kottke.org posts about copyright

The copyright case of the monkey selfieAug 06 2014

Monkey Selfie

Photographer David Slater wants Wikipedia to remove his photograph of a monkey taking a photo of itself but Wikipedia has refused, saying that as the monkey was the photographer, Slater has no right to the copyright to the photo.

The Gloucestershire-based photographer now claims that the decision is jeopardising his income as anyone can take the image and publish it for free, without having to pay him a royalty. He complained to Wikimedia that he owned the copyright of the image, but a recent transparency report from the group, which details all the removal requests it has received, reveals that editors decided that the monkey itself actually owned the copyright because it was the one that pressed the shutter button.

But shouldn't Wikipedia take it down anyway because they don't have the monkey's permission to release the photo into the public domain? (I mean, probably not...monkeys don't have any rights under the law, yes?) (via @capndesign)

Update: A previous version of this post stated that Wikipedia said that the monkey held the copyright. They said no such thing...that was my poor paraphrase. In the US at least, monkeys obviously can't hold copyrights. From the Compendium II of Copyright Office Practices, section 202.02(b) states:

The term "authorship" implies that, for a work to be copyrightable, it must owe its origin to a human being. Materials produced solely by nature, by plants, or by animals are not copyrightable.

Interesting phrase, "owe its origin to"...perhaps Slater has a point. (via @stvnrlly)

How does copyright work in space?May 24 2013

When Commander Chris Hadfield covered David Bowie's Space Oddity on board the International Space Station:

how were the intellectual property rights handled?

The song "Space Oddity" is under copyright protection in most countries, and the rights to it belong to Mr Bowie. But compulsory-licensing rights in many nations mean that any composition that has been released to the public (free or commercially) as an audio recording may be recorded again and sold by others for a statutorily defined fee, although it must be substantively the same music and lyrics as the original. But with the ISS circling the globe, which jurisdiction was Commander Hadfield in when he recorded the song and video? Moreover, compulsory-licensing rights for covers of existing songs do not include permission for broadcast or video distribution. Commander Hadfield's song was loaded onto YouTube, which delivers video on demand to users in many countries around the world. The first time the video was streamed in each country constituted publication in that country, and with it the potential for copyright infringement under local laws. Commander Hadfield could have made matters even more complicated by broadcasting live as he sang to an assembled audience of fellow astronauts for an onboard public performance while floating from segment to segment of the ISS.

We live in a world where sending a guitar into space is trivial while ironing out rights agreements is the tough part. (via waxy)

Paul's Boutique would be impossible todayMay 08 2012

Matt Yglesias argues that because of the way copyright is viewed by the public and interpreted by lawmakers and the courts, making an album like The Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique would be nearly impossible today.

The death on Friday of Adam Yauch, best known as the Beastie Boys' MCA, surely sent many of us back to old albums we may not have heard for a while. And anyone who threw on Paul's Boutique, the Boys' best album, was surely struck by the sense that they don't make records like that anymore. That's not just because tastes and styles have changed. The entire album is based on lavish sampling of other recordings. "Shake Your Rump," which leads Slate's #MCATracks playlist, features samples of 14 songs by 12 separate artists. In all, the album is thought to have as many as 300 total samples. The sampling gave Paul's Boutique a sound that remains almost as distinctive today as it was when it was released in 1989.

Perhaps the main reason-and certainly the saddest reason-that it still sounds distinctive is that a rapidly shifting legal and economic landscape made it essentially impossible to repeat.

Takedown notice for monkey self-portraitJul 12 2011

Wow. So remember the photo taken by the monkey and Techdirt's subsequent musings about who owns the copyright a photo taken by a monkey? Today Techdirt is reporting that Caters News Agency sent a takedown notice to Techdirt asking them to remove the monkey's photos. Totally not making this up.

We were a bit surprised to receive a notice on Monday from Caters News, telling us they represented David Slater with respect to the syndication of those photos, and asking us to take down the photos. The notice was not a DMCA takedown notice. It doesn't even mention copyright, though that seems like the only basis upon which they would make such a takedown request. And, to be clear, it was not in the least bit threatening. There is no legal language and no threat at all in the note.

When asked for clarification by Techdirt, a representative from Caters replied:

Michael, regardless of the issue of who does and doesn't own the copyright -- it is 100% clear that the copyright owner is not yourself. You have blatantly 'lifted' these photographs from somewhere -- I presume the Daily Mail online. On the presumption that you do not like to encourage copyright theft (regardless of who owns it) then please remove the photographs.

Onionesque. Please someone interview the monkey about his/her views on this.

Who owns the copyright on a photo taken by a monkey?Jul 07 2011

I almost made a joke on this post about getting a takedown notice from the monkey who took the inlined image, but this story on Techdirt explores the copyright issues involved in a more serious way.

Technically, in most cases, whoever makes the actual work gets the copyright. That is, if you hand your camera to a stranger to take your photo, technically that stranger holds the copyright on the photo, though no one ever enforces this.

(via ★tcarmody)

Andy Baio was sued for Kind of BloopJun 23 2011

Andy Baio got sued for using a pixel-art representation of Jay Maisel's iconic photo of Miles Davis on the chiptune album of Davis' music he commissioned in 2009. He settled with Maisel by paying him $32,500 and agreeing to stop using the artwork.

After seven months of legal wrangling, we reached a settlement. Last September, I paid Maisel a sum of $32,500 and I'm unable to use the artwork again. (On the plus side, if you have a copy, it's now a collector's item!) I'm not exactly thrilled with this outcome, but I'm relieved it's over.

