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Current Topic: Intellectual Property

Supreme Court loosens patent 'obviousness' test | CNET
Topic: Intellectual Property 2:10 pm EDT, Apr 30, 2007

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday moved to loosen a key legal standard used in patent cases, potentially making it easier in some cases to get the federal courts to invalidate a patent as obvious.

In a case involving vehicle throttle pedals, the justices unanimously said the courts should be more flexible in the way they interpret the standard for whether patents are valid or merely "obvious" combinations of previous inventions that should be rejected.

Supreme Court loosens patent 'obviousness' test | CNET

Barenaked Ladies: If I had a compulsory blanket music license
Topic: Intellectual Property 2:47 pm EDT, Apr 28, 2007

Plenty of ink has been spilled in arguments over the proper business model for music in the P2P age. The publishers generally want to hold onto the current market-based system, but there are voices in the wilderness arguing that a compulsory license model actually makes the most sense for both artists and consumers. One of those voices is Steven Page, singer and guitarist for the Barenaked Ladies, who recently spoke to Ars about this issue and called for an ISP-based licensing model that would allow consumers access to all the music they want and would ensure that artists get paid. But the US Register of Copyrights, Marybeth Peters, calls this a bad idea.

Here's the idea: compulsory licenses allow anyone to take advantage of whatever works are covered by the license without obtaining the permissions that would otherwise be required. It is essentially an exception made to copyright law that takes away a person's right to control how copies of their material are handled. This doesn't mean a compulsory license is free, though, only that the rate is determined by statute.

The best known of these in the US is the mechanical license. Songwriters and their publishers receive this rate—currently set at $.091 per song—for every copy of an album sold that features their song. Music labels are free to negotiate a lower rate, and many do (75 percent of the mechanical rate is common), but they can simply choose to pay the mechanical royalty rate without negotiations.

But will it happen? The nation's top copyright official, Marybeth Peters, said at a recent LexisNexis/Variety DRM conference that it's not something she wants to see. "I hope we don't go to a system of compulsory licenses," she said. "I don't see how any creator benefits from a compulsory license." None of the other industry executives expressed much love for the plan, either, arguing that the market would work out all of its current interoperability problems on its own, and that a compulsory license would stifle innovation.

But Page is adamant. "We need to get our music where our fans want it," he says, "not the other way around."

I've been talking about blanket licensing in regard to music downloads for a long time now. I think it is a good idea, but I don't like the ISP based model suggested here. What about people who use the Internet and are not interested in downloading music? It's not fair to those people, and those people do exist in large numbers. It would just create an unfair situation to replace our current unworkable situation.

I think where we really need blanket compulsory licensing is at the level of the music downloading services and applications. If anyone who is building a P2P application or a music downloading service can get legitimate rights to do so, the market for music online will diversity, grow, and change as we want it to. We would see different approaches to providing music online if everyone who wanted to could open their own music downloading service.

We really want the reporting about what is being downloaded to be as specific as possible. We don't want to take the approach PROs take to radio, and dole out royalties based upon sampling what is present in the P2P networks. That type of system has a disproportional benefit to larger artists.

In order to get the desired level of specific reporting of downloads at the ISP level, we would have to institute what amounts to total monitoring of Internet connections. We don't want that kind of infrastructure to even exist at the ISP level, as it would eventually be horribly abused. Let music downloading services and applications handle that role.

Barenaked Ladies: If I had a compulsory blanket music license

WKRP In Cincinnati – Requiem For A Masterpiece
Topic: Intellectual Property 7:10 am EDT, Apr 19, 2007

There is widespread agreement that "WKRP in Cincinnati" was one of the greatest television sitcoms ever produced. The original episodes are rightly considered to be a national treasure and cultural landmark.

Copyright law madness has destroyed it forever - plain and simple.

WKRP was created at a time when mass consumer home video was unheard of. As a result, the much of the music was only licensed for a limited number of years for use on broadcast television. You would think that by licensing the music, a derivative work such as a television show would have a fair use right to continue to use the music in order to preserve the artistic integrity that was vital for show to continue to exist. You would think that – but you'd be wrong. Within the maddening culture of entertainment legal affairs, the music licenses did not entitle the episodes to continue to use the music in other mediums in the future. The only way the show could be seen in the future was to destroy its original artistic vision and substitute other music tracks, which in some cases completely alter the feel of the scenes.

Most copies of the original show were destroyed – out of fear that if a tape were mislabeled and still contained the original music, then even a single accidental airing of the episode containing the original (unlicensed) music could subject the company to massive liability.

To make a long story short, WKRP is finally being released on DVD. However, they were not able to clear rights for the music. All the music used in the show has been replaced with generic Muzak.

Early word is that the release of this WKRP in Cincinnati is an artistic travesty.

Big surprise there...

WKRP In Cincinnati – Requiem For A Masterpiece

Internet radio broadcasters dealt setback == On to Public Policy
Topic: Intellectual Property 2:34 am EDT, Apr 18, 2007

Internet radio broadcasters were dealt a setback Monday when a panel of copyright judges threw out requests to reconsider a ruling that hiked the royalties they must pay to record companies and artists.

A broad group of public and private broadcasters, including radio stations, small startup companies, National Public Radio and major online sites like Yahoo Inc. and Time Warner Inc.'s AOL, had objected to the new royalties set March 2, saying they would force a drastic cutback in services that are now enjoyed by some 50 million people.

In the latest ruling, the Copyright Royalty Board judges denied all motions for rehearing and also declined to postpone a May 15 deadline by which the new royalties will have to be collected.

