A lesson in Fair Use and irony all rolled into one.

Professor Eric Faden sat down and edited together a short film on copyright and fair use rules using small snippets of various Disney films. It’s a little disjointed sounding, but it gets the point across quite well.

The irony is that Disney is one of the more… vigilant… companies out there when it comes to… defending… perceived breaches of their copyrights. They’re not afraid to sue at the drop of a hat if they think someone somewhere is using any amount of their material for any reason, fair use be damned, and they’ve also spent millions lobbying Congress to ensure that their material will pretty much never enter the public domain. So watch and learn before Disney issues a DMCA notice to YouTube.

Link found via Boing Boing.

Judge rules companies selling sanitized movies are breaking the law.

Back in December of last year Deoxy submitted an entry on Mormon owned companies selling copies of movies that had been edited to remove—what they considered to be—offensive content. There was a bit of a debate in the comments about the legality of this which, after a bit of thread drift, I put to rest by mentioning that Congress had gotten involved by passing the The Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2005 which included the following provision:

    Title II: Exemption from Infringement for Skipping Audio and Video Content In Motion Pictures – Family Movie Act of 2005 – (Sec. 202) Creates an exemption from copyright infringement for: (1) the making imperceptible, by or at the direction of a private household, of limited portions of audio or video content of a motion picture during a performance in or transmitted to that household for private home viewing from an authorized copy of the motion picture; or (2) the creation or provision of technology that enables such editing, is designed and marketed for such use, creates no fixed copy of the altered version, and makes no changes, deletions or additions to commercial advertisements or promotional announcements that would otherwise be performed or displayed.

    Amends the Trademark Act of 1946 to protect from liability for trademark infringement: (1) persons who engage in the above-referenced conduct; and (2) manufacturers of technology that enables such editing if notice is provided that the performance of the movie is altered from the director’s or copyright holder’s intended performance.

That appeared to give companies like CleanFlicks a free pass to sell their sanitized versions of popular movies. Turns out I was only partially correct as the provision exempts the makers of devices that censor movies (by bleeping out or skipping over parts of an unedited DVD original) such as ClearPlay, but not companies that copy a movie and edit out the naughty bits and then try to include it along with the original DVD as CleanFlicks and Family Flix USA were doing. Thus Hollywood continued with their lawsuits against said companies and now a federal judge in Colorado has ruled in Hollywood’s favor:

“Their business is illegitimate,” the judge wrote in his 16-page ruling. “The right to control the content of the copyrighted work … is the essence of the law of copyright.”

The fight began in August 2002 with a pre-emptive legal filing by CleanFlicks against the DGA and 16 prominent directors after it got wind that the guild was preparing a legal case against the company. CleanFlicks sought a court ruling clarifying its right to market the videos on First Amendment grounds. The DGA and directors countersued the following month. After initially staying out of the fray, eight Hollywood studios joined with the directors and the guild in December 2002, filing claims of copyright infringement against CleanFlicks and other companies.

“Whether these films should be edited in a manner that would make them acceptable to more of the public playing on a DVD in a home environment is more than merely a matter of marketing; it is a question of what audience the copyright owner wants to reach,” Matsch wrote. “This court is not free to determine the social value of copyrighted works. What is protected are the creator’s rights to protect its creation in the form in which it was created.”

The judge ordered that CleanFlicks, CleanFilms, Play It Clean Video, Family Flix USA and CleanFlicks of Colorado “immediately cease all production, sale and rentals of edited videos” and turn over all current stock of said videos to the lawyers of the studios for destruction within 5 days. No word on if any of the companies are considering an appeal yet, but the folks behind Family Flix USA have already shuttered their store with an announcement of their intent to start their own production company. For the moment ClearPlay appears to be in the free and clear, but that doesn’t mean Hollywood isn’t thinking of challenging them anyway:

ClearPlay offers software programs developed for specific titles that users can run on their computer or ClearPlay’s proprietary DVD player along with an official copy of the DVD. With this technology, a nude shot of an actor can be altered to show a silhouette, or profanity can be bleeped out. Because ClearPlay’s technology does not involve making an altered DVD copy, it has been shielded from the copyright infringement claims. The debate over movie content filtering activities made its way into Congress, which passed the 2005 Family Movie Act that protects ClearPlay and other software-based filtering companies. Matsch noted that Congress at that time had the opportunity to also carve out legal protections for CleanFlicks and its ilk, but chose not to.