But this is important: the fact that I settled is not an admission of guilt. My lawyers and I firmly believe that the pixel art is "fair use" and Maisel and his counsel firmly disagree. I settled for one reason: this was the least expensive option available.

At the heart of this settlement is a debate that's been going on for decades, playing out between artists and copyright holders in and out of the courts. In particular, I think this settlement raises some interesting issues about the state of copyright for anyone involved in digital reinterpretations of copyrighted works.

Unfortunately, Baio's post does nothing to dissuade me that Maisel is a joyless putz. Seeing this kind of behavior from large clueless companies is almost expected but from a a fellow creative artist? Inexcusable. Surely some reasonable arrangement could have been made without visiting enormous stress and a $30K+ bill onto a man with a young family. Disgusting.

Ripped from the fake headlinesFeb 22 2011

An episode of CSI:NY "borrowed" quite a few elements from a short story written by Teddy Wayne and they basically won't admit that they did so. Whenever stuff like this happens, I think about that interview where Vanilla Ice tried to argue that the bassline from Under Pressure and Ice Ice Baby were totally different.

Jobs' keynote praise gets RSS reader pulled from App StoreJun 08 2010

Steve Jobs praised an iPad RSS reader called Pulse in his keynote yesterday. Then the NY Times complained about the app and Apple pulled it from the store later in the day.

The Pulse News Reader app, makes commercial use of the NYTimes.com and Boston.com RSS feeds, in violation of their Terms of Use*. Thus, the use of our content is unlicensed. The app also frames the NYTimes.com and Boston.com websites in violation of their respective Terms of Use.

Four things:

1. Why is there a comma after "The Pulse News Reader app" in the laywer's note to Apple?
2. The very same NY Times ran a positive review of the very same Pulse a few days ago. Doh!
3. Seems like all the Pulse guys need to do is unbundle the NY Times feeds and open the actual nytimes.com pages into a generic browser window and all is good.
4. I wonder why the Times et al. haven't complained about Instapaper yet. It might not technically infringe on copyright, but magazines and newspapers can't be too happy about an app that strips out all the advertising from their articles...as much as we would all be sad to see it go.

Viacom vs. YouTubeMar 22 2010

In defending itself against a copyright lawsuit brought by Viacom, YouTube notes that the media company has been surreptitiously uploading its copyrighted content to YouTube for years.

For years, Viacom continuously and secretly uploaded its content to YouTube, even while publicly complaining about its presence there. It hired no fewer than 18 different marketing agencies to upload its content to the site. It deliberately "roughed up" the videos to make them look stolen or leaked. It opened YouTube accounts using phony email addresses. It even sent employees to Kinko's to upload clips from computers that couldn't be traced to Viacom. And in an effort to promote its own shows, as a matter of company policy Viacom routinely left up clips from shows that had been uploaded to YouTube by ordinary users. Executives as high up as the president of Comedy Central and the head of MTV Networks felt "very strongly" that clips from shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report should remain on YouTube.

This jibes with what I heard a couple of years ago:

I heard that the staff of the Daily Show and Colbert Report upload the shows to YouTube as soon as they can after the shows air and then the next day, lawyers from Comedy Central hit YouTube with takedown requests for the uploaded shows.

(thx, @peretti)

Complaining about the inevitableOct 14 2009

Nate Anderson of Ars Technica collected a bunch of responses from copyright owners over the last 100 years about new technology (photocopiers, record players, mp3s, VCRs, etc.) that would ruin their livelihoods and/or culture. Here's John Philip Sousa on the gramophone and player piano:

Under such conditions, the tide of amateurism cannot but recede until there will be left only the mechanical device and the professional executant. Singing will no longer be a fine accomplishment; vocal exercises so important a factor in the curriculum of physical culture will be out of vogue. Then what of the national throat? Will it not weaken? What of the national chest? Will it not shrink?

Eight hours of Bach for three bucksJul 31 2009

Amazon's mp3 store has another one of those deals today where you can get hours and hours of classical musics for pennies a song: 99 Bach masterpieces (8+ hours!) for $2.99. Even though Bach's works preceded copyright protection, this is a good example of how our culture benefits from sensible copyright term limits: eight hours of some of the finest music ever composed for about the price of a Happy Meal. More good classical music mp3 deals here.

Can you copyright a bunch of tweets?May 29 2009

Yesterday I linked to a long piece by attorney Brock Shinen discussing whether individual posts to Twitter are copyrightable and asked:

Does this mean that nearly all of Twitter's content is in the public domain? Or can you copyright a collection of tweets...the entire output of one person, for instance?

Brock sent along a short reply to my question, reprinted here with his kind permission:

This is information and not advice: It's possible (and likely) that the majority of individual Tweets are in the public domain. But copyright protection may extend to a compilation of otherwise non-protectable Tweets. The question of whether 'you' can do that as opposed to the author of those Tweets is tricky and would depend on how it's done. If the compilation is authored in such a way as to suggest a false designation of origin (i.e., that the person compiling the Tweets actually authored them), you might run into false designation claims. Also, as a practical matter, you may still get sued and forced to spend tens of thousands of dollars to defend a lawsuit you might otherwise win - if you can afford to get to trial. In the end, if you are a Tweet author and want to protect your Tweets, then you should probably compile them and seek protection with the US Copyright Office. If that works out for you, you're set. If the Copyright Office denies your application for registration, you have your answer.

