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Remix, Rights and Removal

September 24, 2009 DMCA , Fair Use

Video remixers are on the front lines of the battle between new media technologies and impeding copyright laws that threaten to obstruct the public space for popular culture critique. Public spaces such as YouTube are teeming with meticulously crafted and articulate video remixes that make powerful arguments, deconstructing social myths and challenging dominant media messages. These remixes reflect the participatory nature of both pop and remix cultures, but their future is in jeopardy due to corporate claims of copyright infringement, DMCA takedown notices and an inability to distinguish between an illegal use of proprietary content and a fair use of one.

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DRM is Dead, Long Live DRM

July 20, 2009 DMCA , DRM , Filtering , Music Licensing , Piracy

DRM is dead, or so they say. With the “big four” major labels having completely abandoned DRM protection schemes for CDs and with online music juggernaut iTunes now offering all of its music DRM-free, you might think that the era of restricted music files and rootkit fiascoes is now behind us. But you would be wrong. While DRM may be dead as far as mainstream music distribution is concerned, many labels–both major and independent–continue to utilize various forms of DRM and watermarking when distributing music in specific contexts and for certain purposes. Perhaps the most visible category among these is the pre-release promo, generally a CD or digital file sent to journalists in advance of the street date for review purposes. In an article for the Washington City Paper, music journalist Mike Riggs sheds some light on the practice of sending DRM and watermark-laden music to critics:

I had been looking forward to reviewing Depart From Me, the new album by Definitive Jux rapper Cage, since I discovered 2005’s damn-near brilliant Hell’s Winter. When the package arrived one month in advance of the street date, I set aside everything I was doing and with trembling fingers popped the promo CD of Depart From Me into the computer. And after listening to the first minute and a half of every track, I tossed the CD in the trash. Why? Because Definitive Jux, in order to keep me from leaking the album, made the review copy nearly unlistenable by inserting promo drops–breaks in the music during which a voice says, “This is a promotional copy”–on every single track.

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Sony’s Exec’s Attempted Internet Apology Falls Flat

May 26, 2009 Anti-circumvention , DMCA , Fair Use

It wouldn’t have been surprising if there was a semi-panicked conversation in the corporate suites of Sony. Michael Lynton, the head of Sony studios, had just been quoted as saying “I’m a guy who doesn’t see anything good having come from the Internet.”

Some marketing gal or PR guy in the Sony eco-sphere probably realized, hey, our audience lives on the Web. How would it look for our top exec to go around trashing the Net?

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Newspapers Betray Their Heritage With Internet Attacks

May 18, 2009 DMCA , Fair Use

It’s hard to imagine an American industry as privileged and protected as the newspaper. Right there in the First Amendment to the Constitution, are the words: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…” No other industry is mentioned in the Constitution.

The rights of journalists, working in print or electronic media, have been protected down through the years. While ordinary citizens might be liable to be sued for libel, the U.S. Supreme Court in 1964 set a higher standard in Times v. Sullivan so that a newspaper could be sued only if it could be proved the paper knew ahead of time that what it was printing was false.

In any other industry, the concept of competitors combining operations might be anathema to rigorous antitrust law (admittedly a stale concept after the past eight years).

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PK response to the MPAA: Securing Human Rights Does Not Harm Copyright

May 14, 2009 DMCA , International

Access to information is a fundamental human right. It allows individuals to effectively participate in social, political, and cultural life. Many international treaties oblige countries to secure this right for all individuals including those with disabilities. However, as I noted in my previous post, many national copyright laws, including US copyright law, place limitations on access to information by the blind. A move to address this issue is underway at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which may consider an international treaty that would require countries to remove certain copyright restrictions that prevent access. The Copyright Office, which is part of the U.S. delegation to WIPO, had invited public comments on this issue. The comments filed with the Copyright Office are available here.

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