by Mike Masnick
Thu, May 23rd 2013 1:01pm
by Mike Masnick
Mon, May 20th 2013 1:13pm
from the another-accident-i-suppose dept
Beyond the obvious concern about censoring a movie that shows, perhaps, a more sympathetic side of the TPB crew and their legal situation, these kinds of take downs serve another, more nefarious purpose: making sure there is less value for authorized works on these various sites. You hear it all the time from these companies that these sites are "all bad" and must be taken down. Having authorized content really looks bad, so it's nice for them that they can remove it by filing bogus DMCA claims with no real recourse. No wonder the MPAA is so vehement that it shouldn't need to consider fair use before sending bogus takedowns.
Yes, I'm sure these were all just more "accidents" but the impact is very real. For struggling filmmakers like Klose, having authorized copies of his film removed from Google has a serious impact. Copyright maximalists never seem concerned in the slightest about the collateral damage on the people who have actually learned to use these platforms well. They prefer to protect those who fight against new systems of distribution, while harming those who have succeeded in using them.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Apr 11th 2013 5:22am
from the pissing-off-fans-left-and-right dept
Recently, though, Ripple Junction, a company that produces licensed apparel, obtained the rights to mass-produce the Jayne Hat. It instantly became a hit seller on popular nerd sites like ThinkGeek. It seemed that getting a Jayne hat was easier than ever. But that ease came with a price.The good folks over at ThinkGeek, who are known for being generally cool and with it -- and not at all prone to dickish legal behavior -- were quick to put out a statement about all of this, noting that they had nothing to do with the cease and desist letters, and in fact, they're happy to compete with the homemade sellers.
Firefly fans are coming out of the woodwork, and they are hopping mad. Why? Turns out in the last few weeks many of them have received cease-and-desist letters or have simply been banned from Etsy for producing DIY Jayne Hats. This communal endeavor, it seems, is coming to a close, and fans of the show are asking themselves why. Isn't the whole point of the Jayne hat that it be homemade? Doesn't it mean anything that the hats are often auctioned off at charity events? After 10 years of nothing, isn't it unfair for Fox to suddenly force lifelong fans to cease production of something they love?
We just wanted you to know that ThinkGeek has nothing to do with the C&D notices. The hat is licensed by a vendor with whom we have a relationship and while the hat is not an exclusive to ThinkGeek, we did have a hand in its development and answered the difficult questions like, "Are the earflaps long enough?" and "Is that man afraid of anything?" (Yes and no, respectively.)See? Now that's a reasonable attitude to take. But big media companies like Fox tend to employ lawyers who aren't known for their "reasonable takes" on things, no matter how much goodwill it might destroy among fans.
Would the C&D have happened if we did not carry the hat on our site? We're not sure; we'll leave that question to sharper legal minds than ours. We're here to carry the shiniest of goods from 'round the 'verse, even maybe makin' them ourselves. We just want y'all to know that while we might not always aim to misbehave, we'll always be sure to get you the best stuff this side of the Eavesdown Docks.
The way we see it, if people want to make their own, shiny. For those out there who can't knit to save their gorram lives, we can help.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Apr 8th 2013 1:52pm
Hilarious And Ridiculous: Networks Threaten To Pull Channels Off The Air If Aereo & Dish Win Lawsuits
from the call-their-bluff dept
“If we can’t have our rights properly protected through legal and governmental solutions, we will pursue business solution. One solution would be to take the network and make it a subscription service. We’re not going to sit idly by and let people steal our content.”That came out about the same time as another quote from a TV exec, Garth Ancier, who has worked at Fox, NBC and WB, basically saying the same thing, arguing that an unnamed "two" of the four major networks are considering shutting down if the Aereo case (and possibly the Dish Auto Hopper case) goes against them.
“I know two that are talking about it,” he says, leaving open the possibility that the others might be as well. He declines to specify which, saying he’d heard it in a “talking over coffee” setting and didn’t want to betray a confidence....Let's be the first to call bullshit on this. No networks are stupid enough to shut down over this, and if they are, good riddance. Put that spectrum to better use. First of all, network TV shows get a lot more viewers. By a wide margin. Yes, there's an occasional cable show (Game of Thrones) that sneaks in to the top ratings, but it's pretty rare. The cable shows that get the most viewers are still viewed a lot less often than most network shows. If you look at Nielsen's latest rankings for last week, the top 10 network shows all scored higher ratings than the top cable show (Walking Dead). And by the time you're at the 4th most popular cable show, you're talking about a show that's getting just around half of the tenth most popular network show.
