Canadian Public Domain Not Good Enough For German Publisher

from the this-is-not-the-public-domain-you-were-looking-for dept

It's no secret that different countries have different lengths for copyright. That's why there are constant debates over copyright extension, as countries with shorter terms for copyright are pressured by those with longer terms to extend (or, better yet, to leapfrog) copyright terms. Otherwise, you end up with the situation where content in one country is in the public domain, while it's still under copyright elsewhere. In the age of the internet, where borders are somewhat meaningless online, that's going to cause some problems. Witness the situation with the International Music Score Library Project, a wiki-based project in Canada, for publishing public domain music scores online. The site was careful about copyright, making sure that the only content published was in the public domain. Since the site is based in Canada, it focused on Canadian copyright law and what was in the public domain in that country. Apparently, that was seen as problematic to a German publisher, Universal Edition AG, who found that some of the musical scores that are in the public domain in Canada are still under copyright in Germany. Universal Edition then hired a Toronto law firm to send a cease and desist letter, that caused the entire site to be taken down. Yes, even though all of the content was perfectly legal under Canadian law, this German publisher was able to get it taken offline because some of the content was still under copyright in Europe. If this type of thing is allowed to stand, then we reach a point where all copyright online automatically is covered by the absolute most draconian and stringent levels of copyright law, no matter what the law is anywhere else. That doesn't seem either reasonable or fair.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    I_Am_Canadian, Oct 22nd, 2007 @ 9:30am

    F%^k the germans

    As a Canadian,

    all i have to say to Universal, get the R$%^$# away from our companies, look at you trying to be all american, trying to control everyone else. if it was a germen website this would be a stright foreward case, but since they are complying with Canadian law and its a Canadian Site, screw the rest of the world. this would never hold up in a canadian court, our judges have brains in their heads.

     

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    Shohat, Oct 22nd, 2007 @ 9:34am

    What is the alternative ?

    There are several options.
    1) Using tightest copyright law availible in the world
    2) Using loose 3rd-world (Nigerian for instance) copyright laws
    3) Using a special universal standard for all online content.

    Since (2) is not a practical option, and (3) does not exists, logic forces companies to act accordingly.

     

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      Mike (profile), Oct 22nd, 2007 @ 9:59am

      Re: What is the alternative ?

      There are several options.
      1) Using tightest copyright law availible in the world
      2) Using loose 3rd-world (Nigerian for instance) copyright laws
      3) Using a special universal standard for all online content.


      What's wrong with:

      4) Use the copyright law available in the country where the organization and/or server reside?

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Oct 22nd, 2007 @ 10:50am

        Re: Re: What is the alternative ?

        So material created in a Germany should be subjected to another Canada's copyright laws? That hardly makes sense.

        Though from personal experience Germany tends to impose it's copyright laws on other country's music (i.e. thinking PD music is not PD).

        It is illogical to say that the most stringent laws would be enforced just the laws between the two stakeholder’s countries. Yes, it complicates things, but until a global copyright agreement is reached that may have to be a constant annoyance.

         

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          Casper, Oct 22nd, 2007 @ 11:19am

          Re: Re: Re: What is the alternative ?

          So material created in a Germany should be subjected to another Canada's copyright laws? That hardly makes sense.

          Though from personal experience Germany tends to impose it's copyright laws on other country's music (i.e. thinking PD music is not PD).

          It is illogical to say that the most stringent laws would be enforced just the laws between the two stakeholder’s countries. Yes, it complicates things, but until a global copyright agreement is reached that may have to be a constant annoyance.

          You have to be realistic, filtering by country is impossible and would be counter productive to a global network. You would essentially be crippling the internet simply because copyrights and trademarks (which were intended to PROMOTE progress) are different in every country.

          I can not understand how on one side countries criticize the Unites States for influencing other countries politics and laws, only to agree with instances such as this. Since no where on the site does the Canadian company reference German users specifically, wouldn't it make sense that they were not intending to provide the content to those users, and as such, it would be more along the lines of second hand information exchange rather then a deliberate attempt to disseminate copyrighted material in violation with German law? They obeyed their local laws, for the country where they are located, and they did not deliberately bypass foreign laws. This site should not have been shut down.

          If the German company has a problem with this, they should put pressure on the German government to work out a cooperative law with the Canadian government, not exploit the flawed copyright system.

           

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          BTR1701, Oct 23rd, 2007 @ 6:05am

          Re: Re: Re: What is the alternative ?