Can you copyright a tweet?May 28 2009

In the opinion of intellectual copyright attorney Brock Shinen, the short answer is "no".

I admit, I think a protectable Tweet exists in theory. I have read hundreds if not thousands of Tweets and have yet to read one I believe would be protectable, but the possibility exists. The question is not: Are Tweets Copyrightable. The question is: Is This Tweet Copyrightable. The copyrightability of Tweets is not dependent on the fact that they are Tweets. Rather, it's dependent on the analysis of the Tweet in question. The all-encompassing response that all Tweets are either protected or not protected is misguided. The real response is that it depends. However, when you analyze most Tweets, they would never individually pass copyright muster.

Does this mean that nearly all of Twitter's content is in the public domain? Or can you copyright a collection of tweets...the entire output of one person, for instance? Let's say I want to publish Tweatise: The Wit and Wisdom of Merlin Mann, an unabridged book of Merlin's Twitter stream...can I do that?

Update: Another opinion: tweetCC.

tweetCC makes it easy for you to offer your tweets under a Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication or other Creative Commons licenses.

(thx, dan)

Update: Yet another perspective.

Sita Sings the BluesFeb 27 2009

Watch the entirety of Nina Paley's Sita Sings the Blues online.

Sita is a goddess separated from her beloved Lord and husband Rama. Nina is an animator whose husband moves to India, then dumps her by e-mail. Three hilarious shadow puppets narrate both ancient tragedy and modern comedy in this beautifully animated interpretation of the Indian epic Ramayana. Set to the 1920's jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw, Sita Sings the Blues earns its tagline as "The Greatest Break-Up Story Ever Told."

The film was made by Nina Paley on her home computer and garnered a rave review from Roger Ebert.

I put on the DVD and start watching. I am enchanted. I am swept away. I am smiling from one end of the film to the other. It is astonishingly original. It brings together four entirely separate elements and combines them into a great whimsical chord. You might think my attention would flag while watching An animated version of the epic Indian tale of Ramayana set to the 1920's jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw. Quite the opposite. It quickens.

As a small independent filmmaker, Paley ran into licensing issues for the music used in the film that has prevented the release of the film....until now. (via waxy)

When you die, become an intellectual propertyFeb 27 2008

When you die, become an intellectual property donor.

Why let all of your ideas die with you? Current Copyright law prevents anyone from building upon your creativity for 70 years after your death. Live on in collaboration with others. Make an intellectual property donation. By donating your IP into the public domain you will "promote the progress of science and useful arts" (U.S. Constitution). Ensure that your creativity will live on after you are gone, make a donation today.

Includes a downloadable template for a sticker that you can affix to the back of your driver's license.

A New Sheriff in Town?Nov 05 2007

Attributor, a copyright monitoring service, launched today. It's currently available only to enterprise subscribers, but they'll be launching a service for small publishers and bloggers next year. Of special note is the (purported) use to which publishers want to put the service—link credits:

Attributor splits up the world between sites that exhibit extensive copying (more than half of an article, for instance, and just some copying. It shows which sites have linked back to the original source and which have not. "Often, that's all they want—a link," says Brock. Below is a typical dashboard view of what a customer would see. In this case, the content from People.com is being analyzed (based on its feed). Of the 265,000 matches, 103,000 don't link back to People.com.)

(via techcrunch)

Cory DoctorowNov 04 2007

I can't think of anyone better suited to answering questions about the state of culture in the Age of the Blog than Cory Doctorow. Whether it's running Boing Boing, writing (and giving away—while still profiting from—his novels and short-story collections), or speaking out for our electronic rights, Cory is a ubiquitous presence on every vector of this discussion. I caught up with him by phone at his London flat.

JT: Let's talk about the 'Pixel-Stained Technopeasantry' discussion in the sci-fi community this summer. I thought it was sort of ironic that someone like Hendrix—a sci-fi writer— would resign over the use of technology—

CD: He didn't resign: He just didn't run again.

JT: —Or just didn't run again. OK, so that was just his parting shot? There was another line he used, too—what was it? Webscabs. What's the deal with giving away your stuff for free?

CD: There are three reasons why it makes sense to give away books online. The first is that publishing has always been in this kind of churn and flux—who gets published, how they get paid, what the economic structure is of the publishers, where the publishers are, all of that stuff has changed all of the time. And it's just hubris that makes us think that this particular change—the computer change—is the one that's going to destroy publishing and that it must be prevented at all costs. We'll adapt. If we need to adapt, we'll adapt. And today, the way that we adapt is by giving away e-books and selling p-books.

So that's the economic reason. But then there is the artistic reason: we live in a century in which copying is only going to get easier. It's the 21st century, there's not going to be a year in which it's harder to copy than this year; there's not going to be a day in which it's harder to copy than this day; from now on. Right? If copying gets harder, it's because of a nuclear holocaust. There's nothing else that's going to make copying harder from now on. And so, if your business model and your aesthetic effect in your literature and your work is intended not to be copied, you're fundamentally not making art for the 21st century. It might be quaint, it might be interesting, but it's not particularly contemporary to produce art that demands these constraints from a bygone era. You might as well be writing 15-hour Ring Cycle knock-offs and hoping that they'll be performed at the local opera. I mean, yes, there's a tiny market for that, but it's hardly what you'd call contemporary art.

