First Peter Pan, Now Scarlett O’Hara

Gone With the Wind heirs threaten Project Gutenberg [via CopyFight’s Copyright Balance Gone With the Wind?]

The Stephens Mitchell Trusts wants Australian Gutenberg volunteers either to remove Gone With the Wind from their servers or else take steps to prevent downloads in countries where copyright law bans unauthorized distribution of the 1936 classic.

Otherwise, a lawyer for the heirs says in email and a certified letter, “we will take all appropriate steps to protect and enforce our clients’ rights.”

[…] [T]he Gutenberg volunteers face a possible legal trap–in fact, two. If the Australian Gutenberg takes down the novel without a request from the American PG [Project Gutenberg] even though Australian law does not require this, Margaret Mitchell’s estate may just say the two groups are in cahoots with each other. The estate might claim that the Australians were trying to protect the Americans. If the U.S. Gutenberg asks for a take-down, the estate might also claim a close relationship.

A related argument might be trademark. The estate lawyers may use this as further evidence of an actual tie.

[…] Significantly, Margaret Mitchell died in on August 16, 1949. Without the Bono Act, the book’s copyright would have expired in 1999. Now, however, in the States, the book apparently won’t enter the public domain until 2019. With this situation in mind, it is high time that Congress either repealed Bono or at least mitigated it–lest greedy heirs and Doberman lawyers shut down worthwhile efforts like Gutenberg.

Meanwhile Australia, which appears on the cusp of increasing copyright terms past the 50-year mark, would do well to consider the repercussions before letting wealthy American heirs and donation-crazed U.S. politicians dictate law to them. The expected changes in Australian copyright law would not have come out without U.S. pressure by way of a trade agreement.

Stallman on Intellectual Property

Why the term ‘intellectual property’ is a seductive mirage [via IPNewsBlog]

If you want to think clearly about the issues raised by patents, or copyrights, or trademarks, or even learn what these laws say, the first step is to forget the idea of lumping them together, and treat them as separate topics. If you want to write articles that inform the public and encourage clear thinking, treat each of these laws separately; don’t suggest generalizing about them.

And when it comes to reforming WIPO, among other things, let’s call for changing its name.

“Jane, You Ignorant Slut”

A point-counterpoint on broadband policy:

  • High-Speed Internet Policy Failure: U.S. Slips to 13th in Broadband Service Worldwide and Digital Divide Grows Under Bush Administration

    The report, Expanding the Digital Divide and Falling Behind in Broadband, documents the advantages that Internet households, particularly those with high-speed access, have in conducting economic, social and political activities, and concludes that it is critical to aggressively close the digital divide by promoting universal service at affordable prices for all.

    The report notes that in 2001, Chairman Michael Powell and the National Telecommunications Information Administration declared the digital divide a non-problem and proceeded to ignore it, adopting policies to eliminate all public interest obligations for the advanced telecommunications networks used to provide high-speed and voice over Internet service.

  • Broadband by 2007: A Look at the President’s Internet Initiative

    The news on broadband isn’t all bad. We are 10th or 11th, depending on the different data points you look at. Yet broadband take-up has been very rapid in this country. By some measures, broadband pick-up has been faster than color TV, the Internet, mobile phones, VCRs, or PCs–it is moving along pretty well. From 7 million broadband subscribers in 2000, we had 24 million in June 2003. That represents a 230 percent increase. There was an independent research report in the news just the other day. The Department of Commerce is going to be coming out with their numbers soon, which will be harder data points that say, “That’s the number.”

    Just as the President will not be satisfied until every American who wants a job has a job, he is similarly not satisfied with the rate of the broadband penetration. That is why he set this aggressive target.

A Natural Evolution, I Guess

From gold records to gold MP3s

It might not be the same as having a big gold record on the wall, but the Recording Industry Association of America has issued its first gold, platinum, and multiplatinum certifications for digital downloads.

The first obvious winner? Outkast’s “Hey Ya!” is the only multiplatinum single so far, with more than 400,000 downloads. Six songs qualified for platinum, or sales of 200,000 singles, and 45 titles got gold status, for selling 100,000 songs.

These awards “are a reflection of both the commitment of the entire music community to consumer-friendly legitimate digital services and fan appetite for high-quality music,” RIAA Chief Executive Officer Mitch Bainwol said in a statement.

Hmmm, I thought these awards have always been a celebration of a record’s sales volume….

Later: Jenny Levine makes an excellent point: And There Isn’t a Single Library that Can Circulate Any of Them; BBC News: Digital sales honour for OutKast

Unexpected Problems: DVDs On The Road

Speech, safety, decency — who’d a thunk it? When the Car Beside You Is an XXX Theater [pdf]

On-board video has become widely popular with drivers, especially those with children. But while many motorists entertain back-seat passengers with DVD’s like “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” a surprising number choose racier fare.

Andre Gainey, for example, was playing a pornographic video on three screens in his Mercedes last February as he drove past a police station in Schenectady, N.Y. Mr. Gainey, 35, was arrested and later convicted of a misdemeanor charge of public display of sexual material and other violations. Last August he was sentenced to three weekends in jail.

Few cars are equipped with as many screens as Mr. Gainey’s. But complaints from people who have spotted explicit images on screens inside cars are growing nearly as fast as on-board DVD sales.

[…] Sightings of adult videos by passengers — including children — in other cars “is a vexing new phenomenon,” said Jan LaRue, chief counsel for Concerned Women for America, a conservative advocacy group in Washington. Ms. LaRue, who wrote an essay titled “Four-Wheel Indecency” for the group’s Web site (cwfa.org), said new laws were necessary as monitors inside cars had gotten bigger (up to 17 inches, measured diagonally) and more visible from outside.