The DGA said in its statement on the ruling it “remains concerned about this exception to copyright protection.”

Don’t be surprised if a lawsuit challenging the exemption shows up in the courts in the not too distant future.

“America’s Attic” sells out to Showtime Networks.

Seems the folks at The Smithsonian, commonly referred to as “America’s Attic”, have decided to sell an exclusive right of first refusal to the folks at the commercial netowrk Showtime on their extensive film archive which includes no small amount of material that is in the Public Domain. A move that effectively removes that material from the Public Domain and one that has pissed off a number of documentary producers:

“I find this deal terrifying,” Mr. Burns said in a telephone interview from San Francisco, where he is filming interviews for a documentary on the history of the national parks. “It feels like the Smithsonian has essentially optioned America’s attic to one company, and to have access to that attic, we would have to be signed off with, and perhaps co-opted by, that entity.”

On March 9, Showtime and the Smithsonian announced the creation of Smithsonian Networks, a joint venture to develop television programming. Under the agreement, the joint venture has the right of first refusal to commercial documentaries that rely heavily on Smithsonian collections or staff. Those works would first have to be offered to Smithsonian on Demand, the cable channel that is expected to be the venture’s first programming service.

That’s right, if you make a documentary that draws heavily from the archive of the Smithsonian you have to agree to give Showtime’s On Demand video service first crack at it. The reasoning behind this decision? Money, of course:

“What it boiled down to is that we don’t have the financial resources, the expertise or the production capabilities,” she added, to continue to provide extensive access to materials but not to reap any financial benefit from the result.

She said films that made incidental use of a single interview with a staff member or a few minutes of pictures of elements of the Smithsonian collections would be allowed.

The Showtime venture, under which the Smithsonian would earn payments from cable operators that offered the on-demand service to subscribers, comes as the Smithsonian has suffered financial problems. At a Congressional hearing on Wednesday, a Smithsonian official said some necessary repairs to Smithsonian buildings could not be made because of lack of financing. That led to a suggestion by Representative James P. Moran, Democrat of Virginia, to suggest that the institution should charge admission, a proposal that its board of regents has rejected repeatedly.

Why charge admission when they can probably make a lot more money selling exclusive rights to material in the public domain to a corporate interest? Best of all they’ve made the agreement vague on purpose so they can pick and choose which documentaries fall under the agreement:

Linda St. Thomas, a Smithsonian spokeswoman, said the details of the contract with Showtime were confidential and would not be released publicly. She said the outlines of the agreement had been left deliberately vague to allow the Smithsonian to consider “on a case-by-case basis” whether a proposed project competes with its new television venture or not. A Showtime executive, Tom Hayden, said the deal was not intended to be exclusionary but was intended to provide filmmakers with an attractive platform for their work.

One well-known filmmaker, Laurie Kahn-Leavitt, said she had been told recently by a Smithsonian staff member that her last film, “Tupperware!,” a history of the creation and marketing of the venerable food-storage containers, would have fallen under the arrangement, because much of the history of Tupperware is housed at the Smithsonian. The documentary, which won a Peabody Award in 2004, was broadcast on “American Experience,” the PBS show produced by WGBH, the Boston public television station.

“This is a public archive,” Ms. Kahn-Leavitt said. “This should not be offered on an exclusive basis to anyone, and it’s not good enough that they can decide on a case-by-case basis what they will and won’t approve.”

