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Book Publishers Whine To USTR That It's Just Not Fair That Canada Recognizes Fair Dealing For Educational Purposes (Copyright)

by Mike Masnick

from the you-know,-like-US-law dept on Thursday, May 28th, 2015 @ 2:39PM
A few years ago, Canada's Supreme Court made it clear that "fair dealing" should be applied broadly, especially in educational settings. Fair dealing, of course, is similar to fair use -- and, in the US, in theory, educational uses are also supposed to qualify for fair use. As Section 107 of the US Copyright Act states:
The fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include—

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
Thus, it seems like the Canadian interpretation is very much in line with the US's statutory view of fair use. Of course, over the years, in the US, publishers have repeatedly chipped away at fair use, such that now that Canada has moved to a position more akin to what the US's is supposed to be, those same publishers are absolutely flipping out. Last year, we noted that those US publishers submitted a recommendation to the USTR claiming that fair dealing in Canada was simply piracy. This was the publishers' submission to the USTR for consideration in preparing its annual Special 301 Report.

Apparently, this "fair dealing = piracy" argument didn't play well enough at the USTR and didn't make this year's Special 301 charade. So, the publishers are pissed. Or so reports a recent bit in Politico's Morning Trade (I'd link to the actual story, but Politico apparently doesn't believe in making it easy to permalink to its Morning Trade tidbits, so it's no longer there), where it notes they've asked the deputy USTR (and former BSA boss) to do something.
Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Robert Holleyman is traveling to New York today to attend the opening ceremony of BookExpo America, put on by the Association of American Publishers. The industry group is steamed over USTR’s failure in a recent report to confront what it regards as Canada’s overly broad copyright exception for educational purposes. “Active engagement by the U.S. and Canada to remedy the damage should not be put off any longer,” the AAP said.
Think about that for a second. Here are American publishers flat out complaining about Canada setting up its laws to help people get educated. Do these publishers think even in the slightest about the kind of message they're sending out? "Fuck educating children -- we want more money."

Rockstar Ironically Goes On The Trademark Muscle To Silence BBC Documentary (Trademark)

by Timothy Geigner

from the think-twice dept on Thursday, May 28th, 2015 @ 1:36PM

If you're amongst that odd combination of gaming enthusiast and strident supporter of the First Amendment, Rockstar is likely one of your hero-companies. The maker of the Grand Theft Auto series has long relied on free speech principles both for the outlandish (and entertaining) content in its games, but also as a defense against every last crazy sorta-famous person out there that thinks the company has appropriated their likeness in what amounts to at worst parody and more likely an amalgam composite of pop culture characters.

And, as it is with any kind of hero, it truly hurts when they fall to the dark side of the force. Rockstar has announced, for reasons I can't even imagine, that it has filed suit against the BBC over an upcoming film called Game Changer, which is to focus on the stories of GTA creator Sam Houser and all-around great human being Jack Thompson. The basis for the suit is -- sigh -- trademark violations.

The game company told IGN that it has filed a lawsuit to ensure its trademarks "are not misused in the BBC's pursuit of an unofficial depiction of purported events related to Rockstar Games." Now, Take-Two is claiming that the BBC's movie infringes its intellectual property, though the substance of its arguments remain vague. The company wouldn't provide a copy of the complaint that it had filed against BBC.
The obvious part of this is that a filmmaker ought to be able to rely on the same sort of principles of fair use in order to make a dramatic telling that deals with real-life figures, companies and games. The US, the UK, wherever; this should be a no-brainer. No amount of use of gameplay footage or company logos ought silence artistic speech as a general rule, but it's absolutely insane for this argument to be made by Rockstar of all companies. Allowing these kinds of restrictions to prevent speech is the exact misdeed Rockstar is still fighting against in the Lindsay Lohan suit, after all.
If a lawsuit that objects to a film covering a First Amendment battle isn't sufficiently on the wild side, the complaint comes as Take-Two and Rockstar are still in court defending themselves against Lindsay Lohan's allegation that Grand Theft Auto V ripped off her image and persona. In that dispute, Take-Two has sought to sanction Lohan for filing a frivolous lawsuit and has told the judge, "Artistic works like GTAV simply cannot form the basis for right of publicity claims under either New York law or the First Amendment."
While trademark law and publicity rights laws aren't the exact same thing, the moral ground is the same in both arguments. For Rockstar to champion free speech in one court while seeking to plainly undermine it in another brings to mind names like Judas and Brutus. Why, when free speech has served it so well, is Rockstar seeking to undermine the very tool it's used to produce so many great games? Nothing in this BBC movie could be worth this betrayal. Hell, we all know that Jack Thompson is an asshat, guys.

