Thursday, December 27, 2007

Egypt poised to pass law copyrighting ancient monuments

Egypt's MPs are expected to pass a law requiring royalties be paid whenever copies are made of museum pieces or ancient monuments such as the pyramids.

Mr Hawass said the law would apply to full-scale replicas of any object in any museum in Egypt.

"Commercial use" of ancient monuments like the pyramids or the sphinx would also be controlled, he said.

"Even if it is for private use, they must have permission from the Egyptian government," he added.

But he said the law would not stop local and international artists reproducing monuments as long as they were not exact replicas.
(link)

Too bad the actual copyright on those monuments expired about 4400 years ago? In practical terms, this will be pretty much unenforceable. Besides the fact that implementation would violate just about every other countries' copyright laws, how do they plan to calculate royalties? Percentage of museum goers? Flat fee based on estimated popularity?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Organizing committee claims copyright on "olympic" and "2012" - asserts that they *could* sue the author of Olympic Mind Games if they wanted

...the organising committee for a certain upcoming sporting event has decided it would be "disproportionate" to prosecute the author of a book called Olympic Mind Games for breach of copy-right. But, under no less than two acts of parliament, it could if it wanted to.

When it discovered that Robert Ronson's children's science-fiction novel was to be published, the organising committee for the previously mentioned happening sent him an email asking that he should use neither the O-word nor the expressions "London 2012, or 2012 etc" in the title.
(link)

The problem is that it's not a copyright issue, it's a trademark issue. The committee has done nothing creative to the words "Olympics" or "2012" to be granted a copyright on them, and owning a trademark does not preclude use by others in a copyrightable media. In short, the organizing committee has a trademark, the author has a copyright, and one does not affect the other.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Law firm user agreement claims website code is "intellectual property" and therefore you aren't allowed to see it

We also own all of the code, including the HTML code, and all content. As you may know, you can view the HTML code with a standard browser. We do not permit you to view such code since we consider it to be our intellectual property protected by the copyright laws. You are therefore not authorized to do so.
(link)

Unfortunately for these guys, they forgot this little fact: copyright only prevents unauthorized USE of material. It does not prohibit access. Every book in the Library of Congress is copyrighted; that does not prevent me from reading any of them.

Interestingly, if you go to View->Page Source for that page, all the code is there.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

VeriSign infringing on AP copyright by aggregating news headlines?

AP claims Moreover improperly displays AP's headlines and portions of stories as part of its free, ad-supported services. Moreover also is reproducing full articles and photos through subscription services, the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit points out that Moreover's own promotional materials claim to "harvest" news from the AP and thousands of other sources in "as fast as two minutes."

Tom Curley, AP's president and chief executive, said in a statement that the news organization spends hundreds of millions of dollars annually to provide "original coverage of vital breaking news that cannot be obtained anywhere else."

"When someone uses our content without our permission, they are free riding on our newsgathering and our reporting of news from around the world," he said.

(link)

As said in this article, "...it appears that the AP's lawsuit is mostly ridiculous, with just a little tiny bit of reasonable thrown in." Reprinting news headlines is hardly copyright infringement - any search engine will tell you that. Reproduction of content, however, may show to be a case.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Edinburgh Performing Rights Society demands £200,000 in damages against mechanics who play radios at work

The PRS claimed that Kwik-Fit mechanics routinely use personal radios while working at service centres across the UK and that music, protected by copyright, could be heard by colleagues and customers.

It is maintained that amounts to the "playing" or "performance" of the music in public and renders the firm guilty of infringing copyright.
(link)

Doesn't the radio station already pay the licensing fees to broadcast the music over the airwaves? This smells of double-dipping...they're already being paid for the right to transmit; now they want to be paid for the right to hear as well?

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Royal Canadian Mint demands payment for use of "one cent" and penny image in Toronto ad campaign

The Royal Canadian Mint, a corporation of the federal government, has now demanded that the City of Toronto pay $47,680 for the public education campaign. Included in this amount is a request for $10,000 for the use of the words "one cent" in the campaign website address (www.onecentnow.ca) and the campaign email address (onecentnow@toronto.ca), and an additional $10,000 for the use of the words "one cent" in the campaign phone number (416-ONECENT). The remaining $27,680 has been assessed against the City for the use of the image of the Canadian penny in printed materials such as pins and posters. (The Mint has come to this amount by taking the total number of materials printed divided by the approximate population of Toronto, and then using a percentage of that number to arrive at a dollar figure.)
(link)

It's rather telling when a government agency turns to copyright abuse in an attempt to silence political advocacy. I don't know if this is true in Canada, but in the US government documents (which I presume to also include money) are excluded from copyright protection. I also believe, that as this was a not-for-profit public awareness campaign, the doctrine of fair use would apply?

Friday, October 5, 2007

Harvard claims ISBN numbers in bookstore are "intellectual property"

Coop President Jerry P. Murphy ’73 said that while there is no Coop policy against individual students copying down book information, “we discourage people who are taking down a lot of notes.”

The apparent new policy could be a response to efforts by Crimsonreading.org—an online database that allows students to find the books they need for each course at discounted prices from several online booksellers—from writing down the ISBN identification numbers for books at the Coop and then using that information for their Web site.

Murphy said the Coop considers that information the Coop’s intellectual property.
(link)

In fact, they even went so far as to call the police on students who were asked to leave after being "caught" writing down ISBN numbers and refused. Fortunately the cops appeared to be more knowledgable about copyright than the bookstore, as they allowed to students to continue to write down ISBN numbers and leave under their own will 2 1/2 hours later.

An analysis of the issue written by several Harvard grads/students was also published in The Harvard Crimson:
The Supreme Court tells us that “[t]he sine qua non of copyright is originality.” That’s why the compilers of a white-pages telephone directory lost their claims against a competitor who copied listings. The Coop neither authored the ISBN numbers on its books nor compiled them in an original selection or arrangement. From all accounts, the professors who create course reading lists are happy for students to have them. (Professors generally welcome anything that helps students to do their course assignments.)

What about the prices that the Coop set and affixed to books? Copyright doesn’t protect the “sweat of the brow” involved in compiling facts, either: “[C]opyright rewards originality, not effort.” Nor does it give monopoly control of minimally expressive statements (for example, a book’s price) that “merge” with the underlying idea (for example, its market value). A federal appeals court recently denied the New York Mercantile Exchange’s bid to protect its list of stock prices, saying that “the market is an empirical reality, an economic fact about the world.”
(link)