The folks at WGBH which produce American Experience and Nova, which both rely on access to Smithsonian archives pretty heavily, are worried that this will be a major problem for them in the future. It’s bad enough that corporate interests have managed to lock copyrights into an ever-increasing length of time, but now they’re finding ways to limit access to what’s in the Public Domain as well.

Link via Boing Boing.

The government funds piracy of the publishing industry on a massive scale.

Friend,

Did you know that while the RIAA attempts to stop the $4 billion in annual worldwide losses, there is another industry whose losses are nearly ten times that high within this country alone?

I am speaking, of course, of the publishing industry. That’s right. there is a government sanctioned program of stealing money from the mouths of the children of these fine upstanding entrepreneurs. Whole buildings dedicated to theft of intellectual property, and paid for with your tax dollars. I am speaking, of course, of libraries.

Each library purchases one copy of a book—maybe a few more if the bandwidth of a single copy is not sufficient to satiate the thieving fingers of its “members.” They hire staff that will help you search the system, and allow nearly instantaneous access to the information. And then you get a copy for yourself, to use as you want, for a period that is more than sufficient to fully drain the work of all future value to you, and then it is returned for the next person.

“But the founding fathers supported this”, say the liberals. But did they really? As everybody knows, the country was founded on Christian principles, and “Thou Shalt Not Steal” is one of those Christian principles, the liberals are clearly interpreting history in a way that supports their desire to get things for free, rather than really looking at the truth.

Then there is the cry of “Fair Use” But don’t be deceived. Fair use is the courts setting national policy, and is a liberal extreme of the principle that once you’ve bought something, you should be allowed to use it. I go to the hardware store and buy a rake. I use it; my wife uses it; my children use it (though not enough.) This is fair use, and I support it. But my neighbor wants to use it. They want to use it not just now, but every time they want to rake their yards. This isn’t “fair use” it’s using my rake to do his work. Let him get his own rake…he probably won’t return it anyway.

So what is wrong with libraries? Aside from using your tax dollars to fund the buildings, the people and the boxes filled with puppets that your kids play with while you wander around and steal, the library is providing the means for the theft of THIRTY BILLION dollars in intellectual property a year. That’s right, I said THIRTY billion dollars—and that is in the US alone. Ultra-liberal countries like Canada and the UK probably steal even more than we do, though I haven’t done the math for that yet.

So where does this number come from? Solid facts…that’s where. Knowing that there are roughly the equivalent of 12,000 fully functional libraries in the country (plus school libraries, and branches which I haven’t even included.) Assuming each of these libraries permits 250,000 thefts (Sorry, I mean “check outs”) per year, that is THREE BILLION Check-outs annually. Assuming a per-item cost of $10, that is 30 BILLION dollars per year in intellectual property going out the doors of these evil institutions.

“But each checkout isn’t a sale” say the ultra-leftwing liberals. Sure they aren’t. Try taking something you don’t intend to use out of a WalMart, and see if “I wouldn’t have bought it if I weren’t stealing it” works for you. I think not.

So keep this in mind, the next time you are looking for something to do on a Saturday afternoon. Rather than supporting this rampant pattern of theft, go to a Waldenbooks, or Barnes and Noble or any fine institution and actually BUY the books you intend to read. You’ll feel better, and God will feel better.

Is copyright killing our culture?

The Globe and Mail has a good article on how tightening copyright laws are impacting documentary filmmakers by pricing film clips and archival footage out of reach. It starts off by mentioning how a documentary on Martin Luther King, Jr. titled Eyes on the Prize produced in the 1980’s and “widely considered the most important encapsulation of the American civil-rights movement on video” can’t be broadcast or sold any longer because the filmmakers could only afford to license the film clips used for five years and they can’t afford the $250,000 to $500,000 it would cost to negotiate new licenses. As a result this landmark film will slowly disappear as old VHS copies used by schools and libraries fail.

