by Mike Masnick
Thu, Apr 26th 2012 12:02am
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Mar 19th 2012 8:25am
from the can't-copyright-facts dept
He decided the song would be in C, then assigned each note a number: C=1, D=2 and so on up through 9. Using those assignments, he played the sequence of pi: 3.14159 through 31 decimal places. He assigned numbers to chords, too, but could only play the chords every other note and still make it sound vaguely musical.Apparently Erickson got upset about this -- though he admits he was mainly upset that his own comments on the YouTube video of Blake's song were deleted. So he filed a lawsuit claiming copyright infringement.
Finally, he used pi as the basis for the tempo — it's 157 beats per minute, which is half of 314. He played this part on several instruments, as you can see in the video above, and layered them to make a song. The result isn't exactly catchy, but it's certainly melodic.
Blake successfully had the lawsuit transferred from Nebraska to Portland, Oregon, and has now succeeded in having the case dismissed, with the ruling itself issued on March 14 -- Pi Day once again. The ruling is embedded below, and it's a worthwhile read, highlighting the limitations of copyright. It actually goes into a fairly detailed description of the separation between ideas and expression, as well as questions about "substantial similarity." The conclusion:
The primary similarity between Pi Symphony and "What Pi Sounds Like" is the musical pattern formed by transposing the digits of pi to a set of musical notes. That pattern is not protected by Mr. Erickson’s copyright for Pi Symphony. Pi is a non-copyrightable fact, and the transcription of pi to music is a non-copyrightable idea. The resulting pattern of notes is an expression that merges with the non-copyrightable idea of putting pi to music: assigning digits to musical notes and playing those notes in the sequence of pi is an idea that can only be expressed in a finite number of ways. This does not mean that Mr. Erickson’s copyright is invalid, only that Mr. Erickson may not use his copyright to stop others from employing this particular pattern of musical notes.The court also dismisses Erickson's claim of "unfair competition," noting that what appeared to be straight up jealousy is no reason for a legal claim:
What may be protected by copyright is the combination of that pattern with other musical elements: the choice of scale, rhythm, harmony, and embellishments or variation, for example.... Pi Symphony and "What Pi Sounds Like" employ different rhythms, different phrasing, different harmonies, and different tempos. The court does not agree with Mr. Erickson that the melodies of Pi Symphony and "What Pi Sounds Like" are sufficiently similar in their cadence or tempo to raise a question of substantial similarity. If there are additional similarities that relate to protectable elements of Mr. Erickson’s musical work, those similarities are minor and scattered throughout the work. For one work to be substantially similar to another, more than incidental and occasional similarities are required....
Thus, after the similarities based on unprotected elements of Pi Symphony are set aside, very few--if any--similarities remain. Mr. Erickson’s copyright is therefore “thin” and protects his work only from virtually identical copying...
Copyright protects against the copying of original elements of an author’s work. It does not protect the copyright holder's goodwill, market status, or artistic success. It does not even protect the author's hard work in being the first to create a compilation of information otherwise available in the public domain. See Feist, 499 U.S. at 359-360 (rejecting the “sweat of the brow” theory of copyright protection). These limitations derive from the constitutional basis of copyright, which is “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” U.S. Const. art. 1, sec. 8, cl. 8. Copyright is thus intended to protect the original work of authors without granting monopolies over facts or ideas that would hinder further progress.... Given statutory law, the Constitution, and Supreme Court precedent, Mr. Erickson cannot use his copyright to stop Mr. Blake from employing the same idea—the transcription of the digits of pi to musical notes.Nice to see the court lay out the reasoning so clearly. It's unclear if the court recognized the symbolic nature of issuing the ruling on Pi Day, but either way, it was a nice move.
by Leigh Beadon
Thu, Mar 8th 2012 1:06pm
from the policy-based-evidence dept
One of the most fundamentally insane things about government and politics is the fact that evidence-based policy is frequently not the norm. It should be common sense that you don't create new laws and regulations without actual evidence that they will work, or even clear evidence on the scope of the problem they aim to solve. But as we know, things don't really work that way—it's a lot easier for politicians and legislators to make their push based on emotion and public perception.
