August 15, 2008

Mygazines Raising Hackles [2:34 pm]

New magazine-sharing site may violate copyrights (pdf)

The magazine industry, already facing a decline in newsstand sales and falling ad revenue, is being besieged by a new foe: digital piracy.

A fledgling Web site called Mygazines.com encourages people to copy and upload popular magazines that are currently on newsstands. Visitors can read high-quality digital copies of dozens of current titles, including People, Mens Health and The Economist, in their entirety.

The site, with some 16,000 registered users as of Friday, is a “flagrant” violation of copyright laws, according to legal experts — but it is run by an offshore company of specious origin, making it difficult to shut down.

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Making Friends [8:55 am]

Jackson Browne sues McCain, RNC over song in ad (pdf)

Jackson Browne doesn’t want John McCain running on anything fueled by his lyrics.

The singer-songwriter sued McCain and the Ohio and national Republican committees in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Thursday, accusing them of using his song “Running on Empty” without his permission.

The lawsuit claims the song’s use was an infringement of his copyright and will lead people to conclude he endorses McCain. The suit says Browne is a lifelong liberal who is as well-known for his music as for being “an advocate for social and environmental justice.”

[...] Browne’s lawsuit contends the Ohio Republican party released the ad on behalf of McCain and the RNC. The RNC did not return a phone call seeking comment.

The suit notes that other musicians, including ABBA and John Cougar Mellencamp, have asked McCain to stop using their work.

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A Battlefield Study [8:48 am]

In the end, all worthwhile weapons testing requires a war: Longtime Battle Lines Are Recast In Russia and Georgia’s Cyberwar (pdf)

Concerted online attacks have been a threat for years. But security experts say the “cyberwar” between Russia and Georgia underscores the havoc that can spread on a digital battlefield. It also highlights how vulnerable Web-reliant countries are to assaults that could cripple military communications or a national banking industry.

See also An Army of Ones and Zeroes: How I Became a Soldier in the Georgia-Russia Cyberwar

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Building Precedent for Open Source Licensing [8:18 am]

In particular, a case upholding the Artistic License:Ruling Is a Victory for Supporters of Free Software

In a ruling Wednesday, the federal appeals court in Washington said that just because a software programmer gave his work away did not mean it could not be protected.

The decision legitimizes the use of commercial contracts for the distribution of computer software and digital artistic works for the public good. The court ruling also bolsters the open-source movement by easing the concerns of large organizations about relying on free software from hobbyists and hackers who have freely contributed time and energy without pay.

It also has implications for the Creative Commons license, a framework for modifying and sharing creative works that was developed in 2002 by Larry Lessig, a law professor at Stanford.

The ruling: Robert Jacobsen v. Matthew Katzer and Kamind Associates

We consider here the ability of a copyright holder to dedicate certain work to free public use and yet enforce an “open source” copyright license to control the future distribution and modification of that work. Appellant Robert Jacobsen (”Jacobsen”) appeals from an order denying a motion for preliminary injunction. Jacobsen v. Katzer, No. 06-CV-01905 JSW, 2007 WL 2358628 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 17, 2007). Jacobsen holds a copyright to computer programming code. He makes that code available for public download from a website without a financial fee pursuant to the Artistic License, an “open source” or public license. Appellees Matthew Katzer and Kamind Associates, Inc. (collectively “Katzer/Kamind”) develop commercial software products for the model train industry and hobbyists. Jacobsen accused Katzer/Kamind of copying certain materials from Jacobsen’s website and incorporating them into one of Katzer/Kamind’s software packages without following the terms of the Artistic License. Jacobsen brought an action for copyright infringement and moved for a preliminary injunction.

The District Court held that the open source Artistic License created an “intentionally broad” nonexclusive license which was unlimited in scope and thus did not create liability for copyright infringement. The District Court reasoned:

The plaintiff claimed that by modifying the software the defendant had exceeded the scope of the license and therefore infringed the copyright. Here, however, the JMRI Project license provides that a user may copy the files verbatim or may otherwise modify the material in any way, including as part of a larger, possibly commercial software distribution. The license explicitly gives the users of the material, any member of the public, “the right to use and distribute the [material] in a more-or-less customary fashion, plus the right to make reasonable accommodations.” The scope of the nonexclusive license is, therefore, intentionally broad. The condition that the user insert a prominent notice of attribution does not limit the scope of the license. Rather, Defendants’ alleged violation of the conditions of the license may have constituted a breach of the nonexclusive license, but does not create liability for copyright infringement where it would not otherwise exist.

Jacobsen, 2007 WL 2358628 at *7 (internal citations omitted).

On this basis, the District Court denied the motion for a preliminary injunction. We vacate and remand.

[...] The clear language of the Artistic License creates conditions to protect the economic rights at issue in the granting of a public license. These conditions govern the rights to modify and distribute the computer programs and files included in the downloadable software package. The attribution and modification transparency requirements directly serve to drive traffic to the open source incubation page and to inform downstream users of the project, which is a significant economic goal of the copyright holder that the law will enforce. Through this controlled spread of information, the copyright holder gains creative collaborators to the open source project; by requiring that changes made by downstream users be visible to the copyright holder and others, the copyright holder learns about the uses for his software and gains others’ knowledge that can be used to advance future software releases.

[...] Having determined that the terms of the Artistic License are enforceable copyright conditions, we remand [...]

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