Category Archives: Legal Issues

Good news on the DMCA front

The Internet Archive (one of the coolest sites on the ‘net, if you haven’t checked it out) has recieved an exception to the DMCA for the purposes of archiving:

# Computer programs protected by dongles that prevent access due to malfunction or damage and which are obsolete.
# Computer programs and video games distributed in formats that have become obsolete and which require the original media or hardware as a condition of access.

So some of the early copy-protection schemes can indeed be legally bypassed in order to preserve them. It’s a small victory, but any victory is good with the DMCA.

Example of the ridiculousness of copyright clearance

Story originally from Lessig Blog and the BBC.

At the Cannes Film Festival, a film named Tarnation is wowing the critics and crowds…impressing Gus Van Sant and John Cameron Mitchell to sign on as producers and attempt to get the film a distributor. It’s the story told via a series of filmed narratives of the director and subject since he was 11, as he deals with his mother’s mental illness.

The copyright problem here is this: the director/star/subject (Jonathan Caouette) estimates that the film cost a total of $218 to make. That’s the cost of the videotapes, and the one prop he purchased solely for the film (a pair of angels wings).

Cost to clear the rights to the images/music that he used in editting the film together?

$400,000

Copyright and Willy Wonka…

Just watching one of my favorite movies of all time, Willy Wonka and Chocolate Factory. I’ve looked over the ‘net for a list of the literary references that Wonka uses during the film, and not found any complete lists. I’m a bit curious as to whether they only used public domain quotes, or whether they had to jump through the hoops that a modern producer would need to in order to clear the copyright on so many quotes. Many of them (Shakespeare is used a few times) are clearly public domain, but others are not so clear (O’Shaugnessy and others). Anyone know of such a resource? I’ll put on my reference librarian hat and find one if no one knows of one.

Just another great example where borrowing works from others made the movie more interesting, and raised it above the norm. Hopefully the remake won’t have to drop the sort of playful quotations for fear of lawsuits.

To everyone still coming by for Perils

Thanks for the attention, and I hope you enjoy the Perils of Strong Copyright. I’m somewhere over 1500 hits since this time last week, so I thought maybe people felt funny about jumping in in the middle of the original posts below.

If you have any feedback, I’d love to hear it. I thought it would be easier for people just reading it to leave comments here, rather than getting buried in last weeks dialogue. So feel free to let me know what you think….good or bad. Both will help when I try to work this into an article for publication in some (open access) journal.

Perils of Strong Copyright, continued

The last 24 hours have been quite interesting! The feedback has been roaring in…99% positive, with a few corrections and questions sent my way. One gentleman from Canada pointed out my misuse of the term “schizophrenic” on page 8, which I appreciate. I was looking for something more along the lines of “hypocritically” and may have unintentionally misused the term.

I did receive one response from someone associated with the ALA, specifically Knowledge Quest (KQWeb, to be precise). Laura Pearle, the associate editor of KQWeb said:

“I read with interest your comments about Open Access and ALA. As Associate Editor for KQWeb, I am aware of their policies and it appears to me that you have misrepresented the ALA’s position. In your appendix you have copies of the two copyright agreements ALA offers. One does assign to ALA all rights. The other, however, only assigns limited rights (that of first publication) and the rest remain with the author. It is the author’s choice, not ALA’s, which agreement is signed….

…You might want to re-read the agreements and rework your thesis on the basis of that rereading. ”

I must say that I do not believe that I have misrepresented the ALA’s position (indeed, I think I have described that they don’t currently know their position, since they say one thing, and behave differently). As far as Knowledge Quest specifically, perhaps I was confused by the following passage on the “Instructions for Authors” portion of the KQ website , where it states:

“Copyright

A manuscript published in the journal is subject to copyright by the American Library Association for the American Association of School Librarians. Additional information about copyright policies is available from the ALA Office of Rights and Permission.”

That seemed a reasonably clear statement. If there is the opportunity for authors to retain copyright, perhaps this statement should be altered to reflect that.

The Perils of Strong Copyright

CC chart

For all the talk that the American Library Association does in regards to Open Access and freely available information, here’s the truth of the matter. A chart showing how a few ALA publications compare to Creative Commons licenses. For a full explanation, read the paper. Chapters 4 and 5 and the Conclusion have the real evidence in them. HTML version forthcoming.

Penny arcade vs Strawberry Shortcake

Here we have a bizarre case. One of my favorite online comics, Penny Arcade, was served a cease and desist from American Greetings, the owners of the characters in the Strawberry Shortcake family of products most of us probably remember from our youth. The problem in question is this comic (also here as PNG), which parodies a game creator called America McGee, whose specialty is taking children’s stories (Alice in Wonderland, Oz) and taking them gothic. Clearly, American Greetings didn’t think it was funny.

Discussion on Slashdot.

Sad state of intellectual property in the US continues. PA can’t afford to fight this, so they just have to roll over.

Or, they make a strip like this.

:-)