So that's the artistic reason. Finally, there's the ethical reason. And the ethical reason is that the alternative is that we chide, criminalize, sue, damn our readers for doing what readers have always done, which is sharing books they love—only now they're doing it electronically. You know, there's no solution that arises from telling people to stop using computers in the way that computers were intended to be used. They're copying machines. So telling the audience for art, telling 70 million American file-sharers that they're all crooks, and none of them have the right to due process, none of them have the right to privacy, we need to wire-tap all of them, we need to shut down their network connections without notice in order to preserve the anti-copying business model: that's a deeply unethical position. It puts us in a world in which we are criminalizing average people for participating in their culture.

JT: What was it that the philosopher J. L. Austin said? "Things are getting meta and meta all the time." Almost of necessity, because if you don't have meta-level discussions and filters (and we have MetaFilter), bloggers like kottke and boing boing—in academia I'm going to Arts & Letters Daily and Crooked Timber—you'd never be able to fire through all the cool things to which we now have access. By making use of a small number of editorial nodes, we can cover lot more of the network. But it's more interesting than simple efficiencies, isn't it? I interviewed Douglas Wolk earlier this week and he said something pretty profound: "Each blogger is a gravitational center, great or small, but there's no sun they're all orbiting around." Yochai Benkler, too, with his idea of the bow-tie model, talks about how, because of shallow paths and the small world effects of the Internet, this idea that there are these multiple centers of gravity mean it's not like there's one giant "culture" that's omnipresent, along which there's this Power Law distribution that drowns everything out. Instead, there are tons of these smaller gravitational centers, each with their own orbits; each with their own authors, interests, inclinations to reach outward and bring other things in... it pretty well vanquishes certain notions of centrality, the cry that says, "Holy shit: I'm not in
The New York Times! Nobody in our culture will ever find me!" That's nonsense. You can have an audience of millions, maybe none of whom have ever read The New York Times.

CD: You just recapitulated in reverse the panic of Andrew Keen. What Andrew Keen has got his pants in such a ferocious knot about is that we are losing our "culture." Basically, if you unpack his arguments they come down to this: He thinks The New York Times did a pretty good job of figuring out what was good and he doesn't like the idea that they're not the only way of doing it and that it's getting harder to figure out who to listen to and media literacy is getting harder and that means bad stuff is going to become important and that wouldn't have happened if only the wise, bearded, white-robed figures at The New York Times had been allowed to continue to dominate our culture. That's really where he's coming from at the end of the day.

JT: In fairness to the Times, they not only pay well, but they do a good job of reaching out—to their guest-bloggers, for instance. The Guardian does, too.

CD: Yes, they do and they do. But as a writer, actually having all these different venues in which my work can appear has actually turned out to be better and not worse. So for one thing, the free online distribution of my work has created new opportunities—it's like dandelion seeds blowing around that find all the cracks in the sidewalk that I never would have been able to find just by walking around and planting them. One of my favorite reprints was one I sold to a magazine who'd found the text in the word-salad at the bottom of a spam e-mail. So even the spammers are helping me.

JT: That's really funny. In another interview I did, the one with Ted Genoways, he said something that I hope a lot of people pick up on, because I think it's incredibly important to this discussion. What Ted said was that, after doing their big South America in the 21st Century issue—for which they got a lot of good press: authors on NPR, segments on PBS—they got a small amount of traffic from mainstream media. But then Jason posted a small link and they got 25,000 visits that week from kottke.org.

CD: I think the most important thing about that anecdote isn't the amount of influence that kottke.org wields, although that's an interesting component of it, but how cheap it is to become kottke.org—to maintain Kottke Enterprises, Ltd. It's so cheap it's the rounding error in the coffee budget of the smallest department of one of the main publishing conglomerates. That's all it costs Jason to run his website.

Boing Boing, and I'm not just talking cash costs—but also organizational costs, the Coasian costs, of doing this are so low. Boing Boing, for the first five years, we never had a physical meeting. We had never all been in the same room until we had been in business for five years. We had 25 phone calls in the entire history of the business.

So, a lot of bloggers can wield tremendous influence, and become disruptive forces in the media marketplace, very cheaply. If you have someone who's enthusiastic and compelling and that person is very close to the purchase decision—you know, it probably drops off with the square of the distance, right? So you can have a person like Oprah, who's so compelling that the fact that she's extremely distant from a book she's pitching is not wildly important, because she sends such a strong signal that even though it attenuates quickly that signal is still very strong. Who was the President who popularized the James Bond novels? Kennedy? He mentioned it and he turned James Bond into a phenomenon. The corollary of this is that a weak signal heard close in is also an extremely powerful way to sell books. So, we've historically relied on strong signals at great distances, but the other way to do this is weak signals close in. And we have new ways to get close: with things like Amazon links, the signals don't have to be very strong at all.

This is also an essential component of the value of the free electronic copy. The microcosm for that is "here's a free electronic copy... talk about it in IRC with two other people." And that gets you the same thing. You don't even have to send out a physical review copy & those people, if they like your book, will start sending the book to their friends.

JT: It all sounds good—but let me go on record as, in the broadest range of things, a middling copyright defender. But I loved Tim Wu's piece in Slate. Did you read that? On how selective enforcement of copyright shows just how broken copyright law is? But—let's get to the complications of sending out free work. If somebody started passing off your work as their own, you would not be happy.

CD: I went to elementary school with Tim. It's a small and funny world that the two of us would end up as Lessig's proteges. But to your question: that's not copyright, that's fraud. That's plagiarism.

JT: OK, if a publisher started selling a book written by "Frank Smith," but that contained only your words—isn't that a danger to giving your stuff away electronically, for free?

