We've talked about the various debates concerning open access to federally funded research, and while there are still debates going on about bills in one direction or the other at the federal level, it looks like some politicians in NY State want to take matters into their own hands.
Each year, New York State agencies distribute tens of
millions of dollars in direct and underwritten funding to original
research projects. Much of the time, these papers receive publication
to peer-reviewed journals, However, while the internet has expanded
the breadth of free information that is available to the general
public, many peer reviewed journals maintain prohibitive cost
barriers which block widespread public access.
New York State proudly supports its dedicated funding to research
which helps create scientific, environmental, and cultural
breakthroughs; however it is unacceptable that that the taxpayers who
provide the money for this research should encounter any barrier in
This bill will provide a window for 6 months of exclusive protection
to the research, at which point it is only just that the general
public be free to share in the information generated from the
research. Passing this law will give New York the honor of being the
first state in the country to require public access to research
generated from taxpayer dollars.
I have no idea if this bill has any legs, but it's good to see such efforts being made.
In a move that has critics crying that it is ignoring net neutrality principles, the Korea Communications Commission said last week that it will let three local mobile operators, SK Telecom, KT and LG U+, charge users extra fees for VOIP [voice over IP] applications or block their use entirely.
KakaoTalk has 36 million Korean users and 9.2 million international users. More than half of 50 million Korean cell phone owners use smartphones, according to the Korea Communications Commission.
In other words, thanks to this latest ruling, tens of millions of KakaoTalk users in South Korea will either be forced to pay more, or may even find the service blocked completely. It's hard to see why the South Korean telecom authority decided this kind of tilted playing field was a good idea: the only ones to benefit are the mobile operators who get to attack new entrants that threatened to disrupt their market, while huge numbers of Korean citizens will be worse off as a result. You could hardly hope for a better demonstration of why net neutrality matters, and is not some purely theoretical concern.
Someday, the world will run out of fossil fuels to burn. But maybe we can avoid running out of fossil fuels by figuring out another energy source, so we won't need to burn hydrocarbons to produce electricity. Nuclear fission is just one possible energy source that could potentially replace coal, oil and natural gas entirely -- but there are some obvious drawbacks such as long-term radioactivity from its waste and the possibility of creating more nuclear weapons. Nuclear technology keeps moving forward (whether or not we've figured out how to deal with WMDs), and here are just a few examples.
The UN's International Telecommunication Union (ITU) -- the same unit looking at very questionable plans concerning taxing the internet -- has apparently decided that it also needs to step in over the massive patent thicket around smartphones. It's convening a summit of many of the players involved in the various patent disputes to see if something can be worked out to settle down all of the patent lawsuits. Of course, from the sound of it, it looks like they're only inviting the big companies who make products, and leaving the many trolls out of it. Also, it's unclear from the description if the ITU really grasps the root causes of the problem: the system itself. Instead, it seems to think that bringing together all of these companies will magically get them to "settle their differences." That seems like wishful thinking.
Okay, this one is just crazy. You hopefully already know about Mac Miller. We wrote about him last year, as he was the first truly independent artist to release an album that topped the charts in over a decade. Historically, the charts are absolutely dominated by major label acts, because the major labels pay millions of dollars to "break" a record. Of course, part of how Miller became so famous is the same way tons of new hip-hop stars are rising up: by releasing free mixtapes. Even as some folks insist that giving away music means no new rap stars, you can make a pretty big list of new rap stars who came on the scene by releasing music for free -- and Mac Miller did it better than just about anyone. In fact, a few months ago, I was talking to a big time record label guy (very closely associated with the RIAA), who told me that Mac Miller debuting at number one was one of the three biggest stories of 2011, and showed that the industry was really about to embrace new models.
And, of course, it's quite common for those mixtapes to involve some sort of infringement, but generally no one has a problem with this (unless you're clueless legacy entertainment industry players), especially since these mixtapes are all given away for free, and generally do help promote those other works. It's really become the "new radio" in hip hop.
But there's always someone who lets jealousy get in the way. That appears to be the case with Robert Hall, better known as the rapper Loud Finesse, who had a hit in 1995 called "Hip 2 Da Game." You may remember it:
It turns out that one of the songs Mac Miller released for his mixtape was called Kool Aid & Frozen Pizza, which has him rapping over the same music track:
The lyrics are entirely different, but the music is obviously the same.
