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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?

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Monthly Archives

April 28, 2006

Follow the Money

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Paul Graham cynically pointed out that once there's money involved, lawsuits will happen, regardless of patents. He might as well have said the same thing about DRM. Everyone's favorite target, Sony, is now on the receiving end of a lawsuit claiming that the corporate giant has been ripping off artists on the proceeds of digital download sales.

At present the suit is just a few bands but is seeking class-action status, which could lead to a lot of artists claiming that they didn't get their rightful shares. Specific charges are that Sony has been passing on a mere 4.5 cents of its 70 cent take from selling a downloaded single. Claimants The Allman Brothers and Cheap Trick assert that they were due to get 30 cents.

The question of whether the higher rate is due depends on whether you think the download is more like a license for use (such as in a movie or TV show) - expensive - or more like a CD sale - cheap. The artists claim the former; Sony is claiming the latter.

At this point, those of you who have been following along should be sitting up like me and saying "Wait, isn't the point of the DRM on downloaded tunes precisely to enforce licensing terms?" And "Wait, isn't the consumer complaint about DRM that it restricts them from doing with downloaded music what they're allowed to do with CD tracks? Hmmmm. Seems to me that's pretty much de facto evidence that the download is indeed much more like the license for use than it is like the CD. If in court the plaintiffs use and the judge buys this reasoning it's going to be sweet irony.

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April 27, 2006

Public Citizen Sounds Alarm on Trademark Bill

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Paul Alan Levy of the Public Citizen Litigation Group sent out a letter pointing his readers to an ongoing debate in Editor & Publisher on the topic of HR 683, the "Trademark Dilution Revision Act." Levy has, for some time, been trying to draw attention to provisions in this bill that will strip the defense of noncommercial use from defendants in trademark infringement cases.

The first item is a column by Steven Yahn that went online last weekend describing some of the problems Public Citizen and others see in the bill:

That column was followed by two letters from lawyers and Yahn's reply, which gets into some pretty gritty details of the bill's wording:

Finally, a response appeared midweek from the International Trademark Association, which Levy identifies as "the bill's main private sector sponsor." That was followed by a response by Levy:

Part of the point made by Levy is that people are commenting without reading the original bill, which I haven't done, so I'll refrain from adding my own commentary here. If you can wade through it and want to add something I'd appreciate that.

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

April 26, 2006

Did Patents Harm Microsoft?

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Another big thinker whom I respect even when I disagree with him: John Dvorak. His latest is a piece in PC Magazine in which he calls Internet Explorer an "albatross" and a "costly gaffe." The piece is more about business strategy than Copyfight issues, buit it touches on the part played by the Eolas patents and their impact on Microsoft's core business (which is selling Windows everywhere to everyone for everything). In essence, Dvorak argues that by building and then deeply tying IE into Windows, Microsoft opened itself up to a whole range of new attacks, including patent litigation.

I think Dvorak overstates his case when he claims that all of Microsoft's legal problems stem from IE in some way (anyone besides me remember Burst?) but he's not too far off.

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

April 24, 2006