Donna Wentworth
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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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Category Archives

June 10, 2015

Stupid Lawyer Tricks, Streisand Effect Edition

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

In yesterday's update I pointed out that Apple and Samsung's lawyers are behaving badly at the behest of their employers. Sometimes, though, lawyers get to behave badly all on their own. (Seriously, if you don't already read Lowering the Bar you should.)

In this case patent lawyer Scott Horstemeyer appears to be demonstrating the Streisand Effect at his own behest by suing the EFF. Why? Because the EFF called one of Horstenmeyer's patents crap, awarding it their "Stupid Patent of the Month" award.

Well, yeah, but stupid patents are a dime a dozen and I - despite being an EFF supporter - hadn't heard about this until Horstenmeyer decided to call attention to it by filing suit. The EFF promptly put up a notice that it had been sued, and then created the "Scott A. Horstemeyer v. Electronic Frontier Foundation" page.

Horstenmeyer took a bit over a week to realize what direction this was likely headed and voluntarily dismissed his own lawsuit. The EFF wrote a final "...and by the way, you're wrong" letter that's pretty funny to read. Probably the end of this and one hopes a shining beacon of education to other lawyers tempted to call attention to their own failings.

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

March 21, 2006

Don't Miss Cato vs. the DMCA

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Posted by Wendy Seltzer

When organizations all around the political spectrum can agree a law is broken, you'd think that would lead to quick passage of the bill to fix it. Unless that law is the DMCA's anticircumvention.

The Libertarian Cato Institute has released a terrific report (PDF link) documenting ways the Digital Millennium Copyright Act hinders innovation.

Why won't iTunes play on Rio MP3 players? Why are viewers forced to sit through previews on some DVDs when they could have fast-forwarded through them on video? Why is it impossible to cut and paste text on Adobe eBook? In a just released study for the Cato Institute, Tim Lee, a policy analyst at the Show-Me Institute, answers these questions and more.

The new legislation’s most profound effects will be on the evolution of digital media technologies. We have grown accustomed to, and benefit from, a high-tech world that is freewheeling, open-ended, and fiercely competitive. Silicon Valley is a place where upstarts like Apple, Netscape, and Google have gone from two-man operations to billion-dollar trendsetters seemingly overnight. The DMCA threatens to undermine that competitive spirit by giving industry incumbents a powerful legal weapon against new entrants.

Sound copyright policy has obvious attractions for advocates of small-government and deregulation. Copyright has become more regulatory, and more market-crippling, as it expands, and the DMCA is a case in point. As Lee describes, the DMCA has been (ab)used to prevent competitive development of audio and video players, cable boxes, and even, for a time, printer cartridges. Instead of a free-market rush toward the best technology to meet public demand, we get a trickle of major-label "approved" devices that must be bug-compatible: region-coded DVD players and can't-record cable boxes.

I don't agree with Cato on everything, but this report is spot-on. Let's hope it inspires more in Congress to join Reps. Boucher, Doolittle, and Barton in support of the DMCRA.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: IP Markets and Monopolies | Kudos

April 10, 2005

Copyfighter of the Week

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Michael Geist works hard to ensure that Canada does not do as America has done. (Via Cory via Slashdot.)

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November 18, 2004

Journalism Happens

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Even on weblogs (gasp!).

Congratulations to Carl Zimmer for winning an American Association for the Advancement of Science's 2004 Science Journalism Award for his excellent Corante weblog, The Loom.

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August 30, 2004

New York Times Editorial Board == Copyfighters

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Posted by Ernest Miller

We've discussed the definition of "copyfighter" before (IAAC - I Am A Copyfighter and Defining "Copyfighter"). Regardless of the details of the definition, I think we certainly have to add the New York Times Editorial Board to the copyfighter category. For example, here are a few recent editorials from the Times:

Grokster and the Information Exchange:

These are thorny issues indeed. Freedom of information is at the root of American democracy, and yet every day we see that freedom being compromised, controlled and limited. The Grokster decision is a ruling in favor of keeping our bets open about which technologies will turn out to serve our freedoms best.
A Digital Divide:
It would be better for consumers if Apple began licensing its digital rights management software, only because the iTunes Music Store will not be able to lock up access to all the copyrighted music in the world. But RealNetworks' contention that Apple is stifling freedom of choice is self-serving. You can play music from any CD on an iPod, once it has been digitally copied, and the device works on PC's and Macs.
In-House Advice:
That is not how Congress usually thinks about it. A good example is the so-called Induce Act, now under consideration, which would make it a crime to aid or induce copyright violations like illegal file-sharing.

But the bill is so loosely worded that it could threaten a host of legal information-sharing practices and technologies. That includes everything from the iPod to automatic online translation. Critics claim, with reason, that this overreaching bill would have deeply chilling effects on technological innovation.

Congress seems instinctively to side with those who instinctively want to put a chokehold on new technologies. It's always easier, after all, to try to protect what appears to be "an absolute, inviolable set of rights" than it is to find equitable new ground to stand on in the rapidly shifting debate over digital copyright.