Don't make us think you are too.


The NYTimes Plays Its Role In 'Keeping Fear Alive' With Pure Fearmongering Over PATRIOT Act Renewal (Overhype)

by Mike Masnick

from the all-the-propaganda-that's-fit-to-print dept on Thursday, May 28th, 2015 @ 12:32PM
Earlier this year, we wrote about the psychological games that surveillance state defenders play -- both on themselves and the public -- to continually ratchet up programs that show no evidence of working. In it, we pointed to a great post by the ACLU's Kade Crockford, highlighting a rare case where an FBI official was forthright about what's really going on:
If you’re submitting budget proposals for a law enforcement agency, for an intelligence agency, you’re not going to submit the proposal that ‘We won the war on terror and everything’s great,’ cuz the first thing that’s gonna happen is your budget’s gonna be cut in half. You know, it’s my opposite of Jesse Jackson’s ‘Keep Hope Alive’—it’s ‘Keep Fear Alive.’ Keep it alive.
Keep fear alive. Keep it alive. And, apparently, one great way to do that is to basically get the NY Times to run pure government propaganda in the form of simply repeating anonymous fearmongering from administration officials who set up a call for this exact purpose:
“What you’re doing, essentially, is you’re playing national security Russian roulette,” one senior administration official said of allowing the powers to lapse. That prospect appears increasingly likely with the measure, the USA Freedom Act, stalled and lawmakers in their home states and districts during a congressional recess.

“We’re in uncharted waters,” another senior member of the administration said at a briefing organized by the White House, where three officials spoke with reporters about the consequences of inaction by Congress. “We have not had to confront addressing the terrorist threat without these authorities, and it’s going to be fraught with unnecessary risk.”
First, note the anonymity, even though this isn't a leak or a reporter sniffing out a story and needing to protect sources. This is a "briefing organized by the White House" where they play stupid games in demanding anonymity for the sole purpose of avoiding accountability. Second, note the blatant fearmongering without any specifics. It's pure "keep fear alive" in action -- aided along by a stenographer at the NY Times.

All the propaganda that's fit to print.

As the Intercept rightly notes, this piece was published without even the slightest critical look into the statements by those officials:

Worst of all, it’s all published uncritically. There’s not a syllable challenging or questioning any of these dire warnings. No Patriot Act opponent is heard from. None of the multiple facts exposing these scare tactics as manipulative and false are referenced.

It’s just government propaganda masquerading as a news article, where anonymous officials warn the country that they will die if the Patriot Act isn’t renewed immediately, while decreeing that Congressional critics of the law will have blood on their hands due to their refusal to obey. In other words, it’s a perfect museum exhibit for how government officials in both parties and American media outlets have collaborated for 15 years to enact one radical measure after the next and destroy any chance for rational discourse about it.

Once again, two separate government review boards, as well as judges who have looked over the program and Senators who have been briefed on the full extent of the program in question, have all said that the bulk metadata collection program has not proven useful in stopping terrorist attacks. At all.

And, of course, blatant fearmongering without comparing the costs and (lack of) benefits is completely useless. Again, it could be taken to any extreme. Would putting real-time cameras hovering over every living human being 24/7 allow the government to find out who was plotting a terrorist attack? In theory, yes. But everyone would consider it a gross violation of privacy. Just because a tool might be useful doesn't mean that it's the right thing to do. So, here we have a case of a "tool" that is both a clear violation of our civil liberties and one that hasn't even been found to be useful.

Yet why is the NY Times -- the so-called "paper of record" -- repeating blindly government propaganda about how important it is to keep the program alive? Keep fear alive, NY Times. Keep it alive.

