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.
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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.
Author Of Torture Memo Says Judges Are Too Out Of Touch To Determine If NSA Violated The 4th AmendmentBy Techdirt
John Yoo, who famously wrote the legal rationale for allowing the US government to torture people, has already defended the NSA’s activities, arguing that it takes too long for the NSA to obey the Constitution, so it shouldn’t have to. Given that, it was hardly a surprise to see his reaction to the recent ruling saying that the NSA’s bulk metadata collection program was likely unconstitutional and should be stopped. Yoo is… not a fan of this ruling. In fact, he uses it to rail against judges daring to make any determination about whether or not something violates the 4th Amendment. According to him (and only him) that’s the job of Congress, not the courts….
We were just talking about the latest efforts to remove termination rights from musicians (and other artists), and a number of termination rights battles are still ongoing. Most of the existing ones are slightly different from the ones we’re talking about — and it gets pretty down in the weeds technically. In short, there are different rules for works created prior to 1978 and those after 1978. Most of the focus is on the termination rights for works created after 1978 — though there are some interesting ongoing battles concerning works created prior to 1978… including that song you just can’t stop hearing this time of year: Santa Claus is Coming to Town.
If You’re An American Who Believes In The 4th Amendment, You Have No Excuse Not To Sign This PetitionBy Techdirt
We’ve written a few times recently about the importance of ECPA reform, to bring a woefully out of date law into the 21st century. Specifically, we’ve urged people to sign this White House petition in favor of ECPA reform. That petition closes soon, and it’s still a bit short of the 100,000 goal.
Why is this important to you? Because, without it, it’s much easier for the government to snoop on your emails without a warrant. What people want is for emails and regular mail to be treated the same, which is simply not the case today.
Lindsay Lohan, everyone’s favorite train-wreck, sure seems to come up in the world of intellectual property an awful lot. I’m not sure if this is because she has some over-inflated sense of entitlement, or if she’s just the devil-incarnate here to entertain me personally, but she’s gotten angry about being mocked in music, angry about a talking baby being named Lindsay (and being a “milkaholic”), and angry at the invention of the video camera for showing her stealing stuff that didn’t belong to her.
In these highly charged political times, you tend to hear the term “nanny state” thrown around quite a bit. Whether it’s the mayor of a major US city lovingly playing psy-ops with citizens on vices like cigarettes and soda, or an otherwise sane nation keeping its citizens safe from the horrors of accurately depicted street view maps, the general impression is that the government in question doesn’t think enough of its own people to allow them to live out their lives as they choose. And, while a simple stroll down the street might cause me to have some sympathy with their premise, most of us tend not to believe that our governments should be in the business of social-engineering our free choices (even though that’s essentially the business they’re in).
But sometimes a nanny state action moves beyond the mildly frustrating and into the realm of the hilarious. Reader btr1701 writes in about one such instance, in which the government of Sweden is engaging in some manner of performance art on the silliness of over-regulation by the government.