A Copyright Puzzle, Too

Emory University Saves Rushdie’s Digital Data (pdf)

Electronically produced drafts, correspondence and editorial comments, sweated over by contemporary poets, novelists and nonfiction authors, are ultimately just a series of digits — 0’s and 1’s — written on floppy disks, CDs and hard drives, all of which degrade much faster than old-fashioned acid-free paper. Even if those storage media do survive, the relentless march of technology can mean that the older equipment and software that can make sense of all those 0’s and 1’s simply don’t exist anymore.

Imagine having a record but no record player.

All of which means that archivists are finding themselves trying to fend off digital extinction at the same time that they are puzzling through questions about what to save, how to save it and how to make that material accessible.

In particular, here’s one place where one might run awry of the DMCA:

Among the challenges facing libraries: hiring computer-savvy archivists to catalog material; acquiring the equipment and expertise to decipher, transfer and gain access to data stored on obsolete technologies like floppy disks; guarding against accidental alterations or deletions of digital files; and figuring out how to organize access in a way that’s useful. [emphasis added]

A Pending Distraction

Because, of course, righting a 70 year “wrong” will take precedence over something as trivial as reforming health insurance or financial markets. Dispute Heats Up Over New Fees for Playing Songs on Radio [pdf]

For more than 70 years, royalty payments for air time have flowed to the songwriters and music publishers but not to the musicians or record companies. Now there is a renewed drive to revisit that arrangement, and in recent weeks the volume of the discussion has increased several decibels.

The Marginalism Argument

This article from Sunday’s Boston Globe (front page, below the fold), is a great example of the weirdness of the marginal argument — the absence of protection means that, at the margin, there are those who elect not to participate. What’s left out, of course, is the needed balancing of the benefit of this marginal participant against the cost of a prior restraint on expression — but I really should read the article (“The Law, Culture, and Economics of Fashion.” C. Scott Hemphill and Jeannie Suk. Stanford Law Review, V.61 n.5. March 2009. pp 1147-1199. Kal Raustiala and Chris Sprigman present some counters, grounded in the “negative space” discussion, in “The Piracy Paradox Revisited” pages 1201-1225. Hemphill and Suk get to rebut in “Remix and Cultural Production.” C. Scott Hemphill and Jeannie Suk. Stanford Law Review, V.61 n.5. March 2009. pp 1227-1232.) to find out whether Prof. Suk’s argument includes this (it is not really here in the Globe): Should the law protect fashion from knockoffs? [pdf]

Jeannie Suk is poised, elegant, but decidedly conservative in her attire of muted grays, browns, and blacks. She is as well known for her teachings on feminism as for being the first Asian-American woman on the tenure track at Harvard Law School.

So why is the 37-year-old Suk, a Guggenheim fellow at Harvard Law School, at the heart of a heated debate in the fashion world about designer dresses and $900 shoes?

After coauthoring an extensive piece for the Stanford Law Review about why American fashion designers should have copyright protection against inexpensive knockoffs, something Euro pean [sic] designers have enjoyed for more than 25 years, Suk became a sought-after authority on the subject. Now Senator Charles Schumer of New York is drafting legislation that would give American fashion designers copyright protection and Suk is helping with the bill’s language.

Enshrining Chilling Effects In UK Legislation

Lords copyright change could block YouTube [pdf] [via Bits Blog]

One of the most contentious parts of the controversial digital economy bill was voted down by the House of Lords last night – only to be replaced by a clause that campaigners say is even more draconian.

The Liberal Democrats forced through a surprise amendment to the bills notorious clause 17 on Wednesday – in a move that dealt a defeat to the government but troubled critics, who suggest it will have the opposite effect that its creators intend.

Instead of sweeping new powers that threatened sweeping alterations to British copyright law, the Lib Dems added a clause that gives extra oversight to the high court.

The new proposal – which was passed in the House of Lords by 165 votes to 140 – gives a high court judge the right to issue an injunction against a website accused of hosting a “substantial” amount of copyright infringing material, potentially forcing the entire site offline.

[…] But instead of making the proposed system more transparent and accountable, critics say it will simply leave it open to abuse.

“This would open the door to a massive imbalance of power in favour of large copyright holding companies,” said Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group. “Individuals and small businesses would be open to massive copyright attacks that could shut them down, just by the threat of action.”

A Burning Question

And pertinent on a number of levels. Making the Case for iPad E-Book Prices [pdf]

[P]ublishers also say consumers exaggerate the savings and have developed unrealistic expectations about how low the prices of e-books can go. Yes, they say, printing costs may vanish, but a raft of expenses that apply to all books, like overhead, marketing and royalties, are still in effect.

All of which raises the question: Just how much does it actually cost to produce a printed book versus a digital one?