Posts by Sherwin Siy:

The witness list for upcoming copyright hearings raise significant questions about who the subcommittee is really listening to. 


The House IP Subcommittee recently announced its plans to hold its next two hearings in its series on copyright reform. The first, to be held this Thursday, July 25th, is entitled “Innovation in America: the Role of Copyrights.” The next, to be held next Thursday, August 1, is as-yet untitled, but will apparently be about the role of technology in innovation.

This announcement raises a few questions for the upcoming hearings. Why are they being structured this way? What, exactly, does the subcommittee hope to learn from the witnesses in them? And how will that information contribute to the cause of copyright reform?

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Amendment would improve the “Bandaid Bill” by allowing you to get help unlocking your phone, but changes won’t last.


Tomorrow the House Judiciary Committee will be offering amendments to one of the phone unlocking bills currently before it.

That bill, which was introduced by Rep. Goodlatte, the Chairman of the committee, provides a temporary fix to the cell phone unlocking problem. (That original bill is available here) Should it pass, users would once again be able to alter the firmware on their phones so that they can use the phones they’ve bought with a new network. This change to the law would last until the Library of Congress’s next rulemaking on circumvention, likely a couple of years from now.

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Our new PKThinks white paper takes a look at one aspect of the changing relationship between copyright owners and owners of copyrighted things: the first sale doctrine.


Today, we’re releasing a white paper called “Copies, Rights, and Copyrights.” It’s about the conflict between the owner of a copy of a work—like you, when you buy a paperback—and the owner of the copyright in that work – the author, or the author’s publisher. It’s often an invisible conflict, because to us, the basic boundaries in that relationship are so customary as to be obvious: the copyright holder gets to prevent the book being copied, and the owner of the copy gets to use that copy any other way she wants.

But things get trickier as we start looking at digital copies—in particular, copies that are sold as downloads instead of on physical media like CDs or DVDs.

That’s because most of the ways in which we use digital media require making copies—just reading an ebook or listening to an mp3 will make additional copies within the device as it is being buffered or cached. Transferring ownership of a copy from one person to another also requires making copies—unless you’re handing over your entire hard drive to someone.

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Parts of the debate are still missing from the discussion of copyright reform in Congress, but we’re starting to fill in the gaps. This includes the need to look at individual artists, creators, and users instead of the intermediaries and big incumbents.


Yesterday, I briefly summarized some of the major themes coming from the witnesses in the House IP Subcommittee’s copyright reform hearing. Since the witnesses covered those same points in their oral testimony, I thought I’d devote this post to some of the themes that emerged from the other side of the room—from the representatives in their statements and questions.

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Today’s witnesses for the copyright reform hearing in Congress will introduce ideas for improving America’s copyright system.


Today at 2:00 PM EST, the House Subcommittee on Intellectual Property is holding a hearing on potential copyright reform.

The structure of today’s hearing owes a lot to a multi-year project organized by Professor Pamela Samuelson called the Copyright Principles Project. Each of today’s five witnesses participated in the project, which was an attempt to bring together a number of stakeholders from different parts of the copyright debate.

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New cell phone unlocking bill would not only allow you to unlock your cell phones, it would address a long-standing problem in copyright enforcement.


Today, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, joined by Rep. Thomas Massie, Rep. Anna Eshoo, and Rep. Jared Polis, introduced another cell phone unlocking bill. Unlike those that have come before, though, this one also takes aim squarely at the problems with the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) itself—the law that may make it illegal to break digital locks, even for noninfringing purposes.

The bill, named the “Unlocking Technology Act of 2013,” specifies that you’re not infringing copyright when you unlock your cell phone—which is when you adapt or alter the phone’s firmware so it can be used with a different cell phone company.

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This week, a federal district court in California refused to toss craigslist’s claims that it owns its users’ postings. More and more, we’re seeing fine print in terms of use (“TOU”) agreements and end user license agreements (“EULAs”) that try to make copyright claims. Why?
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Today, we sent a letter to the leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, asking them to pass a strong, permanent fix to the cell phone unlocking problem, and to take a deeper look at the problems caused by the anticircumvention provisions of the DMCA. The letter, available here, is signed by over thirty consumer groups, companies, and online communities, and joined by a number of academics and activists.

We want to make sure that all of the people who were upset that the DMCA could prevent them from unlocking their phones get a solution that actually fixes the problem by changing the law, not just reversing the Library of Congress’s decision and waiting for a do-over a few years from now.

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It’s no longer a debate: people recognize that the anticircumvention provisions of the DMCA are flawed. Insofar as they keep people from doing things like unlocking their cell phones, over 100,000 people and the White House have said so, members of Congress have said so, and the FCC has said so. There’s also widespread recognition that the DMCA as a whole needs reevaluation, which the Register of Copyrights recognizes.

So why are we seeing simultaneous efforts to double down on enforcing a defective law?

Yesterday, Senators Baucus and Hatch introduced a hefty bill on trade issues.

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As you probably know, there are currently three different proposals to make sure that you can unlock your phone, despite the Library of Congress’s thoughts on the matter.
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