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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

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Monthly Archives

June 30, 2010

Dizzee Rascal and the Live Remix

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

If you're bored by my theme this year of trying to walk the border between remix culture and the copyright wars you can skip this entry, too.

There was a video (now sadly removed by a copyright violation notice from the BBC) that showed Dizzee Rascal joined by Florence of Florence and the Machine live on stage at the Glastonbury Festival that just concluded. Musicians join each other on stage all the time - nothing new here, just going to cover one of their songs with the other artist guesting in, right?

No, sorry. That's not remix culture. Instead what they did was perform a live version of "You Got The Dirty Love" - a remix. I hope that the fan video of the event stays available. It's terrible quality, but as it's from the audience point of view you can clearly tell a few things. For one thing, the audience goes absolutely bananas once they hear what's going on. For another, a large chunk of the audience are singing along, which means they've heard the remix. Certainly you can find enough copies of it posted on YouTube and elsewhere if you want to check.

Let's trace the loop here - two popular artists release tracks, separately. A remix artist takes those tracks and mashes them together. The mash is released and gets popular with fans. The original artists know about the mix and know its hooks, beats, and lyric exchanges well enough to be able to perform it live. The fans are ecstatic to see performers they love playing together and being knowledgeable enough, and hip enough to perform a mash-up for them.

That, ladies and gentlemen? That's remix culture, right there live on the big stage in front of tens of thousands of screaming fans. And you know what else? Fuck copyright. The remix is probably a copyright violation. Posting it all over the Web is probably violating more copyrights. The artists performing it are probably violating the remixer's copyrights, if he has any. It doesn't matter, though. The question is irrelevant.

Now, to be fair, this didn't happen by random chance and it's not just any artists who are doing this sort of thing. Dizzee in particular has been out on tour for several months with The Young Punx backing him up. The Punx have not only spun for Dizzee but they've done live mashes within his performances, playing backing instruments doing such songs as Nirvana's famous "Smells Like Teen Spirit" while Dizzee does his raps a capella over the backing band.

In this specific case the track "You Got The Dirty Love" was created by the Punx in cooperation with Dizee and Florence. You can read their blog entry at APC for the details - the track is available on iTunes with the proceeds going to charity.

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

June 29, 2010

Who Owns Your Android Apps?

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

A while back I noted Apple's poor treatment of developers and paternalistic gated community approach to apps in its store as reasons I went for an Android phone. A legitimate question then arises: how does Android behave when it finds an app it doesn't like?

A post last week on the Android developers blog from Rich Cannings (Android Security Lead) gives a clue how they plan to operate: with more caution, in cooperation with developers, but still clearly in control. Like it or not, the Android is not a wide-open free-for-all space.

You can read the post yourself for details, but the gist is that they found two useless apps that were masquerading as something else. The developers then agreed to remove the apps from the Marketplace and Android exercised what it called a "remote application removal feature" to de-install any remaining copies of the apps from users' phones.

In this case the applications were free, so the people who had them removed were not out any money. I assume that Android would refund money spent for a pay app it removed in this way; regardless, though, the message is still clear: Android owns this environment.

Comments (6) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Markets and Monopolies

June 24, 2010

This Looks More and Moore Sciento-illogical

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Remember when I said yesterday that watching Minister Moore rant about radical extremists reminded me of Tom Cruise's infamous Scientology defense video? The one where he doesn't blink for, like, nine minutes? Yeah, that one. Anyway, remember how that video got more or less disappeared from the nets? You can find it, but you have to search hard. I didn't make the comparison lightly - I made it after watching the linked video myself.

Well now comes today's entry by Michael Geist in his blog, reporting on an apparent attempt to cover up those remarks. Moore denies making them and (as of now) the official version of the video doesn't show him making them. Am I the one hallucinating here?