“It’s pretty incredible to have to write laws for people who lack the common sense and civility to think it’s O.K. to play such DVD’s in full view of other people, and especially children,” Ms. LaRue said.

Speaking of Lexmark…

There’s this article from today’s NYTime special Car section on a related issue that could easily end up in the same set of DMCA-related problems: Small Repair Shops Say Carmakers Won’t Share [pdf]

A group of mom and pop repair shops across the country is arguing that such scenes are happening too often in the last few years, jeopardizing their bottom line and sometimes even their survival. They contend that auto manufacturers are deliberately withholding information or charging high prices for repair data that used to be readily available at a reasonable cost.

Some stand-alone mechanic shops — which number more than 256,000 nationwide and make an estimated 75 percent of the country’s vehicle repairs — are pushing Congress to pass a law, called the Motor Vehicle Owners’ Right to Repair Act, to guarantee access to the technical and training data and specialized tools that are required for the shops to make repairs.

Organized by the Coalition for Auto Repair Equality, which represents repair shops and auto parts retailers and franchisees, a group testified at a Congressional hearing last month that manufacturers hold back information that consumers have the right to know about once they have bought a vehicle.

The Alliance of Auto Manufacturers, a trade association of nine car and light-truck manufacturers, including Ford, General Motors and Toyota, denies that it is doing so, and contends that the bill would require relinquishing proprietary information and cut into revenues that are necessary to pay for the more than $20 billion auto manufacturers spend yearly on research and design.

The car companies also say that disclosing such trade secrets could enable modifications of crucial vehicle operating systems, including emissions and safety. This, in turn, could create issues surrounding the validity of a warranty, and perhaps even the performance of such control systems, they maintain.

[…] But Sandy Bass-Cors, executive director for the Coalition for Auto Repair Equality, disputes the success rate, citing the coalition’s national survey of mechanic shops this summer that found that 59 percent of those questioned had problems getting information,r training or tools needed to repair or service cars.

The car industry, Ms. Bass-Cors said, is “trying to monopolize the repair industry.”

OT: More Weirdness For Photographers

Snap photo first, answer questions later (see earlier Once Tripods Are Illegal….)

A physician who says he photographed an AT&T office as part of a research project to develop assistive technologies for the blind is now being targeted for questioning by the FBI.

Stefanos Pantagis, a geriatric specialist at the Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, said he took the photos while driving in Manhattan on Sept. 4 and was surprised to learn Monday that counterterrorism agents wanted to interview him about them.

“My brother called me, hysterical, saying, ‘The FBI has been looking for you,'” said Pantagis, who had borrowed a family member’s car that day. “They researched who had been driving the car.”

Pantagis said he and a friend “were conducting eyetap research for the visually impaired. The idea was to develop a filming system for the visually impaired.”

The Beastie Boys on Remixing

The first of what should be several interesting article from the current “dead tree” Wired on digital content and music culture: The Remix Masters

Sampling litigation was rare back in 1989, so you guys got by without much trouble on Paul’s Boutique. But the album is still sold today – have you had to license all those samples retroactively?

YAUCH: Well, I think there’s a statute of limitations on that stuff. If 10 years have gone by or whatever it is and there hasn’t been a problem, then it’s not an issue.

HOROVITZ: At least that’s what we’re hoping. [Laughs.] You know, I’m pretty sure we were actually the first court case that used the word sampling in it. It was in a lawsuit involving a sample of Jimmy Castor’s “The Return of Leroy (Part One)” on our first album.

How is it different to make sample-based music in 2004?

DIAMOND: We can’t just go crazy and sample everything and anything like we did on Paul’s Boutique. It’s limiting in the sense that if we’re going to grab a two-bar section of something now, we’re going to have to think about how much we really need it. But then the flip side is that it pushes us to be creative. We have to look for stuff to sample that is maybe more low-profile. And take what we find and manipulate and recontextualize it in a way that makes it sound totally new. If we tweak it enough and make it our own, then it might not even be an issue.

How do you clear the samples?

DIAMOND: It’s very tedious. We have to sit there and basically break out every single component of every track that we do and make a list of the sources for everything. We go through every little blip of sound and decide what’s significant enough that we need to contact the owner. From there, it’s a whole bunch of lawyer craziness.

New Hearing in Lexmark v. Static Control

Lexmark Injunction Overturned

In a blow to printer company Lexmark International, a federal appeals court overturned an order Tuesday that barred a North Carolina company from making computer chips for ink cartridge replacements.

The ruling by a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ordered a new round of hearings in the case pitting Lexmark against Static Control Components, a privately held company based in Sanford, North Carolina.

Lexington, Kentucky-based Lexmark filed a lawsuit seeking to stop Static Control from competing for its remanufactured cartridge business. Lexmark accused Static Control of violating copyright law along with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

U.S. District Judge Karl Forester issued a preliminary injunction in March blocking Static Control from selling computer chips that match remanufactured toner cartridges for Lexmark printers.

Jason Schultz has all the vital bits from the opinion (including a link to it) over at CopyFight: Sixth Circuit reverses Lexmark DMCA Ruling, Lexmark ruling: Chock Full O’ Nuggets and More good Lexmark quotes.

CNet: Ruling on refilled printer cartridges touches DMCA

Later: Donna’s got links to most of the commenters; sadly, I still haven’t even had time to finish reading the opinion. Ed Felten’s post: Pro-Competition Ruling in Lexmark Case