Chris Sprigman's Favorite Techdirt Posts Of The Week
from the good-stories,-bad-news dept
This was a great week of techdirt posts . . . but that doesn’t mean this was a good week for rational tech and IP policy. A lot of what I read on Techdirt this week was coverage of stuff I wish hadn’t happened.
For example, Glyn Moody’s post on Google’s offer to pay French publishers 50 million Euros in order to settle the dispute over Google’s display of news snippets in its search results. This is bad news on a couple of fronts. First, it suggests that the French newspapers have a legitimate copyright claim, which they don’t. Second, although Google can afford to pay for the privilege of doing what they are entitled to do for free, many of Google’s potential competitors will not be so fortunate. So Google throws the French newspapers some of its spare change, and in the process raises barriers to competition. Yuck.
This hasn’t been a good week for Google’s promise not to do evil – and for some reason France is the epicenter of the bad behavior. Big Search has agreed to pay French ISP Orange for preferential handling of its traffic. Which is precisely inimical to the net neutrality principles that Google has been fighting for in the U.S. That said, Google’s move is consistent with a French proverb that applies to a lot of its conduct lately — Autre temps, autres moeurs.
Somewhat cheerier was Timothy Geigner’s post on a Samsung Super Bowl Trademark ad that ridicules over-aggressive trademark law. It’s significant mostly as proof that people now know enough about trademark law to understand when an ad is making fun of it. And it’s also fun to see the NFL, which fields a team of lawyers that collectively lack a sense of humor or proportion regarding use of NFL marks, take a good clean hit.
While we’re on the NFL, Mike Masnick’s post on ICE’s role as the NFL’s private trademark cop is also worth reading. ICE has been seizing websites on dubious legal authority and without an adversary process. The latest batch of 313 websites may have something to do with counterfeit merchandise, or may not — it’s hard to tell without a hearing. And it’s not like ICE never gets it wrong — just recently they seized a bunch of supposedly counterfeit San Francisco 49’ers merch that turned out to be legit. Oops.
For those of you with a taste for DC inside-baseball, read this Masnick post reporting that the Obama Administration is considering filing a brief in the Georgia State University case — that is, the recent district court decision that gave universities wide fair use latitude to put library materials on “e-reserve” for their students’ use. It’s not particularly surprising that the Administration would want to weigh in on this important fair use case. But it’s a bit odd that they’d consider weighing in on behalf of the publishers. The story, apparently, is that the Copyright Office (which just hired a former RIAA VP as its second in command) is urging the Department of Justice to file an anti-fair use brief. Just over a year after the Administration ran away as fast as it could from SOPA and PIPA, the Copyright Office apparently hasn’t gotten the memo.
Relatedly, check on this post on the U.S. government’s threats to retaliate against the tiny Caribbean nations of Antigua and Barbuda if they set up legal piracy websites.
Legal piracy websites? Yup. The WTO gave permission for Antigua and Barbuda to retaliate against the U.S. by suspending U.S. patents and copyrights after a WTO trade court ruled that U.S. laws restricting online gambling violated treaty agreements and hurt Antigua and Barbuda trade. So the U.S. demands that other nations respect its (absurd) online gambling restrictions, but it won’t respect its trading partners’ rights to impose lawful trade sanctions. Sheesh.
Finally, if you’re looking for a good-news story this week, take a look at Mike Masnick’s post on the fallout from CNET’s very unwise decision to remove Dish’s Hopper DVR from contention for CES Best in Show. The CEA has taken away CNET’s authority to pick the “official” CES award winner. Which makes sense given that CNET apparently has no editorial independence from its mega-content-owner parent, CBS. In a nice turnabout, CEA has given the Hopper a well-deserved share of this year’s award.
I’m out . . . and hoping that next week brings better news.