As with any governmental problem, real change has to start with the citizens. We need to demand evidence, and try not to let ourselves or our peers rely on rhetoric when we discuss and debate important issues and participate in the political process. But governments are not blameless: too often, politicians treat evidence as an obstacle to their political goals, when it should be the motivator of them. Here in Canada, this issue has been slowly gaining attention over the past year with growing complaints that the current government requires scientists it employs to vet their results through a media office before releasing them, to ensure that they are politically on-message. The Globe & Mail recently published a firmly-worded editorial calling on the government to end this practice, and citing the many people who want the same:
Ottawa should respond to the growing controversy – outlined in the prestigious journal Nature – by freeing its scientists. The magazine is calling on the government to show that it will live up to its promise to embrace public access to publicly funded scientific expertise. The issue is serious enough that it was the subject of a panel at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, held last month in Vancouver.
The Canadian Science Writers Association and the World Federation of Science Journalists have also sent an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, citing examples of researchers being prevented from sharing details about their published work on climate change, natural resources, health, and fisheries and oceans. In the case of studies involving collaborators from other countries, Canada often gets “scooped” by foreign media who are not subject to the same level of bureaucratic interference. That hardly qualifies as celebrating success in science.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has drawn criticism before for exerting tight control over the media and all communications coming from his government, but this situation goes a step further. To censor scientists in this way neuters them and turns them into glorified copywriters, because the objective reporting of all evidence is the crux of the scientific pursuit. If this is how the government treats its scientists, then the government is not employing scientists at all.
This is a betrayal of Canadian citizens. A portion of our tax dollars goes to funding public scientific research, because it is supposed to benefit us by informing smart, effective policy, and that money is being squandered. We must call on the government to put scientists in their proper role: as shapers of the political agenda, not slaves to it. Until that happens, Canada bears the shame of being a country without public science.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Mar 6th 2012 12:06am
EU Court Ruling Saying Sports Schedules May Not Covered By Copyright Pushes Back On Dangerous Database Copyrights
from the it's-a-step dept
So a recent ruling that reader aldestrawk brought to our attention is pretty interesting. It involves a case we talked about a few years ago, where a UK court found that sports schedules could be covered by a database copyright, since it took effort to put together. Thus, newspapers and websites couldn't just repost a sports schedule without a license, even though it was just factual information.
It looks like that case got kicked up to the EU Court of Justice, who appears to have given another sensible ruling pushing back on what can be covered by a database copyright. Specifically, it appears the court suggests that a pure "sweat of the brow" argument is not sufficient, and instead, the work needs to show some element of creativity. In fact, it suggests that the copyright in a database copyright doesn't actually cover the data, but merely the creative input into "the structure" of the database.
The fact that the setting up of the database required, irrespective of the creation of the data which it contains, significant labour and skill on the part of its author does not justify, as such, the protection of it by copyright if that labour and that skill do not express any originality in the selection or arrangement of that data.The court does not make a final ruling on the copyrightability of the football schedules, but kicks it back to the UK court to make a ruling given the EUCJ's guidance. Thus, the court will now have to look at whether there's any actual creativity in setting up the league schedule. It seems that should likely greatly limit the database copyright in the EU. It makes you wonder if others who have thought the database copyright was stronger, might start branching out a bit and experimenting.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Feb 22nd 2012 7:03pm
from the go-go-eff dept
In a statement, Astrolabe said, "Astrolabe's lawsuit against Mr. Olson and Mr. Eggert was based on a flawed understanding of the law. We now recognize that historical facts are no one's property and, accordingly, are withdrawing our Complaint. We deeply regret the disruption that our lawsuit caused for the volunteers who maintain the TZ database, and for Internet users."In other words, the EFF did a typically excellent job explaining the basics of copyright law to Astrolabe, and/or its own lawyers realized that this case was a complete loser that was going to fail badly.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Feb 7th 2012 12:46pm
from the fact-checking dept
It turns out (as we've pointed out) there's nothing true about that statement. PolitiFact tracks down the key points on which Smith bases this claim, noting that it's a Chamber of Commerce report that says, "the U.S. consumption-based share of counterfeit and pirated goods is between $66 billion and $100 billion." Smith, obviously, just takes that higher number (already a questionable move), and insists that's the "harm." But, as PolitiFact points out, that's not what the report actually says.
In fact, the report flat out states that it "has not attempted to estimate business losses associated with counterfeiting and piracy." So to pretend that's what the report says is, well, lying.
