Donna Wentworth
( Archive | Home | Technorati Profile)

Ernest Miller
( Archive | Home )

Elizabeth Rader
( Archive | Home )

Jason Schultz
( Archive | Home )

Wendy Seltzer
( Archive | Home | Technorati Profile )

Aaron Swartz
( Archive | Home )

Alan Wexelblat
( Archive | Home )

About this weblog
Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this weblog are those of the authors and not of their respective institutions.

What Does "Copyfight" Mean?

Copyfight, the Solo Years: April 2002-March 2004

a Typical Joe
Academic Copyright
Jack Balkin
John Perry Barlow
Blogbook IP
David Bollier
James Boyle
Robert Boynton
Brad Ideas
Ren Bucholz
Cabalamat: Digital Rights
Cinema Minima
Consensus @ Lawyerpoint
Copyfighter's Musings
Copyright Readings
CopyrightWatch Canada
Susan Crawford
Walt Crawford
Creative Commons
Cruelty to Analog
Culture Cat
Deep Links
Derivative Work
Julian Dibbell
Digital Copyright Canada
Displacement of Concepts
Downhill Battle
Exploded Library
Bret Fausett
Edward Felten - Freedom to Tinker
Edward Felten - Dashlog
Frank Field
Seth Finkelstein
Brian Flemming
Frankston, Reed
Free Culture
Free Range Librarian
Michael Froomkin
Michael Geist
Michael Geist's BNA News
Dan Gillmor
Mike Godwin
Joe Gratz
James Grimmelmann
Groklaw News
Matt Haughey
Erik J. Heels
Induce Act blog
Inter Alia
IP & Social Justice
IPac blog
Joi Ito
Jon Johansen
JD Lasica
Legal Theory Blog
Lenz Blog
Larry Lessig
Jessica Litman
James Love
Alex Macgillivray
Madisonian Theory
Maison Bisson
Kevin Marks
Tim Marman
Matt Rolls a Hoover
Mary Minow
Declan McCullagh
Eben Moglen
Dan Moniz
Danny O'Brien
Open Access
Open Codex
John Palfrey
Chris Palmer
Promote the Progress
PK News
PVR Blog
Eric Raymond
Joseph Reagle
Recording Industry vs. the People
Lisa Rein
Thomas Roessler
Seth Schoen
Doc Searls
Seb's Open Research
Shifted Librarian
Doug Simpson
Stay Free! Daily
Sarah Stirland
Swarthmore Coalition
Tech Law Advisor
Technology Liberation Front
Siva Vaidhyanathan
Vertical Hold
Kim Weatherall
David Weinberger
Matthew Yglesias

Timothy Armstrong
Bag and Baggage
Charles Bailey
Beltway Blogroll
Between Lawyers
Blawg Channel
Chief Blogging Officer
Drew Clark
Chris Cohen
Crooked Timber
Daily Whirl
Dead Parrots Society
Delaware Law Office
J. Bradford DeLong
Betsy Devine
Ben Edelman
Ernie the Attorney
How Appealing
Industry Standard
IP Democracy
IP Watch
Dennis Kennedy
Rick Klau
Wendy Koslow
Elizabeth L. Lawley
Jerry Lawson
Legal Reader
Likelihood of Confusion
Chris Locke
Derek Lowe
MIT Tech Review
Paper Chase
Frank Paynter
Scott Rosenberg
Scrivener's Error
Jeneane Sessum
Silent Lucidity
Smart Mobs
Trademark Blog
Eugene Volokh
Kevin Werbach

Berkman @ Harvard
Chilling Effects
CIS @ Stanford
Copyright Reform
Creative Commons
Global Internet Proj.
Info Commons
IP Justice
ISP @ Yale
NY for Fair Use
Open Content
Public Knowledge
Shidler Center @ UW
Tech Center @ GMU
U. Maine Tech Law Center
US Copyright Office
US Dept. of Justice
US Patent Office

In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline


December 17, 2014

December 6, 2014

December 2, 2014

November 25, 2014

Pomplamoose is Still Making It

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

That's "making it" as a band, as opposed to having "made it" as a band. The quirky indie duo have a story up on Medium that talks about what the real finances are for an indie act that doesn't have the backing of a major label. Yes, you can sell over 1100 tickets at the Fillmore but that money goes right into paying back the $24,000+ in credit-card debt you've taken on up-front to make the show happen.

