Later this month, the U.S., Canada, and Mexico will launch their sixth round of negotiations for the modernization of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Recent news coverage has focused on whether the Trump administration will withdraw from the agreement or not. As civil society continues to be excluded from this process, there is still little information about actual intellectual property proposals, but the position of Public Knowledge remains unchanged: trade agreements must promote a balanced copyright system that serves the public interest.
The policy sphere has its knickers in a knot over Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai’s meme-filled video collaboration with The Daily Caller. In the video, Chairman Pai defends his decision to repeal net neutrality protections by enumerating the things folks can still do on the internet.
It’s almost axiomatic that independent artists face unique difficulties in the digital environment. Unlicensed commercial use of creative works is not uncommon, and the money that those uses theoretically represent in unpaid licensing fees can be substantial. So it’s understandable that artists would push for a system that makes it cheaper and easier for them to recover royalties for infringements of their copyrights.
This summer, the Copyright Office released a study on Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Section 1201 is the provision of the law that allows copyright owners to digitally lock you out of your own stuff, preventing everything from connecting your cellphone to a different carrier, to ripping your DVDs to your tablet, to accessing the diagnostic system in your car. We’ve long advocated for reforming this law which unnecessarily limits user rights, and actively participated in the Office’s study of Section 1201. The resulting report is less than we hoped for; while the Office has recommended some important and needed changes to the law and its application, it mostly leaves the law in place and has us asking what could have been. The report does, however, reveal something interesting about how the Copyright Office thinks about Section 1201--namely, when it chooses to believe (or not believe) the users.
The Supreme Court's recent decision in Packingham v. North Carolina struck down, as unconstitutional under the First Amendment, a state law making it a felony for registered sex offenders to access social media websites. The decision has wide-ranging potential implications for technology law, especially on matters of rights to access the internet, which are particularly important for marginalized and disenfranchised voices in our society. Below, Harold Feld reviews the Packingham decision and explores its implications for one area of law: the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's provisions regarding termination of Internet access for accused copyright infringers. This post was originally posted on Harold's personal blog, "Tales of the Sausage Factory," on wetmachine.com.