“To say it’s serious is probably an overstatement,” Ancier says. Rather, it’s a contingency plan the networks in question are keeping in their back pockets in case they can’t prevail over Aereo and Dish in court or find some other way to stave off the threat they represent.
No network with any business sense at all is going to give up that prime position for getting viewers, and shunt themselves off into the hinterlands of cable TV. And, seriously, if they do want to cede that position, I'm sure there are plenty of smart folks willing to take over that position. And, of course, nothing that Aereo or Dish Hopper is trying to do does anything to threaten the traditional business model of network TV in the first place: ads. In fact, both serve to increase viewers. The real issue is that the networks have gotten fat and happy off of the money they get from cable and satellite companies for carrying the networks, and they don't want that gravy train to go away. So, an artificial situation came up that let them get lots of money, and now that it might go away (and reality is that it won't go away for a long long time) they're threatening to take their ball and go home?
This is clearly bullshit whining from the networks hoping that lawmakers will protect their revenues from cable and satellite providers. It has nothing to do with "stealing content" as Carey claims. Policy makers would be well served to call the networks' bluff. Let the cases play out and let's see (1) if the networks really give up their prime real estate and (2) if others don't rush in to make use of it.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Apr 5th 2013 2:33pm
from the so-meta dept
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Apr 1st 2013 10:56am
from the a-good-win dept
Today, on appeal, the appeals court affirmed the district court ruling, once again blowing a big hole in the networks' arguments. The full ruling (linked above and embedded below) is well worth a read, as it's nice to see the court really try to do its best to truly understand the technology at play, rather than resorting to simplistic and inaccurate analogies, as copyright maximalists often desire. The key to the networks' argument here is that those individual antennas that Aereo sets up are a myth. They claim that it's really one giant antenna. The court disagrees. This issue plays into the big question of whether or not Aereo's service is functionally the same as the (legal) Cablevision remote DVR system, or if it goes too far and is a tool for infringement. The distinguishing factor in that Cablevision case was that Cablevision made a unique copy for every user who requested it (again, stupid and inefficient from a technological standpoint, but this is the life we lead under bad copyright laws). Bizarrely, even Cablevision argued against Aereo here, trying to distinguish its own case (perhaps to handicap a potential competitor).
The court, thankfully, doesn't buy Cablevision's own wacky interpretation, but rather relies on what the court in is case actually said, mainly, that having a unique copy means that it's not doing a "public performance" of the work.
As discussed above, Cablevision’s holding that Cablevision’s transmissions of programs recorded with its RS-DVR system were not public performances rested on two essential facts. First, the RS-DVR system created unique copies of every program a Cablevision customer wished to record. Second, the RS-DVR’s transmission of the recorded program to a particular customer was generated from that unique copy; no other customer could view a transmission created by that copy. Given these two features, the potential audience of every RS-DVR transmission was only a single Cablevision subscriber, namely the subscriber who created the copy. And because the potential audience of the transmission was only one Cablevision subscriber, the transmission was not made “to the public.”The court rejects the networks' argument that Cablevision was different because Cablevision had a license for its initial transmission, noting that the case has nothing to do with transmission, but is solely based on the question of whether or not this is a public performance under the Copyright Act. As it notes, if there is no public performance, the license question is moot, as Aereo only needs such a license for the public performance.
The same two features are present in Aereo’s system. When an Aereo customer elects to watch or record a program using either the “Watch” or “Record” features, Aereo’s system creates a unique copy of that program on a portion of a hard drive assigned only to that Aereo user. And when an Aereo user chooses to watch the recorded program, whether (nearly) live or days after the program has aired, the transmission sent by Aereo and received by that user is generated from that unique copy. No other Aereo user can ever receive a transmission from that copy. Thus, just as in Cablevision, the potential audience of each Aereo transmission is the single user who requested that a program be recorded.