I hope I'm not spoiling anything (though you should read the full story) if I tell you that the band didn't make money on this tour. However, they seem to be OK on that account, looking at the tour as an investment. Remember the Doubleclick's advice on being successful included having a solid fan base. What Pomplamoose did on this tour was in part an investment in building that fan base and creating the kind of shows to which people who are already fans would want to bring their friends. From such shared experiences, fan bases grow.

I want to quote a couple paragraphs from their story because it encapsulates so much of what I've been hoping would come to pass:

We’re entering a new era in history: the space between “starving artist” and “rich and famous” is beginning to collapse. YouTube has signed up over a million partners (people who agree to run ads over their videos to make money from their content). The “creative class” is no longer emerging: it’s here, now.

We, the creative class, are finding ways to make a living making music, drawing webcomics, writing articles, coding games, recording podcasts. Most people don’t know our names or faces. We are not on magazine covers at the grocery store. We are not rich, and we are not famous.

We are the mom and pop corner store version of “the dream.” If Lady Gaga is McDonald’s, we’re Betty’s Diner. And we’re open 24/7.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Interesting People

November 20, 2014

Why Make the Secondary Market?

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

In its "What the Lebron?" episode this month, the Planet Money bloggers ask this secondary-market question in regard to "sneakerheads" who buy and (re)sell Nike sneakers, primarily on eBay.

The sneakers, which retail for USD 200-300 a pair, often resell for three times that much and in rare cases ten or twenty times that much. There's a whole mini-industry of people who camp out in lines (and pay people to camp for or with them) in order to get the latest releases at stores like Footlocker on Saturday mornings as soon as the latest models go on sale. And there are secondaries, companies that have come along to track these markets and provide data services to sneakerheads.

The Planet Money researchers, like many sneakerheads, come to believe that Nike promotes this secondary market. Even though the company could theoretically make more money by pricing the shoes higher at retail, they don't. Nike won't comment, of course, but the company does institute policies that create scarcity as well as promoting demand and collectability by doing things like one-off models with popular culture figures like Kanye West. On this blog we've spent years discussing how manufacturers and content owners go to great lengths to control or crush the secondary markets. So why is Nike acting differently?

It comes down to "cool." Nike went through a bad stretch where its name was associated with sweat shop labor and its shoes were disrespected despite having named celebrity endorsements. The secondary market has helped to turn that around. Nowadays Nike is cool again, Nike products are desirable again, and while it might be the case that Nike would make more money on a given Saturday from a few people, it would likely not have developed a devoted following of people willing to buy over a hundred pairs of sneakers, willing to camp outside a store for days leading up to a new release, and willing to tweet, instagram, snapchat, whatsapp, and (if they're old enough) facebook the latest Nike releases.

Money can buy you publicity, but it can't buy you that kind of tastemaking army of social sellers. In the end, despite the secondary market, the vast majority of Nike sneakers are bought to be worn. When Nike is cool, everyone wants to have them on their feet

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Use

November 19, 2014

Lexi Alexander vs the Copyright Cartel

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Lexi Alexander, an actor, director, and producer, has very few kind words for the copyright maximalists who dominate Hollywood.

In her post yesterday titled "5 Reasons Why I am Pro File-Sharing and Copyright Reform" she lays out her case for exactly why the system is as screwed up as it is. Mostly it comes down to fear.

