Much ado has been made recently in the recording industry over a copyright law mechanism called the “termination” right, and for good reason. Section 203 of the Copyright Act gives authors a 5-year window to reclaim the rights to their works by terminating transfers or licenses they executed in or after 1978, starting 35 years after they granted the licenses. This allows recording artists to reclaim rights they previously sold, gave, or licensed away, and this year some of those artists (like Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and Tom Waits, to name a few) began telling record labels that they intend to do so.
Posts by Jodie Griffin:
Last week when I reported back from Google Copyright School, one thing about the video that bothered me was its implicit assertion that “original” works are better and more interesting than derivative works, like remixes or mash-ups. This idea bothers me for two reasons: to me, it’s actually very difficult to sift through our culture and determine what’s really “original” and what isn’t, and even if we could do it I’m not so sure that the arguably not-original works provide no value to society.
As you may have heard, yesterday Google unveiled its new YouTube Copyright School. YouTube users who are alleged to have violated copyright law must watch a video discussing some of the basics on copyright law (more on that later) and pass a quiz or risk having their account deleted. The idea isn’t all bad: educating the public about copyright law is a good thing, and so is stopping copyright infringement. But this new Copyright School has some serious flaws, and I think on the whole will only discourage the creation of new (legitimate) works while doing little to actually prevent infringing uses.
Last week the FCC announced the agenda for its March meeting, including a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to reform some of the rules governing negotiations between broadcasters and cable companies over the retransmission of broadcast programs via cable. In a letter [pdf] we sent to the FCC in January, Public Knowledge applauded this effort and explained that, now more than ever, the FCC must use its existing legal authority and act to protect consumers. We also urged the FCC to grant our petition from last March, which would establish safeguards to prevent retransmission consent disputes from leaving customers cash-strapped or out in the cold.
On June 28, Boing Boing co-editor, sci-fi author, and UK Open Rights Group co-founder Cory Doctorow spoke at this month’s CopyNight DC. Doctorow has long been a respected voice in the debate about copyright law’s effect on culture, but he’s recently broadened his arguments to take aim at the consequences that overreaching copyright enforcement has for democracy itself. The talk was inspiring, informative, and entertaining, and I highly recommend it (watch it here) to anyone who’s interested in. . . well, democracy itself.
The broadcast “retransmission consent” regulatory structure isn’t exactly the hottest topic of the moment, so you might wonder why PK recently filed Reply Comments (and joined the Petition for Rulemaking) urging the FCC to revamp its rules governing negotiations between over-the-air broadcasters and cable companies.
Getting the retransmission consent rules right is important if the FCC wants to protect consumer choice by ensuring a vibrant marketplace for multichannel video programming distributors (including cable companies, digital broadcast satellite, incumbent local exchange carriers, and online video distributors). Right now consumers are caught in the middle, and are being used as pawns in the negotiations for cable companies’ rights to offer broadcast programming to their customers. In recent years, these negotiations have consistently resulted in either higher cable rates for consumers or loss of programming. PK’s reply comments urge the FCC to stop letting consumers get trampled in a system that was intended to benefit the public by preserving “free” over-the-air broadcasting.
Physicians understandably prefer to avoid defamatory remarks about them popping up on the internet (don’t we all?), but that doesn’t justify the relatively new practice of some doctors controlling online patient reviews by making their patients sign over their “copyright” in all future reviews, true or not. The New York Times recently published an interesting article about strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs), which mentioned in passing efforts of the for-profit company Medical Justice to keep patients from posting unfavorable physician reviews online. Even more interesting than what you’ll find in the linked article was its original version, as posted last Monday:
“The group Medical Justice, which helps protect doctors from meritless malpractice suits, advises its members to have patients sign an agreement that gives the doctor copyright over a Web posting if the patient mentions the doctor or practice.”