The court also responds nicely to the bizarre argument of the networks that because Aereo specifically designed its system to be legal within the confines of the Cablevision ruling, that proves it's infringing. As we noted at the time, this argument doesn't help the networks at all. After all, the courts found Cablevision legal, so it makes sense that Aereo would design with that in mind for the purpose of staying on the right side of the law. The networks' basic argument is, directly, that if you try hard to stay within the law, you must be breaking the law. That's crazy, and the court, rightly, rejects it:
Plaintiffs also make much of the undisputed fact that Aereo’s system was designed around the Cablevision holding, because it creates essentially identical copies of the same program for every user who wishes to watch it in order to avoid copyright liability, instead of using a perhaps more efficient design employing shared copies. However, that Aereo was able to design a system based on Cablevision’s holding to provide its users with nearly live television over the internet is an argument that Cablevision was wrongly decided; it does not provide a basis for distinguishing Cablevision. Moreover, Aereo is not the first to design systems to avoid copyright liability. The same is likely true of Cablevision, which created separate user associated copies of each recorded program for its RS-DVR system instead of using more efficient shared copies because transmissions generated from the latter would likely be found to infringe copyright holders’ public performance right under the rationale of Redd Horne.... Nor is Aereo alone in designing its system around Cablevision, as many cloud computing services, such as internet music lockers, discussed further below, appear to have done the same...In other words, no, designing your system in accordance with the law doesn't mean you're trying to violate the law. As the court later notes, it appears that the networks really want to overrule Cablevision, which is made clear by their claims that Aereo designing within the confines of Cablevision must be infringing. The court notes that even if that's what the networks want, barring a Supreme Court decision in the alternative, they can't change their earlier ruling.
Though presented as efforts to distinguish Cablevision, many of Plaintiffs’ arguments really urge us to overrule Cablevision. One panel of this Court, however, “cannot overrule a prior decision of another panel.” ... We are “bound by the decisions of prior panels until such time as they are overruled either by an en banc panel of our Court or by the Supreme Court.” ... There is an exception when an intervening Supreme Court decision “casts doubt on our controlling precedent,” ... but we are unaware of any such decisions that implicate Cablevision.There is a dissent from Judge Denny Chin, who argues that because Aereo had to go through the technologically inefficient process it does, that shows why it's infringing.
Aereo's "technology platform" is, however, a sham. The system employs thousands of individual dime-sized antennas, but there is no technologically sound reason to use a multitude of tiny individual antennas rather than one central antenna; indeed, the system is a Rube Goldberg-like contrivance, over-engineered in an attempt to avoid the reach of the Copyright Act and to take advantage of a perceived loophole in the law.That argument is really troubling, and it's good that the majority overruled it. If that were true, any inefficient or convoluted process required by the law to remain consistent with copyright law would be seen as evidence of infringement. And that's just wacky. You'd effectively create veto power for any new innovation that way.
Anyway, the case is far from over, but so far Aereo is 2 for 2 and the networks have come up empty. Let's hope that trend continues.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Mar 27th 2013 12:27pm
Arrested Development Documentary Has To Hit Up Kickstarter Because Fox Claims Copyright On Set Photos
from the wtf dept
And, now, there's an even crazier example. Two huge fans of the cult favorite TV show, Arrested Development have made a documentary about the show, talking to a ton of people who created and acted in the show, as well as to a bunch of fans. Given that a new season (via Netflix) is quickly approaching, getting this documentary out would make sense. The film is finished according to the filmmakers. Done done done. So why are they asking Kickstarter for $20,053? Yup, you guessed it. Copyright licensing issues. And this time, it's really crazy:
After five years, we're finally close to releasing the documentary. Our final step is to pay the network for photos from the set of the show. These photos are extremely relevant to the story, and we can't move forward with the release of the documentary until our fees are paid to the network. This is where you come in. Help us pay the network fees so every Arrested fan can see this documentary!Yes, photos from the set. And, "the network" in this case is 20th Century Fox. This seemed so ridiculous to me that I asked the filmmakers, Jeff Smith & Neil Lieberman, for the details, and they said that these are photos taken by a variety of people on set and that the people who took the photos gave them to Jeff & Neil willingly, but that "the network is claiming copyright." Just to be clear, Jeff & Neil don't have a problem with this, saying that they believe that this is "within the network's rights" to make that claim and they emphasized that Fox was giving them a "deep discount on the photos" and that it "could have been much worse" otherwise.
While it's great that the filmmakers are fine with this, it still seems quite troubling to me. Whoever took the photos in the first place would own the copyright on the basic photos themselves. This implies that Fox is claiming copyright on the set itself, which appears in the images (or, they're lying and claiming copyright on something they have no copyright on). And, yes, they could potentially claim copyright on the set -- but that doesn't make this any less crazy. Jeff & Neil would have a massively clear fair use argument if they were challenged on using these images. It is not as if the use of those images would somehow harm the "market" for "the set" itself (which is about all the network could possibly be claiming copyright on). It would obviously be a transformative use, and they'd just be displaying parts of the set. This is about as open and shut a fair use case as you could possibly imagine.
