by Mike Masnick
Tue, May 1st 2012 11:59pm
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Mar 7th 2012 12:10am
from the questions,-questions... dept
The Court of Appeal drew a distinction between authorship and ownership. It held that these were not synonymous in that authorship refers to the act of creation whereas ownership refers to the possession of proprietary rights. An author is not necessarily the owner and the owner is not necessarily the author. The Court of Appeal said, definitively, that for the purposes of the Copyright Act, authors had to be living persons. To hold otherwise would run counter to other sections of the Copyright Act, notably the duration of works. The Court held that companies could not claim a perpetual monopoly of copyright ownership based on an assertion of authorship.The specific case involved horse-racing tables and a dispute between two different horse-racing magazines, with one accusing the other of copyright infringement. Oddly, both magazines seem to admit that the actual data originated from neither magazine, but from the same third party: the Singapore Turf Club. Still, there appears to have been some questions about the layout and design, which could be given some level of copyright protection -- but, apparently, only if it were created by "living humans."
While this specific case may not be all that interesting, it does raise some interesting questions in other areas. For example, there is a growing niche industry of "automated" books being created for sale on Amazon. Many of them take things like public data and compile them into an ebook for sale. There wouldn't be any copyright on such public data, but if something similar was done with some creative input from an automated system, it seems like a rather reasonable argument can (and should!) be made that those books are public domain. I guess it's the automated equivalent of the monkeys taking photographs, where it seemed clear that those, too, were in the public domain, because they weren't created by humans...
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Mar 17th 2011 12:16am
from the does-the-length-of-the-wire-matter? dept
Thankfully, the Second Court agreed and put forth a pretty good, if slightly awkward, ruling, which pointed out that it didn't matter where the device was, that time shifting is legal, and this service really seemed no different than a DVR. The entertainment industry (of course) appealed, but the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, so the law stands in the 2nd Circuit -- though with such a high profile case, one hopes that other Circuits would tend to defer to this ruling (though, they certainly don't have to).
Separately, we covered a very similar case in Singapore, involving RecordTV, which had trouble at the lower courts, but eventually came to a similar ruling as the US. In that case, the court even noted that allowing remote DVRs seems to provide benefits to society.
However, courts in other areas of the world apparently aren't quite as enlightened. Wonil Chung, an IP lawyer in Korea, recently sent over his excellent review of a number of similar cases from Korea and Japan where the rulings eventually all went the other way. The cases there all have their own specific details, but the general point was that the courts seemed to feel that if the equipment is housed and "owned" by the service provider, then the actions are done by the service provider... even if the end user is the one clicking the button. Effectively, those courts are saying that the length of the cable matters. Chung's analysis is balanced, and he notes that this can be a tricky issue. I agree that it's a complex issue that requires thinking through a variety of issues, but in the end, I have no problem saying that I believe the Korean and Japanese rulings defy common sense, while the US and Singapore rulings make sense.
Where it gets really important is understanding the wider implications of these rulings. Based on the rulings in Korea and Japan, it just became a lot more expensive and risky to set up any cloud-based service in either country. That's because these rulings effectively say that liability is determined by the location of the equipment, rather than the location of the user. Cloud-based services have the equipment hosted far away from the user. But does that really mean that the service providers have now taken on the liability? In Korea and Japan apparently the answer is yes, and that should put a chill through anyone building cloud-based offerings in either country.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Dec 6th 2010 10:35pm
from the good-news dept
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jul 20th 2010 4:31am
global indian foundation
from the safe-harbors dept
The guy who's being sued, Ajith K Narayanan, points out that he didn't write the words in question, that the terms of service on his blog make it clear that commenters are responsible for their own language and, finally, that there wasn't any defamation anyway because the comments are true. The latter two arguments are interesting, but it's the first one that's the important one. If Singapore properly applies liability to those actually responsible, the case should just get tossed out on that first issue, and the other two issues shouldn't matter at all. If the school really wants to go after the commenters for defamation, it should be required to show that there's a strong likelihood that the material was defamatory, and then request a subpoena for the commenters' information (at which point the blogger can decide whether or not to fight it). But simply suing the blogger and claiming he's liable for the possible defamation takes third party liability way too far, and hopefully the court in Singapore recognizes this.
It should be noted that there are some other oddities involved in this lawsuit as well, many of which are summarized at this Techgoss post. It appears that the school initially filed criminal charges, but those were quoshed by a judge earlier this year. Then there's the really bizarre back and forth from April, that began with a report in an Indian newspaper that police had arrested a former GIF employee, claiming that he had started the blog and that it was a "fake" blog to discredit GIF. That report claimed that Narayanan had revealed this ex-employee to be his co-blogger in an affidavit. Yet, in a post on the site, denies pretty much all of that. This seems like a bit of a sideshow, but it does make the whole case a bit more confusing...