CD: So, let's pick the issues right. Let's first of all say that fraud or plagiarism is bad for a number of different reasons—not all of them having to do with the writer, some of them having to do with the reader. Readers deserve to know that the thing that they buy has been accurately labeled. I also wouldn't approve if someone sold Coke in a Pepsi can. Not because I particularly like either beverage, but I think fraud is wrong. So that's the first question. The second question is, "How would I feel if a corporation misappropriated the fruits of my labor and profited by it without my permission?" And that's a meatier question, but when you conflate the two you just confuse the issue.

I guess it depends on the kind of profit and how they're profiting by it. So, I don't get upset if a carpenter sells a bookcase to someone and makes money because that person needs somewhere to put my book. Even though that carpenter is benefiting from my labor. So I think reasonable people can agree that there are categories of use that you have no right to recoup from. And I think that, for example, search results fall into that category. You know, the fact that Amazon or Google want to show quotes from your book alongside search results for people who are trying to find out which books contain which string, I think it's just crazy to say that you deserve to be compensated for that—even if they could figure out a way to make money off of it. Indexing books is just not in the realm of things that we deserve to get compensated for, any more than library lending is.

And I know that in Europe they do have a library right, and you actually do get compensated for library use. I actually think that's kind of gross. I don't think that's good public policy. If we want to subsidize writers with public money, don't take it out of the budget of the library. What a disaster for public policy, for good stewardship, to take money out the hands of the public libraries. What a disaster that writers have actually endorsed this plan.

So that leaves us with a narrower category of uses, which are the uses that are neither cultural nor in the realm of accepted, normal, reasonable exceptions to one's copyright: where it's a direct infringement and there I do in fact object to a commercial publisher reproducing my work without giving me money for it, holus-bolus, in a way that is not consistent with fair use and historical exceptions to copyright.

But that's not the same thing as objecting when a reader does it. I think that we've always had a different set of rules for what non-commercial actors do than for what commercial actors do. What commercial users of a work do is industrial—that's copyright; what non-commercial users of a work do is just culture, and culture and copyright have never had the same rules, although according to the law books they do. But the costs of enforcing them culturally—against the person who sings in the shower—those enforcement costs are so high that historically we've treated that activity as though it weren't an infringement, when in some meaningful sense it is. So, the fact that the Internet makes it possible to enforce against certain cultural users I don't think means that we should enforce against cultural users, or start pretending that schoolchildren should be taught copyright so they can understand it better and not violate it. If things that schoolchildren do in the course of being schoolchildren violate copyright, the problem is with copyright—not with the schoolchildren.

Owls lost in translationAug 11 2007

A summary of one of the several Chinese knockoffs of Harry Potter, courtesy of the NY Times:

Snape breaks into Hogwarts and rescues Lucius Malfoy from Azkaban Prison. Harry believes that he can defeat Snape and Voldemort only by strenuously practicing charms. Professor Slughorn, inspired by a book from the East provided by Cho Chang called "Thirty-Six Strategies," devises a plan enabling Harry to seize Snape in the Ministry of Magic. But Gryffindor's sword, which hung in the headmaster's office, assassinates Professor McGonagall.

When Harry confronts Voldemort at Azkaban, the Dark Lord tries to win Harry over as a fellow descendant of Slytherin. Harry refuses, and together with Ron and Hermione, kills Voldemort instead. Now what will Harry do about his two girlfriends?

In another of the books, Harry is assisted by Gandalf. No appearances by Han and Chewy, AFAIK.

Larry Lessig is shifting the focus ofJun 20 2007

Larry Lessig is shifting the focus of his work away from IP and copyright issues and toward tackling what he calls corruption. "I don't mean corruption in the simple sense of bribery. I mean 'corruption' in the sense that the system is so queered by the influence of money that it can't even get an issue as simple and clear as term extension right. Politicians are starved for the resources concentrated interests can provide. In the US, listening to money is the only way to secure reelection. And so an economy of influence bends public policy away from sense, always to dollars."

For the four or five of youMay 18 2007

For the four or five of you that haven't yet read Moneyball, the entire thing is available online, courtesy of a Russian site presumably out of the reach of the American legal system.

Killer of Sheep, a 1977 student film byApr 02 2007

Killer of Sheep, a 1977 student film by Charles Burnett, is on the Library of Congress' National Film Registry and was selected as one of the 100 essential films of all time by the National Society of Film Critics but has never been shown in theaters because of music rights clearance issues. This year, the film is finally being released in theaters (it's showing at IFC Center in NYC through April 12) and will be available on DVD in the fall. Watch the trailer and read a bit more about it in the NY Times.

Artist Christian Marclay says that Apple contactedMar 28 2007

Artist Christian Marclay says that Apple contacted him about using his short film Telephones for their iPhone commercial. He refused and they went ahead and made the commercial using the same idea with different footage. Says Marclay, "the way they dealt with the whole thing is pretty sleazy". TouchExplode gets credit for spotting the reference. (via df)

Mark Pilgrim's The Dogs of Flickr postersMar 06 2007

Mark Pilgrim's The Dogs of Flickr posters illustrate the problem of sourcing and giving credit in the remix age....the credits take up much more room than the work itself. Imagine if he had to get permission for all that and you've got some idea of how difficult it is to make documentary films these days. See also: the ending credits for The Return of the King (full story).

How would Shakespeare do in Hollywood today?Nov 21 2006

How would Shakespeare do in Hollywood today? He'd be raking in the dough on royalties, but because most of his stories were based on previous work, he might not have been able to write them in the first place without being sued for copyright infringement.

