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AUTHORS

Donna Wentworth
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Ernest Miller
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Elizabeth Rader
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Jason Schultz
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Wendy Seltzer
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Aaron Swartz
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Alan Wexelblat
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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

COPYFIGHTERS
a Typical Joe
Academic Copyright
Jack Balkin
John Perry Barlow
Benlog
beSpacific
bIPlog
Blogaritaville
Blogbook IP
BoingBoing
David Bollier
James Boyle
Robert Boynton
Brad Ideas
Ren Bucholz
Cabalamat: Digital Rights
Cinema Minima
CoCo
Commons-blog
Consensus @ Lawyerpoint
Copyfighter's Musings
Copyfutures
Copyright Readings
Copyrighteous
CopyrightWatch Canada
Susan Crawford
Walt Crawford
Creative Commons
Cruelty to Analog
Culture Cat
Deep Links
Derivative Work
Detritus
Julian Dibbell
DigitalConsumer
Digital Copyright Canada
Displacement of Concepts
Downhill Battle
DTM:<|
Electrolite
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
GrepLaw
James Grimmelmann
GrokLaw
Groklaw News
Matt Haughey
Erik J. Heels
ICANNWatch.org
Illegal-art.org
Induce Act blog
Inter Alia
IP & Social Justice
IPac blog
IPTAblog
Joi Ito
Jon Johansen
JD Lasica
LawMeme.org
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
miniLinks
Mary Minow
Declan McCullagh
Eben Moglen
Dan Moniz
Napsterization
Nerdlaw
NQB
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
Slapnose
Slashdot.org
Stay Free! Daily
Sarah Stirland
Swarthmore Coalition
Tech Law Advisor
Technology Liberation Front
Teleread
Siva Vaidhyanathan
Vertical Hold
Kim Weatherall
Weblogg-ed
David Weinberger
Matthew Yglesias

LINKABLE + THINKABLE
AKMA
Timothy Armstrong
Bag and Baggage
Charles Bailey
Beltway Blogroll
Between Lawyers
Blawg Channel
bk
Chief Blogging Officer
Drew Clark
Chris Cohen
Crawlspace
Crooked Timber
Daily Whirl
Dead Parrots Society
Delaware Law Office
J. Bradford DeLong
Betsy Devine
Dispositive
Ben Edelman
EEJD
Ernie the Attorney
FedLawyerGuy
Foreword
How Appealing
Industry Standard
IP Democracy
IPnewsblog
IP Watch
Dennis Kennedy
Rick Klau
Wendy Koslow
Kuro5hin.org
Elizabeth L. Lawley
Jerry Lawson
Legal Reader
Likelihood of Confusion
Chris Locke
Derek Lowe
Misbehaving
MIT Tech Review
NewsGrist
OtherMag
Paper Chase
Frank Paynter
PHOSITA
Scott Rosenberg
Scrivener's Error
Jeneane Sessum
Silent Lucidity
Smart Mobs
Trademark Blog
Eugene Volokh
Kevin Werbach

ORGANIZATIONS
ARL
Berkman @ Harvard
CDT
Chilling Effects
CIS @ Stanford
CPSR
Copyright Reform
Creative Commons
DigitalConsumer.org
DFC
EFF
EPIC
FIPR
FCC
FEPP
FSF
Global Internet Proj.
ICANN
IETF
ILPF
Info Commons
IP Justice
ISP @ Yale
NY for Fair Use
Open Content
PFF
Public Knowledge
Shidler Center @ UW
Tech Center @ GMU
U. Maine Tech Law Center
US Copyright Office
US Dept. of Justice
US Patent Office
W3C


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

Copyfight

October 23, 2014

Free Music in a Capitalist Society

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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

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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 ckraly@jmls.edu if your'e interested in attending.

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

October 18, 2014

Compare and Contrast Approaches to the DMCA

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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!

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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

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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

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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

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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"

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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

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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

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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

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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)

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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

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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, freepress.net 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

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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

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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, superfanart.com 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

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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, readersunited.com 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

August 7, 2014

August 5, 2014

Uncle Amazon Knows What's Best for You (and Itself)

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

It's been a while since I peeked in on the ongoing slog of Amazon versus Hachette. A story from Jillian D'Onfro appeared last week, explaining what Amazon says it's up to in this fight.

Amazon appears to be making a numerically based claim, in two forms. First, it is arguing for a 35 (author) / 35 (publisher) / 30 (Amazon) revenue split. It points out that 30% is what Apple and its co-conspirators wanted Amazon to take. Second, it argues that its data show a price point of USD 9.99 is better for an e-book in that it leads to more copies being sold. The number of additional copies sold is high enough to more than make up for the revenue lost on each individual sale.

