by Mike Masnick
Thu, Apr 25th 2013 11:33pm
Thu, Apr 25th 2013 8:04pm
from the social-media-fail dept
With graduation fast approaching, maybe people are coming to the startling realization (what took you so long?) that they’re going to have to figure out a way to pay off their student loans. Sure, it was fun to have government monopoly money to play with while you were in law school — maybe you had a weekly shoegasm at DSW; maybe you repeatedly blew your wad at Game Stop — but now it’s time to face the music.
Unfortunately, when it comes to debt repayment, the soundtrack that’s playing on an infinite loop in your mind is from the shower scene in Psycho.
Whether or not you’ve got a job lined up, you know for sure that your starting salary is nowhere near high enough to allow you to both live indoors and make monthly payments to your loan servicer. You’re scared that you’re going to have to moonlight in retail, or worse yet, move back in with your parents.
All you know is that you really, really don’t want to default on your loans. Your credit will be shot. Your phone number will be scrawled on the bathroom walls at collections agencies. Your life’s work will be all for naught. What the hell are you going to do?
Don’t worry, friends. Your loan servicer has a secret to share on how to avoid the disaster of default….
We recently received a tip from someone who’s about to graduate into a job market that’s still pretty rough around the edges. His loan servicer, Great Lakes, sent him an email letting him know how he could successfully pay back his debts. Here’s his take on the absurd message he found in his inbox:
Who knew that all it took for me to pay back my loans was “liking” them on Facebook? I guess I can stop hunting for a job now.
Without further ado, here’s the image that served as the entire body of the email from Great Lakes:
It’s as simple as connecting on social media sites! This shouldn’t be too difficult for the Millennials.
P.S. You didn’t stop to think that you’d be less likely to default because you gave the company another way to hunt you down and harass you? Aww, that’s cute, but really, how embarrassing for you.
More stories from Above The Law
by Michael Ho
Thu, Apr 25th 2013 5:00pm
from the urls-we-dig-up dept
- Is there a perfect technique to running? In 1874, the "100-Up" method was created and could be the best way to run. You don't need fancy five-toed shoes, and you should really avoid landing hard on your heels. [url]
- Just one minute of strenuous effort repeated about ten times (over about 20 minutes per day) seems to offer some significant health benefits. Studies of variations of high-intensity interval training techniques could help people optimize their exercise routines. [url]
- A lot of people are walking incorrectly with bad posture. Bending your elbows at a 90 degree angle might not sound like a big deal, but apparently, if you're not doing it, you're walking wrong. [url]
by Glyn Moody
Thu, Apr 25th 2013 3:44pm
After Muzzling Librarians And Scientists, Now Canada Starts Making It Difficult For Citizens To Express Their Views
from the coincidence?-I-don't-think-so dept
Last month, Techdirt wrote about the requirement for librarians employed by the Canadian government to self-censor their opinions, even in private. This came in the wake of similar restrictions being placed on government scientists. We pointed out that this kind of muzzling created a really bad precedent that might one day even be extended to the public. It seems that moment has come sooner than expected:
New undemocratic rules are creating a barrier to public participation in upcoming National Energy Board (NEB) hearings into the proposal for Enbridge's Line 9 oil pipeline. For the first time, members of the public who want to send a letter with comments to the NEB about a pipeline project must first apply for permission to participate -- by filling out a 10-page form that includes a request for a resume and references.
The National Energy Board reports to the Minister of Natural Resources Canada, and describes itself as follows:
an independent federal agency established in 1959 by the Parliament of Canada to regulate international and interprovincial aspects of the oil, gas and electric utility industries. The purpose of the NEB is to regulate pipelines, energy development and trade in the Canadian public interest.
Making permission to submit a letter conditional on filling in a 10-page form and sending a resume and references first is clearly an attempt to make the process so onerous that only lobbyists paid to do so will bother to go through with it. That's exactly the opposite of most consultations, which seek to encourage comments from as wide a range of people as possible by making the actual mechanics easy. It's particularly galling that these serious obstacles to participation should have been placed by a body tasked with working "in the Canadian public interest": if the public can't make their voices heard, how can the NEB claim to serve them?