Google Fiber Says It's Passing On Rightscorp Settlement-O-Matic Demands For 'Transparency' (Failures)

by Karl Bode

from the transparent-bullying dept on Thursday, May 28th, 2015 @ 11:29AM
As Rightscorp continues to explore its legally-dubious efforts to shake down broadband users for cash, the company is finding itself with its hands full across multiple, costly legal fronts. Earlier this month, the company was beaten back in court by a tiny ISP by the name of Birch Communications, after the courts rejected the use of DMCA subpoenas for ISP subscriber data. Rightscorp's also doing battle with Cox Communications, trying to drum up user identities while claiming the DMCA gives it the authority to threaten users with account termination.

Despite all the noise Rightscorp makes in the media and in the courts, it's not very good at being a copyright troll. The company's latest earnings report suggested the company is losing more money than ever, spending $1.24 million on legal fees and other costs last quarter to collect just $308,000.

ISPs are under no obligation under the DMCA to forward copyright infringement notices, though most ISPs do so anyway. However, on principle many ISPs (like Comcast) refuse to pass on Rightscorp's early settlement notices, which demand users pay an upfront payment of $20 to avoid legal escalation (which usually never comes). On behalf of its client Rotten Records, Rightscorp is now suing two Comcast users for sharing an album each and ignoring hundreds of settlement notices:
"Distancing themselves from any accusations of wrongdoing, the lawsuits state that neither Rotten Records nor Rightscorp were the original ‘seeders’ of the album and at no point did Rightscorp upload the albums to any other BitTorrent users. However, the company did send warnings to the Comcast users with demands for them to stop sharing the album.

"Rightscorp sent Defendant 288 notices via their ISP Comcast Cable Communications, Inc. from December 14, 2014 to May 12, 2015 demanding that Defendant stop illegally distributing Plaintiff’s work. Defendant ignored each and every notice and continued to illegally distribute Plaintiff’s work," the complaint reads."
Rightscorp is seeking an injunction forbidding further online infringement in both cases, deletion of both works, statutory damages of up to $150,000 for each album, and attorneys' fees. It's a one-two punch; trying to reveal the names of the offenders while attempting to punish Comcast for refusing to pass on settlement demands. If it wins, Rightscorp hopes the ample press will scare other settlement notice recipients to pay up.

Oddly, while the cable company everybody loves to hate is standing up for users, an ISP that's been a bit of a hero for bringing some much needed competition to the broadband market has been playing along with Rightscorp. Google Fiber has been taking some heat the last few weeks for the news that it's passing on Rightscorps' full settlement demands to users. When pressed for comment as to why companies like Comcast strip out the demands to protect its customers and Google doesn't, the company claimed it was just trying to be as transparent as possible:
"When Google Fiber receives a copyright complaint about an account, we pass along all of the information we receive to the account holder so that they’re aware of it and can determine the response that’s best for their situation," a Google spokesperson tells TF...."Although we think there are better solutions to fighting piracy than targeting individual downloaders, we want to be transparent with our customers,” Google’s spokesperson adds."
Of course, if Google truly wants to be "transparent" with users, it might consider adequately informing them they're being shaken down by a particularly hairy copyright troll.

Daily Deal: Power Castle 26000mAh External Battery (Deals)

by Gretchen Heckmann

from the good-deals-on-cool-stuff dept on Thursday, May 28th, 2015 @ 11:23AM
Another day, another battery featured in the Daily Deal post. But the Power Castle 26000mAh External Battery really is different than the others we've covered. It's available for 71% off in the store for a limited time. The Power Castle is a lot of power packed into an attractive brushed aluminum alloy casing that is about the size of a 7" tablet. It can recharge your phones, tablets and even your laptops. The Power Castle comes with 12 connectors for most laptops, 10 connectors for phones & other devices, 1 DC power wire, 1 USB spring power wire and 1 18.5V 2A AC adapter giving you great flexibility for keeping your devices topped up while on the go.

Note: We earn a portion of all sales from Techdirt Deals. The products featured do not reflect endorsements by our editorial team.

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