And, really, this is doubly ridiculous, because this documentary is only going to help promote the show more, not harm it in any way... oh wait. Fox no longer benefits from that because Fox cancelled the show and the new season is happening on Netflix instead... Perhaps that's what this is about. The cash from this Kickstarter could have gone into all sorts of actually useful things, including more marketing and promotions for the documentary (which does look great). But, instead, it's going into Fox's bank account, because Rupert Murdoch needs it more than two independent documentary filmmakers who were huge fans of the show. I thought copyright was supposed to be about helping filmmakers, not forcing them to waste $20,000+ dollars on a bogus copyright claim..
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Feb 26th 2013 9:12am
from the over-and-over-and-over-again dept
I'm reminded of this thanks to News Corp. (via Fox) filing for a new injunction against Dish Networks for the latest version of its DVR, the Dish Hopper with Sling. Now, you may recall that Fox already tried to get an injunction against Dish's Hopper with Sling and lost pretty badly (even as it pretended that it had won). Fox is appealing that decision, but also filed a new request for an injunction against the updated device, claiming that the key new feature, Hopper Transfers, goes beyond anything else and (once again), must be stopped.
This is the same old story over and over again. The last century plus of copyright law has been driven by the entertainment industry flipping out time and time again over new innovations that they don't think should be allowed. The 1909 Copyright Act was driven, in large part, by the introduction of the evil player piano, leading many to insist that this would kill the demand for live music and put musicians out of work.
Around that time, there was also the invention of the gramophone, or, as John Philip Sousa called it, "that infernal machine." He famously claimed, "these talking machines are going to ruin the artistic development of music in this country," and that "we will not have a vocal cord left," because evolution will deem them not necessary due to "talking machines."
Then along came radio, and it too, was destined to wipe out the industry, with ASCAP demanding that any song that was to be played on the radio first needed to (a) get permission from the rights holder and (b) have the DJ state clearly before each song that it was being played "by special permission" from the rightsholder. When people started mocking that phrase (and someone even wrote a song about it), ASCAP stated that the permission line had to be spoken by DJs with "no facetious trifling."
Moving on, along came cable TV to add some competition to the TV market. And what happened? Lawsuits of course. "It would be difficult to imagine a more flagrant violation of the Copyright Act," we were told.
And you may have heard what happened when the original VCR was invented. Why the MPAA's Jack Valenti had a thing or two to say about that:
I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone.Cassette recorder? "Home taping is killing music."
DVR? Must be illegal. According to the head of Turner Broadcasting: "People who watch TV without commercials are stealing from the entertainment producers."
How about the first real MP3 player, the Diamond Rio? Lawsuit filed in which it was stated that allowing the device, "will injure not only the record companies and artists whose work will be pirated, but also the music publishers, musicians, background singers, songwriters and others whose existence is dependent on revenue earned by record sales."
YouTube? Viacom's lawsuit is still ongoing, but Viacom insisted that, if allowed, YouTube would "severely impair, if not completely destroy, the value of many copyrighted creations."
And lets not even get into all of the technologies that the entertainment industry has been shutting down over the past few years. Zediva? Dead. ivi? Gone. Aereo? Still here, but fighting. Veoh? Dead (even though it won its lawsuit). MP3Tunes? Bankrupt due to lawsuit (even though it won too). There are many more as well.
See a pattern yet? This pattern repeats over and over and over and over again. The entertainment industry, aided by the Copyright Office, seems to think that there's some sort of role it has to play in giving the yay or nay vote to any new technological innovation that concerns content consumption. And, of course, the vote is always "nay." In the long run, that always turns out to be the wrong vote. So why do we constantly allow the entertainment industry to get away with this nonsense? This filing from Fox is merely the latest in a very long line of these kinds of actions, and it should be immensely troubling to those who recognize that the best way for the entertainment industry itself to thrive in the modern world is to embrace these new services, which increase value to consumers and make them more interested in watching/listening to the content being produced.
You would think that, after a century of these examples, those in the entertainment industry might finally realize that looking for the opportunities in these innovations is a more productive strategy than trying to kill every new technology. Apparently, however, the industry is still run by people who have no sense of history, other than the history of always ratcheting up copyright enforcement.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Feb 1st 2013 11:47am
from the why-not-just-give-credit? dept
You can see the original below:
The Scissor Sisters, after receiving a sizable sum from Fox and Spirit Music for the rights to their song, paid Landers just as they had promised during that handshake.What's interesting is that what upset Landers (and Coulton) was something that actually had little to do with copyright at all. Both were most perturbed by the lack of credit from Fox:
From the moment Landers saw the Tweet about "Kiki" on Glee, he has pursued one thing: credit.... Since, Landers has only pursued two things from Glee: confirmation that his choreography was being used in the November 29th episode, and some kind of documentation that stated his work was his work.All of this raises a big question: why are Fox and Glee so averse to giving credit? It's been discussed many times before that credit or attribution is often much more important to artists than copyright itself. In fact, a recent study showed very strong evidence that credit has significant value to artists, often outweighing the value of any copyright claim.