If Ms Alexander's personal experiences are generally true, then people in Hollywood behave just like the rest of us, torrenting and sharing the good stuff. Unlike regular people, though, Hollywood folk spend a lot of effort maintaining a public facade of "piracy is theft/evil." That facade has two major lies in it: first, that the Cartel's copyright stance is to protect the little guys (gaffers and grips); and second that innovation and technology are always a threat to be extinguished rather than opportunities to be embraced. Long-time readers of this blog know I've been arguing pretty much exactly that for the last decade.

Alexander doesn't let free-riders off the hook, either. Sharing and free exchange are there in part because people who share more, spend more as well. Not treating your customers like criminals is not altruism - it's enlightened self-interest for companies that want to build long-term relationships with people who will be buying their products for years to come.

(h/t Boingboing where I saw this first and also has a link to her Torrentfreak interview)

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Interesting People

November 13, 2014

Digital Homicide Studio v Fair Use

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Ken White (aka Popehat) has a nice piece up this week with more detail on the (false) claims by indie game developer Digital Homicide against game reviewer/critic Jim Sterling.

I mentioned earlier this week that DH were abusing the over-generous YouTube takedown provisions and White chronicles what he calls DH's "shame spiral" and the "utter bollocks" they fed him when he inquired what their justifications were.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Abuse

November 11, 2014

The Art of Asking for "The Art of Asking"

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Once upon a time, Amanda Palmer did a Kickstarter. That succeeded wildly, and turned into tours and various forms of art and music and eventually a TED talk on "The Art of Asking". Through it all, AFP has relentlessly pushed her vision of a world in which people pay for art they love.

To push that vision she's had to hone and refine her arguments, answering challenges from people who want to know what happens to a million Kickstartered dollars, and ignorance-to-hostility from traditional media types who seriously Do Not Get It. One thing you can do when you have well-honed and tested ideas is put them down in book form, and so now we have The Art of Asking, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help, the book.

Unfortunately, this book is out from Hachette which, you may recall, is involved in a protracted slugfest with Amazon. One side effect of that fight is that Hachette authors' books aren't as easy to find or buy on Amazon as others. So what's an author to do?

If you're Amanda Fucking Palmer, you ask for what you need. In this case, that's publicity. Word of mouth. Information to shed light on the darkness cast by the Amazon/Hachette dispute. Palmer sent a mail to her list asking people to help publicize the book and get the word out. People frequent book stores, which can carry the book. People visit Web sites, including which currently features all the info you need to get the book in physical and electronic forms.

And for you librarians who are still reading this blog, I suggest your shelves might be enriched with a copy. Just a thought.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Interesting People

November 10, 2014

Two Copyright-in-Gaming

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

TotalBiscuit's occasionally released "Content Patch" video series highlights two items of Copyfight interest this time around.

First, an update by Rockstar games to their popular Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas release has resulted in a number of songs being removed from the game. These are copies of popular tunes that were originally licensed for the game property and were available in-game either as part of the default soundtrack or as character actions, such as listening to the radio. GTA games are often noted for their excellent soundtracks.

I couldn't find any official word on this change, but the likely reason is that something happened with the licensing and since Rockstar doesn't control the copyrights on these tracks it had no choice but to pull them from the game. That's a shame, and it may also involve a legal issue since consumers are having things they paid for taken away from them. I'm not enough of a lawyer to know if that's legal but probably Rockstar's lawyers have already thought of this and it's covered somewhere in their clickwrap licensing.

Obviously this sucks from an experience point of view, and it raises difficult questions about what it means to buy a game when parts of what you've paid money for can be stripped out at the whim of the company to which you gave your cash, or even some third party. This capability has existed for some time, but this is the first time I'm aware of it having such a blatant impact on such a high-visibility title. TB points out that other changes have also hampered the game experience (though they're not that relevant to Copyfight) and that EU laws are different enough from American laws that at least European consumers should be able to get a refund.

