Items tagged "Public Domain"


Reclaiming the Digital Frontier

April 9, 2007 Policy Blog , Public Domain

Note: This column originally appeared on

The next time you plunk down your $10 (and rising) for a movie ticket, think for a minute about where the money goes. Millions go to the movie stars, directors and producers. Tens of thousands go to the people who work on the movie. But a lot of that money also helps to pay for lawyers whose job is to limit what consumers can see and do with materials they have the right to use.

The big media companies can get away with it because they played a large role in writing the laws under which they sue innovators and hurt consumers, and they have a knack for finding friendly courts to enforce them. Common sense, nor other laws, need not be applied.

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News of Interest on 3-21-2007

March 21, 2007 Broadband , FCC , Network Neutrality , Policy Blog , Public Domain

There are a few notes in the news you might be interested in as a PK Policy Blog reader:

Jeff Rabhan, who manages artists and music producers including Jermaine Dupri, Kelis and Elliott Yamin, says CDs have become little more than advertisements for more-lucrative goods like concert tickets and T-shirts. "Sales are so down and so off that, as a manager, I look at a CD as part of the marketing of an artist, more than as an income stream," says Mr. Rabhan. "It's the vehicle that drives the tour, the merchandise, building the brand, and that's it. There's no money."

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Senators Weigh in on WIPO Broadcast Treaty

March 1, 2007 Broadcast Flag , Fair Use , Policy Blog , Public Domain , WIPO Broadcasters Treaty

Senators Patrick Leahy and Arlen Specter recently sent a letter to the Copyright Office and the PTO, expressing their concern about the WIPO Broadcast Treaty. In it, they voice many of the same concerns that have brought together a broad alliance of public interest groups, libraries, technology groups, and communications providers against the treaty as it is currently envisioned at WIPO.

Specifically, the senators (who are, respectively, the Chair and Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee) are worried that granting broadcasters a separate, 20-year-long IP right in broadcasts could interfere with the fair use of works, as well as complicating the legal hoops that consumers would have to jump through. The letter also addresses the fact that copyright owners and ISPs could run into unintended liabilities under the treaty.

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Return of the Fashion Copyright Police – Levi Strauss as a Cautionary Tale

February 1, 2007 Policy Blog , Public Domain , Trademark

We have heard that fashion designers and their lobbyists are already on the Hill seeking copyright protection for fashion designs. You may recall that in the last Congress, a bill introduced by Congressman Bob Goodlatte that would have given fashion design copyright protection for three years died. We opposed the bill and wrote about the issue a lot last summer. Here and here are just two good posts about the issue.

Advocates for fashion copyright protection would be well advised to read a front page article that appeared earlier this week in the New York Times (registration required). The Times reports about Levi Strauss' efforts to protect its trademarked "intersecting arch" stitching on the back of its jeans, as well as its trademarked "Levi's tab," a folded piece of cloth sewn into the vertical seam on the left hand side of the back pocket (one company even placed a label on the right hand side just to avoid a lawsuit). According to the Times, Levi Strauss is now among the 10 most litigious trademark holders in the country, coming in below Lorillard Tobacco and above Baskin-Robbins at number 7. The company has been successful in many of these trademark infringement suits, which have been brought against companies such as Von Dutch, Jones Apparel and Fossil.

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PK In the Know Podcast #23: Interview with Chris Sprigman

January 30, 2007 Orphan Works , Policy Blog , Public Domain

On the heels of #22, I bring you #23!

In case you missed it last week, PK Advisory Board Member and always welcome guest blogger Chris Sprigman wrote about the Kahle v. Gonzales case.

I thought it might be useful to sit down and talk with Chris for a podcast.

You can:

  • Listen to the MP3 here | RSS

  • Listen to the enhanced version (with some links) here | RSS

I think it came out pretty well, but don't take my word for it. Your input is always helpful–please leave comments below if you'd like to hear more of this kind of interview-like format.

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Wall Street Journal Editorial Muddles the Issues

December 1, 2006 Fair Use , Policy Blog , Public Domain

As Alex has mentioned, the Wall Street Journal today printed an editorial that broadly describes Google’s business as being “legally ambiguous” in terms of copyright law. But the editorial itself does clarity no favors in making its argument. The piece not only blurs the facts of what Google’s doing, it also mischaracterizes the legal landscape, in promoting a system where anyone providing an online service has to either seek permission from copyright owners before setting up shop or to pre-screen and pre-approve everything that their users do online. According to the Wall Street Journal:

Google and YouTube claim it’s impossible for them to chase down permission from tens of millions of video and printed-word copyright owners. Hey, this was their idea; it seems like a $150 billion, smarter-than-everyone company should be able to figure out how to police its Web site.
The piece does a bad job of laying out the facts surrounding several distinct Google activities–BookSearch, YouTube, and news and image searches. Vaguely referring to these all in the same breath, the Journal suggests that the company is posting entire bookstores’ worth of copyrighted materials for anyone to read. This just isn’t the case. Google only posts short snippets of copyrighted books owned by its library partners, so that, for instance, users trying to identify a given quote or passage can identify its source. Longer passages are hosted only with the permission of the publisher, or if the book has already entered the public domain. In the case of copyrighted books, no more than a few lines at a time–certainly no more than would be available in a book review or in any other “unauthorized” use.

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Broadcast Rights and the Public Domain

November 16, 2006 Policy Blog , Public Domain , WIPO Broadcasters Treaty

One of the many compelling reasons to oppose the WIPO broadcast treaty in its current form is that it wraps another layer of property rights around works that are broadcast. The problems this causes become far clearer when works in the public domain are involved.

Imagine an old Charlie Chaplin movie in the public domain. Anyone has the right to view it, copy it, distribute it, or play it in public. The movie belongs to all of us, Chaplin and his affiliates long since compensated by its sales while it was subject to copyright law.

Under the proposed WIPO broadcast treaty, a TV network that took this public domain movie and played it over the air would have the right to sue anyone who taped the movie off of that broadcast and redistributed it.

Compare this to what happens when a book falls into the public domain. The text is available for anyone to read, copy, distribute, or adapt. If a publisher decides to print some copied of the work and sell them, anyone who acquires a copy can copy, distribute, or adapt the text from that new printing. It doesn't matter that the publisher has invested money in finding a previous copy of the work, or spent money on the paper and bindings. Those costs, presumably, are offset by the price the publisher charges for the book itself. The fact that others can subsequently copy the book is just part of the calculus that a publisher has to make when putting a public domain work into print.

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Interesting Copyright Reform Proposal from Across the Pond

October 31, 2006 DRM , Fair Use , Policy Blog , Public Domain

In recent blog posts and in public appearances, I have been beating the drum about the need for reform of US copyright laws to reflect the reality of how people use digital technology and create their own content. In the UK, that debate appears to be much farther along, as the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has released a white paper that does just that. I urge folks to read this – even though the law is slightly different across the pond, the cultural, economic and democratic values that IPPR's recommendations seek to preserve are not. This clearly is a very serious document – the foreword is written by Matthew Taylor, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair's Chief Adviser on Strategy) at a time when the UK government is considering a comprehensive overhaul of its copyright laws.

IPPR recognizes the tension between the need to protect creativity and innovation for "wealth and jobs" and the need for openness and the sharing of information "to develop our intellectual and creative talents, discover new artists, create new businesses, forge alliances between academic and commercial institutions, and learn from one another." Thus,

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