Note, again, that this song was given away for free in a YouTube video and mixtape. It was never sold. It's not on Miller's album. But, jealousy rears its ugly head and Lord Finesse has now sued Miller and his label, Rostrum, and the popular mixtape site DatPiff.comfor $10 million -- and the fact that this is all about jealousy is pretty clear from the details of the lawsuit. It points out that Miller got famous, in part, because of his mixtape and thus Finesse seems to think that Miller needs to pay him for getting famous. Once again, he's being sued for $10 million, because of a song which he never sold.
Of course, if you know anything at all about hip hop, you know that its roots came from rappers building on the works of others, taking rhythms and beats and putting new lyrics over them. What many consider to be the very first popular hip hop song, "Rapper's Delight," by the Sugarhill Gang, came about when they rapped over "Good Times" by Chic.
So, you might wonder, does Lord Finesse have a history of building on the works of others? Glad you asked. Why yes, he does. He's widely sampled other artists. Oh, and the music in Hip 2 Da Game? You guessed it. Sampled. It's from Oscar Peterson's excellent jazz song, "Dream of You." Tragically, there doesn't seem to be a YouTube version of that up, but if you have Spotify, you can listen to it here:
Hip hop artist/commentator on culture and copyright, Dan Bull, found this whole situation pretty ridiculous and decided to do what he does best: write and perform a song about it. And, better yet, he did so using the same musical backing track from Finesse... er... Peterson.
This is actually interesting at a variety of levels (and equally unfortunate at a number of levels). The mixtape culture and building on the works of others is really pretty core to the hip hop world. There's a mostly unspoken agreement just within the culture that as long as you're not selling the tracks, it's encouraged to take the rhythms from another and build on it. Going against those social norms which have been pretty strongly developed over the past decade plus, is really hitting back against the basic rules that the community has established for itself, outside of what copyright allows.
In fact, the hip hop mixtape/blog world has been fascinating to watch over the past few years, in part because it actually shows how cultural norms can often set the rules for how these things work, without having to fall back on copyright laws at all. Basic social pressure can often keep most people in line. But when one breaks those social norms -- whether because of jealousy, or because they think there's a quick profit to be earned -- it can come back to haunt them.
That said, there's actually an interesting tie-in to another story we wrote about recently, discussing innovation vs. permission as frameworks for how progress should occur. While we were mostly talking about technology/entrepreneurial innovation, it clearly applies to creativity as well. All sorts of music creations came about because of innovation without permission. Soul music, jazz music, hip-hop and rock-and-roll all exist basically because of people deciding to innovate by building on the works of someone else without permission. Trying to shove a permission based system into that creates massive chilling effects and limits the kind of great music that can be created. Copyright is supposed to be about promoting progress, and yet, once again, it's used to hold it back.
Canadian copyright is undergoing huge changes. The copyright reform bill is very close to becoming law, bringing with it some fantastic new fair dealing provisions (though unfortunately along with a significant downside in the form of digital locks rules), and now the Supreme Court has stepped in with a series of major rulings that reinforce users' rights and begin the process of cleaning up the mess that is Canada's copyright tariff system. This morning, the court published five separate judgements in cases related to tariffs and royalties, and each one contains significant victories for smarter copyright law.
There is a lot to dig into in this series of rulings, and some complex legal questions involved in some portions, but each one also makes clear statements. In the first case, between Alberta schools and the copyright collective Access Copyright, the court found that photocopies for classroom use can be covered by the "research" provisions of fair dealing. In the second case, between videogame publishers and a music collection society, the court found that selling videogames does not constitute a new public performance of the music they contain, and thus does not require a public performance royalty (yes—the Copyright Board and Federal Court of Appeals had both previously ruled that transmitting videogames with music in them counts as "communication to the public"). Similarly, in the third case, the court found that films which contain music are also not public performances requiring an additional royalty (on that one, the lower courts had gotten it right and also refused to certify the tariff). In the fourth case, the court affirmed that while streaming music to users is a public performance, offering music for download is not—so services like iTunes also don't have to pay additional performance royalties. Finally, in the ruling that may get the most attention, the court found that 30 second previews of songs provided by online music services qualify as fair dealing for the purposes of research—a battle that has been going on for a long time in Canada and is now, finally, put to rest.
Collectives cannot assume that they will be entitled to an additional "layer" of remunerated rights every time there is a new method of delivery. Technological neutrality matters.
The Court said what it meant and meant what is said in CCH v. LSUC in 2004 and will move forward from there - not be pushed backwards.
