Wednesday 12 November 2014

The CopyKat - a panorama of disharmony in European buildings?

The Times reports that one of the world's 'most wanted hackers' has been arrested. And who is it? Well it's none other than Fredrik Neij, one of the four men who created The Pirate Bay. Neij was arrested crossing from Laos into Thailand, seemingly by Thai immigration officials responding to an Interpol arrest warrant. Local reports say that whilst living in Laos with his wife, he also had a home on Phuket and had financial assets of £95,000 as a cash balance. He was the last remaining convicted Pirate Bay man at large. He and his co-founders Gottfrid Svartholm Warg and Peter Sunde were found guilty of multiuple contributory copyright infringement in the Swedish courts in 2009. After a lengthy appeals process (with Svartholm not even showing up for appeal hearing) all but Carl Lundström - the fourth member - went on the run -  Lundström having negotiated down his sentence to house arrest. Svartholm Warg made it to Cambodia,  but was recently extradited to Denmark on hacking charges (against the Police) and sentenced to three years and a half in prison.  In June Peter Sunde was arrested in southern Sweden. Sunde had been living in Berlin, Germany, seemingly without a problem, but returned to Sweden at times as he had family there. His final appeal against his sentence failed when his request for another appeal was denied by Sweden’s Supreme Court - and ultimately he was sentenced to eight months in prison along with a substantial fine on the copyright infringement charges. And now finally Neij faces his own spell in prison too, although at almost the same time, Peter Sunde was released from jail having (finally) served more than five months for his 2009 conviction.

Several major movie studios and record labels have filed a lawsuit against the Swedish ISP B2, demanding that the company blocks access to The Pirate Bay. The lawsuit, which also calls for a blockade of the streaming site Swefilmer, is the first of its kind in The Pirate Bay's home country.

Our friend Enrico Bonadio at the City Law School is organising a seminar on Wednesday 3rd December 2014, at College Building, Room AG 02 at the City University EC1V 0HB, titled "New media between copyright protection and the access to network conundrum".The speaker is Nicola Lucchi, Associate Professor at the Jönköping International Business School (Sweden) and the seminar examines how regulatory policies for new media are posing barriers to equitable and open access to digital information, and the seminar also discusses and analyses the functional relationship between modern communication technologies and legislative reforms in the area of digital communications that threaten to reduce online freedoms. It's free to attend but you need to register.  More here.

Astronaut Chris Hadfield's "goosebump-inducing" cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity?" which had amassed 23.4 million hits before it was taken down from YouTube is back online after 
Hadfield secured fresh permission from Mr Bowie's representatives to use the extra-planetary recording, which was made aboard the International Space Station at an elevation of 250 miles (400 km), after a five month hiatus. Bowie himself loved it, posting on Facebook that it was "possibly the most poignant version of the song ever created" and an initial one-year agreement which has now been extended after a "careful and exacting" legal process with Hadfield saying "And now, we are so happy to be able to announce that my on-orbit cover of Space Oddity is back up on YouTube. This time we have a new 2-year agreement, and it is there, for free, for everyone. We're proud to have helped bring Bowie's genius from 1969 into space itself in 2013, and now ever-forward. Special thanks to Onward Music Ltd, to the Canadian Space Agency and NASA, to musicians Emm Gryner and Joe Corcoran, to videographer Andrew Tidby, to my son Evan, and mostly to Mr. David Bowie himself. For the countless others who have helped work to bring about a new era of exploration, the art of it sings to us all." More on copyright in space here and here.

Rome - it may have been built in a day -
but surely built some time ago .......
Now then - this is what caught my eye this week. I wasn't aware of this, but it's been suggested that whilst The EU’s 2001 InfoSoc Directive contains a clause that says photos of architectural projects in public spaces can be taken and used free of restriction (with copyright vesting in the photographer) - the so called "freedom of panorama" after the term used in German copyright law, Panoramafreiheit, this is optional and  France, Belgium and Italy decided not to transpose it into national law. Well, that's according to Dimitar Dimitrov, a Wikipedia spokesperson who says “If you take an image of the Atomium and put it on Facebook, that is copyright infringement” - and indeed Belgium's Atomium website does indeed note “any use of the image of the Atomium must be submitted to the organisation before it is published” and "The image of the Atomium is protected and can only be used under certain conditions” and “Prices depend on whether it is to be used for a cultural, educational or commercial purpose.” The Atomium picture on Wikipedia's page is a photo of a model built in Austria. Elsewhere, the images of the monument are usually simply blacked out to respect Belgian rules. Have any of our readers heard of images of modern public buildings in Paris, Brussels or Rome being restricted in any way? Dimitrov suggests that "people can now take photos of the Eiffel tower during the day but not at night. This is because the architect has been dead so long that the copyright rules no longer apply. But they have since installed lights" and “The lightshow is protected by copyright”. The article in the EU Observer suggests "Another oddity is that because the European Parliament does not own the copyright license of its buildings, it cannot legally grant permission for people to take photos of it."  In the UK whilst copyright subsists in architecture as an artistic work by virtue of s4(1)(a) [a work of architecture being a building or a model for a building], section 62 of the CDPA allows photographs (or indeed a film) to be made of a building and provides that “copyright in such a work will not be infringed by (a) making a graphic work representing it, (b) making a photograph or a film of it; or (c) making a broadcast of a visual image of it”. In addition to buildings, section 62 also provides an express exception to copyright infringement in relation to photographs of certain specific works - sculptures, models of buildings and works of artistic craftsmanship - permanently situated in a public. So from a UK perspective there is a rather an unharmonised panorama across the EU - something that surely will be revisited soon.

There seems to be a lot of cyber noise on this - The Eiffel tower gets a lot of attention - more here  and here and the position on replicating Notre Dame and parts of its architecture and interior in the video game Assassins Creed gets attention here with one of the game's senior level artists, Caroline Miousse, sayingThere are certain things we were actually unable to directly re-create due to copyright issues. But we chose not to see this as a negative. For example, when I look at the organ in Notre Dame, I think it’s a masterpiece. It’s just so huge and beautiful… and copyrighted. We couldn’t reproduce it exactly, but we could still try to nail the feeling you get when you see it. We kept it very similar in general appearance, and it’s only when you get close to it and really analyze it that you realize it’s not the same exact organ you would see in Notre Dame today."

Yesterday the European Parliament's Legal Affairs and Culture Committees met to discuss the future development of copyright (11 November) with academics, representatives of content creators and distributors and European Commission experts. we will update on this as and when reports come in unless any of our readers watched the live stream of the hearing, and would care to comment. New Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker had announced that within the first six months of his mandate, he will take steps to modernise copyright rules “in the light of the digital revolution and changed consumer behaviour”. The Commission held a public consultation from December 2013 to March 2014, which generated more than 9,500 replies from users, authors, publishers and other stakeholders.

And finally today, a group of 77 prominent computer scientists have filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court urging it to review the controversial ruling that allowed Oracle to claim copyright on APIs - the essential building block for many everyday software operations. The brief, filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, comes in support of Google, which has appealed to the Supreme Court after losing a decision to Oracle in May. That decision, issued by the Federal Circuit appeals court, reversed a California judge’s conclusion that APIs (application programming interfaces) are not subject to copyright because they are simply a process or a method of instructing one computer program to communicate with another — as opposed to source code or literary works, which are considered original works protected by copyright with the Washington appellate court saying "with the court saying "We conclude that a set of commands to instruct a computer to carry out desired operations may contain expression that is eligible for copyright protection". More here.

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