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Apr 5th 2010 6:27pm
The Same Day The NY Times Praised Google For Standing Up To China, The Times Paid Singapore's Leaders
from the parallels dept
Google faced a similar painful dilemma in China. With potentially billions of dollars at risk, it stuck to its principles, and The Times applauded editorially. I think Google set an example for everyone who believes in the free flow of information.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Mar 29th 2010 6:27pm
from the say-what-now? dept
In 1994, Philip Bowring, a contributor to the International Herald Tribune's op-ed page, agreed as part of an undertaking with the leaders of the government of Singapore that he would not say or imply that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had attained his position through nepotism practiced by his father Lee Kuan Yew. In a February 15, 2010, article, Mr. Bowring nonetheless included these two men in a list of Asian political dynasties, which may have been understood by readers to infer that the younger Mr. Lee did not achieve his position through merit. We wish to state clearly that this inference was not intended. We apologize to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong for any distress or embarrassment caused by any breach of the undertaking and the article.There's so much that's bizarre in this short paragraph that it's difficult to know where to start. But, what may be even more bizarre is what the NY Time's apparently left out. According to other reports, the NY Times also paid $114,000 to the father and son (and to a lawyer representing both). Either way, this whole thing is very odd. Why would a reporter for a respectable publication ever agree not to give an opinion on something? And why would the NY Times' cave for merely stating that having a father and son both as prime minister's represents something of a dynasty?
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jan 4th 2010 8:10am
Singapore Court Rules That Online DVR Is Infringing... While Noting How Copyright Law Isn't Really Set Up For This
from the it-sure-is-confusing dept
The appeals court sided with Cablevision, saying that such a service doesn't infringe, and the Supreme Court chose not to hear the appeal, so this ruling stands, at least in the Second Circuit, for the time being. But what was most telling about the actual appeals court ruling was how the judges had to contort themselves into all sorts of odd ways to make such a ruling make sense under the law. The conclusion clearly made sense. Copyright law wouldn't make any sense at all if the length of a wire could change something from infringing to non-infringing. And yet, there were ways to read copyright law that would have found in favor of the networks. The issue is really twofold. First, technology advances faster than copyright law, and the conditions that were in place when the law was written aren't the same as what happens later. Second, to deal with this our esteemed elected officials simply apply duct tape-like patches to copyright law, adding new definitions and categories, that didn't exist before. But, then when new technologies come along, the question is what categories do the resulting outputs fall into, and the arguments are often about who gets to categorize the output to their benefit.
It appears that the US is not the only country going through this sort of debate. I've been alerted to a recent ruling in Singapore that actually comes to a different conclusion and finds infringing behavior on the part of the service provider. The story here is slightly different. In this case, the company is RecordTV -- a separate service, rather than provided by the cable company itself. Also, it's a web-based service, rather than a TV-based one. Users log in and can designate which shows (only from Singaporean channels that broadcast over-the-air) they want to record, and the service will record those shows and make them accessible to that user only for a limited amount of time. There is one other complicating factor, in that the way RecordTV works has shifted over time. Initially it would record a show once and allow anyone who requested that recording to access the single file. But later it switched to keeping a separate recording of each show that someone requested, which seems massively inefficient in terms of storage.
What's stunning again, however, as you read through the ruling is how conflicted the judge appears to be. There's a ridiculous amount of "on the one hand, on the other hand, but on the other other hand"-type reasoning found throughout the ruling, which you can see below:
So, why does the judge come to a different conclusion? Well, it almost feels like it depended on which eventual flip of the coin came up which way. The judge agrees with the basic ruling in Cablevision that it is not the service provider who is liable for direct infringement. As in the Cablevision case, it's the end users who "pushes the button" and thus is actually responsible for the action. All good. But, the lawsuit also focused on a secondary level of infringement, and here the court found that RecordTV, while not liable for the actual recording, could be found liable of secondary infringement in the later transmission of the content.
This seems like a total headscratcher. So a user is responsible for recording the file, but not responsible for then accessing it (recognize that the user accessing the file is the same as the service provider transmitting it)? How does that make sense?
There is a second issue also, which is that the court had trouble with the fact that RecordTV meant to be a commercial enterprise in which it would make money by having ads. It used this issue as one of a few factors that removed a "fair dealing/fair use" defense by the company. Again, though, there's a lot of "on the one hand, on the other hand" type debates in the ruling until the judge basically says that under the law, as it stands, the site is guilty of infringement. But even it seems really troubled by what this means from a practical perspective:
I leave open the possibility that such a DVR or VCR product or service, operating remotely or locally, digitally or via analog means, could amount to fair dealing under our Copyright Act only for the non-commercial facilitation of end-users' time shifting. As we have seen earlier... it is inconsistent that the VCR is permitted to be sold at a price (in stores) but the [remote] DVR (through advertising revenue) is not, but until the occasion requires, I shall not make any pronouncements on this anomaly.And there you are. Even the judge seems to recognize that it's silly to find one service infringing and the other not, but basically says that with the way copyright law is set up, that's the ruling that makes sense.
Finally, this should be worrisome on all sorts of levels for a variety of online services that seek to replicate perfectly legal analog equivalents. The fact that where a storage device is stored or how long a wire is could totally change the legality of a product should suggest that something is seriously wrong with copyright law.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Dec 1st 2008 9:16pm
from the opinions-not-allowed dept
Still, what's most interesting is that in response to this, the Wall Street Journal has chosen not to publish this particular story about the decision in the Asian edition of the Wall Street Journal -- though, the story is obviously available online. Apparently the WSJ recognizes, probably accurately, that if they published the story about the decision, where they are somewhat critical of that decision, they would probably be in for yet another "contempt" charge. To some extent, this decision makes you wonder how effective suppression of the press can be going forward. Yes, countries can build filters and block out certain publications, but online content can always be filtered through eventually. The very fact that the WSJ is purposely leaving the editorial out of Asian editions of the paper seems more likely to draw more attention to the story from within Singapore as well, accomplishing exactly the opposite of what the country thinks it's doing in fining the paper.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, May 28th 2008 9:04am
from the oh-please dept