Users have rights that must be given a "large and liberal interpretation". Copyright doesn't exist solely for collectives.
Educators are in a "symbiotic" relationship with students and the Copyright Act serves the goal of education, which includes access to essential material
Copyright law is both about "protection" and "access"
Copyright law is about "dissemination"
"Research" is not restricted to "creative purposes". Consumer research counts too. Research can even be for "personal interest". There is no absolute requirement for "transformative" use in Canada
The user's purpose is the one that counts in fair dealing
Practices that increase the sale of work cannot be said to have a negative impact on the work
The concept "public" must be considered in light of new technology, technological neutrality and the purpose of the legislation. The fact that communication may be interactive on an individual basis does not mean that it cannot be considered to be to the "public"
When the statute uses a word such as "excludes", it means it. The word is not superfluous.
Parliament did not intend to "recognize a superior expertise of the [Copyright] Board relative to the courts with respect to legal questions arising under the Copyright Act". On copyright questions of "first instance", the Board will get no more deference that any court would get. In other words, the Board must be "correct". It will not be sufficient that it merely be "reasonable"
One of the groups that is likely to be hit the hardest by these rulings is Access Copyright. We've covered the fact that Canada's university association struck a terrible deal with Access Copyright for the clearance of educational materials, and several major Canadian unversities are refusing to sign on. This Supreme Court case was not directly dealing with that situation (it covers only primary and secondary schools), but the ruling contains a complete tear-down of Access Copyright's entire business model which applies every bit as much to universities and colleges. Michael Geist walks through the point-by-point dismantling of all Access Copyright's standard arguments against fair dealing, leaving them very few legs to stand on moving forward. For those universities that plan to clear their own copyrights, this is a very big win—for those that didn't have the resources to keep fighting after the AUCC abandoned them, it just highlights how bad of a deal they got.
Copyright law in Canada has its problems—first and foremost the extremely bad digital locks rules that will come into effect with Bill C-11. But, increasingly, and most notably at the Supreme Court level, we've also been making significant strides in the right direction, using legal language that displays a clear understanding of both modern realities and the need for balance in copyright law. There are still important battles to be fought, but today the Supreme Court gave us a huge arsenal of new weapons.
It's the FBI's special "anti-piracy" warning. For the past few years, under a special "pilot" program, the FBI has allowed the RIAA, MPAA, BSA, ESA and SIIA (basically, the big record labels, movie studios, video game makers and software companies) to make use of the logo to warn all of their customers that they just might be felons and the FBI might show up at any moment. It's pure FUD. It also makes no difference. Is there seriously anyone anywhere in the world who sees this logo and suddenly changes their behavior?
However, this program is about to expand in a big, big way. The FBI is about to release new rules (pdf and embedded below) that expand the program so that any copyright holder will be allowed to slap this logo on their product. Expect to start seeing it everywhere... and to feel that much more like the content creator you're legitimately buying from thinks you're a crook subject to federal law enforcement action. Way to "connect" with fans, huh?
The document from the FBI discussing this repeats a few times that the FBI really feels like this program is effective and important. Could they be any more out of touch?
First, the FBI believes that the
APW Seal and accompanying warnings convey important messages to the public and are a significant component of its efforts to deter and to investigate federal crimes involving the piracy of intellectual property. Allowing use by copyright holders who are not members of industry associations will enhance those efforts. Second, although broader access may make unauthorized use more likely, this concern is overshadowed by the value of increasing public awareness of these prohibitions and the FBI’s role in investigating related criminal activity.
There are all sorts of issues with this. The first is that this whole campaign is ignoring a key point: nearly all copyright infringement is a civil infraction, not a criminal one. Most ordinary users don't understand the difference between civil and criminal infringement -- and the FBI and its silly seal do nothing to explain that difference. It's pretty clear that the purpose is to falsely imply that sharing with a friend music you legally purchased might somehow lead you to being targeted in an FBI sting operation. It's FUD, plain and simple. Second, the idea that spreading this logo further will deter actual criminal infringement? Are they serious? Remember, one of the requirements for criminal copyright infringement is that the action is willful. That means that the person knows they're breaking the law. So educating them on the fact that they're breaking the law... er... shouldn't make much of a difference.