Kudos to the NY Times Editorial Board for recognizing the importance of these issues and making their position clear.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Kudos

July 26, 2004


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Fred Wilhems has written one of the most comprehensive and well-argued pieces I've seen about the Induce Act (PDF).

The core argument: copyright infringement over peer-to-peer networks is a problem for artists -- but you don't solve that problem by killing technological innovation or sending it overseas.

The fundamental problem I have with P2P is that the creators don’t get paid for the distribution of their work, and I don't really buy the arguments that this "free" dissemination encourages people to buy CDs, or that it builds a fan base, or that it promotes their live appearances. The hard numbers really don't bear these contentions out. INDUCE, however, attacks the wrong part of the problem by attempting to stop technology in its tracks. As the VCR proved, the MPAA's position in the Betamax case was shortsighted at best, and the current bill proves they and their allies haven't learned anything in the intervening 20 years.

Rather than figure out how to get paid from the technology, Big Content is supporting INDUCE in order to stop the technology from coming to market. This is just stupid. INDUCE isn't going to stop hardware and software developers outside the U.S. from working on new technology and bringing it to market. It is going to stop U.S. developers from participating in this growth, just as it will stop U.S. manufacturers, distributors, and retailers from achieving any share of the profits to be made, or employing the people who perform these functions, and no one else is going to be paid, either.

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

July 22, 2004

Same Blawg Time, New Blawg Channel

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A very cool new group "blawg" (law+blog) just debuted, snagging top talent: the Blawg Channel. It will combine the dry wit of Marty Schwimmer, the illuminating musings of Ernie (the Attorney) Svenson, the intelligent insights of Dennis Kennedy, and the enviably succinct, informed pointers of Tom Mighell.

A sample post by Marty, poking a hole in the Krispy Kreme trademark lawsuit against Entenmann's: "My wife and I agreed to cut out the trans fats. Nevertheless, she purchased Entenmann's Original Glazed donuts, with the blue polka dot box. In Krispy Kreme's view, she was confused."

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July 3, 2004

Shout Out to JP

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I don't always agree with Dave Winer, but in this instance I couldn't agree more. In the last few years I was there, John Palfrey managed to rekindle, and then to build upon, what makes the Berkman Center for Internet & Society more than just another think tank: its commitment to active research. The Internet isn't an object to be studied from afar. You have to dig your hands into the dirt. Once you're there, you can't help but understand that it's something worth fighting for.

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

July 2, 2004

Culture of Hope

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Siva Vaidyanathan does a lot of excellent work evangelizing the importance of keeping our culture free. So I'm delighted to see his proposal for an academic counterpart to the free culture movement gain traction. Writes Jessica Clark @ In These Times (emphasis, mine):

A more hopeful model [for cultural theory and criticism] was proposed [in a recent talk] by Siva Vaidhynathan...He outlined the work of a diverse and lively cadre of economists, sociologists, linguists, anthropologists, ethnomusicologists, communications scholars, lawyers, computer scientists, philosophers, librarians, literary scholars, and historians who work together to explore an emerging set of concerns. These include intellectual property, fair use, the impact of legal and computer codes on cultural practices and production, and what he called "semiotic democracy" -- that is, "citizens' ability to employ the signs and symbols ubiquitous in their environments in manners that they determine," such as the right to make meaning from, read, and revise cultural products.

What distinguishes critical information studies from cultural studies is that its practitioners are committed to both open source scholarship and open communication with members of the public. Rather than obfuscating everyday practices by filtering them through veils of theory, they clarify complex technological and legal structures and demonstrate their cultural implications.

Marvelous. Clark strongly recommends reading Siva's The Anarchist In The Library: How The Clash Between Freedom And Control Is Hacking The Real World And Crashing The System, for its "grounded and readable insights"; I do, too.

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June 15, 2004

DirecTV Drops "Guilt-by-Purchase" Strategy

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This just in: satellite television giant DirecTV has decided at last to stop suing or threatening to sue people for merely possessing smart card devices. Instead, it will pursue lawsuits against only those people it suspects of actually using the devices to illegally intercept the company's satellite signal.

This comes after months of negotiations with folks at EFF and Stanford's CIS Cyberlaw Clinic, who have been working together to help people defend themselves in the face of settlement demands that made it easier to give up than to fight.

"American innovators and hobbyists shouldn't have to fear legal action merely for possessing new technologies that have many legitimate uses," says Copyfight's own Jason Schultz in the official press release. "We're also pleased that DirecTV has agreed to stop targeting general purpose devices in its campaign and will investigate all substantive claims of innocence."

An extraordinary victory. Kudos to the entire DirecTVDefense team. It is moments like this that keep us going.

Update: As Fred von Lohmann points out, there is more good news about DirecTV -- and, for that matter, future cases in which general-purpose technology is under attack.

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