Taken together with earlier moves, this latest ploy by a federal agency seems a part of an wider campaign to shut down public debate in Canada. Few politicians like to be criticized, or have the weaknesses of their plans exposed, but a country where people find it increasingly hard to express their views on government proposals is starting to take a dangerous road.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Apr 25th 2013 2:27pm
from the but-of-course dept
Given that, the only thing really surprising about the news that the American Photographic Artists (APA) have joined the lawsuit against Google's book scanning project (sent in by Brig C. McCoy) is the fact that it took them this long to get around to it.
American Photographic Artists (APA) is joining the 15 plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Google. By joining the suit, APA alleges the “Google Book Search” program violates the copyrights of numerous photographers and other visual artists. The lead plaintiffs include: The American Society of Media Photographers, Graphic Artists Guild, Picture Archive Council of America, North American Nature Photography Association, Professional Photographers of America, National Press Photographers Association, Leif Skoogfors , Al Satterwhite , Morton Beebe , Ed Kashi , John Schmelzer , Simms Taback and Gail Kuenstler Taback Living Trust, Leland Bobbe , John Francis, Ficara, and David W. Moser.And, yes, I certainly recognize that seeing a single photograph in a book means that Google's book scan may show the whole thing, but that's because the photographer likely already licensed that image for the book in question. And, if you've ever seen the scans from Google books, you'd know, quite well, that there's no way anyone would consider such a scan a reasonable substitute for the original image. For example, I looked at the scans from this photography book, and the quality is quite low. This is no substitute for the original in any way, shape or form. This just seems like a case of piling on based on copyright aggressiveness.
Copyright protection and licensing images are two elements that ensure the sustainability of a professional photographer’s career,” notes APA National President, Theresa Raffetto. “APA membership consists of professional photographers who rely on these elements and is why APA advocates fearlessly for copyright protection. Holding Google Books responsible for their flagrant copyright infringement is something APA has been working on and we’re pleased to continue this fight in conjunction with the other plaintiffs.”
by Leigh Beadon
Thu, Apr 25th 2013 1:11pm
from the that's-more-like-it dept
It was over a year ago when we last wrote about Richard Prince, the famous appropriation artist who was sued by photographer Patrick Cariou, whose photos Prince had used in various collage paintings. In a very troubling ruling, the judge in that case rejected Prince's fair use defense in a summary judgement, and ordered all 30 relevant works be turned over to Cariou to be sold or destroyed as he saw fit. This was a shock to the art world, where appropriation art has been a popular and highly-respected art form for years, with Prince as one of its best-known practitioners.
Today, we get some good news: the appeals court has overturned the decision (pdf and embedded below) and found 25 of Prince's paintings to be fair use, while sending the other five back to the lower court so the fair use defense can be properly considered rather than summarily dismissed. There are a few oddities in the details, but overall this is a fantastic ruling that includes some excellent language about fair use.
One of the most disturbing parts about the earlier ruling was that the lower court completely dropped the ball on its interpretation of fair use, incorrectly stating that in order to qualify for fair use, a new work must be commenting on or criticizing the original work. That's plainly wrong, and the appeals judge set the matter straight:
The district court imposed a requirement that, to qualify for a fair use defense, a secondary use must “comment on, relate to the historical context of, or critically refer back to the original works.” Cariou, 784 F. Supp. 2d at 348. Certainly, many types of fair use, such as satire and parody, invariably comment on an original work and/or on popular culture. For example, the rap group 2 Live Crew’s parody of Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman” “was clearly intended to ridicule the white-bread original.” Campbell, 510 U.S. at 582 (quotation marks omitted). Much of Andy Warhol’s work, including work incorporating appropriated images of Campbell’s soup cans or of Marilyn Monroe, comments on consumer culture and explores the relationship between celebrity culture and advertising. As even Cariou concedes, however, the district court’s legal premise was not correct. The law imposes no requirement that a work comment on the original or its author in order to be considered transformative, and a secondary work may constitute a fair use even if it serves some purpose other than those (criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research) identified in the preamble to the statute. Id. at 577; Harper & Row, 471 U.S. at 561. Instead, as the Supreme Court as well as decisions from our court have emphasized, to qualify as a fair use, a new work generally must alter the original with “new expression, meaning, or message.”
