers free credit monitoring service and assistance in finding out whether their financial information had been compromised. Meanwhile, angry subscribers have pounced on the papers' customer service lines, and on the Boston Globe's webpage set up for the purpose. The Massachusetts Attorney General's office is investigating whether it should bring charges against the newspapers. Read more here and here (registration may be required--free).
Google's Library Project and US and UK Copyright Law
Paul Ganley, Baker & McKenzie, has made his paper "Google Book Search: Fair Use, Fair Dealing, and the Case for Intermediary Copying" available through SSRN. Here is the abstract.
This article examines the legality of Google's Library Project under U.S. and U.K. copyright law. The Library Project provides a useful example of the divergence in approach to copyright exceptions in these two jurisdictions. In particular, whilst Google's plans have generated a great deal of controversy, it at least has an arguable case under U.S. law that its use is fair use. No analogous argument can be made under U.K law. The main purpose of this article is to highlight this distinction and to suggest that U.K copyright law is failing to adequately account for transformations in the mode and manner in which individuals interact with information.
Following a brief introduction in part 1, part 2 begins by explaining how Google's 'Book Search' program (formerly 'Google Print') operates and briefly describing the two lawsuits issued against the 'Library Project' aspect of the service by the Author's Guild and a number of prominent publishers. Part 3 offers a preliminary assessment of whether Google's activities are lawful under U.S. copyright law. In attempting to answer this question, Google's case is presented with a 'positive spin'; not in an effort to predict the outcome of any future trial, but rather to illustrate that Google can reasonably argue that its use is a privileged one. Part 4 then considers how Google would fare under U.K. law. The conclusion, unlike the U.S. law analysis, suggests that Google would have little chance of success if its case was being heard in the U.K. Part 5 asks whether this is a desirable result and concludes that, given recent advances in the technological landscape, it is not. This conclusion is based, in particular, on Professor Zittrain's concept of 'generativity' and Professor Frischmann's economic theory of infrastructure. Finally, Part 6 describes how U.K. copyright law could accommodate uses such as Google's within its existing scheme of exceptions. A specific defence for 'intermediary' copying premised on the 'temporary copies' exception recently enacted as section 28A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 is outlined, and alternatively a new defence of 'fair dealing for informational purposes' is proposed.
Download the paper here.
January 31, 2006
Twenty-First Century Bowdlers
Llewelyn Joseph Gibbons, University of Toledo College of Law, has published "Digital Bowdlering: Removing the Naughty Bytes." It will appear in the 2005 volume of the Michigan State Law Review. It is also available via SSRN. Here is the abstract.
During the Victorian era, the prevailing delicacy of the age inspired Dr. Thomas Bowdler and his sister to edit Shakespeare's plays to make them suitable for 'family reading'. All off-color jokes and sexual matter were removed. The word bowdlerize entered the language as a synonym for militant prudery. Luckily for Dr. Bowdler and his sister, the works of Shakespeare were clearly in the public domain. The modern Dr. Bowdlers and their accomplices do not share Dr. Bowdler's luck, however. When they abridge modern digital works to remove content that is offensive to the conscience of their constituencies, their reward for this public service is allegations of, and possible liability for, copyright infringement. Other modern Bowdlers modify software by deleting portions of code to add new capabilities. These deletions are often only shocking to the artistic license or the pocketbook of the copyright owner. Yet, these deletions convey significant advantages to the user or consumer of bowdlerized works. These technologies not only support militant prudery, but they also may add new functionality and capabilities that expand consumer choice. The legal rights being asserted by copyright owners represent a common threat to the use of copyrighted works in the private sphere. Digital bowdlerization makes available works inherent in cultural literacy to all, regardless of age or delicacy of conscience.
Download the entire article here.
Donald Trump's Defamation Suit
Julie Hilden discusses Donald Trump's defamation lawsuit against Timothy O'Brien, who wrote TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald, and Warner Books. Trump's asking five billion in damages, or a smidgen less than twice the 2.7 billion dollars Forbes Magazine estimates he was worth in 2004. She suggests that the case may turn on whether O'Brien's statements about Trump's net worth, which O'Brien places at no more than $250 million, far less than the megabucks Trump alleges, are opinion or fact.
January 30, 2006
British Phonographic Industry Wins Illegal Filesharing Cases
The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) has won two "first of its kind" rulings in British courts. The trade association had taken two defendants through the legal system rather than settle as it ordinarily offers to do. One had claimed that BPI had no evidence that he had broken the law; the other had said he did not realize what he was doing was illegal. Both were found to be liable and to owe damages. BPI now says it hopes other filesharers will pay up rather than face similar lawsuits.
January 29, 2006
Is There a Director's Copyright?
Do, or should, directors get a copyright? Edward Einhorn thinks so and is suing to enforce what he believes are his rights in a 2004 very off Broadway production of a play called "Tam Lin." Read Jesse Green's piece in today's New York Times about the Einhorn case and the arguments pro and con.