Well, maybe not. According to Geist, "IT World Canada reporter Brian Jackson compiled his own video of the event" and that video shows the remarks. Here, go watch the video and judge for yourself:

You won't have to watch for long. At 0:38 into the video, Minister Moore starts in on "radical extremists." So, Minister, what do you call people who lie and suppress the truth about their own past remarks? (If you're American, you call them "our former president" but that's beside the point.)

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Laws and Regulations

June 23, 2010

Cory Doctorow, Radical Author

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Coming in hard on the heels of Michael Geist's post, Cory Doctorow has a long and direct challenge to Minister Moore.

Cory reminds us that he is a well-published Canadian author, one of those whose life and livelihood ought to be improved by these copyright reforms. Instead, going point by point, Doctorow dissects Moore's pro-industry position and shows how the only ones who are going to get richer from these so-called reforms are the corporate purveyors of certain technologies. Authors will get poorer and and readers will get less useful experiences.

Now, who exactly is Moore working for? If it's not authors, and it's not readers the Minister has some explaining to do and, as Cory points out, he owes more than a few people an apology.

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

Michael Geist, Radical Extremist

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

This is like the Copyfight equivalent of Tom Cruise's infamous Scientology video. Here we have a supposedly even-handed minister in the Candian government (Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore) nearly foaming at the mouth in his extensive effort to warn of the dangers of people who oppose copyright treaties.

It's really not clear what his problem is, except that he seems to think that these "radical extremists" oppose any change in copyright law. Well, um, maybe that's because the changes are bad? You know, just maybe. And really, Minister Moore, we're not talking about people leaving bombs in SUVs in Times Square here. We're talking about academics (like Geist) who have spent a lot of time and effort researching the issues. They may be wrong. You can certainly disagree on the issues and their merits - after all, that's what academic debate is supposed to be about.

But it seems pretty seriously out of bounds for a government minister to be giving speeches painting academics and scholars with the broad brush of "radical extremism". In addition, as Geist points out in his blog entry, the Minister's position is that one should oppose and attack these "extremists" which also seems contrary to how a government ought to act in regard to citizens with differing opinions. We've had too much of the Cartel making war on ordinary people in the past decade; there's absolutely no call for governments to act like that.

(Having just watched the US beat Algeria in the World Cup I was tempted to title this post "James Moore Gets a Red Card" but really the refereeing in that game was so bad I didn't want to be associated with it.)

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Laws and Regulations

June 15, 2010

The Fat Lady Has Sung, Taken Her Bows, and Now Exits

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

The short form: SCO lost. Judge Stewart granted Novell's request for declaratory judgment and that should put to last the final vestiges of this awful abomination. You can read lots of dry news stories on the topic, but instead I recommend you head over to Groklaw and read one of the best schadenfreudian blog postings you're likely to see in a long time.

For those new to this story, Groklaw - and Pamela Jones - have been dogging SCO for years, laying out in fairly painstaking terms all the weaknesses in the case and arguing that judgment should go the way it has now gone - in favor of Novell. PJ, as she's commonly called, has some paralegal training and has called bullshit on more than a few statements, filings, and other fully legally certified at the bar issuances in this case. So if she's feeling a wee bit justified this month, I can't say I blame her.

I, personally, would like to see SCO die in a fire for all the expense, FUD and general heartache they brought to the free and open source community, but there's probably not enough left of the company to burn.

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

June 11, 2010

A Systemic Threat to the Rights of Legitimate Traders

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

About 10 days ago I noted that Michael Geist was predicting that India would come out against ACTA. And hoo boy have they ever.

Yesterday's blog entry from Geist notes some sharp language from India against the ACTA treaty and the very secretive process that produced it. A process that, not coincidentally, has excluded India and other developing countries.