So why doesn't Fox provide such credit?
It's free to do so. It basically costs them nothing, other than to add the names to the flashing credits at the end that nobody reads, or (better yet) in online notes to the show, which perhaps people will read. I've never understood why people are stingy with credit in such situations. Some suspect that (ironically) it may be copyright law itself that makes companies stingy with credit, since it opens up at least the potential of further legal ramifications. For example, if it's later found that a use is infringing, they can make a stronger argument that its "willful," potentially tripling any damages award. In other cases, it may just be general stinginess, and a feeling that the original creators don't deserve the credit, or that the people on the show would greedily prefer that they get the credit for such "creative" interpretations.
In the end, though, it seems like it would be a nice and neighborly thing to do to provide credit where possible, even if not legally required, and even if Fox wants to claim fair use. It would seem likely that such a simple free move would actually lead to much greater appreciation and support, rather than anger towards the show and its producers.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jan 30th 2013 9:38am
from the how-messed-up-is-our-system dept
Allow me to explain. When the whole thing first broke, we thought that Coulton took the right approach in basically just telling his fans about it. Then, when we heard that he was exploring legal issues with his lawyers, that actually seemed like the wrong approach to take, even if he was upset about things. According to various reports, right before the show aired, Fox finally reached out to him and explained that what they did was perfectly legal (probably true) and that Coulton should be happy for the exposure. Coulton's response was quite reasonable -- asking if that meant Fox would be crediting him. Since the answer was no, the promise of exposure rings a bit hollow.
That said, it's not entirely hollow -- because of Coulton's ability to whip up (completely reasonable) righteous indignation about this from his fans via social media. As he told Mashable in the link above:
"They were right. I did get exposure, but it didn't come from anything they did. It was sympathetic outrage on Twitter, and bloggers and journalists talking about how crazy it was."And, of course, he's taken it a step further as well, re-releasing his original song on iTunes, but calling it Baby Got Back (In the Style of Glee) and promising to donate the proceeds to two charities associated with Glee: The VH1 Save the Music Foundation and the It Gets Better Project. Song sales are doing well, with Coulton's version climbing the charts, while the official Glee version of the song is riddled with one star reviews from his supportive fans (even though he's not encouraging people to do this) and is nowhere to be found on the charts.
[....] "Sometimes I forget that Twitter is something beyond just being snarky at the Oscars. All of a sudden something happens and you remember that this is an amazing, powerful tool." Coulton says. "My fans have a keen sense of justice, and this idea that we should be attributed for our work. People who are of the Internet realize that attribution is what we trade on."
Still, what strikes me as perhaps most interesting about all of this is that as you explore the legal issues, it is entirely possible to come out with an argument that says that if anyone is infringing on copyright here... it's Jonathan Coulton. Let me be clear on this: I am not saying that anyone has directly accused him of this, nor am I suggesting (in any way) that he should be accused of this. I'm just showing how misaligned the law is with what most people think of as a sensible regime today. So why might Coulton be in trouble? As he's noted repeatedly, he paid the compulsory license to cover the song via the Harry Fox Agency. Doing so means that he agreed (pdf) to abide by Section 115 of the Copyright Act.
What's that? Well, check it out here. Here's the relevant part for our discussion:
A compulsory license includes the privilege of making a musical arrangement of the work to the extent necessary to conform it to the style or manner of interpretation of the performance involved, but the arrangement shall not change the basic melody or fundamental character of the work, and shall not be subject to protection as a derivative work under this title, except with the express consent of the copyright owner.Previously, we and many others had suggested that the changes that what Coulton had made could possibly be protected as unique creative works. However, he more or less gave up that claim when he used the statutory license, rather than doing a direct deal with Sir Mix A Lot, or whoever else holds the rights on the song. That also means, however, that Coulton did not live up to Section 115 and his cover, in all likelihood, violates the original copyrights, because the license he got does not cover the very different arrangement and melody he created.
That is, by any normal measure, insane. But that's the law. This whole situation has (ridiculously) exposed Jonathan Coulton as a "pirate" and Fox as being perfectly within the law. And that just seems silly.