PolitiFact checks in with a number of experts -- including someone from the Chamber of Commerce who produced the report -- who admits that it's simply not true to say that $100 billion is the cost to the economy. Add everything up, and PolitiFact says that Smith is being anything but truthful in his claims:
Smith’s statement draws on a high-end estimate also based on flawed assumptions for the U.S. "consumption-based share of counterfeit and pirated goods" in 2008. The cited $100 billion figure doesn’t reflect the costs to the economy, contrary to Smith’s claim; the 2011 study did not assess such costs, which are understandably slippery.Unfortunately, there still doesn't appear to be any punishment for trying to pass a really bad bill by using misleading stats, other than public ridicule.
Maybe there is no solid estimate of the cost to the economy. Smith’s CNN.com statement rates False.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jan 31st 2012 12:38pm
from the at-the-sopa... dept
We'll start with Duff McKagan, the founding bassist for Guns N' Roses. He wrote a piece for Seatle Weekly telling people to stop whining about SOPA and PIPA. The logic here doesn't make much sense to me. His argument is that people should have done big web protests about online infringement, not about attempts to censor the internet. Now, obviously, he thinks that's in his own best interests -- but, as we've seen pretty clearly over the years (and contrary to his claims), these reports of infringement destroying the entertainment industry is just not supported by the data.
The fury from the Internet class is that the broad language in the pieces of legislation will be bad for start-ups, might prevent the next YouTube, or give the government the ability to take down a whole site because of one link to copyrighted works. In short, they're opposed to the legislation because they think it will be bad for the Internet business.No, actually, the fury was that it would be bad for internet users -- including, by the way, plenty of musicians. And, again, the evidence that piracy has "claimed" half the market is simply not there. The recorded music business was a temporary bubble, but that money continued to flow (and grow) into the wider music industry. And, the prospect of making a living as a musician has not decreased -- it's increased. What McKagan doesn't recognize is that, in the past, nearly everyone who went into the music business was not as lucky as he was. Nearly all of them ended up getting pushed out while making next to nothing. Today, however, thanks to the very "internet businesses" he doesn't care about -- companies like TuneCore and TopSpin and Kickstarter and Bandcamp -- plenty of new artists can make a living that they wouldn't have been able to make before. They don't have to rely on Universal Music or EMI or Warner Music or Sony Music. They can do it themselves.
Bad for business. Anti-piracy legislation could be bad for the Internet business. It almost takes my breath away. Internet piracy has claimed half of the recorded music business, and made the prospect of making a living as a musician harder for artists of all rank and file. Why didn't Google, or Facebook, or Wikipedia ever stand in solidarity with musicians, actors, and writers - most of whom have never known fame and fortune - as their works were stolen with no recourse on their sites?
Then we move on to Gavin Polone, writing for NY Mag, about why he supports SOPA and his theory for why the entertainment industry "blew it" in trying to get this bill passed.
I have funded two films with my own money and am considering doing a third. Most of the people working on those films were not rich people, but rather middle-class craftsmen who make high-five-figure to low-six-figure sums per year. My decision on whether to fund another movie, thereby employing more people, will be based on whether or not I get my money back on the last two, and my prospects for making money on another. If a film of mine is put on a file-sharing site like Pirate Bay, Movieberry, and Newsbin2, and is then downloaded to potential customers, I lose revenue. Nobody is going to pay to see a movie in a theater, rent a DVD, or legitimately download or stream a movie once they already have it from a free pirate site.If you think that way, perhaps it's true. But if you actually don't have a closed mind and look around at what other people are doing and realize that people are more than willing to pay if you treat them right, the entire premise that Polone has is wrong. Of course, if you naturally assume that your fans are evil, then don't be surprised if they don't want to support you.
Other industries have laws to protect them against third parties whose businesses facilitate a crime. Why not entertainment?Ah, the "lawless" argument. This is ridiculous. Copyright law has been adjusted 16 times in the last 35 years, much of it to deal with new digital technologies. To claim that there are no laws to protect you is simply ridiculous. But, more to the point, as we've said over and over again, the best protection is to connect with your fans rather than pretend they're all out to get you. Polone fails there. That's his fault, not everyone else's.