Of course, even this judge seems to have a few facts muddled, considering "parody and satire" cannot be casually linked together like that in the context of U.S. copyright law — one is a well-established and codified form of fair use, the other enjoys no such protection. In fact, the initial court's talk of comment and criticism seems to have stemmed from confusion between the standards for fair use in general, and the standards for parody specifically (where commenting on the original is indeed a requirement).
There's more good stuff about fair use, including lots of citations, to be found in the ruling, which should be read by anyone who still claims that copyright is a natural right or that stronger copyright always means more creativity:
The purpose of the copyright law is “[t]o promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts” U.S. Const., Art. I, § 8, cl. 8. As Judge Pierre Leval of this court has explained, “[t]he copyright is not an inevitable, divine, or natural right that confers on authors the absolute ownership of their creations. It is designed rather to stimulate activity and progress in the arts for the intellectual enrichment of the public.” Pierre N. Leval, Toward a Fair Use Standard, 103 Harv. L. Rev. 1105, 1107 (1990) (hereinafter “Leval”). Fair use is “necessary to fulfill [that] very purpose.” Campbell, 510 U.S. at 575. Because “‘excessively broad protection would stifle, rather than advance, the law’s objective,’”
The “ultimate test of fair use ... is whether the copyright law’s goal of ‘promoting the Progress of Science and useful Arts’ ... would be better served by allowing the use than by preventing it.” Castle Rock, 150 F.3d at 141
Since the court goes through a full fair use analysis, there's lots of good stuff on issues other than the transformative one too. The ruling clarifies that neither the "commercial use" aspect nor the "amount of work copied" aspect of fair use is determinative, and explains why Prince's work qualifies for fair use even though it is commercial and often uses Cariou's photos in their entirety.
But there's still a somewhat problematic side to this ruling, and that's the aforementioned distinction of five works from the rest. It brings us back to a problem we talked about a lot last year when this case was in the courts: judges playing art critic. The fact that fair use is so vague means that, every time it's tested, it starts to turn into an argument about whether a piece of art is "good" or "worthwhile" — a subjective standard if there ever was one. Among the five that have been sent back to the lower court is the most famous of them all (Cariou original on the left, Prince work on the right):
The ruling draws a distinction between that and one of the other works that it declared to be fair use (again Cariou left, Prince right):
In that comparison, it's not hard to see how the latter example changes the original "more" than the former. But that's where the obviousness ends. The true challenge is drawing that line, which the appeals court was not prepared to do:
As indicated above, there are five artworks that, upon our review, present closer questions. Specifically, Graduation, Meditation, Canal Zone (2008), Canal Zone (2007), and Charlie Company do not sufficiently differ from the photographs of Cariou’s that they incorporate for us confidently to make a determination about their transformative nature as a matter of law. Although the minimal alterations that Prince made in those instances moved the work in a different direction from Cariou’s classical portraiture and landscape photos, we can not say with certainty at this point whether those artworks present a “new expression, meaning, or message.”
The problem is that I don't think anyone can say with "certainty" what the meaning of a piece of art is, and that includes the artist themselves. In some cases, it seems like the most sensible approach would be to rely on experts — in this case the many galleries around the world that have showcased Prince's art, and the many critics who have praised it (or, for that matter, condemned it — a new meaning doesn't have to be something people like). Of course, there are potential problems there, too: many an important art movement was rejected by the established community at its outset.