Separately, TB points out yet another instance of a developer (in this case an indie) reacting badly and inappropriately to negative reviews. He calls out the company Digital Homicide for putting out a bogus DMCA takedown notice against game reviewer Jim Sterling. Apparently DH did not like Sterling's bad review of their game and is attempting to use the DMCA to censor criticism. Their claim, made through YouTube's internal system, followed a series of tit-for-tat videos in which DH apparently appropriated Sterling's review video more or less wholesale in order to write its response as a set of insulting subtitles overlaid on Sterling's review vid.

Yeah, some people are idiots. Of course, DH are following in well-trod footsteps here, as it's well documented that major companies spam out hundreds of thousands of (often erroneous) takedown claims. And the problem is exacerbated by YouTube's review system which goes well beyond what the DMCA requires and makes it particularly difficult for a content creator to defend their videos and keep those videos from being removed. YouTube's "guilty until proven innocent" approach is certainly making the problem worse by encouraging aggressive over-claiming. In theory making a false DMCA claim is a felony, but I'm not aware of anyone ever being prosecuted for it. Anyone have an example?

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Markets and Monopolies

November 4, 2014

Molly Crabapple's 14 Rules

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Over at Boingboing, Cory is inviting people to write about their creative philosophies. Ms. Crabapple is someone whose writing on classism I admired last year, This piece carries some of the same themes, but laced with astringent advice: get healthcare, don't work for free, don't trust corporations or rich investors trying to sell you on their latest gimmick. And also, be nice, at least to people who are not being dicks to you. Sage words.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Culture

November 2, 2014

Should Copyfight Publish Stories to Benefit Charity?

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

I have had an offer for a third party to write relevant posts for Copyfight, and get paid in the process. I'm curious if anyone reading this has an opinion.

The blog has long had a "sponsor" category for posts, but it's lain dormant. We're tiny and esoteric enough that nobody much cares, and we don't have advertising support. I have a day job that pays well enough I don't need income from blogging but it also means that I have less time to cover the relevant material. I've made some invitations to people to guest-blog but no nibbles.

So the theory would be to have some sponsored stories, mark them clearly as such, and improve the blog's content. I would have editorial control and pick things that appear, so no shovelware. And then, the money. I'm thinking it ought to go to something charitable, and EFF springs to mind as a first choice, but I'd be open to hearing others' thoughts. It likely won't be a substantial amount, but it's good to have a plan.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Misc.

October 31, 2014

Eleventh Upholds Case-by-Case Infringement Review Concept

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

This month the 11th Circuit handed down a copyright decision on professors' rights to make and use copies of material excerpting copyrighted books.

The case involved three big houses (Cambridge U Press, Oxford U Press, and Sage) that sued Georgia State University over a policy that allowed copied excerpt use in class. When the case was originally decided, the judge used a somewhat novel case-by-case examination of the incidents rather than ruling on the policy as a whole. In its review, the 11th largely upheld that approach, which had led the judge to find for the defendants in all but five instances.

The Circuit did rule that the initial decision applied the Fair Use four-factor test incorrectly. The trial judge gave each of the factors equal weight (wrong) and failed to do a holistic analysis of how the factors balanced. This caused the 11th to overturn the verdict and send the case back down. In summary, it's OK for a trial judge to consider incidents individually, but when doing so, the judge still has to apply the fair use tests in the standard way to each incident.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Laws and Regulations

October 28, 2014

Everything You Need to Know About Doing a Kickstarter

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

That is, doing a successful Kickstarter if you're a slightly quirky not-at-all-mainstream artist that has something of a fan base. Under the title "One Weird Trick..." the musical duo called The Doubleclicks gives you all their secrets and advice.

The one weird trick turns out to be "have an audience" because their Kickstarter drew heavily on the existing fan base. This is not surprising - patronage models are something we've talked about extensively and Kickstarter (and Patreon and their ilk) are fun ways for people to give more money to creative folk they already support.