“Securing copyright clearances isn’t just a problem for the makers of Eyes on the Prize. It’s a constant, often insurmountable hurdle for documentary filmmakers and even for writers wanting to reproduce, say, copyrighted pictures or song lyrics in their work.

But it’s particularly difficult for any documentary-makers relying on old news footage, snippets of Hollywood movies or popular music—the very essence of contemporary culture—to tell their stories. Each minute of copyrighted film can cost thousands of dollars. Each still photo, which might appear in a documentary for mere seconds, can run into the hundreds of dollars. And costs have been rising steeply, as film archives, stock photo houses and music publishers realize they are sitting on a treasure trove, Else and other filmmakers say.

The owners of the libraries, which are now increasingly under corporate consolidation, see this as a ready source of income,” Else says. “It has turned our history into a commodity. They might as well be selling underwear or gasoline.”

The article goes on to mention that this is in part due to the growing popularity of documentaries with the public:

The explosion of digital channels, the DVD market and even the use of documentary footage on the Internet have created a new level of success for documentaries, explains veteran National Film Board producer Gerry Flahive. But “suddenly for people who have companies that own stock-footage collections, the material is more valuable. So it has become more expensive.”

Before the digital and documentary explosion, a clip of President Nixon speaking, for instance, usually could be licensed “in perpetuity,” meaning that the film could continue to use the footage indefinitely. Now the incentive is for copyright owners to grant only limited permission. “Increasingly, it’s harder and harder to get ‘in perpetuity,’ because rights-holders realize that somebody will have to come back in five years or 10 years and pay more money,” Flahive says.

Some are calling this the new “clearance culture,” in which access to copyrights affects the creation of new art as much as, if not more than, actual artistic and journalistic decisions. It also means that access to copyrighted footage is only open to those filmmakers with the deepest pockets (or many lawyers on their side).

But at a time when documentaries are probing the U.S. war on terrorism or globalization, for instance, in ways that are more in-depth than typical mainstream news media, the question of whether copyright restrictions are creating a blinkered view of the world is a serious one.

“Why do you think the History Channel is what it is? Why do you think it’s all World War II documentaries? It’s because it’s public-domain footage. So the history we’re seeing is being skewed towards what’s fallen into public domain,” says filmmaker Robert Stone in the American University study.

The article also mentions that one of the loopholes often used is the “Fair Use” rule, but that only applies to documentaries that are critiquing the footage being used and the defense only works if you can afford the lawyers to mount it. What the article fails to mention is that the Fair Use rule may be made moot by the DMCA in the long run anyway. As the move away from analog media to digital media for archival purposes continues to grow documentary filmmakers may find themselves running afoul of laws intended to stem piracy. Under the DMCA it is illegal to circumvent the copy protection scheme used on DVDs which the filmmaker would need to do in order to use footage only available on that media in a documentary. As a result the copyright owners can stop the usage of their footage in a documentary regardless of the applicability of Fair Use because they can sue the filmmaker for violating the DMCA.

Under current copyright rules it can take over a century before a lot of history moves into the public domain and if Disney has its way the next time they’re about to lose their copyright on Mickey Mouse then you can be sure it could get even worse as time goes on.

Share your music files and get paid for it.

While the RIAA continues to sue their own customers creating a lot of bad blood in the process, at least one company out there thinks they’ve found a way to let fans share their music with friends, make money by doing so, and even reward fans for sharing those files. The company is Shared Media Licensing and their product is called Weed, which they’re hoping will grow like one.

The concept itself is simple: Music fans can download any song on the Weed service and play it three times for free. On the fourth play it prompts you to buy the song which will set you back about a dollar each. After you’ve bought the song you can burn it to as many CDs as you want, transfer it to your Windows portable media devices, pass it around on file sharing networks to your heart’s content, and post it to your webpage. Each time a new listener downloads the song the file resets itself to allow for three free plays before asking the newcomer to purchase the song. Three plays should be enough for most folks to decide if they like the track or not and the price isn’t prohibitive at all. On top of all of that, Weed encourages you to share the file as much as possible by paying you a commission of 20% for every person who buys a file they got from you. The artists get 50% and Weed takes 15% and everybody goes home happy. Artists have had some very positive things to say about Weed:

Brian Hardgroove—band leader for Public Enemy and bass player from Fine Arts Militia (another Chuck D group)—compared Weed to Robin Hood. While the major labels continue to sue people for file sharing, he said, Weed rewards files sharing.