          > but until a global copyright agreement is
          > reached that may have to be a constant annoyance.

          So does this annoyance extend to other laws as well? I mean, it's a crime in Germany to deny the Holocaust and/or put up a web site glorifying the Nazis. However, both of those things are perfectly legal (albeit distasteful) in America.

          So suppose someone living in Oklahoma puts up a pro-Hitler web site, which is accessible in Germany. Should the German courts be able to swear out an indictment, an arrest warrant and a request for extradition, demanding that U.S. citizen in Oklahoma be turned over to stand trial in Germany for violating German law?

          The same goes for obscenity. Even within the USA, the legal standard for obscenity varies from community to community and state to state-- indeed the Supreme Court's benchmark for obscenity is material which "violates prevailing community standards...". Should a person in California who puts up a "Faces of Death" type web site be subject to California obscenity law (where such things are tolerated) or Kansas obscenity law (the heart of the Bible Belt where community standards are much stricter)?

          Also child porn. In the USA, all but one of Traci Lords's porn videos are illegal because she was under 18 when she made them. But in Canada, most of them are legal. If a Canadian put them up on the web, could that person be extradited and tried for promulgating child porn in the USA?

          If it's okay to adopt a "strictest law wins" approach to copyright law, what justification is there for not applying this approach to all conflict-of-laws cases involving the internet?

           

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      comboman, Oct 22nd, 2007 @ 10:00am

      Re: What is the alternative ?

      You forgot option (4)

      4) Use the copyright laws of the country you're based in and (if necessary) limit access to users who are from your own country.

      Option (1) is no more practical than option (2). What if some 3rd-world draconian dictatorship decides copyright should last 10,000 years? Suddenly Shakespeare and Mozart are collecting royalties again.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 22nd, 2007 @ 9:40am

    How does it feels to on the other side of the stick ;) (speaking of thePirateBay and AllOfMp3 cases)

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 22nd, 2007 @ 10:01am

    What exactly is the problem?

    Imagine this scenario: A Canadian publisher prints, on paper, scores that are in the Canadian public domain, and then distributes the scores for free in a country where the score is not in public domain. The publisher would be violating copyright laws in this case. (Also, the publisher would be violating the Customs law for not declaring commercial goods brought in.)

    The International Music Score Library Project has the right to publish scores that are in Canadian public domain, but they can do so only in Canada. They can serve content online, if they ensure they don't provide access where it is illegal to do so. We know that can't be reliably done. Thus, the right thing to do is to shut down the site.

    I am glad they did the right thing. However, I do like them to pursue alternative means of accomplishing their goals.

     

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      Dan, Oct 22nd, 2007 @ 10:19am

      Re: What exactly is the problem?

      With that logic, all internet sites not acceptable in China would have to be taken down, because they are illegal somewhere.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Oct 22nd, 2007 @ 11:16am

        Re: Re: What exactly is the problem?

        With that logic, all internet sites not acceptable in China would have to be taken down, because they are illegal somewhere.

        not acceptable is different from copyrighted.

         

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          zcat, Oct 22nd, 2007 @ 12:05pm

          Re: Re: Re: What exactly is the problem?

          'not acceptable' means that publishing the material violates the law in China.

          'copyright' means that publishing the material violates the law in Germany.

          In both cases there is some _government-created_ law that says you're not allowed to publish certain materials. Why should Germany get to extend this law to cover people who publish in Canada, and China doesn't?

           

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      Hulser, Oct 22nd, 2007 @ 10:56am

      Re: What exactly is the problem?

      >They can serve content online, if they ensure they don't
      >provide access where it is illegal to do so. We know that
      >can't be reliably done. Thus, the right thing to do is to
      >shut down the site.
      AC, you make some good points, but I do not agree that the site should be shut down. Yes, if a Canadian were to distribute printed scores in the scenario you describe, Canadian copyright law would be violated. But the Internet introduces such a drastic change in the assumptions upon which these laws were based, doesn't this require some latitude in how we handle this?

      Instead of the publisher being responsible for the filtering, what about the country that has the more onerus copyright law? Basically say, fine, if you want to have more stringent copyright laws, then put up a virtual wall around your country and block content that violates your laws.

      As a practical matter, a web site that publishes content on the Internet cannot be aware of every copyright law out there. But a country is obviously aware of its own laws. Just block content that violates your laws. If the country's citizens are OK with that, then OK. If not, they should change their laws (or the government).