Overall, the most important part of this ruling is that it overturns the ridiculous assertion that comment and criticism is the only form of fair use — but other than that, it fails to provide much clarity. I'm not certain any court could. There's no way to guess what the lower court will decide once it goes through the fair use test with the remaining five works, to the point that the question is almost entirely a matter of opinion, and it's not hard to envision a ruling in either direction. Whenever you have that much uncertainty on a point of law, something needs to be fixed.
by Leigh Beadon
Thu, Apr 25th 2013 11:55am
from the keep-angry,-carry-on dept
ChurchHatesTucker points us to the latest news about Aereo, the service that has been facing endless opposition and jumping through countless legal hoops just to be able to offer a simple service that lets people watch public TV broadcasts online. Undaunted, Aereo recently announced plans to launch in Boston, which spurred an analyst to ask CBS (which is engaged in a lawsuit against Aereo in New York) how it would respond:
McClintock (CBS' exec VP of communications) sure doesn't mince words, but he does mince reality. The broadcasters are not faring well against Aereo, with the courts all apparently recognizing that the company has carefully followed the letter of the law established in the Cablevision ruling. It's bizarre that he would try to characterize the situation as an obvious win for CBS when the exact opposite is true — especially in a conversation with tech analysts and journalists. Still, points for confidence, I guess.
It didn't end there, either:
After [Verge editor Ben] Popper noted that CBS' signals were not being stolen and that the public owned the airwaves, McClintock responded: "Yet it's ok for Aereo to profit from the same public. Hmmm..."
Greenfield got in a zinger by noting the similarities between Aereo and Amazon's services. "Amazon 'makes money'" Greenfield wrote on Twitter, "on selling antennas to watch broadcast TV, and they ship to Boston."
The question of "profiting from the public" is a red herring, and not a smart one for CBS to bring up. After all, the networks profit from their public broadcasts, too. Do they plan to give back all the money they have made from selling ads on the publicly-owned airwaves for which they paid no access fee?
The fact that the airwaves are owned by the public only means what it sounds like. It means the ability to broadcast on the airwaves is permitted by the public — it does not have anything to do with how the public accesses those airwaves, or whether or not someone is making a profit. As Greenfield points out, by McClintock's logic, it would be wrong to charge money for a TV antenna.
The Twitter exchange perfectly highlights a key issue here: thanks to the vagaries of copyright law, the whole fight over Aereo (and over remote DVR) is basically a fight about the length of a wire. Selling a home TV antenna? Legal. Renting a home TV antenna to someone? Yup. Selling someone a setup that hooks their antenna into a computer and then into their network, so they can watch it on any of their devices? No problem. Renting that same setup to them? Sure thing.
But doing any of that from slightly further away? 'Illegal!' cry the networks.
Luckily, despite the networks' facade of confidence and silly threats to pull their broadcasts, the courts seem to be well aware of the ridiculousness of their argument. Given the recent rulings, it seems unlikely that a new lawsuit in Boston would gain much traction — but, of course, just the fact that the lawsuits keep on coming serves as a roadblock to Aereo's innovation. The broken analogies enforced by copyright law have resulted in an insane situation with online streaming (among other things), and the fact that the fight with Aereo has even gone this far (and shows no signs of stopping) just underscores the severity of the problem.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Apr 25th 2013 10:42am
from the they-just-don't-quit dept
As FCT's article shows, it appears that even as John Steele, Paul Hansmeier and Paul Duffy have been facing very, very critical courts in multiple states -- with some even suggesting that they've been violating criminal laws -- it appears that at least some of them are still doing the same old thing. Paul Duffy just recently filed one of these lawsuits, once again in St. Clair County Illinois. And, just like before, the lawyer on the other side was Adam Urbanczyk -- the lawyer who is on the other side on a whole bunch of the cases that quickly "settled," allowing discovery. This willingness to settle and grant discovery already had one judge question if Urbanczyk and Prenda were "in bed together," and in at least one Prenda case, a defendant has admitted that Prenda more or less offered him a "deal" if he would do that kind of settlement. And, just as in the past, Urbanczyk's client quickly "settled" and "agreed" to allow widespread discovery with little limit.