India's statement (called an "intervention" at the WTO) shows that it has broad-reaching concerns, not least of which is that even though it was excluded from the treaty, it (and other non-party nations) could be expected to enforce ACTA provisions. This would imperil legitimate Indian businesses and the rights of people in that country. India's opposition is no small thing - it is a major growing economy with political and economic influence of its own. In addition, Geist hypothesizes that India is not just speaking for itself here, but also front-running for a coalition of countries that have been excluded from the ACTA process and are feeling threatened by it.

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

June 9, 2010

Where is the Copyright War in Glee-land?

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Guest blogger Christina Mulligan has a brilliant post up at Balkinization on the popular TV show "Glee" and copyfight issues. She calls copyright "The Elephant in the Middle of the Glee Club" and she's absolutely right. The show's cast commit copyright violation after copyright violation and yet the topic isn't part of the show - the word isn't even uttered.

As I've noted before, this is the generational change we've come to. The kids in Glee's high school reproduce, co-opt, adapt, remix, and produce derivative works. In their fantasy world they get to upload stuff to YouTube and become viral heroes. If they put this stuff out on P2P networks in the real world they'd get sued for hundreds of thousands of dollars in statutory damages. But since it's on a network show the whole issue is glossed over.

And you know what? It should be. The urge to share may or may not underlie what has happened but it's inarguable that the generational change has happened.

I don't particularly like Glee-the-show (musicals give me hives, what can I say) but to the extent that they're accurately representing the way today's high schoolers view remix and appropriation my hat is off to them.

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

June 8, 2010

Digital Tickets Raise Ownership Questions

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

The New York Times reports on the latest rounds in the battles between ticket vendors and resellers (or scalpers depending on your point of view). The challenge is that a "ticket" is often no longer a physical object whose transfer can easily be monitored. Getting into a venue can be a matter of what's on your smartphone, what's in your email, etc.

Most of the article is about the effort to fight botters and scalpers but the key Copyfight issue here turns around whether or not you have the legal right to resell your ticket. In the era of physical tickets you could usually sell a ticket for what you paid for it even in the states that had anti-scalping laws. However, taking a cue from airlines who have effectively prevented the resale of plane tickets, venue ticket sellers now require identity papers with admission via paperless ticket, which pretty effectively prevents even legal transfers of the ticket.

This is a pretty standard story in the Copyright Wars - attempts to prevent illegal activity lead to restrictions on legal activity and the consumers end up screwed.

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

June 5, 2010

Brief Administrivia for Commenters

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

I have what I consider to be a very loose policy on what I'll accept for comments. Opinions are not censored and I certainly have no problem with people telling me I'm wrong. If you want to advertise your event or publication, please send me a mail and I'll look at it.

That said, if you are going to leave a comment it should be related to the subject matter of the post, or the issues raised by the post or of concern to the blog and its readers. I interpret intellectual property pretty liberally, and I'm often concerned with the related areas such as business policy and social implications.

Please don't use the comments area to promote your product, service, book, blog, all-singing, all-dancing whatever. Thank you.

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

June 1, 2010

ACTA May Affect Physical Products, Too

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Canadian law professor Michael Geist remains the go-to man for keeping track of what's going on with ACTA. Public Knowledge also has a good page of reference information and links

Geist's blog entry from this morning links ACTA with a topic that has been of recurring interest to me here, the ability of countries to produce generic versions of life-saving, but patented, medicines.

According to Geist, India is seeking allies to help it block at least the portions of ACTA that could allow seizures of shipments in transit. This would impact India, a major producer of generic medicines, as it tries to ship those medicines to third-world countries. The recipient countries, in many cases, depend on these generics to keep their people alive.

From all I've read about ACTA it's a bad deal for pretty much everyone except the big intellectual property monopolies and should probably be scrapped. Any time a treaty negotiation has to depend on secrecy and subterfuge you can pretty much bet it's a bad deal for the average person. However, scrapping ACTA still won't address the underlying problems. Copyright, patent, and other IP regimes around the world remain inconsistent, massively outdated, and increasingly lopsidedly tilted against the people who actually make and use the items that are supposed to be protected.

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