But beyond that, the Doubleclicks have an extensive guide for everything a Kickstarter requires, including setting goals, describing the project, handling rewards and stretch goals, and so on. There's notes here on how to do the hard math, and paying attention to shipping, and who to ask for advice before launch. Basically, the bottom line is that doing a Kickstarter is a great deal like launching a small business - and all of that has to get done before you get to the business of doing the thing you wanted the Kickstarter money for in the first place. The Doubleclicks' advice will get you a long way through that business.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Big Thoughts

October 27, 2014

Is Patent Valuation a Leading Indicator of Trolls' Demise?

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

This is kind of an esoteric idea so let me see if I can unpack it a bit: patents are bought and sold, as well as licensed. Sometimes the patent buyers are people who think they can use the patents to make money not by producing product but by suing others who do produce. These people are generally known as "patent trolls", though I feel compelled to re-remind everyone that there's not a good definition distinguishing a troll from other non-producing entities such as universities.

Generally, people are more likely to pay for something they think they can make more money with. That's supposed to be how markets work and it ought to apply to patents as well. If a patent is good and valid and enforceable then it ought to be worth more. Conversely, if you think you can't make money with a patent you don't buy it, or at least you pay less for it. In this way, the prices people are willing to pay for patent portfolios become an indicator of the likely future revenue to be derived from those patents.

Last week, Reuters put out a piece claiming that tech companies are "winning" against trolls because these IP portfolio prices are falling. The data they use for this conclusion are their own interviews and analyses so it's not necessarily fully rigorous, but worth considering. They also admit that the trend is not universal, so they may also be cherry-picking the data for their story

They argue that the number of suits is dropping, the length of suits is increasing (though note that's only those that don't settle not overall length). and that firms focused on making money through IP are laying off staff and seeing reduced stock prices. All of these are potentially good trends, but none of this addresses the true root of the problem - the stream of crap patents issuing from the USPTO and the EPO. Fixing the problem at its source would do a world of good for solving the troll problem.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Markets and Monopolies

October 23, 2014

Free Music in a Capitalist Society

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

In a keynote speech that ranges from his early utopian community days with the Stooges to BitTorrent and Kim Dotcom, Iggy Pop shows he is still as with it and still as relevant as ever.

Pop talks about the music business, then and now, and how he has come to understand and be happy with his place in it. For him, music is a passion and a joy and likely never will be a sensible business proposition. He does suggest that others who want to be in the business get a good entertainment lawyer, though, so they don't have to wait as many decades as he did to see the royalty checks finally come in.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Interesting People

October 20, 2014

Art & Law in Chicago

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Our friends at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago sent me an announcement for their 6th Annual Symposium that is taking place in a couple weeks. The theme this time is "Art Meets Law: The Intersection of Art and Intellectual Property" and features filmmaker and political critic Michael Moore as a keynote speaker.

The event will take place at the School, 315 S. Plymouth Ct., Chicago, on October 24th. The Symposium will be a day-long event (8:30-4:30) with Mr Moore's keynote scheduled for lunchtime. Contact Christine Kraly (Public Affairs Director) at 312-427-2737 ext. 171 or if your'e interested in attending.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events

October 18, 2014

Compare and Contrast Approaches to the DMCA

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Mike Masnick at Techdirt published two stories this past week that give an interesting comparison in approaches to handling DMCA takedown notices. First, Google came out with its "how we fighr piracy" report.

As Masnick notes, there's not much new in here. He frames it as Google trying to "appease" Hollywood and notes that the studios have done a shit-poor job at managing how their content ranks in search results. Apparently SEO still stands for Somebody Else Ownsit at the big studios.

Google's proposal to help with this is to include DMCA takedown notices in its rankings - at its crudest form, such a policy would cause sites for which Google gets notices to be lowered in the rankings. Unfortunately, the obvious consequent of this is just to encourage a further barrage of bogus takedown notices. Since the costs are low and the effect significant, Google may be setting up perverse incentives that allow its search results to be distorted by anyone with an active enough legal department.