“A lot of artists are caught in the middle,” Hardgroove said. “They want a fan base and they want a machinery to put the records out, but the machinery becomes prohibitive.”

Singer-songwriter Stacie Rose said Weed is a great way for people to find new artists.

“Because CDs are so expensive, sometimes people don’t want to take a chance (buying a full CD) with a new artist,” Rose said. “The whole idea of (Weed) is really cool.”

“Basically the fans are promoting the music that they love,” said Jeff Leisawitz, president of Weedfiles, a content provider that has signed about 75 artists, including Heart. “Love Hurts,” the band’s exclusive track, debuted over the summer on Weedfiles at the same time the record was released.

“It’s not a pyramid scheme,” Beezer said. But those who are motivated to get others interested in the music can make some money if people opt to buy the tracks.

“This is a good evolution from free peer-to-peer networks such as Kazaa,” said Thomas Dolby Robertson, who recorded the ‘80s hit, “She Blinded Me with Science,” and is now president of Retro RingTones. He’s also considering using the service for his music. “It seems like such a simple idea. I wonder why the guys at Napster didn’t think about this. They never really got around to implementing any fair payment mechanism.”

If it’s good enough for Thomas Dolby then it’s good enough for me (I’m a big fan). Seriously, though, I’ve bought exactly one album through Apple’s iTunes (Dan Reeder) and I was leery of doing that for the simple reason that I’m only allowed to burn it to CD 10 times. Now I don’t think I’ll ever have a need to burn it 10 times, but the limit does make me nervous. I’m also not allowed to share the files with others so they can see how great Dan Reeder is, but at $10 for the album I figured it was worth the risk. I’ve not felt compelled to buy anything else through iTunes, though, and the only reason I have it installed at all is for this one album and so I can watch some of the really large movie trailers that require it.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve found that there are only a handful of songs produced in the last ten years that appeal to me at all so the option to purchase just those songs and burn them in any combination of CDs I want is very appealing as it the ability to listen to those songs a couple of times before making my decision. Weed sounds like it was designed just for someone like me. I’ve not had a chance to look into the service as of yet, but I’ll probably take the time to do so in the very near future. I’ll let you know what I think of it when I do.

Guthrie song “This Land” is in the Public Domain.

Looks like the folks at Ludlow Music have dropped their lawsuit against JibJab over the parody version of “This Land Is Your Land” after lawyers for JibJab discovered the song is in the Public Domain:

While researching the case, the EFF discovered that Woody Guthrie published a songbook in 1945 that included “This Land Is Your Land.” At that time, copyright holders owned their work for 28 years, and could renew the copyright once during the first term, for another 28 years.

When Guthrie published the songbook, that “started the clock ticking on the 28 years,” Schultz said. Guthrie never renewed it, meaning the terms of the copyright expired in 1973.

Ludlow, meanwhile, registered the song under copyright in 1956 as an original copyright registration, not the renewal. The company was apparently unaware that because Guthrie had already published the song, the terms of copyright began in 1945, not 1956, Schultz said.

“The clock starts ticking when either the papers are filed or you publish,” Schultz said.

Ludlow then renewed the copyright in 1984, which was 11 years too late, he said. The EFF found a copy of the songbook at the Library of Congress.

Oops! This is the sort of thing that happens when you get greedy. Had the folks at Ludlow not gotten their panties in a wad over the parody song no one would have bothered to look into their claim of copyright ownership and they could have continued to collect on it as they’ve been doing for years, but noooooo. They had to get all pissy and give someone a reason to take a closer look only to have it come out that they don’t have a valid claim to the copyright after all. It’ll be interesting to see if any lawsuits develop over past licensing payments that Ludlow may not have been legally entitled to.