Because judges like to clear out their dockets nice and quick and a "settlement" looks good, this one was approved, allowing Paul Duffy to subpoena a wide variety of ISPs for customer data. Not surprisingly, threat letters soon followed officially from the "Duffy Law Group." Just as before, the letters basically say "pay up or you'll get sued," and (of course) misrepresent the basics of the law and the likelihood of damages in any lawsuit. Of course, as FCT also notes, at least some of the threat letters appear to have been sent out after the "Duffy Law Group" was involuntarily dissolved. But, apparently it's still going...
by Glyn Moody
Thu, Apr 25th 2013 9:32am
from the not-over-yet dept
Since the UK government published the draft version of its Communications Data Bill -- better known as the "snooper's charter" -- with plans to store data about every British citizen's emails, mobile calls and visits to Web sites, there has been almost total opposition to it from everyone else. Indeed, there has been growing resistance even within the UK government's ranks, largely from the smaller of the coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats. Here's what the party's leader and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, has been up to, as described by one of the Liberal Democrat MPs, Julian Huppert:
Nick refused to allow the Bill to go ahead, and forced the Home Office to publish the Bill as a draft, allowing us all to see what the Home Office were planning. Nick appointed Paul Strasburger and I onto a Committee to scrutinise it in detail. We went through the evidence, heard from many experts and published a cross-party report. This was damming of the Home Office proposals -- it unanimously describe some of the Home Office information as 'fanciful and misleading'.
However, instead of trying to answer the huge range of criticisms of the proposed Bill, the Home Office simply insisted that such an intrusive system of surveillance was needed. As a result:
Following Nick's intervention and our report, the Home Office was given the chance to rethink. To build a proper case and look for proposals which were proportionate to the problem.
Nick has just this morning announced that he has killed off the Data Communications Bill, dubbed the "snooper’s charter".
By withdrawing the support of the Liberal Democrats, Clegg makes it practically impossible to pass the Bill, since the UK government will lack the requisite majority to push it through. However, this is by no means the end of the story.
Clegg will be under huge pressure from the Prime Minister, David Cameron, and his Conservative party colleagues, to agree to some slightly watered-down proposals. Cameron will doubtless invoke all the usual reasons -- tackling terrorism, paedophiles, organized crime etc. -- knowing that this plays well with enough of the electorate that Clegg won't be able to ignore it completely. So we can probably expect to see new plans in due course. The question then becomes to what extent they address the huge flaws in the original snooper's charter, and whether they represent an approach that is truly "proportionate to the problem", as the cross-party report puts it. If they don't, the battle will doubtless begin again.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Apr 25th 2013 8:20am
US Marine Corp. Provides Music In Response To FOIA Request, But Warns That Publishing It May Infringe On Copyrights
from the ain't-that-always-the-way dept
- Liberty Fanfare by John Williams, composed in 1986
- Chant and Jubilo by W. Francis McBeth, composed in 1961
Please be advised that the recorded sound of the Marine Band is in the public domain and as such is provided per the FOIA request. However, even though the Marine Band's sound is in the public domain, the musical selections still may have copyright encumberances attached to them. It is entirely the requestor's responsibility to give all necessary notices, acquire all copyright clearances, and pay all required fees as necessary for any use of copyrighted music. Every music title should be researched. We cannot relieve anyone of their responsibility to obtain licenses or permission from the various copyright holders and/or music publishers involved. Neither the Marine Corps nor the Marine Band accepts any responsibility for any use of Marine Band sound other than our own distributionBecause of this, Muckrock is withholding the release of most of these (it does appear to have posted two of the songs) until it believes that all of them will be free from copyright issues. Not surprisingly, this is well past when you or I will probably be alive.
And when is that expiration date? That's complicated, partially since Williams, whose soundtracks often seem to singlehandedly power Hollywood, is still alive: copyright covers the life of the artist, plus 75 years for good measure. We wish Williams the best and, with unbound optimism, hope he will live to 115. Thus we estimate that we'll be able to post the music in 2122.