Compare and contrast with the latest DMCA policies from github, the popular online repository for source code and development projects. Github is creating a policy that encourages discussion and limits effects: it will notify people before takedowns happen, and it will limit blocked material to things that are specifically identified, which is very important in a coding world where people branch, build on top of, and reuse entire source trees. To use a physical analogy, github's policy is like cutting down one or a few trees that specifically need removal, rather than clearcutting whole stands.

The thing that I notice in common between Google's and github's approaches, is that both organizations are working toward more transparency. Each has evolving policies, and each is taking different steps to keep people aware but in general they seem to share the value that knowledge of what's going on is important to all parties. That is something I'd like to see emulated everywhere.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Use

October 17, 2014

CBS to HBO: Wait for Us!

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Well, this is a surprise: broadcast network CBS has announced it too will offer a subscription service. This is good news and bad news. First, it's good that CBS is figuring out the same logic that finally hit HBO: significant (if not all) viewership growth is going to happen online. Freeing up viewers and programs from cable monopoly lockdowns is good.

The bad is that there's a limited number of spaces to be had and a limited number of subscriptions that any one person is going to want. You will likely be able to pay for quite a few subscription for the cost of a yearly cable bill but I suspect we'll see rapid consolidation in this market - there should be one place to go to pay for your Big Bang Theory AND your Game of Thrones. The logical next step is for someone (and my money is on Amazon right now) to aggregate these offerings.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Markets and Monopolies

October 16, 2014

Sometime Next Year, HBO Will Become Netflix

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

For a while now I've subscribed to the argument that Netflix had to become HBO faster than HBO could become Netflix. It's said that a large percentage of people keep their cable subscriptions for two reasons: HBO and ESPN.

It seems like someone at HBO has finally woken up to the idea that they could double their viewership for shows like the popular "Game of Thrones" if they provided the kinds of a la carte service that online viewers want. And now, a widely reported story (here on The Verge) says that HBO is going to roll out a full-fledged online service "sometime" next year.

The devil, as always, will be in the details - what is in the offering and is it going to be enough that people don't have to buy multi-hundred-dollar cable subscriptions to get the HBO shows they want? And most importantly, when will ESPN follow suit?

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Markets and Monopolies

October 15, 2014

CopyrightX 2015 (online course) Now Open

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

(They rejected me last year but I figure I can give them some publicity anyway.)

The Berkman Center is once again offering a 12-week online course in copyright law and policy. Applications are open as of this posting and accepted through Dec 15. Here's the online application starter page.

The course itself will run Jan 26-April 25 with a final exam on April 30.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Announcements

October 14, 2014

College Students vs Rising Textbook Prices

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

NPR's "Planet Money" blog has an interesting piece on the tussle over college textbook pricing. The nominal cost of the (physical) books keeps skyrocketing, but the amount students actually pay out has stayed remarkably level.

The reason has much to do with students' stubbornness and innovation and with the antique models textbook publishers have been using. The answer for both sides may be electronic texts, which can be kept down in price so students may be willing to buy them and for which there is no used market so publishers can keep forcing students to buy new copies every year.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Markets and Monopolies

"Amazon is crowdsourcing their slush pile"

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

That's the judgment of Jim Hines (himself a traditional and e-book published author) in looking at the Amazon Kindle Scout program.

Hines compares the contract terms Amazon is offering and finds them lacking compared to traditional contracts, as well as containing a "rights grab" and giving authors a lower royalty rate than that earned by traditional e-book publishers on Amazon's infrastructure. Considering that Amazon is trying to convince all and sundry that it has a better idea of how to split royalties this is kind of interesting.

Also interesting is what Amazon doesn't have to do, which includes promote, edit, provide cover art, or pretty much do anything a publisher would be expected to do. Hines concludes by saying:

That makes me very uncomfortable. The whole thing feels a bit like a chimera of traditional and vanity publishing, combined with a manuscript display service.