This last week, I discussed the current state of Internet radio with a representative from Clear Channel. He told me that they were against this, yet they have no desire to use any of their power to influence the situation. Conviction is either not a word in their vocabulary, or there are other interests in play.

Internet radio has been dead for awhile. This nail is being hammered long after the coffin is secure. We need to ask why Internet radio had to die, as it's death was clearly consensual.

The economics here are completely screwed.

We are at the point where the only avenues available are those of public policy. Whenever I discuss these issues with players in the music industry -- and I do, regularly -- they don't understand this. There is a great fear and apprehension among those in the music business to approach problems from the angle of public policy. I'm starting to seriously wonder why...

Internet radio. Blanket licensing for digital music downloads. Statutory licensing for sampling. Et cetera -- Endless list of issues...

Was pushing an audio stream over a network pipe too extreme for incumbent interests? I know what answer you'd get if you ask Voynage.

This just pisses me off... I clearly see the solution given by the incumbent media powers: "Shut it off until we figure it out."

If this approach had merit, sales would not be down 13% this year.

Update: SoundScan turned the industry on its tail in the 90's because it had a picture that was more complete than that of anyone else. That is not the case today. The complete picture is currently more absent than it has ever been.

Internet radio broadcasters dealt setback == On to Public Policy

YouTube’s Favorite Clips Aren't Copyrighted - New York Times
Topic: Intellectual Property 10:45 am EDT, Apr  9, 2007

Vidmeter, which tracks the online video business, determined that the clips that were removed for copyright violations — most of them copyrighted by big media companies — comprise just 9 percent of all videos on the site. Even more surprising, the videos that have been removed make up just 6 percent of the total views (

YouTube’s Favorite Clips Aren't Copyrighted - New York Times

John Perry on the Colbert Report
Topic: Intellectual Property 8:32 am EDT, Mar 27, 2007

I'm considering removing the built in support for embedding iFilm videos that I added to MemeStreams yesterday. It seems very few things I want to embed actually allow embedding.

John Perry Barlow was on the Colbert Report last night. Here is the video.

John Perry on the Colbert Report

NFL fumbles DMCA takedown battle, could face sanctions
Topic: Intellectual Property 9:50 am EDT, Mar 22, 2007

It's no secret that some content owners don't seem to understand how the DMCA works—that, or they simply don't care when sending mass takedown notices. This seems to be the case with the recent saga of legal maneuvers between the National Football League (NFL) and Brooklyn Law School professor Wendy Seltzer. The two have been going back and forth with DMCA-related "requests" since early February—with YouTube stuck in between—and in the process, the NFL itself appears to have violated the DMCA.

This is really interesting. It looks like the NFL screwed up, large..

This article is a good summary. You can also read Wendy's account of the situation on her blog.

NFL fumbles DMCA takedown battle, could face sanctions

Slashdot | Blackboard's 'Pledge' Not to Sue Open Source Software
Topic: Intellectual Property 10:31 am EST, Feb  2, 2007

Another anonymous reader writes with a link to the Inside Higher Education site. Those folks are reporting on Blackboard's 'pledge' not to sue open source projects used by universities and colleges. The Blackboard patent on educational groupware filed last year has come under a lot of fire, with many organizations simply seeking an open-source alternative. This newest peace offering to higher education groups has the Sakai open source consortium more than a little bit nervous. If Blackboard meant to set people at ease, all it has managed to do was confirm to onlookers that it 'wants to keep its legal options open.' Blackboard insists that this new pledge affords universities a number of legal privileges, and is designed to make educators 'sleep easy at night.' Somehow, very few people seem reassured.

We don't like Blackboard here. They sued Acidus and Virgil a few years ago because of security research they were doing on Blackboard's products.

Slashdot | Blackboard's 'Pledge' Not to Sue Open Source Software

Independent Online | IFPI threatens ISPs over piracy
Topic: Intellectual Property 1:01 am EST, Jan 18, 2007

The music industry opened up a new front in the war on online music piracy yesterday, threatening to sue internet service providers that allow customers to illegally share copyrighted tracks over their networks.

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, or IFPI, said it would take action against internet companies that carry vast amounts of illegally shared files over their networks. It stressed that it would prefer not to pursue such a strategy and is keen to work in partnership with internet providers.

John Kennedy, the chairman of the IFPI, said he had been frustrated by internet companies that have not acted against customers involved in illegal activity. He warned that litigation against ISPs would be instigated "in weeks rather than months". Barney Wragg, the head of EMI's digital music division, said the industry had been left "with no other option" but to pursue ISPs in the courts.

What do they expect? ISPs to inspect every piece of traffic that goes over their networks? Have they even thought through the repercussions of that?

Independent Online | IFPI threatens ISPs over piracy

BBC NEWS | Americas | Disney tells Santa clone ho-ho no
Topic: Intellectual Property 6:49 pm EST, Dec 18, 2006

When James Worley paid a visit to Disney World in Florida his portly frame and white beard soon had kids asking: "Are you Santa Claus?"

Not wanting to disappoint, Mr Worley, 60, played along with some "ho-ho-hos".

But Disney officials descended, telling him to stop the impersonation or get out of the park. They said they wanted to preserve the magic of Santa.

Even after bowing to the request to alter his appearance, Mr Worley, from Tampa, said children continued to ask if he was Santa.

"How do you tell a little kid, 'No, go away, little kid'," Mr Worley told local television.

He said Disney had told him "Santa was considered a Disney character".

Well, there you go.. Santa is Disney property...

BBC NEWS | Americas | Disney tells Santa clone ho-ho no

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