The story of TetrisOct 25 2006

The following is a great 2004 BBC documentary about Tetris, the man who created it, and the lengths that several companies went to in order to procure the rights to distribute it. Tetris - From Russia With Love:

Alexey Pazhitnov, a computer programmer from Moscow, created Tetris in 1985 but as the Soviet Union was Communist and all, the state owned the game and any rights to it. Who procured the rights from whom on the other side of the Iron Curtain became the basis of legal wranglings and lawsuits; the Atari/Nintendo battle over Tetris wasn't settled until 1993. There's an abbreviated version of the story, but the documentary is a lot more fun. A rare copy of the Tengen version of Tetris, which was pulled from the shelves due to legal troubles, is available on eBay for around $50.

Jimmy Wales: what if you had $100 million...Oct 23 2006

Jimmy Wales: what if you had $100 million...what copyrighted works would you buy and then release under an open license? (via bb)

PopTech, day 3 wrap-upOct 23 2006

Notes from day 3 at PopTech:

Chris Anderson talked about, ba ba baba!, not the long tail. Well, not explicitly. Chris charted how the availability of a surplus in transistors (processors are cheap), storage (hard drives are cheap), and surplus in bandwidth (DSL is cheap) has resulted in so much opportunity for innovation and new technology. His thoughts reminded me of how surplus space in Silicon Valley (in the form of garages) allowed startup entrepreneurs to pursue new ideas without having to procure expensive commercial office space.

Quick thought re: the long tail...if the power law arises from scarcity as Matt Webb says, then it would make sense that the surplus that Anderson refers to would be flattening that curve out a bit.

Roger Brent crammed a 60 minute talk into 20 minutes. It was about genetic engineering and completely baffling...almost a series of non sequiturs. "Centripital glue engine" was my favorite phrase of the talk, but I've got no idea what Brent meant by it.

Homaro Cantu gave a puzzling presentation of a typical meal at his Chicago restaurant, Moto. I've seen this presentation twice before and eaten at Moto; all three experiences were clear and focused on the food. This time around, Cantu didn't explain the food as well or why some of the inventions were so cool. His polymer box that cooks on the table is a genuinely fantastic idea, but I got the feeling that the rest of the audience didn't understand what it was. Cantu also reiterated his position on copyrighting and patenting his food and inventions. Meg caught him saying that he was trying to solve the famine problem with his edible paper, which statement revealed two problems: a) famines are generally caused by political issues and therefore not solvable by new kinds of food, printed or otherwise, and b) he could do more good if he open sourced his inventions and let anyone produce food or improve the techniques in those famine cases where food would be useful.

Richard Dawkins gave part of his PopTech talk (the "queerer than we can suppose" part of it) at TED in 2005 (video).

Bob Metcalfe's wrap-up of the conference was a lot less contentious than in past years; hardly any shouting and only one person stormed angrily out of the room. In reference to Hasan Elahi's situation, Bob said that there's a tension present in our privacy desires: "I want my privacy, but I need you to be transparent." Not a bad way of putting it.

Serena Koenig spoke about her work in Haiti with Partners in Health. Koening spoke of a guideline that PIH follows in providing healthcare: act as though each patient is a member of your own family. That sentiment was echoed by Zinhle Thabethe, who talked about her experience as an HIV+ woman living in South Africa, an area with substandard HIV/AIDS-related healthcare. Thabethe's powerful message: we need to treat everyone with HIV/AIDS the same, with great care. Sounds like the beginning of a new Golden Rule of Healthcare.

2.7 billion results for "blog" on Google. Blogs: bigger than Jesus.

Pete Wells writes in Food and WineOct 10 2006

Pete Wells writes in Food and Wine about recipes, copyrights, and patents. Meg picks up the thread and argues that copyrighting recipes would stifle innovation, not promote it, rewarding mostly the lawyers who insert themselves between our food and mouths. A commenter says, "By nature, food people are generous of spirit, and recognize that the great fun of food is in the sharing."

Parts 3 and 4 of (the must-see) Eyes onOct 09 2006

Parts 3 and 4 of (the must-see) Eyes on the Prize are on tonight...here's a look at the difficulties the filmmakers went through to get the rights to all the material in the film cleared again. (thx, david)

Boing Boing has information on YouTube's recentlyJul 20 2006

Boing Boing has information on YouTube's recently revised Terms and Conditions, which now state that they can use uploaded video for pretty much anything they want. For some users, that may be a steep price to pay for "free" bandwidth. The longer term question is, can YouTube find a business model that won't completely screw up their wonderful offering or will they ultimately go the way of Napster?

It's so easy for people to getMar 16 2006

It's so easy for people to get all ranty and unbalanced about the MPAA, movie piracy, and copyright issues...Derek has a refreshingly clear and steady take on the issues involved and how the industry middlemen are making things hard for everyone but themselves.

I was recently wondering if any ofMar 16 2006

I was recently wondering if any of the Creative Commons licenses had been upheld in court; a CC license was recently upheld in a Dutch courtroom.

Rogers Cadenhead, after receiving a letter fromMar 15 2006

Rogers Cadenhead, after receiving a letter from Dave Winer's attorney: "I've never been more retroactively embarrassed to have paid someone a compliment in my life."