Yes, boys and girls, Amazon is still not operating in anyone's best interests except Amazon's. If this surprises you, then you have not been paying attention.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Markets and Monopolies

October 12, 2014

Rule 84 and Patent Trolls

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Inside Council reported last month that The Judicial Conference of the U.S. has approved the elimination of Federal Rule 84. This is a small procedural change, but may have a large-sized effect on patent trolls that mass-file suits.

The idea is to eliminate a simplification that is being abused. Form 18 provided a "bare bones" complaint structure in which plaintiffs in patent infringement cases could just state that the defendant was infringing a patent. Under the new rules, the plaintiff will need to describe how the defendant is committing infringement. For a standard patent case this change doesn't affect things much, since most patent cases describe specific acts of infringement. However, patent trolls currently may file massive numbers of suits, each simply claiming that some infringement happened, without providing specific descriptions. The troll is most interested in getting settlements as quickly as possible, so files the most bare-bones and quickest cases possible. If the troll is required to investigate the companies it wants to sue in order to provide a specific description for each suit then the cost of mass suing goes way up and there's less incentive to shotgun lawsuits around.

(Thanks to Greg Aharonian of PATNEWS for the initial pointer.)

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Laws and Regulations

October 11, 2014

Google Asks for Supreme Court Review

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

As I figured back in June, Google has asked the Supreme Court to review the (let's not mince words here) complete hash that the CAFC made of the decision. If you recall, this started out being a patent case and somehow mutated into a copyright decision that allowed Oracle to hold copyrights on some APIs for the Java language. Google's petition argues that the the CAFC decision has the effect of circumventing SCOTUS precedents on patents.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Laws and Regulations

October 9, 2014

Yep, DRM Sucks and is used for Bad Things

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

If you have not been following the "Adobe is spying on its readers" story this week, let me recommend "The Digital Reader" to you.

In their first piece, they reported on how Adobe was spying on people by collecting data about users' eBook Libraries. Then, after Adobe finally got around to issuing a half-assed statement defending its practices, they published another piece pointing out that Adobe is, at best, using half-truths to try and deflect criticism.

Like, yes, it's true you could have learned that Adobe was doing this if you (a) thought Adobe were total slime and (b) were willing to look on Adobe's Web site for documents showing exactly how slimy their policies are.

TDR's latest piece, from yesterday, reports that Bluefire does not engage in these practices. Bluefire makes Epub Adobe-compatible applications, but seems to have a much more enlightened view of user privacy.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Abuse

October 8, 2014

Making Money from Art is Professional (in the US)

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

The US Tax Court last week handed down a ruling that seems to be good news for artists who want to make money while working at related jobs. In this case a professor of studio art at Hunter College, Susan Crile, won a case against the IRS over sales of her art.

The question at hand was whether her job as a professor included the creation and sale of artwork, or whether that sale was part of a separate profession (for tax purposes). This case directly speaks to visual arts, but is likely applicable to others who do this sort of thing - writing fiction while working as a copyeditor, selling portraits while working as a staff photographer and so on.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Laws and Regulations

September 15, 2014

September 13, 2014

Net Neutrality? Still Could Be Kept

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

In case you've been hiding under a very large rock and were not one of the half-million-plus people who sent comments to the FCC this week, the Copyfight readers at Singlehop have a quick overview for you on the topic.

If you do want to submit a comment, there are many sites that will help you do that. Here's one from The Nation, which is urging people to get their comments in before the September 15th deadline for public comment.

If you live in or near New York or Philadelphia, would like to invite you to their public rallies showing that we haven't forgotten. If you live in Seattle, congratulations, because your city really rocked it on net.slowdown day.

And just in case you needed a yardstick to keep track, Politico (among others) is reporting that the number of comments received by the FCC so far on #netneutrality exceeds the number received after Janet Jackson's nipple got exposed during the Super Bowl a decade ago. Hell of a world, innit?