This is pretty transparently an effort to recruit authors to Amazon's side. Big-house authors generally get around 20 or 25% on e-book sales and Amazon would much rather have authors complaining to Hachette about "why am I not getting 35%" than complaining to readers that Amazon is making it hard to get the authors' books.

It's also pretty transparently an Amazon-centric view of the world, to which I think John Scalzi has a very solid answer in his "Whatever" blog entry:

Amazon’s assumptions don’t include, for example, that publishers and authors might have a legitimate reason for not wanting the gulf between eBook and physical hardcover pricing to be so large that brick and mortar retailers suffer, narrowing the number of venues into which books can sell. Killing off Amazon’s competitors is good for Amazon; there’s rather less of an argument that it’s good for anyone else.
Furthermore, their math about selling more copies might be true for Amazon itself, but there's no evidence that it holds up for any other retailer. Making Amazon prices so cheap that other outlets can't afford to match them is, again, good for Amazon but not necessarily good for anyone else, including those authors Amazon is trying so hard to influence.

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

August 1, 2014

July 30, 2014

Muddying the Natural (Patent) Waters

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

In the past couple of years (see for example the Prometheus decision). The Supreme Court has issued a series of rulings that attempted to clarify what is and is not patentable. Unfortunately, the result has been the exact opposite, with court decisions creating chaos and confusion over what is the proper subject matter of patent applications.

The USPTO has issued proposed rules that appear not only to take the SCOTUS decisions at face value, but expand them to a great extent by declaring vast tracts of what had previously been patentable as out of bounds. An article on Nature.com earlier this month decries the likely outcomes.

The piece estimates that "almost half the drugs approved in the United States from 1981 to 2010 would have been rejected under these guidelines". While I am still concerned about overpriced medicines and their consequences, it's still likely that in the absence of some form of protection these medicines would not have been developed. It's possible that the Patent Office will implement less draconian interpretations, but even so I cannot see an easy way out of this thicket.

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

July 25, 2014

July 22, 2014

July 21, 2014

Lest You Had Any Doubts, the ALA is on the Right Side Again

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

I got an update from American Library Association (ALA) letting me know that they had joined with other higher education and library organization to file a joint comment to the FCC in support of net neutrality.

This should serve to remind everyone that while the Internet is perhaps the most amazing commercial platform yet invented, it's also an information access mechanism for schools, for libraries, for communities, and for the public. As such it needs not to have "paid prioritization" and it needs rules that allow us to choose what we get, not the cable companies. The Internet has a public, an educational, and democratic imperatives that are every bit as important as its commercial imperative and don't you forget it.

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

July 18, 2014

Deadly Effects of Unaffordable Medicines (TPP)

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

On the eve of the next round of secret talks on the festering pushole that is the TPP - the trade treaty so secret it can only be seen the by the multinational corporations that are writing it - MSF is once again attempting to encourage some variant of sanity.

As I've written before, MSF/Doctors Without Borders is opposed to the TPP provisions that promote patent protection over human protection. In their latest missive (linked above) the organization points out that "harmful new rules" in TPP will push prices higher for life-saving medicines, and of course this will hit the poorest countries the hardest. Additionally, TPP continues to promote the regime of secret, unaccountable courts that would set themselves above the national courts of the signatory nations. As MSF notes:

The Canadian government has been sued by Eli Lilly to the tune of $500 million, based on similar provisions in NAFTA, because the corporation objects to a Canadian Supreme Court ruling rejecting the patent for two of its blockbuster drugs. As a result, Canadian law could be overturned by a ruling made in a secret, private arbitration proceeding.

As before I feel I should note that I am a long-time donor to MSF, but have no other affiliation with the organization.

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

July 15, 2014

Planet Money on the Case Against Patents

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

NPR's Planet Money podcast did a segment on the case against patents. It's mostly an exploration of how one would cope economically in a world without protection for certain kinds of IP. Sadly, they continue the mini-fiction that Tesla is "giving away" its patents.

The show is largely based on a paper published by two economists, Michele Boldrin and David Levine in which they argue against patents from an economists perspective. The very first sentence of the paper states baldly that "there is no empirical evidence that patents serve to increase innovation and productivity." In fact, they argue, the opposite is happening. Innovation and productivity in their view happen most from competition and being the first to be able to get something to market (first mover advantage).