But copyright also has a pesky habit of extending itself, again and again. The Copyright Act of 1976 set copyright protection to last life of author plus 70 years, and then the 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act extended copyright to life of author plus 75 years, with some special cases.
When I asked one of our legal advisors when we could safely release the files, I was told, "Never."
As for the Beyonce backing track? The Marines said basically, "hey, that music is Beyonce's, and go contact her lawyer if you want a copy of it." Of course, I'm not sure that's correct, since, once again the sound recording of the backing track (i.e., without the lyrics) should be in the public domain, even if the composition is not.
There is one more wrinkle in all of this. Under the FOIA, the government is required itself to post online for download works that have been requested multiple times. Thus, as Muckrock notes, if a bunch of people all make a similar request to the one he did, at some point soon, the US Marine Corp. may be required to post the tracks. That, of course, would raise an interesting question. If it does so, would the US government then be violating the copyrights of John Williams? My guess is that if it got to that, the Marine Corp. would either ignore the requirement to post, arguing that copyright blocks it, or if it actually did post the tracks, perhaps it would claim sovereign immunity against any legal threat.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Apr 25th 2013 7:30am
from the good-for-them dept
Thu, Apr 25th 2013 5:21am
from the the-more-things-change dept
It is somewhat instructive to learn that these are questions that are not being raised for the first time, however. In this video of a panel hosted by the Writers Watch Legislative Conference in 1987, several members of the media attempt to tackle the question of how media members should treat secret information when it is provided to them by their sources. It is an hour long but, if you're interested in the topic of what the media's role should be in serving the public, it's worth every second.
"You should never allow yourself to forget when considering official secrecy and its analogues that you are the intended target of official secrecy and those that doubt it and those that swallow the patriotic defenses for this sad construct are preparing in their minds and trying to prepare in your minds to become model citizens in a national security state. And that's a destiny that I think you should reject while you're lucky enough to be able to do so."And:
"I regard in fact official secrecy as a negation of the proper conduct and supervision of national security."
That these words came almost two decades ago while we now find ourselves in what can only be described as the furtherance of the then secretive American government is a sad, sad thing.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Apr 25th 2013 3:12am
from the uh.... dept
Senior Obama administration officials have secretly authorized the interception of communications carried on portions of networks operated by AT&T and other Internet service providers, a practice that might otherwise be illegal under federal wiretapping laws.Basically, the Justice Department, at the urging of the NSA, went to various telcos and ISPs and issued secret letters which told them that if they violated the Wiretap Act, the DOJ promised them it would not prosecute. Not surprisingly, this kind of thing is not what you would generally consider legal. However, after CISPA... it would likely be more protected:
The secret legal authorization from the Justice Department originally applied to a cybersecurity pilot project in which the military monitored defense contractors' Internet links. Since then, however, the program has been expanded by President Obama to cover all critical infrastructure sectors including energy, healthcare, and finance starting June 12.
A report (PDF) published last month by the Congressional Research Service, a non-partisan arm of Congress, says the executive branch likely does not have the legal authority to authorize more widespread monitoring of communications unless Congress rewrites the law. "Such an executive action would contravene current federal laws protecting electronic communications," the report says.Apparently, the DOJ knew how problematic this was, and the CEOs of the various ISPs had indicated how worried they were about this program, but it still went forward. In secret, of course. Until now.
Because it overrides all federal and state privacy laws, including the Wiretap Act, legislation called CISPA would formally authorize the program without the government resorting to 2511 letters. In other words, if CISPA, which the U.S. House of Representatives approved last week, becomes law, any data-sharing program would be placed on a solid legal footing. AT&T, Verizon, and wireless and cable providers have all written letters endorsing CISPA.
Suddenly the emphasis on getting CISPA approved, and the attempts to frighten everyone with scare stories of what will happen without it, make a bit more sense...