Write now, right now. The 15th is close.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Speech

September 9, 2014

Hey, Look, E-Books Still Suck

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

(no, I'm not dead; the IP news scene just hasn't interested me much lately.)

Cory Doctorow's latest column for Locus is about Amazon vs Hachette, a slugfest that is benefiting nobody and has been dragging on for months now.

In his column, Doctorow points the finger at DRM as a force that will continue to shape things long after the present debate is settled. In particular, Audible (Amazon) has locked up all the e-books (90% of the e-book market) with the willing accommodation of the publishers. Hachette therefore cannot ask its readers to move their e-books off Amazon's infrastructure (store, Kindle, reader apps, Audible) without entirely re-purchasing their e-book library. It can't even (legally) offer a tool to help users do that because that would be circumventing DRM which, say it with me, is technically illegal.

The fact that Hachette (along with all the other big publishers) has been a huge proponent of DRM since Day 1 is an irony to be savored, though we readers will end up paying for it in the end.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Markets and Monopolies

August 25, 2014

Makers, Fan Art, Making it Pay

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

An interesting article went up this week on the Make zine blog: Mike Sense on the expanding partnership between Hasbro and Shapeways.

Hasbro is, of course, the giant toy-making conglomerate and Shapeways is advertising itself as "fast and affordable" 3D printing - a marketplace for people to make, buy, and sell 3D-printed products that range from jewelry to complex devices to, well, toys.

Last month the two companies put together a joint-venture site, which they are trying to position as the "app store" of 3D fan art/toy making. The site has a submission and approval process (like most app stores) for 3D printed designs and has a revenue-split model, again like most app stores. According to the article it's about 10% to Hasbro for licensing, about 20% to the artist, and about 60% to Shapeways for costs of materials and manufacturing. The initial launch included the "My Little Ponies" intellectual property line; now they've added "Transformers"-inspired fan material.

That's a much lower percentage than you get for a pure software app, but in my mind the actual number is less important than the concept. Someone else might come along with a better deal to lure artists to its site, and Hasbro could just as easily license to multiple manufacturers. Some might offer the company a higher percentage for a limited or exclusive license. Et cetera - I'm sure you can think of other interesting permutations.

The other interesting thing is that this appears to be a true effort by a big-name holder of properties to embrace the fan community. Hasbro controls a number of things that people will be wanting to make fan art from and if there are legitimate ways to do that, it's a far better situation than corporations screaming "piracy" and suing everyone in sight.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Use

August 22, 2014

August 16, 2014

August 11, 2014

Having (Mostly) Failed with Authors, Amazon Makes a Pitch for the Readers

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Last week a group of over 900 writers took out a full-page ad in the Times taking Amazon to task for its tactics. The letter was signed by some big names, including John Grisham and Stephen King, and it asks readers to write to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos telling him to "stop using writers as hostages in its negotiations" with Hachette.

Amazon's previous plan had been to explain to authors just how much more money they could make by doing things Amazon's way and presumably Amazon wasn't pleased when their self-centered logic got shot to pieces. We presume this because suddenly there's a Web site, that is asking people to write to Hachette's CEO.

This site is pretty transparently an Amazon shill front, as anyone with a little know-how can find that Amazon has had the domain parked for some time and just decided to activate it. For reference, see "Astroturfing".

As John Scalzi points out, this is not classic astroturfing since Amazon put its name on the letter. This leads him to wonder why Amazon bothered to use the indirect domain rather than just posting the letter on its own Web site. That's a very good question, I think.

The rest of Scalzi's entry dissects Amazon't continuing use of bad/biased math, not to mention hyperbole in its arguments. He argues that this is another ham-fisted move by Amazon which has been remarkably inept at the PR side of this dispute. They may be trying to fight too many battles at once, as you can see from the news headlines: "Dispute Erupts Between Amazon and Disney" for example.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Markets and Monopolies