Andy got a cease and desist fromMar 03 2006

Andy got a cease and desist from Bill Cosby's legal team for hosting the satirical House of Cosbys videos, and he's going to fight it. "More than anything, this strikes me as a special kind of discrimination against amateur creators on the Internet. Mad Magazine, Saturday Night Live, South Park, The Simpsons, Family Guy, and countless other mainstream media sources have parodied Bill Cosby over the years."

Meghann Marco, the woman who was upsetMar 03 2006

Meghann Marco, the woman who was upset at her publishing company for 1) not putting her book on Google Print, and 2) instead suing Google, has finally gotten her book listed on Google Print.

The fashion industry doesn't try to controlFeb 21 2006

The fashion industry doesn't try to control its creativity the way that the music and film industries do. "The fashion world recognizes that creativity cannot be bridled and controlled and that obsessive quests to do so will only diminish its vitality. Other content industries would do well to heed this wisdom."

Scott Nelson produces a "tribute brand" calledJan 30 2006

Scott Nelson produces a "tribute brand" called MIKE that's an homage to Michael Jordan, Nike branding, and shoes. After looking at his products (photos and interviews here and here), I'm amazed Nike hasn't sued him back to the Stone Age. Nelson's site is mike23.com.

On the copyright of recipes. Recipes areJan 13 2006

On the copyright of recipes. Recipes are covered by US copyright law but not very well and very few suits get brought against those who republish them without permission. For the most part, it sounds like food folks recognize the essential remix culture of cooking. (via matt)

BBC Magazine has compiled a list of "100Jan 03 2006

BBC Magazine has compiled a list of "100 things we didn't know this time last year", including this copyright tidbit: "musical instrument shops must pay an annual royalty to cover shoppers who perform a recognisable riff before they buy, thereby making a 'public performance'". Here's last year's list.

Support the EFF and the rights ofNov 30 2005

Support the EFF and the rights of bloggers by putting a badge on your site. Here's a list of things that the EFF is fighting for on behalf of bloggers.

Sony is using DRM on audio CDs (Nov 01 2005

Sony is using DRM on audio CDs (no copying the CD, no iTunes, etc.) to pressure Apple to open up iTunes and the iPod to other formats. This story is so absurd on so many levels that I don't even know where to begin.

George Dyson visits Google on the 60thOct 31 2005

George Dyson visits Google on the 60th anniversary of John von Neumann's proposal for a digital computer. A quote from a Googler -- "We are not scanning all those books to be read by people. We are scanning them to be read by an AI." -- highlights a quasi-philosophical question about Google Print...if a book is copied but nobody reads it, has it actually been copied? (Or something like that.)

Parable about Google's Library Project and copyright (Oct 24 2005

Parable about Google's Library Project and copyright (discussed here last week). "All I have to do is borrow the CDs or DVDs, downloaded music or video or whatever, copy them, and then offer some sort of 'fair use' excerpt index service, just like Google is doing with the books. It's the perfect gimmick."

WSJ tech columnist Walt Mossberg on DRM: "Oct 21 2005

WSJ tech columnist Walt Mossberg on DRM: "media companies go too far in curbing comsumers' activities".

Book author to her publishing company: your lawsuit is not helping me or my bookOct 20 2005

I got an email this morning from a kottke.org reader, Meghann Marco. She's an author and struggling to get her book out into the hands of people who might be interested in reading it. To that end, she asked her publisher, Simon & Schuster, to put her book up on Google Print so it could be found, and they refused. Now they're suing Google over Google Print, claiming copyright infringement. Meghann is not too happy with this development:

Kinda sucks for me, because not that many people know about my book and this might help them find out about it. I fail to see what the harm is in Google indexing a book and helping people find it. Anyone can read my book for free by going to the library anyway.

In case you guys haven't noticed, books don't have marketing like TV and Movies do. There are no commercials for books, this website isn't produced by my publisher. Books are driven by word of mouth. A book that doesn't get good word of mouth will fail and go out of print.

Personally, I hope that won't happen to my book, but there is a chance that it will. I think the majority of authors would benefit from something like Google Print.

She has also sent a letter of support to Google which includes this great anecdote:

Someone asked me recently, "Meghann, how can you say you don't mind people reading parts of your book for free? What if someone xeroxed your book and was handing it out for free on street corners?"

I replied, "Well, it seems to be working for Jesus."

And here's an excerpt of the email that Meghann sent me (edited very slightly):

I'm a book author. My publisher is suing Google Print and that bothers me. I'd asked for my book to be included, because gosh it's so hard to get people to read a book.

Getting people to read a book is like putting a cat in a box. Especially for someone like me, who was an intern when she got her book deal. It's not like I have money for groceries, let alone a publicist.

I feel like I'm yelling and no one is listening. Being an author can really suck sometimes. For all I know speaking up is going to get me blacklisted and no one will ever want to publish another one of my books again. I hope not though.

[My book is] called 'Field Guide to the Apocalypse' It's very funny and doesn't suck. I worked really hard on it. It would be nice if people read it before it went out of print.

As Tim O'Reilly, Eric Schmidt, and Google have argued, I think these lawsuits against Google are a stupid (and legally untenable) move on the part of the publishing industry. I know a fair number of kottke.org readers have published books...what's your take on the situation? Does Google Print (as well as Amazon "Search Inside the Book" feature) hurt or help you as an author? Do you want your publishing company suing Google on your behalf?

Everything and Nothing rounds up a listOct 06 2005

Everything and Nothing rounds up a list of searchable versions of the work of that most famous of English wordsmiths, William Shakespeare. The public domain rocks.