Finally, notice that nowhere does the FBI provide any data on how effective this program has been. Because there isn't any. The MPAA shows this logo before movies, and it's not like there has been any less infringement. In fact, the FBI and ICE recently decided to double up and extend the warnings on DVDs , and it's not like that made a difference either. No, instead, all it's done is piss off tons of legitimate customers, who paid good money for the content, only to be interrupted by a giant FBI logo warning them that they may be criminals facing federal charges. The FBI even admits: "it is difficult to measure the effectiveness of the APW Seal program at preventing piracy," but apparently that won't stop it from expanding it. Who in their right mind thinks this is a sensible strategy?
Either way, it's interesting to read through the comments and feedback on this program -- including someone who suggested that the FBI should make sure the warning is skippable at the beginning of movies (the FBI notes that's up to the film producers) or another one that says this seal should be mandatory on copyright-protected works (the FBI rightly points out it has no such authority). Repeatedly, when people raise issues of more widespread use of the seal (dilution, confusion, belief that works without the seal aren't protected, etc.) the FBI insists that the supposed benefits of blanketing the universe with this logo far outweigh any downsides.
There were also concerns raised that the logo will have serious chilling effects on fair use -- which is definitely a major possibility. And the FBI's response is ridiculous.
Five comments also expressed a concern that the broader accessibility of the APW Seal may have a “chilling effect” on fair use, as some copyright holders may attempt to use the APW Seal to discourage uses of their copyrighted work that would otherwise be permissible under the fair use doctrine. The FBI fully recognizes that fair use, which is authorized under Title 17, United States Code, Section 107, does not constitute infringement, much less a federal crime. The warning language does not suggest otherwise. The FBI intends to address this matter on its public website.
Because we all know that everyone who sees the logo will go to the FBI's website and read the fine print at the bottom of the page.
Of course, what's really crazy in all of this is that the FBI is famous for having an itchy trigger finger when anyone uses its normal logo. Remember, this is the same FBI that, just two years ago, sent a threat letter to Wikipedia, because the Wikipedia page on the FBI shows the FBI logo (leading to an awesome reply from Wikimedia General Counsel, Mike Godwin).
Honestly, the whole thing is silly, but because of this kind of cluelessness, expect to see those pointless FBI warning logos on all sorts of content in the future, so that every time you legitimately purchase content, you'll be reminded that the copyright holder thinks you're a lousy stinking thief who deserves a federal investigation. I'm still trying to figure out how that could possibly be good for business, but I guess I just don't understand copyright...
from the up-up-down-down-left-right-left-right-b-a dept
For those that read Techdirt regularly, the idea of disruptive technology is nothing new. We have seen people and businesses bring disruption to many industries as well as to many business models. The internet has allowed such disruption to spread at a far faster pace than in previous decades. For example, services like YouTube, Netflix and Hulu have turned the world of film and television upside down. For music it was the mp3 and everything that it allowed. With video games, the story is not quite as well defined.
We have seen some disruption over the years, the Wii being a primary one. It showed the gaming world that the graphical arms race of previous console generations was not as important as innovation in the way people play games. Another disruption happened because of Facebook and mobile gaming. These platforms brought with them the proliferation of a free-to-play business model for gaming. The idea that people could play games for free and then pay money later was something never tried since shareware fell out of favor. These little pockets of disruption have shown that there is a market for gaming outside the typical retail console and PC arena. A market that is ripe for the harvesting.
The console market is pushing developers away. We've seen a brain drain: some of the best, most creative gamemakers are focused on mobile and social games because those platforms are more developer-friendly. And the ones who remain focused on console games can't be as creative as they'd like.
Let's open this sucker up! It's time we brought back innovation, experimentation, and creativity to the big screen. Let's make the games less expensive to make, and less expensive to buy. With all our technological advancements, shouldn't costs be going down? Gaming could be cheaper!
Among its chief selling points is the open development environment. This means that anyone can make and sell games on the console with the only barriers to entry being owning the console and making sure that some aspect of the game is free to play. For gamers, the only barrier to entry to playing these games is the initial $99 it costs.
Yesterday a video game project called Ouya became the eighth project in Kickstarter history to raise more than a million dollars, and the fastest ever to do so. Ouya hit the total in just over eight hours, shattering the previous record.
As you might expect, Ouya also has the biggest single-day total in Kickstarter history. It received more than $2.5 million in pledges from its launch on Tuesday at 8:44am to Wednesday at 8:44am.
Two Kickstarter records broken in a single day by a single project. The only other project to pull that off was another game project, Double Fine Adventure. The funding hasn't stopped just with these broken records either. It has already surpassed $4 million dollars with over 30,000 backers, and it shows no sign of stopping. With this kind of backing in less than two days, this console and what it plans to do with the games industry will be tough to ignore.
