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Posted on Techdirt - 25 June 2011 @ 12:00pm

Richard's Favorite Techdirt Posts Of The Week

This week’s favorites post comes from Richard, who’s from the UK, but will hopefully forgive my removing of the extraneous “u’s” from the word “favorite.”

This is the first time I've done the favorites post, so it is a

bit of an adventure for me. I've decided to start with the "Good

News" because there was actually quite a lot of it this week.

Firstly, on the legal front, there have been a number of good

decisions in the courts. In an echo of what happened to ACS law in

the UK earlier in the year Righthaven has been slapped down a number

of times, and there is some

possibility that this could go further than just losing the cases.

There are (as I write) actually three Techdirt stories on this, but

the biggest (and most commented on) is this

one. The key point about this particular story is that the judge has

not just rejected Righthaven for lack of standing, he has also

indicated that even if Righthaven had standing they would

still lose on grounds of fair use. Sadly the comments on this story

are swamped with largely irrelevant arguments, but you can get it down

to a small number of useful contributions by selecting only

insightful comments.

My second favorite piece of legal good news came early in the week with the


in New York that safe harbours can apply in pretty broad sets of

circumstances. It is really important that the creep of

secondary liability is arrested before it gets too far, and this

ruling draws a useful line in the sand.

Another kind of good news is when someone who previously had a

reputation for IP maximalism takes a new direction. This category

contains the somewhat unlikely combination of J.K.Rowling

and the Mexican

Congress. The Mexicans have apparently decided to reject ACTA,

which is surprising, given Mexico's extreme copyright length of

life+100. J.K. Rowling's good news is a move into ebooks with no DRM.

Given her previous history, this is something to be celebrated.

Of course, it can't all be good, and so I have decided to institute

the "Victor

Meldrew Award" (for those outside the UK or unfamiliar

with the TV character, his catchphrase was "I don't believe it!"

and the character saw himself as a "normal man in a world full

of idiots"). Righthaven figures in this category too in the

guise of a bizarre

argument made by "Plessy Ferguson" that the

Righthaven rulings somehow threaten Open Source licenses. Clearly the

author of this argument didn't understand Copyright law, Open Source

Licences or the Righthaven ruling because it makes no sense on any of

these counts. Righthaven lost because they attempted to transfer the

right to sue without transferring any other exclusive rights. Opens

source licenses don't even attempt to transfer these rights. The

copyright for each component of an open source system remains with

its original author (unless explicitly assigned to someone else such

as the FSF in a separate transaction). Finally, Copyright law does not

require you to hold the rights to every part of a program in order to

sue for a breach of the license. You only need to hold the rights to

some of it. Sadly, many commenters didn't seem to understand these

points either, so the comments were full of "educational


On a side issue regarding Righthaven's dealings with Stephens

Media, it seems to me that the transfer of the right to sue only

enables one scenario, which is as follows. Someone infringes on the

Copyright (still held by Stephens Media). Righthaven can't sue them

(according to the court ruling) but what if Stephens media sues them?

Well, they've transferred the "right to sue" to Righthaven –

so now Righthaven can sue Stephens Media for infringement of their

right to sue! The net effect of the legal knot created by the deal is

thus to effectively put the original material into the public domain

because no-one can exert the copyright! I'm pretty sure that wasn't

the intention of Stephens Media when they set this scheme up…


bizarre argument was put forward by a small UK lobbying

organisation, claiming that a lack of software patents was damaging

the UK software industry. Well, apart from the fact that the UK does in practice

actually have some software patents, the logic here was unbelievable

and the evidence lacking.

Other Meldrew contenders this week included the Winklevii, yet

again pursuing Facebook after only recently

appearing to give up and

our usual suspects Apple

and Disney

who seem to think that there

should be (is?) one law for them and another for everyone else!

Microsoft was caught playing the same game last week – but that's

outside my brief! Those who are familiar with Victor Meldrew will

remember that the show had its darker side, and indeed finished in

that mode. This week saw a "dark Meldrew event" when a

woman was arrested

by police for filming them from her own property. The


of the TSA are often in the

same vein and would probably win this award quite frequently if it

was run every week.

This leads us on to events that

are worrying — but not bizarre enough to be surprising. There's

usually quite a lot of this unfortunately, often from Sony

who seem to be determined to

stop any creative use of their equipment from happening. Abuse

of the patent system is

another common cause for concern; in this case BitTorrent is being

sued on the thinnest of pretexts. Then there is our old friend the

copyright lobbyist. The UK variety is in the news this week with an


to set up web censorship behind the public's back. The

minister concerned, in a move reminiscent of Pontius Pilate, seems to

want it to go ahead — but without (visible) government involvement,

presumably so he can give the lobbyists what they want but avoid the

blame from the public. US lobbyists have been active too, this time


to shift the cost of the Herculean task of copyright enforcement onto

the public purse. Of course

international lobbyists have not been quiet either, trying

to get a monopoly on the process of deciding the exceptions to


After all this

negativity, I thought I would end on a positive note with my personal

favourites from the “DailyDirt” postings. The


sorting robot seemed

appealing, until I realised that the video

is hugely speeded up. So my personal selection here is the post on


Source Hardware. I've long

believed that Open Source software really needs to run on open

hardware, but this video

showed how the collaborative ideal is extending beyond computing into

other fields. Have a look at it. It will cheer you up!

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