This is in no way censorship. A widely read op-ed piece by Rebecca MacKinnon in the New York Times likened SOPA and PIPA to China’s Internet firewall, which is used by that government to stifle criticism of its policies. This is a ridiculous exaggeration. There is no intent to suppress speech in these bills, only theft, and the risks of anyone being unable to find an outlet for their free speech because of SOPA or PIPA is minimal.It is not a ridiculous exaggeration at all. And the intent of the bill is meaningless compared to how it will be used -- and we know that it will be used for censorship because we've already seen existing copyright law used for censorship. This isn't a theory, this is reality.
Blocking offenders will not break the Internet nor security. I’ve read numerous articles in which techies claim that DNS (Domain Name System) blocking — which forces ISPs to not allow access to sites determined to be trafficking in stolen entertainment — will undermine security and/or “break” the Internet. Like many of you, I am not versed enough on technical issues to explain how DNS blocking programs work or what may be the right method to ensure Internet security.Uh, yeah. I don't get this crazy tech stuff, but I'm sure what all those "experts" say is untrue. Sheesh. He goes on to say that because he can't play online poker any more, and because some ISPs block child porn or malware, clearly blocking wouldn't break the internet. Perhaps he should try actually understanding the details next time. The big issue is DNSSEC, not just DNS, and even Comcast (one of the major supporters of the bill) has admitted that DNS redirects are incompatible with DNSSEC. Furthermore, the fact that he can't play internet poker any more isn't because of DNS blocking. It's because of a (questionable) US law that cut off money transfers to those companies -- an approach that many of the folks against SOPA/PIPA supported in the OPEN Act which allowed for exactly the system that made it harder (but not impossible) for poker sites to function in the US. Look, it's okay to not understand complicated tech, but to use an example that has nothing to do with the tech, and actually supports what folks on the other side of the debate are saying? That just makes you look silly...
Moving on, we have the new poster boy for the pro-SOPA movement, David Newhoff, who compared the arguments against SOPA/PIPA to the "death panels" used in the healthcare debate -- claiming that the arguments of internet users worldwide were no more truthful than the claims of death panels from the healthcare proposal. That's funny. It's also wrong. Lots of people opposed to SOPA/PIPA laid out detailed, factual arguments for why these bills were dangerous. And we have plenty of very real evidence of how these laws will be abused (and how existing law is already abused).
But what's really funny is that if anyone is guilty of "death paneling," it has been the pro-SOPA/PIPA forces -- insisting that their industry is being decimated, when it's actually growing. They're the ones calling things "piracy" and "theft" when we're talking about infringement. They're the ones talking about starving artists, when more artists are making money from their content creations than ever before. They're the ones talking about less art will be created when we're living in a time of massive abundance of artistic creations. Yes, there are exaggerations in this debate, but I'd put up the anti-SOPA/PIPA side against the pro-side anytime, and it's entirely clear that the anti-side has the facts on their side much more than the SOPA/PIPA supporters do.
from the good-points dept
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jan 24th 2012 12:23pm
from the oh-please dept
NATO’s Fithian said he had never witnessed such a reversal in momentum considering the legislation’s passage seemed all but assured in October. "This was the most amazing turnaround of public opinion in the 25 years I’ve been a professional lobbyist. We were up there since Day One and took 25 of my [exhibitor] CEOs and met with 50 members of Congress. We asked each member of Congress if there was anything they need to make the legislation clear and nobody said anything. Google read the legislation at the same time and didn’t say a word. But in November the greatest backlash ever occurred."First of all, Google had been complaining publicly about the bill since it was introduced in the Senate back in May. For Fithian to claim that the company had no complaints in October is simply laughable. As for questions from legislators, the fact that they didn't have any questions isn't a point in your favor, it's a sign of just how corrupt the system is. When Hollywood hands them a bill, they don't bother taking the time to understand it until after the public speaks out on it.
Fithian went on, "The backlash occurred, Google made its point, they’re big and tough and we get it. Hopefully now reasonable minds will prevail. Senator Dodd and his team are quite good at this. We’ll sit down with them and ask what has to be done to make legislation more narrowly tailored...."And here's the sign that they really just don't get it. They still think that this was all Google. While Google did speak out publicly against the bill early, it had almost nothing to do with the protests that erupted last week, and only jumped on board very late in the game. You wouldn't believe how much complaining there was in various online communities about just how little Google was doing to fight this bill. The idea that this was driven by Google is laughable to anyone who was involved in these events. 14 million people spoke up about this bill. That wasn't Google. That was the wider internet. Pretending that this was Google flexing its muscles shows that this is someone who still isn't paying attention.