The overall impact the OUYA will have on the games industry is still very much up in the air. However, we do know it has become an overnight success in the minds of both developers and gamers alike. People who are very much willing to part with their money for the promise of a major shift in the way we consume games. I know it has made me jump at the chance to get in on the first run.
We've been covering the ridiculous legal fight over Aereo for a few months now. If you don't remember, Aereo is a company that offers -- for a fee -- to let people watch over-the-air broadcast TV (not cable, so just the small number of broadcast stations) online. Basically, what they do is set up antennas in a building in Brooklyn -- with one antenna per customer -- and then connect that antenna to the internet so the person can watch. The TV broadcasters flipped out and sued.
As we've noted, in essence, this is another lawsuit that asks the question: do the copyright rules change depending on the length of your cable. That is, we know that it's legal to put up an antenna yourself and watch what you get. That's how broadcast TV works. We also know that it's almost certainly legal (it hasn't directly been tested) to take the legal TV you are accessing and then place-shift it so you can watch it over the internet (like with a Slingbox). So, if you combine those two things, why would it suddenly be illegal? The only real difference is that the antenna and the place shifting device sit in Aereo's building rather than in your own home. So, it's just that the "cable" length between the users and the devices is longer. Why should the length of the cable determine whether something is infringing or not? In a few related legal cases, the rulings have been mixed.
There was the ivi case, where the company offered a very similar service, but went with a different legal theory (relying on compulsory licensing rules)... which has so far been shot down in court. Then there was the Zediva case which relied on a very similar theory, but with DVDs (i.e., the company had a separate DVD player for each customer and let you watch movies streamed from that individual player). In that case, the court issued an injunction and the company shut down. Finally, there's the Cablevision ruling in which the TV guys went after Cablevision for offering a remote DVR feature. In a somewhat convoluted, but important, ruling, it was found that a remote DVR could be legal and non-infringing.
While the networks seriously argued that anything that caused anyone to think about cancelling their cable subscriptions could be illegal, the judge in the Aereo case, Alison Nathan, has refused to grant a preliminary injunction (basically doing the opposite of what happened in the Zediva ruling). Zediva was in a different court (and only reached the district court level anyway) so that ruling had little direct influence here. The Cablevision ruling, however, was pretty clearly instrumental in saving Aereo from being shut down.
Much of the ruling focused on what seems like a relatively tangential question: whether Aereo is really creating an individual antenna for each customer, or if it's just building a giant single antenna. More or less, it's a question of whether or not each individual antenna works with the others to better capture the signal. This is also known as a totally stupid debate. I mean, if you were to step back and just look at this from a common sense standpoint, you'd say the fact that Aereo has to set up a different antenna for each customer is pretty stupid. There's no technical reason to do so, only a legal one. It is an expense that serves only to satisfy a legal demand, which is by definition an inefficiency introduced into the market for no reason other than to keep lawyers happy.
But, here, the judge ruled that the individual antenna theory applies, and thanks almost entirely to the Cablevision ruling, there's no reason to issue a preliminary injunction. The networks tried some bizarre theories about why Cablevision didn't apply, but the judge saw through all of the attempts at misdirection:
Despite this creative attempt to escape from the express holding of Cablevision, for the
reasons discussed below this Court finds itself constrained to reject the approach Plaintiffs urge.
Contrary to Plaintiffs' arguments, the copies Aereo's system creates are not materially
distinguishable from those in Cablevision, which found that the transmission was made from
those copies rather than from the incoming signal. Moreover, Plaintiffs' attempt to distinguish
Cablevision based on time-shifting fails when confronted with the reasoning of that case,
particularly considering that the Second Circuit's analysis was directly focused on the
significance of Cablevision' s copies but did not say one word to suggest that time-shifting played
any part in its holding.
From there, the ruling goes into a wonderfully thorough debunking of the networks' attempt to ignore the ruling in Cablevision and a detailed explanation for why Aereo is quite similar to Cablevision. In the end, the judge also bars the preliminary injunction due to the lack of irreparable harm if the service keeps going for the duration of the trial. The court actually says that it can see how there is a clear case that the networks could suffer irreperable harm, in the form of losing viewers and advertisers -- but that since that "harm" is a longterm one, there's little reason to issue an injunction right now. Separately, the court recognizes that an injunction would almost certainly be "irreparable harm" for Aereo, as it would effectively be a death sentence (as was the case with Zediva). Either way, however, the level of detail the court uses in laying out why Aereo is so similar Cablevision does not bode well for the networks' overall case.
