Just recently, we wrote about how the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) has been increasingly detaining and harassing people at the border (or near the border) under highly questionable circumstances — and then refusing to comment on any of it. Instead, CBP has relied on a cloak of secrecy to live outside the law, acting out what we’ve come to expect from authoritarian police states. Recently, the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of a woman, Christine Von Der Haar, who is a senior lecturer at Indiana University, after CBP detained her at the airport….
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Homeland Security Detained US Citizen Inside The US, Used Intercepted Emails To Quiz Her About Her Sex LifeBy Techdirt
In our post yesterday about Judge Alex Kozinski’s horrifically bad ruling in favor of Cindy Garcia, an actress who briefly appeared in the infamous YouTube video “Innocence of Muslims,” we also mentioned the astounding gag order that Kozinski placed on Google/YouTube, saying that the company was simply not allowed to tell the world that the video had been ordered censored by a court for at least a week. However, the gag order is so crazy that it seemed worth a second post. It already appears to be a classic First Amendment violation to order Google to take down all copies of the video (and prevent new ones from being uploaded), but Kozinski seems to double the First Amendment problems with that gag order.
The International Olympics Committee has this “branding” thing down cold. (No pun intended. The IOC is just as obnoxious during the Summer Olympics.) Everything that doesn’t belong to an Official Sponsor has its logo covered (including bathroom fixtures!) until the multi-ring circus of sports (and quasi-sports) folds up the last multimillion dollar tent and blows town.
The IOC is the ultimate control freak. This maniacal desire to cleanse the Games of anything not directly related to its corporate sponsors often results in the sort of behavior you’d normally associate with severe misanthropy. Hobbyist knitters get slapped with C&Ds. A 30-year-old restaurant is forced to change its name. A prominent news outlet has to build its own internal Starbucks in order to escape drinking nothing but the Official Coffee of the Olympics, which is crafted each day to the searing hot specifications of hallowed coffee mecca… McDonalds.
Comcast has confirmed reports that the company will be acquiring Time Warner Cable in a deal estimated to be worth around $45 billion. With the ink on their NBC acquisition only just dry to the touch, the deal will tack 8 million broadband subscribers onto the company’s existing 22 million broadband customers. Comcast is already the nation’s largest fixed-line broadband company, largest cable TV provider, and third largest fixed-line phone company — and that’s before you include the company’s NBC or other assets. From a geographical perspective the deal makes sense; Time Warner Cable filling in Comcast’s coverage gaps and in particular giving Comcast the prized markets of Los Angeles and New York City, where Time Warner Cable has traditionally under-performed.
The problem is less of market share (the two companies didn’t compete directly) but one of consolidated power…
I’ve already written one piece about Cory Doctorow’s incredible column at the Guardian concerningdigital rights management and anti-circumvention, in which I focused on how the combination of DRM and anti-circumvention laws allows companies to make up their own copyright laws in a way that removes the rights of the public. Those rights are fairly important, and the reason we have them encoded within our copyright laws is to make sure that copyright isn’t abused to stifle speech. But, anti-circumvention laws combined with DRM allow the industry to route around that entirely.
But there’s a second important point in Doctorow’s piece that is equally worth highlighting, and it’s that the combination of DRM and anti-circumvention laws make all of our computers less safe. For this to make sense, you need to understand that DRM is really a form of security software.
We’ve written plenty of times about the importance of the public domain around here, and one of the biggest beneficiaries of the public domain has been Disney, a company which has regularly mined the public domain for the stories it then recreates and copyrights. Of course, somewhat depressingly, Disney also has been one of the most extreme players in keeping anything new out of the public domain, as pointed out by Tom Bell’s excellent “mickey mouse curve” showing how Disney has sought to push out the term of copyrights every time Mickey Mouse gets near the public domain.
Other than when it’s on television or in a movie, the legal system is a place where rules are supposed to be followed so that justice might be done. Legal dramas where attorneys get creative with how to prosecute alleged criminals make for interesting entertainment, but nobody facing legal action wants to see much in the way of a deviation from the accepted practices. Yet, that seems to be what’s happened in cases involving anyone who has engaged in rap music.
Well, this is now coming to a head in the Supreme Court of New Jersey, which will hear a case to decide if prosecutors should be relying heavily on rap lyrics in their cases.
The very first copyright law in the US was officially called ”An Act for the Encouragement of Learning.” Indeed, that was the actual stated purpose of copyright law at the time. It wasn’t supposed to be a system for protecting the revenue of artistic folks. In fact, it didn’t even cover most artistic works at the time. It was limited to “maps, charts and books.” Music? Not protected. Paintings? Not protected. Sculpture? Not protected. That’s because it wasn’t about artwork, but about the spread of knowledge through learning.
Yes, the idea was to provide a limited monopoly to incentivize the initial creation, and the exchange was that it would then be given into the public domain soon after, such that everyone could learn from it. Yesterday, we covered the importance of the public domain, and today’s topic for Copyright Week goes hand in hand with it: the idea of open access.
ACLU Sues City Of Omaha, 32 Police Officers For Use Of Excessive Force, Warrantless Search And SeizureBy Techdirt
If there’s any question as to whether the officers subduing Octavius Johnson (who was apparently asking why a vehicle was being towed) applied excessive force (looks like the officer gets a few swings in before other witnesses arrive), it was answered by the 20+ cops who stormed the house (without a warrant, obviously) in order to seize and destroy the footage of the arrest contained in Jaquez Johnson’s cell phone. The fact that their wheelchair-bound aunt was thrown to the ground during this altercation is nothing more than a side effect of her inadvertently being between dozens of cops and the person they were pursuing.
The cops that stormed the Johnson house to destroy evidence failed to comprehend that everyonehas a camera these days — like, say, the neighbor across the street who obtained this footage of the excessive force and the blitzkrieg of Omaha cops that followed.
As they do every year, unfortunately, the good folks at the Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke have put together a depressing list of what should have entered the public domain yesterday. As you hopefully know, until 1978, the maximum amount of time that work in the US could be covered by copyright was 56 years (you initially received a 28 year copyright term, which could be renewed for another 28 years). That means, back in 1957, everyone who created the works in that list knew absolutely, and without a doubt that their works would be given back to the public to share, to perform, to build on and more… on January 1, 2014 at the very latest. And they all still created their works, making clear that the incentive of a 56 year monopoly was absolutely more than enough incentive to create.
And yet, for reasons that still no one has made clear, Congress unilaterally changed the terms of the deal, took these works away from the public, without any compensation at all, and will keep them locked up for at least another 40 years. At least.