Friday, March 14, 2008

Stanford support RDR in Harry Potter Lexicon case

The Stanford Center for Internet and Society are supporting RDR Books in their defence of the lawsuit being brought by JK Rowling and her publishers, over the publication of a print version of the Harry Potter Lexicon website. Anthony Falzone of the CIS says:

"In our brief, we explain both why the Lexicon is the sort of important and transformative work that fair use has long protected, and why Ms. Rowling is not entitled to the injunction she seeks.

Read our full brief here.

And if you want to know what Rowling says, here is her brief, too, filed last month.

UPDATE: Ms. Rowling's d reply brief was filed on February 27. The briefing on her preliminary injunction motion is now complete, and the hearing on this motion is scheduled for March 13 in New York."

Extending wiretapping to the Net

From the Economist:

"Governments want to extend wiretapping rules from phones to the internet, but doing so is hard

AMONG the many benefits of the internet's rise over the past decade has been the advent of free phone calls between its users—and much cheaper calls even for people who are not online, since ordinary calls can be partly routed over the internet. For people who work in foreign countries, have friends and relatives spread around the world, or simply have to make a lot of calls, this is great news. But for law-enforcement organisations who are used to being able to tap conventional telephone networks, it is causing increasingly painful headaches. Around the world, the emergence of voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) telephony is forcing authorities and communications firms into both conflict and co-operation.

Their shared problem is a fundamental one that results from the very nature of the internet. In the old world of telecoms, the path of a call was easy to follow: a continuous analogue or digital connection was established between the two parties, so it was easy for investigators to select a point somewhere along the line (at the telephone exchange nearest to the caller, for example) to tap the call.

On the internet things are very different. All information, whether e-mails, web pages, music downloads or voice calls, is chopped up into small packets of data and fired off across the network. The path one packet takes across the sprawling network may be different from the path of the next, and packets may arrive at the destination out of order, or not arrive at all. If intercepting a traditional phone call is like apprehending a single suspect at his home, eavesdropping on a VoIP call is more like trying to capture all the members of a gang as they cross a busy city in a fleet of separate vehicles. "

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Apple sued for patent infringement

From the Washington Post:

"Apple Inc. was sued Wednesday over allegations its iTunes online music store and iPod music players are illegally using a patented method for distributing digital media over the Internet.

Atlanta-based ZapMedia Services Inc. sued Apple in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, accusing the Cupertino-based company of violating two ZapMedia patents...

The patents in question cover a way of sending music and other digital content from servers to multiple media players, a broad description that could also apply to a wide swath of other companies selling digital media and the devices to play it."

Parallels there with the Blackboard v Desire2Learn case but impossible to tell without having more details. Blackboard, a Washington DC company were recently awarded damages against Desire2Learn, an Ontario company, by a Texas jury.

In addition, given that Acacia has successfully enforced patents through the courts in the same ballpark, the Zapmedia folks might well find themselves on the receiving end of lawyerly letters from that general direction, expecially if they succeed in the Apple suit. In fact Acacia reportedly sued Apple over iTunes just last month.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

EU approves Google takeover of DoubleClick

It seems the EU Commission has cleared the proposed acquisition of DoubleClick by Google.

"The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of the online advertising technology company DoubleClick by Google, both of the US. The Commission’s in-depth investigation, opened in November 2007 (see IP/07/1688), concluded that the transaction would be unlikely to have harmful effects on consumers, either in ad serving or in intermediation in online advertising markets. The Commission has therefore concluded that the transaction would not significantly impede effective competition within the European Economic Area (EEA) or a significant part of it."

Monday, March 10, 2008

Harmonising international approach to copyright exceptions and limitations

Bernt Hugenholtz and Ruth L. Okediji have just published their Open Society Institute (OSI) sponsored report on Conceiving an International Instrument on Limitations and Exceptions to Copyright. The 56 page study is based on contributions from some of the top intellectual property scholars in the world, including Jerome H. Reichman at Duke University and Pamela Samuelson of UC Berkeley.

They conclude:

"The task of developing a global approach to limitations and exceptions is one of the
major challenges facing the international copyright system today. At risk are fundamental
elements of the copyright system which were historically designed to require accountability
to goals and purposes far beyond individual economic gain. As new technologies challenge
copyright’s internal balance, and as the costs of globalization heighten the vital need for
innovation and knowledge dissemination, a multilateral instrument that can effectively
harness various national practices with regard to L&E’s, and that can provide a framework
for dynamic evaluation of how global copyright norms can be most effectively translated into
a credible system that appropriately values author and user rights is a necessity."

The full report emphasizes the public interest function of copyright law (cf. the interests of creators and business) :

"It is a well-established principle of copyright doctrine that the qualified grant of
proprietary rights over the fruits of creative enterprise is directed first and foremost at the
promotion of the public interest."

- and merits close attention.

Bush vetoes ban on waterboarding

So despite the acting head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, Steven Bradbury, reportedly saying last month that waterboarding is no longer allowed under US law, it seems that President Bush does not agree.

"President Bush said yesterday he vetoed legislation that would ban the CIA from using harsh interrogation methods such as waterboarding to break suspected terrorists because it would end practices that have prevented attacks.

"The bill Congress sent me would take away one of the most valuable tools in the war on terror," Bush said in his weekly radio address taped for broadcast yesterday. "So today I vetoed it."

The bill provides guidelines for intelligence activities for the year and includes the interrogation requirement. It passed the House in December and the Senate last month.

"This is no time for Congress to abandon practices that have a proven track record of keeping America safe," the president said."

According to the Times , John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, who authored a law banning torture of detainees in American custody, surprised many by supporting the President's veto, arguing that imposing military rules on the CIA would deny it the use of many legitimate techniques.

Mr McCain has also said, however, that he would define waterboarding as torture, effectively outlawing it. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the two Democratic candidates, are both supporters of increased measures banning coercive techniques although campaign commitments kept both of them from voting on this most recent Bill."