This case is far from over, but in round one, the networks' key argument appears to have taken quite a beating.
In a case against Valitor, formerly VISA Iceland, Reykjavík District Court just ruled the company had violated contract laws by blocking credit card donations to Wikileaks. After WikiLeaks' publications revealing U.S. war crimes and statecraft in 2010, U.S. financial institutions, including VISA, MasterCard, Bank of America, erected a banking blockade against WikiLeaks wholly outside of any judicial or administrative process. The blockade stripped away over 95% of donations from supporters of WikiLeaks, costing the organization in excess of USD 20M.
The court ruled that the donation gateway should be reopened within 14 days otherwise Valitor will be penalized with a fine of 800 000 ISK daily. WikiLeaks is persuing several actions against the blockade and a European Commission preliminary investigation into the blockade was started last July. A Commission decision on whether to pursue the financial services companies involved in the blockade is expected before the end of August.
This is a big win for Wikileaks and a bad sign for the other companies complicit in the payment blockade. Whatever you may think of Wikileaks, cutting off their access to donations at the payment-processing level is a highly questionable shortcut—and hopefully the courts recognize this in the cases against other payment providers.
Just yesterday we pointed out that reports coming out of Mexico suggested that ACTA was dead there and had no chance of being signed and ratified. And then, just hours later, the news comes out that Mexico's ambassador to Japan signed on to ACTA without anyone knowing about it. Bizarrely, that particular news report claims that in signing this agreement, Mexico joins with others, including the European Union. Yet, of course, as anyone who's been paying attention knows, the EU loudly rejected ACTA just last week.
Also, I'm a bit confused. One of the reasons that Mexico did not sign way back in October when many others signed, was that the legislature had also rejected ACTA, and reports had said that the executive branch had to get the Mexican Senate to ratify the agreement. So, to have a representative just suddenly up and sign ACTA seems... very, very strange. If they could just do that, why didn't they do it back in October with most other signatories?
To be honest, I'm now curious if this sudden surprise signature has anything to do with the US inviting Mexico to join in the TPP negotiations. It may be cynical, but Mexico has wanted in to TPP negotiations for a while and had been kept out. It seems entirely possible that a "deal" was struck, whereby Mexico would sign ACTA in exchange for getting in on TPP.
Of course, if you're the Mexican legislature, or a Mexican citizen who spoke out against ACTA (and there were many), it seems that your government just sold you out completely and signed what is otherwise a dead treaty. Bizarre.
So, as the dispute between Viacom and DirecTV over how much money Viacom wants for its channels wore on, the various Viacom channels like MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodian disappeared for DirecTV subscribers. As often happens in such situations, DirecTV told its customers that they regretted the situation and were working on it, but in the meantime, they could check out missing programs online. Viacom's massive overkill response? Pull the free streams it offers online of two of its most popular shows: The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. For everyone. Not just DirecTV subscribers. Because, apparently, pissing off consumers and driving them to unauthorized means, is... um... I don't know... supposedly going to get them on Viacom's side? This is the kind of "strategic" thinking that goes on at Viacom, apparently.
Of course, this really highlights the exceptionally distorted economics of the cable/satellite TV business, where it makes more sense to block your direct relationship with fans and piss them off... in the hopes that it might make the satellite provider to pay you more money. Viacom's new motto, apparently, is: Using our fans as hostages. This is why the TV market is so ripe for disruption.
I've been hearing for a few months now that the staffers on the House Judiciary Committee, who were the main supporters of SOPA, haven't been able to let go of what happened (or even understand it). That's been pretty obvious from the few public statements they've made since SOPA failed. And now it's been made doubly clear. On Monday, we wrote about how Lamar Smith and the House Judiciary Committee that he chairs were looking to rush through a piece of SOPA embedded in another bill. It wasn't one of the most controversial bits, but it was an issue we had raised with SOPA, even if it took a back seat to some of the bigger problems.
What was stunning was that the SOPA protests were largely about process -- backroom deals, without public input or scrutiny -- and in this case, with this new bill (officially dubbed the Intellectual Property Attache Act) they not only did the same thing, but were trying to rush it through on a fast track significantly more extreme than SOPA. That is, they only shared the draft on Saturday and announced that there would be a markup on the bill (which they never even introduced) on Tuesday morning. That's rare. Normally, you officially introduce the bill, hold various hearings that involve experts, make some adjustments, and then hold a markup hearing to allow for additional amendments. In this case, they jumped right to that last step -- completely skipping over some rather major steps that would allow for public input and scrutiny.