So if you’ve been itching to do your own version of “This Land” you can go ahead and do so all you want. Hell, for that matter, you can perform the original version all you want because “This Land” really does belong to you and me now.

BSA rolls out cartoon mascot in fight against piracy.

Problem: Some of the biggest users of P2P software for sharing of copyrighted materials are kids.
Solution: Develop a cartoon ferret to teach kids why this is a “bad thing” as part of a “Play It Cybersafe” campaign.

At least, that’s the solution if you happen to be the BSA and rather clueless about the age groups you’re targeting.

Ferreting out copyright scofflaws – CNET News.com
The “Play It Safe in Cyber Space” campaign will culminate with a four-page comic book, distributed in conjunction with tot journal the Weekly Reader, meant to impress kids with the idea that it’s not OK to freely swap software, games, music and other copyrighted content.

The comic will feature the droopy-drawers ferret, who for now is referred to as the “Copyright Crusader.” Kids are urged to help select his final name by submitting votes next month through the BSA’s Web site.

They even have a game featuring the ferret where you run around destroying pirated software while collecting legal licenses.

Oh yeah, that’ll go over really well. I don’t know if I was the exception, but I seem to recall that my friends and I saw these sorts of campaigns as propaganda more than anything else. It seems to me the age group that they most likely want to target is already too old for this sort of approach to work with. If anything it’ll probably only encourage them to continue as a way of rebelling against authority. Mind you, it’s not that I completely disagree with the BSA, just with their approach. It’s silly at best.

Woody Guthrie is probably rolling over in his grave right about now.

In response to the fifty or so emails that have asked: Yes, I’ve seen the very funny take on This Land Was Made for You and Me from the folks over at JibJab. The only reason I haven’t mentioned it is because by the time I got around to writing an entry about it everyone else and their brother had already written entries about it and I figured most folks would’ve already heard about it. All I could’ve added would be something like: “Hee hee! It’s funny!” Which isn’t exactly a stunning insight of any kind so I figured I’d just keep my mouth shut.

What is more interesting is the fact that the clueless assholes at The Richmond Organization, which owns the copyright to Woody’s classic tune via their Ludlow Music unit, are getting all pissy about JibJab’s bit o’ parody and are threatening to sue them for it.

“This puts a completely different spin on the song,” said Kathryn Ostien, director of copyright licensing for the publisher. “The damage to the song is huge.”

TRO believes that the Jibjab creation threatens to corrupt Guthrie’s classic—an icon of Americana—by tying it to a political joke; upon hearing the music people would think about the yucks, not Guthrie’s unifying message. The publisher wants Jibjab to stop distribution of the flash movie.

You have got to be fucking kidding me. Granted that the “parody as fair use” defense is still largely a legal gray area, it’s has been recognized as a valid argument by the Supreme Court and based on some of the past cases I’d find it very surprising if the JibJab creation wasn’t able to withstand a legal challenge. More to the point, however, is the fact that the actions of The Richmond Organization would probably have pissed off Woody Guthrie to no end.  ***Dave points us to a follow up article about Woody and a standard copyright notice he used to place on his works:

“This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright # 154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don’t give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that’s all we wanted to do.”

It’s also telling that the original song as penned by Woody Guthrie in 1940 included controversial verses that are rarely sung today as they appear to be criticisms of ownership of private property and class inequality. Then there’s the other variations that sprung up both from Guthrie and other authors from time to time. Reading up on Guthrie and his political stance it’s hard to imagine he’d be all that upset with JibJab’s take on his classic tune—if anything he’d probably approve of it—but that doesn’t stop the folks who hold the copyright today from singing a different tune.