"But the reality is we have to stop these rogue websites. They’re stealing jobs from my members. It’s not Senator Dodd’s big wealthy studio executives, it's the 160,000 Americans who earn on average $11 an hour at my cinemas. Those are the jobs at stake.”Almost nothing in this statement is true. As we discussed recently, employment at theaters has been dropping rapidly over the last decade. It peaked in 2003, but has steadily trended downward since then. Over that same time period, however, box office revenue has continue to rise at a pretty significant clip, setting new records almost every year until 2011, when it finally took a slight dip -- which many people attribute more to the crappy experience at theaters. You know why there might be a crappy experience? Because the theater owners that Fithian represents consolidated, built up giant, impersonal multiplexes, and then completely understaffed them.
Furthermore, $11/hour is hardly a living wage these days, and a large percentage of folks working at movie theaters aren't full time/lifetime employees, but high school kids looking to earn some extra beer money.
Either way, there is simply no evidence -- at all -- that "foreign rogue sites" have had any impact whatsoever on theater employment. As theater revenue continued to go up and up and up, theaters were firing more and more employees in an effort to cost-cut. Even the MPAA folks have repeatedly claimed that infringement has little to do with theater revenue and is almost entirely (in their minds) about in-home revenue (the same revenue stream the MPAA wanted to kill off 30 years ago in the Betamax case).
So it's difficult to see how anyone can take Fithian/NATO seriously. He claims that it was just Google. It was not. He references jobs in theaters, which have nothing to do with any of this. He claims that Google wasn't concerned about the bill. Is he saying anything that is backed up by fact? Well, perhaps the bit about our elected officials being too clueless/unconcerned to actually understand the bill that Hollywood handed them. That part is believable...
Amusingly, in another article about the same panel, it mentions that even Fithian's son was against him on this issue, and agreed with the anti-SOPA/PIPA folks. Also, it shows the real thinking on Fithian's part. It's not "piracy" he's concerned with, it's any form of competition whatsoever. Apparently during a discussion on the best way to compete with infringement, some people suggested the studios supplying "more content in new, affordable avenues to undercut the temptation to" infringe. Not only does that seem reasonable, but it's the only thing that's actually been proven (repeatedly) to work. But Fithian dismisses anything that would compete with theaters -- mocking both Netflix and Redbox as "bad business models." In other words, Fithian is making up anything he can... solely to act as protectionist as possible for a bunch of theater owners who don't want to adapt or compete. Perhaps he should take a lesson from the MPAA: being obstructionist against innovation is not a strategy for success.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jan 5th 2012 10:52am
Rep. Lamar Smith Decides Lying About, Insulting And Dismissing Opposition To SOPA Is A Winning Strategy
from the we-shall-see dept
"The criticism of this bill is completely hypothetical; none of it is based in reality," Smith said in a statement to Roll Call. "Not one of the critics was able to point to any language in the bill that would in any way harm the Internet. Their accusations are simply not supported by any facts."We've done exactly what he's claimed we haven't -- as have numerous other parties, including famed Constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe, who also cited specific language in the bill. Ditto with former DHS Assistant Secretary, Stewart Baker, who also cited language from the bill about how SOPA will cause significant security problems for the internet.
It makes you wonder: just who does Lamar Smith think he's fooling?
Does he really think that if he just keeps on repeating these blatant lies someone, somewhere, will believe them?
From there, he goes from the ridiculous to the absurd by claiming that the widespread outcry over SOPA is just a "vocal minority," rather than any legitimate movement against the bill:
"It’s a vocal minority, he said. "Because they’re strident doesn’t mean they’re either legitimate or large in number. One, they need to read the language. Show me the language. There’s nothing they can point to that does what they say it does do. I think their fears are unfounded."Hundreds of thousands of letters sent? Nearly 90,000 calls in a single day? This is not a "vocal minority." This is a large and growing segment of the population who is very, very concerned. And, they have shown him the language, contrary to his blatantly false claims. Dismissing the concerns of pretty much the entire tech sector and their users (not to mention the folks over at Reddit...) doesn't seem wise. It seems like someone who doesn't understand the internet, not just in trying to regulate it, but in how the internet can be used to rally support against those who seek to damage it.