In other words, they did the exact opposite of what the SOPA experience told them they should do.
However, because we and a few other sites pointed out the issues here, some of the original supporters of the bill began expressing doubts. Some others on the HJC offered up amendments -- including one that would say that the IP attaches couldn't just focus on enforcement, but also on limitations and exceptions like fair use (you know, actually focusing on what US law is, rather than what Hollywood wishes it would be). But apparently there is resistance to those amendments. However, because lots of people did speak up and let the HJC and Lamar Smith know that they would not accept them rushing through a piece of SOPA without public discussion, the bill has been (temporarily) delayed.
Of course, still not getting it, the HJC issued a petulant statement, effectively blaming us for this turn of events:
"This week, the House Judiciary Committee released a discussion draft of a bill that streamlines the IP attache program to help safeguard American intellectual property abroad. Unfortunately, some groups and blogs have misreported that this is a follow up to the Stop Online Piracy Act. That is not the case. The bill that the Committee currently is working on is a narrow piece of legislation to ensure better use of Patent and Trademark Office funds. The current draft increases organizational efficiency at the PTO and moves the IP attache program squarely within the PTO to ensure direct accountability of the IP attaches.
"Since releasing that draft, for which there is bipartisan and industry support, we are making some changes based on feedback from outside groups and Members. We plan to circulate a new draft based off those changes to ensure that the development of this bill continues to be an open and transparent process."
The statement is partially misleading and partially false. First of all, the language is quite similar to a portion of SOPA -- so claiming that it's not a "followup" to SOPA is clearly false. This was a part of SOPA, and now it's a part of a new bill -- but ignoring the fact that it was in SOPA is simply wrong. Second, the statement is incredibly misleading, in that they suggest that they were always seeking feedback. That's not true at all. It was on the markup schedule for Tuesday morning -- and that was published on the HJC website for anyone to see (though it's since been taken down). Finally, no one else saw a draft until Saturday and no one in the press got it until Monday morning -- about 24 hours before the markup (despite HJC staffers promising some members that it would release the draft at least a week before any effort to move it forward). Basically, the HJC staffers who put out this statement are creating a misinformation campaign, claiming (incorrectly) that we and a few other blogs who wrote about this were the ones spreading the misinformation.
They can't even own up to their own attempt to rush this bill through. It's shameful.
The latest controversy with the Intellectual Property Attache Act, formerly a provision within the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), is entirely self-inflicted by its lead sponsors.
You do not have to be a political strategist to figure out that trying to pass a piece of SOPA might in fact inflame the wide array of opposition to SOPA. You also can not cry foul when you secretly develop the legislation, hold no legislative hearing on its merits, and attempt (and thankfully fail) to move the legislation through the Committee almost 24 hours after it was leaked to the press. Each of these steps flies in the face of the request made by opponents to SOPA for more openness, inclusion, and transparency for intellectual property policy decisions. It is as if the some believe that the business of copyright legislating can proceed as usual and that the Internet Black Out never occurred.
If the House Judiciary Committee wants to shake off the ghost of SOPA and avoid having legislation blow up in their collective faces, they need to rethink how they move intellectual property bills. The Committee must proactively work at justifying to the public why a bill is necessary and win their support for its passage before voting it out. It should stop trying to move bills first and put the burden on the public to stop them from blindly moving forward.
At this point, we've heard that some Judiciary Committee staffers view sites like Techdirt as "the enemy." That's completely wrong. We'd just like them to not try to sneak bad bills through -- and to actually do their job and let the public weigh in on things. Is that so difficult to comprehend? This isn't political. We have nothing against the House Judiciary Committee as a whole. We'd just like them to actually acknowledge the public's role in the process. If they did so, perhaps people wouldn't complain and speak out. If they really are being "open" about this, then there wouldn't the this sudden surprise. There wouldn't be this attempt to rush things through... and there wouldn't be a public outcry. So it's in their own best interests to actually admit that the public exists and should be a part of the process, rather than snubbing them.