      Personally, I don't like the concept of a government blocking content from its citizens, but it's better than demanding that every other country conform to its laws.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Oct 22nd, 2007 @ 11:25am

        Re: Re: What exactly is the problem?

        I do not agree that the site should be shut down
        Neither do I, but there aren't other easy options. An alternative that has been effectively used by the porn industry might work: Let users say that they have checked copyright on a particular work before they access it. Not clean, but could be a decent start.
        As a practical matter, a web site that publishes content on the Internet cannot be aware of every copyright law out there.
        A business is required to understand its audience and play by the rules for each of its customers. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse. A web site publisher must know that its audience is beyond a country, or ensure that its audience is limited to a country.
        Personally, I don't like the concept of a government blocking content from its citizens
        That is a different debate. I too would love people to have unfettered access to information.

         

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          BTR1701, Oct 23rd, 2007 @ 6:15am

          Re: Re: Re: What exactly is the problem?

          > A business is required to understand its
          > audience and play by the rules for each of
          > its customers.

          Says who? There's certainly no legal requirement that says this.

          The only thing is a business is legally required to do is abide by the laws of the jurisdiction in which it operates.

          For example, if a band records a song in California that glorifies Nazis and those CDs find their way to Germany, where glorifying Nazis is a crime, those band members cannot be legally extradited to stand trial in Germany. They had no obligation to abide by German law when they recorded that song in California. They didn't even have an obligation to be aware of German law when they recorded that song in California.

          Your approach would make the 1st Amendment (among many other things) meaningless and ineffective.

          > Ignorance of the law is not an excuse.

          But only in the jurisdiction in which it operates. Ignorance of every law in every nation in the world *is* an excuse.

           

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    Bob Jones, Oct 22nd, 2007 @ 10:08am

    In a related story the House of Saud sent a cease and desist to 900 million porn sites this week as they are illegal under Saudi law, the American porn industry plummted leading to a 300 point loss on the Dow Jones as fat cats could no longer keep secret where they really get their money.

    In other news, Iran is pressuring forums to revoke the accounts of all women as they don't have a right to say anything in Iran.

    Iran also sent notices to entertainment sites telling them to remove all their Gay presenters as they are not legal in Tehran.

    ---

    Since when did the law in the country of the moaning gas bag matter? I'm gonna relocate to Cuba and have some fun getting The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones, NASDAQ and Forbes website taken down for breaking Cuban law.

     

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    Denis, Oct 22nd, 2007 @ 10:19am

    I think this getting really bad.

    I mean, soon everything will be copyrighted. Btw. my phrase is copyrighted by me and if you read it you need to send me 3 cents.

    In Canada our laws are not as strict for copyrights not because we are a bunch of pirates, but because we believe in freedom of expression and Freedom of Speech. We try to allow creativity to flourish instead of crushing it. Ever wonder why so many great talents come out of Canada?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 22nd, 2007 @ 10:23am


    Iran also sent notices to entertainment sites telling them to remove all their Gay presenters as they are not legal in Tehran.


    It's not a matter of them not being legal, they don't exist there at all. Just ask their President.

     

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    RandomThoughts, Oct 22nd, 2007 @ 10:41am

    Disputes between different countries business. Isn't that what the WTO is for?

    Why blame the Germans? Who said the Canadians had to listen to the C&D order?

     

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    darkbhudda, Oct 22nd, 2007 @ 6:29pm


    Imagine this scenario: A Canadian publisher prints, on paper, scores that are in the Canadian public domain, and then distributes the scores for free in a country where the score is not in public domain. The publisher would be violating copyright laws in this case. (Also, the publisher would be violating the Customs law for not declaring commercial goods brought in.)


    Actually the scenario is more like:
    A German gets on a plane and flies to Canada, walks into a public library, removes a book of public domain scores that is under a glass case with clear labels of copyright laws of other countries, photocopies the book then gets on a plane and returns to Germany. Then a German publisher sends a cease and decease letter to the Canadian library for not banning Germans.

     

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    Pussy Eater, Oct 22nd, 2007 @ 8:47pm

    Pussies - RUN!

    So far I assumed the Europeans are pussies who can be so easily pushed by the US M.A.F.I.A.A. But this one is worse. The Canadians have no guts whatsoever. Don't the Canadian judges have a bit of dignity and self-respect?

     

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    wolfgang, Oct 23rd, 2007 @ 7:13am

    Universal is actually an Austrian company

     

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