October 7, 2010
Information Projects and Privacy
Medical records and health information; individual financial records; aggregated financial trend data; copyrighted music; public domain art; sports scores; scientific research findings; personal and professional correspondence; police surveillance videos; choreographic notations; architectural designs; discount or loyalty shopping cards; military deployment statistics; metadata in e-mails and tweets; encryption and decryption keys; these and many more categories of information are subject to often conflicting laws of copyright, privacy law, data protection regulations and competing legal regimes drafted to focus on particular types of information. Moreover, information has moved out of the computer. Using RFID chips, physical items increasingly broadcast information about their whereabouts.
This article tracks examples of informatics projects in the public and private sector to determine the primary public policy priorities to be fostered by the regulatory regime, including copyright, privacy interests, data ownership rules and data integrity policies to foster reliability, integrity and accuracy.
The Impact of the Indian Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008 On Online Privacy
There have been disturbing press reports and articles on the Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008. These accounts broadly wallow about the increase in the police powers of the state. They contend that the amendment grants legal sanction to online surveillance inexorably whittling down internet privacy. This article seeks to examine this prevalent notion. It discovers that legal provisions for online surveillance, monitoring and identification of data have been inserted in a narrow and defined class of circumstances governed by tenuous procedures. At first glance it may seem that these procedures and safeguards by themselves increase the right to privacy. However, on a deeper study it is revealed that they are found wanting due to the nature of internet communications. The article takes a comprehensive look at the state of online privacy in India arising out of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
Download the article from SSRN at the link.
The History of Copyright "Formalities" In Nineteenth Century Europe
This paper examines the development of copyright formalities against the background of the upcoming national rights thinking and some conceptual innovations in copyright law in nineteenth century Europe (France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK). Among other things, this paper concludes that, from a historical perspective, formalities are not as incompatible with the natural rights view as is commonly believed. This may cast new light on the possible reintroduction of copyright formalities, which is increasingly called for in the current digital era.
October 6, 2010
Is P2P Caching Copyright Infringement?
This paper explores the legal ramifications of the prevalent Internet Service Provider practice of providing caching services to P2P network users. First, the paper describes the P2P industry, its benefits and drawbacks. Then the paper discusses several caching techniques that can be implemented, and indeed are implemented, by ISPs around the globe. These practices allow ISPs to provide clients with better services but also expose them to copyright infringement suits by third parties. The article will discuss how copyright law should consider the costs and benefits to the public of P2P caching practices, especially in the application of legal doctrines such as direct and indirect infringement and fair use. In doing so, the article will built on recent interpretations by the courts regarding the general practice of caching. In light of policy considerations, the article will suggest reconsidering the scope of legal liability and safe harbor protection provided to ISPs with respect to caching practices. The authors’ argument is that unlike the consensus regarding the “orthodox” Cyberspace and World Wide Web, there is still no agreement on the legal approach to P2P services. Opinion is in fact divided between two schools – those who endorse P2P services and emphasize their current and potential future uses and those who focus on the mass infringing activity conducted via the P2P platform. These differences between the two polar schools will be exacerbated in the context of P2P caching due to its amplification of the costs and benefits of the use of P2P networks.
Download the article from SSRN at the link.
The Google Book Settlement As Copyright Reform
An intriguing way to view the proposed settlement of the copyright litigation over the Google Book Search (GBS) Project is as a mechanism through which to achieve copyright reform that Congress has not yet and may never be willing to do. The settlement would, in effect, give Google a compulsory license to commercialize millions of out-of-print books, including those that are “orphans” (that is, books whose rights holders cannot readily be located), establish a revenue-sharing arrangement as to these books, authorize the creation of an institutional subscription database that would be licensed to libraries and other entities, resolve disputes between authors and publishers over who owns copyrights in electronic versions of their books, provide a safe harbor for Google for any mistakes it might make in good faith as to whether books are in the public domain or in-copyright, and immunize libraries from secondary liability for providing books to Google for GBS, among other things.
This Article explains why certain features of U.S. law, particularly copyright law, may have contributed to Google’s willingness to undertake the GBS project in the first place and later to its motivation to settle the Authors Guild lawsuit. It then demonstrates that the proposed settlement would indeed achieve a measure of copyright reform that Congress would find difficult to accomplish. Some of this reform may be in the public interest. It also considers whether the quasi-legislative nature of the GBS settlement is merely an interesting side effect of the agreement or an additional reason in favor or against approval of this settlement.
Download the article from SSRN at the link.
October 5, 2010
New Zealand Government Tries To Mediate Between Producers, Talent, On "The Hobbit"
The Hollywood Reporter notes that New Zealand's economic development minister is taking charge of the dispute between director Peter Jackson and actors and others on the production of "The Hobbit." Producer Jackson and his wife, Kate Walsh, who is co-producing the picture, do not want unionization of the film, a prequel to The Lord of the Rings saga, and seem nearly ready to pick up and move the project out of the country. Meanwhile, the big unions--SAG and AFTRA--have agreed to "do not work" orders in order to stand with the talent on "The Hobbit." NZ's government would like to avoid that outcome--hence the intervention. Read Mr. Jackson's thoughts on the dispute here.
October 4, 2010
The Fair Use Defense Asserted For Third Parties
This Essay uses a personal anecdote to highlight a gap in current copyright law. Under current copyright doctrine, companies sued for direct copyright infringement are not generally able to assert the fair use arguments of their customers. Thus, for example, a photocopy shop sued for assembling course packs cannot argue that it is facilitating the fair use privileges of its student customers. This Essay argues that this approach is mistaken because it fails to take adequate account of the important role companies can play in practically enabling the fair use privileges of their customers. To fill this gap, this Essay proposes that copyright law recognize a new defense of fair use enablement.
The Zuckerberg Condundrum
The New York Times examines reaction, criticism, and fallout from The Social Network, Aaron Sorkin's interpretation of the origins of Facebook.
Privacy, the Internet, and Questions About a University's Responsibilities
From the Chronicle of Higher Education, coverage of young Mr. Clementi's death and the repercussions on the Rutgers University campus.
The FCC and the "Mystery Fee"
"We can confirm reports of an FCC investigation into mystery fees that appeared on Verizon Wireless bills costing over 15 million Americans tens of millions of dollars. Reportedly, Verizon itself has put the amount of overcharges at more than fifty million dollars dating back two years.
"The FCC Enforcement Bureau began looking into this matter ten months ago after reports from consumers about these mystery fees. Our role is to protect American consumers and give them a voice. Consumers have a right to receive straight bills and to get straight answers when they question them.
"We're gratified to see Verizon agree to finally repay its customers. But questions remain as to why it took Verizon two years to reimburse its customers and why greater disclosure and other corrective actions did not come much, much sooner. The Enforcement Bureau will continue to explore these issues, including the possibility of additional penalties, to ensure that all companies prioritize the interests of consumers when billing problems occur."
More coverage here from the New York Times.
October 3, 2010
Comments, Comments, Everywhere...
That Michigan Assistant Attorney General who's been blogging (and talking about) the U of Michigan student council president is taking a leave of absence. On his return (assuming he returns, I suppose), the AG's office will hold a disciplinary hearing. Turnabout, since AG Mike Cox was defending Assistant AG Andrew Shirvell's right to speak a few days ago. But it turns out that the U of M administration told Mr. Shirvell he was persona non grata on September 14. Meanwhile, CNN's Rick Sanchez is no longer with the network after he made questionable comments about Jews, Jon Stewart, and CNN's admin on the Sirius radio program "Stand Up with Pete Dominick." Discussion here on CNN's Reliable Sources and here at Salon.com.