There's an almost entirely silly article over at CNN speculating -- with absolutely no knowledge -- about the identity of a woman seen frequently with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. I'm not quite sure how that makes a news story, but what caught Dark Helmet's eye was that in this bizarre little story, there was a bit from Disney, in which it felt compelled to mention that a performance seen by Kim and the woman that included Disney characters was not authorized:
The mystery woman accompanied the young leader to a Pyongyang theater on Friday night to watch a performance of North Korea's Moranbong band. The display included a cast of Disney characters, attracting the attention of The Walt Disney Company which issued a statement Tuesday saying it had not authorized their use.
As if (1) anyone cared about that or (2) anyone actually thought that Disney had licensed its characters to the North Korean government for a special performance.
This is what happens when, as a company, you seem to have infringement-on-the-brain, and think anything and everything must absolutely be framed within the context of whether or not something is infringing.
As Techdirt has noted, the main threat to artists is not piracy, but obscurity -- the fact that few know they are creating interesting stuff. As passive consumers increasingly become creators themselves, and the competition increases, that's even more of an issue. For writers, there's a double problem: not only do people need to hear about a work, they also have to find the time to explore it once acquired, and that's often a challenge in our over-filled, stressed-out lives -- unless we're talking about haiku. Here's an unusual approach to encouraging people to find that time to read books:
El Libro que No Puede Esperar (The Book That Can't Wait) comes in a sealed package and as soon as you start to turn its pages, the ink begins to age... and fade. Readers have less than two months to tackle the tome before the text toddles off into the ether.
As a video made by the Argentinian publishers explains (embedded below), an anthology of new writing from Latin America was printed using this ink; the hope was that the sense of urgency imparted by the disappearing texts would encourage more people than usual to read the book and discover its authors.
It's a clever idea, but I have a couple of problems with it. One is that this seems like a waste of resources: a book is printed and bound, with all that this implies in terms of energy, but at the end you have only blank pages. Yes, you could write on them, but how many people would do that? Alternatively, you could recycle it, but that uses even more resources to produce basic paper pulp.
I'm also troubled by the pressure the vanishing ink implicitly puts on readers. The idea that you must finishing reading a book within a set time or otherwise you'll have lost the opportunity is hardly conducive to enjoyment. It smacks rather of the classroom, where teachers tell you to finish a book by a certain date, with the justification that the experience will be good for you.
It seems to me that a much better idea would be to give away representative works as ebooks -- with no pressure that they must be read by a certain date. There's minimal waste of resources, since electrons don't cost much to deliver. And best of all, if you really like the book, you can give a copy to your friends in order to share the pleasure (provided there's no stupid DRM to stop you.)
Surely that's the best way of encouraging people to read new authors -- or try out new creations in general: getting those who already enjoy something to pass it on to people they know with the powerful added ingredient of a personal recommendation. No clever tricks involving vanishing ink can compete with something as strong as that.
Leigh Beadon: @GM their segment name of "Good News! You're Not Paranoid" was especially great, i thought :) Great Mizuti: @Leigh definitely. they did not lose their edge with the replacement host (i suppose no sign they should have, same writers probably) silverscarcat: http://trutechnoid.com/2013/06/17/drm-is-the-future/ - If this is the future, then the future is bleak and gaming will die. Leigh Beadon: @GM i felt like John Oliver needed a couple episodes to settle into the rhythm and now he's right on point. He's always been good though, and he's slowly bringing a bit of his own flavour to it but yeah, the writing team is the same i'm sure, just with a different guy delivering (and possibly approving) the jokes Mike Masnick: btw, i only just discovered last week that john oliver has a weekly podcast. which is awesome Great Mizuti: @ssc, i could not get passed the second paragraph in that article. run-ons and fragments and grammar, oh my! this is clearly not the official spokesman for the future of the industry. @mike, does he really?!? i did not know this. seems like something i can't live without now that i know about it. Mike Masnick: http://thebuglepodcast.com/ silverscarcat: GM, I could barely read the article myself. John Fenderson: Wow. I seriously think that AJ has finally suffered a complete psychotic break. Josh in CharlotteNC: Not the first time, John. He's been overdue for awhile. silverscarcat: Which thread? Jay: He now has a pastebin for just Mike. Wow, he just doesn't quit... John Fenderson: @silverscarcat: All of them. silverscarcat: Wow... I think the funny men with the little white coats need to pay him a visit. Jay: ... I just thought about what the NSA is doing... They're creating the largest collection of books in history. Conceptually speaking, they're archiving and vacuuming all of the books that they can't read. BentFranklin: Links in comments need a new style. You can barely see them. How about bold them like in articles?