And that’s my biggest problem with copyright law as it stands now: It’s all about the money. To hell with what the original artists’ intent or opinions on the issue happened to be, the rule of the day is to snatch up what you can and defend it at all costs lest you miss out on a royalty payment. There’s a reason that restaurants never sing “Happy Birthday” to customers and have to come up with their own ridiculously cheesy birthday songs when presenting you with your free slice of cake and helping of public humiliation. This wouldn’t be that big of a deal if the term for copyrights were still limited to the original 28 years (14 years with an option for another 14 years if the author were still alive at the end of the first 14) before moving into the public domain that was established in the Copyright Act of 1790.  That would allow for a good two decades for people and companies to make money off of a copyright before becoming public domain and free for anyone to make use of. For that matter, the term established in the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works in 1886 of the life of the author plus fifty years wouldn’t be too bad. This Land would still be under copyright until 2017 (Guthrie died on October 3, 1967 – just months after I was born).

The problem is our government keeps extending the limit whenever a big conglomerate such as the Walt Disney Company is in danger of its long-held copyrights expiring. The Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 added another 20 years to the limit making the new terms equal to the life of the author plus seventy years, in the case of individual works, and ninety-five years in the case of works of corporate authorship. Disney’s Mickey Mouse would have entered into the Public Domain sometime between 2000 and 2004 without this new legislation, something Disney wasn’t about to allow if they could help it. At least not in America. In Russia and many other countries Mickey Mouse along with any other copyrighted work prior to 1970 are considered to be in the Public Domain. The following bit from the Wikipedia on Copyright pretty much says it all:

    As a consequence of the act, no copyrighted works will enter into public domain due to term expiration in the United States until January 1, 2019, when all works created in 1923 will enter into public domain.

    In addition to Disney, Sonny Bono’s widow and Congressional successor Mary Bono and the estate of George Gershwin supported the act. Mary Bono, speaking on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, noted that “Sonny wanted the term of copyright protection to last forever”, but that since she was “informed by staff that such a change would violate the Constitution”, Congress might consider Jack Valenti’s proposal of a copyright term of “forever less one day”.

And people wonder why I think Jack Valenti is an asshat. It’s all about the money anymore and I bet Woody Guthrie would probably write a protest song about it if he were still around to do so. The fact is the Founding Fathers fully intended that copyright should expire after a reasonable time in order for the public to expand upon and innovate new ideas from formerly protected works and they considered this so important that they made it a part of the Constitution right from the beginning. How much do you want to bet that Disney and other groups will try to get the terms extended again when Mickey Mouse once more approaches the brink of becoming Public Domain?

US Copyright Office voices support for INDUCE Act (IICA), argues it isn’t strong enough.

It’s probably no big surprise that Marybeth Peters, Register of Copyrights for the US Copyright Office, has publicly stated that her office officially supports the legislation known as the Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act considering the position she holds. What is surprising given the uproar and massive debate over this bill being too broad that has already erupted is the fact that she seems to be expressing the opinion that the proposed legislation isn’t strong enough and that Congress should overturn the 20 year old Sony Betamax decision. 

Ernest Miller has an excellent analysis of Peters’ statement over at Corante where he dismantles the rather misleading and poorly developed arguments Peters’ used in her 22-page statement [PDF]. Her most galling statement, however, is her conclusion in which she says the following:

Let me be clear, however, that our concern about its future application should not hold up this bill.

Actually, it absolutely should hold this bill up. We’ve already seen example after example of how another bit of legislation designed to supposedly protect copyrights, the DMCA, has been used as a hammer by various parties to stifle innovation, competition, research, and even criticism. The INDUCE Act is already being roundly criticized as being even more ripe for abuses than the DMCA and I can only imagine the horror stories that will come along if it is passed. Ironically, the US Copyright Office actually played a role in getting one of the DMCA abuses listed above tossed out of court so it’s rather disconcerting to see them come out in support of legislation that is even worse.

Update: Looks like ***Dave and I are on similar wavelengths today.