Tim O'Reilly op-ed about the Authors Guild'sSep 29 2005

Tim O'Reilly op-ed about the Authors Guild's lawsuit against Google regarding their Library Project. "Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors than copyright infringement, or even outright piracy". The op-ed follows Tim's earlier post on the subject.

TiVo's new OS adds content "protection", whichSep 13 2005

TiVo's new OS adds content "protection", which means if the copyright holder of Seinfeld wants your TiVo to delete the show after a week whether you've watched it or not, that's what it's going to do. I love my TiVo and I'm currently suffering from outrage fatigue, but if the company wants to side with the entertainment industry over its customers and cripple useful features, then it's the last one I'm ever going to own. (via the wax)

To protect against wholesale theft of words (Aug 26 2005

To protect against wholesale theft of words (theft of words? I feel silly just writing that...), dictionaries insert fake words in their listings. The article says that the New Oxford American Dictionary's fake word showed up on dictionary.com, but as of today, it's gone.

Remember that the Dukes of Hazzard movieAug 12 2005

Remember that the Dukes of Hazzard movie was in danger of not being released because the TV show was originally based on a movie? Well, the movie was released but the holder of the rights to the original movie got a settlement of $17.5 million, way more than the original film probably made.

Tattoo copyrights and lawsuitsJul 25 2005

Tattoo copyrights and lawsuits. David Beckham is being threatened with a lawsuit by his tattooist should he and his wife "go ahead with a promotional campaign highlighting their body art".

As a designer, who owns your portfolio?Jul 21 2005

As a designer, who owns your portfolio?. I've never had any problems with this, but I've heard some pretty bad stories about other people's troubles.

I generally don't feed the trolls, butJul 19 2005

I generally don't feed the trolls, but this John Dvorak column on Creative Commons is laughably bad. It is summer...maybe the interns whipped this one up for him.

An unauthorized electronic version of the newJul 17 2005

An unauthorized electronic version of the new Harry Potter book is now available online. Rowling won't do an e-book version of the Potter books, but one made its way onto the web about 12 hours after the hardcover was released in stores.

"Lord of the Bings" cherry advertisement in supermarketJul 05 2005

"Lord of the Bings" cherry advertisement in supermarket. "One bing to rule them all" and in the parfait bind them?

Jason Scott on why his BBS documentaryJul 05 2005

Jason Scott on why his BBS documentary will never make it onto TV.

Theft or homage?Jun 27 2005

Nike is catching some shit for appropriating some imagery for one of their skateboarding events from a 1984 album cover by Dischord Records' Minor Threat. Dischord is alledging that Nike stole the image:

No, they stole it and we're not happy about it. Nike is a giant corporation which is attempting to manipulate the alternative skate culture to create an even wider demand for their already ubiquitous brand. Nike represents just about the antithesis of what Dischord stands for and it makes me sick to my stomach to think they are using this explicit imagery to fool kids into thinking that the general ethos of this label, and Minor Threat in particular, can somehow be linked to Nike's mission. It's disgusting.

Here are the images (original on the left):

Major Threat Minor Threat

Setting aside the difference in philosophy between the two parties, this is obviously an homage on Nike's part (or rather, on the part of the designers working on this campaign for Nike...they probably love skating and that album and are paying their respects). Graphic design, filmmaking, pop culture, and music is full of stuff like this...sampling and ripping and riffing and homages are all part of the deal. Seems like a punk label like Dischord should be aware of that but in the above quote they sound more like a big company afraid of losing their intellectual property. Isn't punk all about taking without permission? Or does that not apply when you don't like the folks doing the taking? Lighten up, Dischord.

Update: Nike has apologized for producing the poster. Lame.

Update #2: I'm getting a ton of mail about this, the most about a single post in quite awhile. Without exception, you all disagree with me.

Depressing article on how much hassle itJun 24 2005

Depressing article on how much hassle it was for the makers of Mad Hot Ballroom to clear all copyrighted music in the film. "If I had known all that I had to go through, I'm not sure I would have done it."

Cory Doctorow's new book, Someone Comes toJun 20 2005

Cory Doctorow's new book, Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town, is out today. As usual, the book is available for download under a Creative Commons license.

A man's letter to the music industryJun 16 2005

A man's letter to the music industry detailing what he's stolen from them and why. "I refuse to pay you to play these pointless games with arbitrary dates and obsolete borders."

Jason Scott on why he decided toJun 06 2005

Jason Scott on why he decided to license his straight-to-DVD documentary under a Creative Commons license. "It was in some ways a tough decision, because you want to 'protect' yourself, but then you realize you're not really 'protecting' anything; all you're doing is being a paranoid twitch-bag. And once you realize this, then it becomes a little easier."

Microsoft is sponsoring a short film contestMay 12 2005

Microsoft is sponsoring a short film contest called Thought Thieves about intellectual property theft. And the entry form states: "I will formally license on terms acceptable to Microsoft, all intellectual property rights in my film and agree to waive all moral rights in relation to my film if requested to do so". Heh.

Audio from the Who Owns Culture? talkApr 25 2005

Audio from the Who Owns Culture? talk by Lessig, Tweedy, and Johnson now online. Streaming audio or mp3.

Henry Blodget goes DVD shopping in ShanghaiApr 07 2005

Henry Blodget goes DVD shopping in Shanghai at a fake restaurant. That reminds me, I should write up my Beijing CD-ROM shopping experience sometime.

The Binary Bonsai Approach to CopyrightApr 07 2005

The Binary Bonsai Approach to Copyright. Right on, brother. Preach it.

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