As with many grand theories in economics, the proposed changes would include losers and risks. The losers are individuals and small enterprises who now make money from licensing. In their view such people should just go work for big companies that would pay them to do the same innovative work.

The risks come from things like medicine or nuclear power where the idea of patent protection contributes to companies making billion-dollar investments. Boldrin and Levine argue that it would be more efficient for the government to create a system of incentives whereby multiple companies could compete for the work in return for paybacks that would cover their investment. Given how massively inefficient government contracting can be today I'm highly dubious this would increase efficiency in the IP space.

Their "modest proposal" however, seemed like a good idea, which was just to reduce the terms of patents. Presently patent protection is 20 years, so turn that down to 18 and see if it makes any difference. If you get more productivity with less patent protection you could shorten the term still farther. Eventually either you'd find that less patent protection was not increasing innovation or you'd find that you'd reduced protection to zero while increasing innovation in measurable steps along the way.

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

FMC + Musicians vs FCC on Net Neutrality

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Our friends at the Future of Music Coalition rounded up a star list of songwriters, performers, and independent artists try and get the FCC to back off its plans to wreck net neutrality. Kevin Erickson was kind enough to send me a link to the collected artists' comments, which you can read online at the FMC site.

My favorite pull quote from the comment filing:

We music people know payola when we see it. And what we see in Chairman Wheeler’s proposal doesn't give us any confidence that we won’t end up with an Internet where pay-by-play rules the day. We've heard this song before, and we’re frankly pretty tired of it.

Thousands of us have already told the FCC that losing an open Internet would be disastrous to the music community, and we suppose there's no harm in telling you again. But this time, we really hope you'll listen. We may not be telecom lawyers, but we get this issue pretty clearly. You have the legal authority to prevent discrimination and paid prioritization online. You only need to exercise it.


It's been a long time since I wrote about how payola came to the digital music landscape. Doesn't mean the problem has gone away, though.

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

July 8, 2014

Be the Potato Salad

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Author Ferret Steinmetz offers this pithy advice on how people can run appealing campaigns for funding. Although it's somewhat facetious, it's based on a real-world example of a guy who managed to create a Kickstarter for potato salad. He started with a goal of USD 10 and at this writing he's broken 41,000 with over three weeks to go.

The thing he's offering is, nominally, is himself making potato salad. Yes, really. He's raising a few bucks to make potato salad. Why, then is he getting tens of thousands? Ferret's answer is, basically, "entertainment." The potato salad concept is silly and as the campaign has grown, more silly and goofy things have been added, like "a bite of the potato salad". Clearly that's not something you'd normally pay three bucks for, but so far over 600 people have thought it was funny enough to do that.

And there's the trick: make your campaign about "how you make the donator feel" and you can be more successful than trying a serious approach, especially if what you're pitching is something potentially desperate or depressing. By making this potato salad silliness feel like fun, it became something people wanted to feel involved with.

The lesson about Kickstarter or Indiegogo or any donation drive is that you get what you give
Words of wisdom for the new media age.

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

July 7, 2014

These Businesses and Corporations are Not Your Friends

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

So opines John Scalzi, as he ticks off which of the parties in the Amazon/Hachette dispute he is in business with. Scalzi's point is that this is a situation in which some very large corporations are maneuvering to increase their profits. Nobody, no matter how good-hearted they are, is in this business to run a charity.

Therefore, he argues, anyone doing business with them needs to treat it as a business arrangement. If you are an author and Amazon is doing well by you, then that's great - continue doing business with them. If you are a reader and are unhappy that Amazon is making it hard to get certain books then take your business elsewhere. But whatever you do, treat it as a business proposition, not a personal/emotional proposition.

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June 25, 2014

Aereo Loses

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court has acted to close a loophole in copyright law. We've discussed in the past how Aero narrowly tailored its business model and architecture to fit in this loophole; this result likely means the end of their business.

I'm sure there will be plenty of analyses flowing, and lots of people commenting on the implications of this decision. It seems like a small area of the law, but it's possible that this ruling will be used against a wide variety of nascent businesses, despite Breyer's apparent intention that the decision be read narrowly. The decision seems to go to great lengths to say that Aereo is (like) a cable company and thus should be subject to the copyright restrictions. Breyer specifically calls out a position taken by the US Solicitor General

that “[q]uestions involving cloud computing, [remote storage] DVRs, and other novel issues not before the Court, as to which ‘Congress has not plainly marked [the] course,’ should await a case in which they are squarely presented.”
That's a good theory; let's see how it shakes out in practice. My cynical side thinks the Cartel will still see this decision as a green light to go after cloud storage companies in general.

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