Tuesday, 5 April 2016

The CopyKat

A U.S. District Court judge has again looked at a case brought by three publishers against Georgia State University's e-reserve and ruled that, in 41 of 48 cases, no copyright infringement took place. The 220 page ruling applies the four-part fair-use test that the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal directed Judge Evans to use to each on each of the 48 cases - and in particular to look at (i) the purpose and character of the use — which will favour fair use when that purpose is non-profit and educational, and (iv) the potential impact of the use on the market for or value of the original. But the case is seen by copyright experts as a complicated decision that won't be of much help to universities in determining fair use. Excellent comment by Kevin Smith JD on the Duke Universities Library blog here

In China the National Anti-pornography and Anti-illegal Publications Office, the National Copyright Administrative of China (NCAC) and several other government ministries have announced a special enforcement campaign against small photocopying shops that operate on and around university campuses. Many copy shops are suspected of illegally reprinting textbooks and other written works. The campaign – given the operation name “Autumn Wind” – will run from February to September and cover 40 cities. More here (in Chinese).
Also in China the UK's ever useful IPO China IP newsletter tells us that Deputy Chief Judge of the Supreme People’s Court Tao Kaiyuan has called for the establishment of one single, specialist IP appeals court to hear cases from across the country. Currently appeals are heard in provincial-level High People’s Courts. And Shanghai Vice-Mayor Zhao Wen  has again called for the unification of patents, designs, trade marks and copyright into one Ministry-level department.

Three American copyright scholars have released a study into the impact of copyright takedowns on free expression in America: Notice and Takedown in Everyday Practice, by Jennifer Urban (UC Berkeley), Joe Karaganis (Columbia), and Brianna L. Schofiel (UC Berkeley) uses detailed surveys and interviews and a random sample from over 100,000,000 takedown notices to analyze the proportion of fraudulent, malformed or otherwise incorrect acts of censorship undertaken in copyright's name, using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's takedown procedure. The findings suggest that whether notice and takedown “works” is highly dependent on who is using it and how it is practiced, though all respondents agreed that the Section 512 safe harbors remain fundamental to the online ecosystem. Perhaps surprisingly in light of large-scale online infringement, a large portion of OSPs still receive relatively few notices and process them by hand. For some major players, however, the scale of online infringement has led to automated, “bot”-based systems that leave little room for human review or discretion, and in a few cases notice and takedown has been abandoned in favor of techniques such as content filtering. The second and third studies revealed surprisingly high percentages of notices of questionable validity, with mistakes made by both "bots" and humans. TechDirts take is somewhat evident from the headline DMCA's Notice And Takedown Procedure Is A Total Mess, And It's Mainly Because Of Bogus Automated Takedowns

Canadian-based Cirque du Soleil is suing American pop superstar Justin Timberlake, alleging that his hit song "Don't Hold the Wall" illegally borrows from one of the troupe's original musical compositions. A 10-page complaint filed in New York alleges that Timberlake illegally used parts of the song "Steel Dream," taken from Cirque du Soleil's 1997 album "Quidam." More here.

TorrentFreak reports that anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp says that it's working on a new method to "extract cash settlements from suspected Internet pirates". The company says new technology will lock users' browsers and prevent Internet access until they pay a fine. To encourage ISPs to play along, TorrentFreak rather sarcastically points out that Rightscorp says the system could help to limit liability for copyright infringement.

Sweden’s supreme Court has held Wikimedia  guilty of violating copyright laws by providing free access to its database of photographs of artwork - without the artists’ consent. Wikimedia, part of the not-for-profit foundation which oversees Wikipedia, had a database of royalty-free photographs that could be used by the public, for educational purposes or the tourism industry. The Visual Copyright Society in Sweden (BUS), which represents painters, photographers, illustrators and designers among others, too legal action against Wikimedia Sweden for making photographs of their artwork displayed in public places available in its database, without their consent. The photographs were actually portraits of works of art. Whilst the court acknowledged that members of the public were permitted to photograph artwork on display in public spaces, it was “an entirely different matter” to make the photographs available in a database for free and unlimited use: “Such a database can be assumed to have a commercial value that is not insignificant. The court finds that the artists are entitled to that value” and said "It is not relevant whether or not Wikimedia has a commercial aim.”  Damages will be set at a later date. More on the Local here. Image of 'Poundland Jubilee Flag Maker' (2012) by Banksy by Duncan Hull. 

And finally, and again from TorrentFreak - an interesting look at the activities of a London company called Hatton and Berkeley - whose website you can see here and which features a picture of Robert Croucher (Hatton & Berkeley, described as "Managing Director of Hatton & Berkeley, Pro-Copyright advocate, Executive Producer and Film Financier") with  Patrick Achache, "the talented young tech entrepreneur who turned his hand to developing software that tackles digital piracy for the film and TV industries". The UK's Intellectual Property Office has now issued guidance on how copyright trolls operate and how people should handle them.  More here.

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