Everything Old Is Unavailable Again: How Copyright Has Ebooks Operating In The 1800s

van TechDirt - vr, 04/04/2014 - 18:29
Nothing sucks more than a great new technology with old-world thinking attached to it. Such has been the case with ebooks, unfortunately, with antiquated views on DRM, pricing, and storefront protectionism resulting in pissed off customers and libraries hollering from the nearest rooftop. What we're left with is a platform that could do much to spread knowledge and the practice of reading among entire populations being stifled by those that still think the world should operate based on analog philosophies.

Reader zip writes in about a nice write up detailing how cyclical this has made reading, with protectionist policies regarding ebooks cutting the benefit of the technology right out from underneath it. Today, the situation has come full circle. If a student in Freiburg wants to read the hard-copy version of a book from the university library in Basel, he or she can simply order it via an interlibrary loan. But if only an electronic version is available, interlibrary loans are generally not an option. The student has no choice but to climb into a train and head to Switzerland to read the book on a university computer.

It is a paradox: Books that traveled around the world via interlibrary loan in the 20th century paper era are safeguarded locally in the Internet age. Indeed, it is the sheer ease with which electronic publications can be sent around the world that is now resulting in their being locked up behind digital bars. The book doesn't go to the reader, the reader comes to the book -- just like in the 19th century. If that doesn't strike you as absurd, you're likely missing some significant sections of your brain. The very benefit the entire digital experience has brought most other marketplaces and forms of communication and learning in the past thirty years is being blocked by a trumped-up policy born out of fear. Just think about that for a moment: the same book I can get on loan from a far-off library is unavailable to me in ebook format, even though the transfer of that ebook is easier, cheaper, and quicker. That, friends, is the dumbest thing I've ever heard.

But it gets more stupid. This doesn't simply apply to fictional entertainment, but to true knowledge platforms as well, and the willingness to be wasteful is astounding. The issue is the core of the knowledge economy: essays, articles and books from researchers. "We have thousands of e-books that we could make available to our users via the Internet," says Harald Müller, head librarian at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg. "Be we often aren't allowed to because licenses are so restrictive."

Copyright laws often lead to "delightful absurdities," says Müller. If, for example, he wants to read an essay from an American library via interlibrary loan, "they will print it out on paper and send it over by fax -- and I will then scan it into our computers here." Sending it as an email attachement is forbidden. In other words, everyone ends up in the exact same place they would if ebook lending was opened up, except it's slower, less efficient, costlier, and requires physical resources that nobody is actually interested in using. This is the epitome of inefficiency, and it's the answer to whether or not the originators of copyright law would support this kind of application: no they damn well wouldn't. Imagine Thomas Jefferson being showed how copyright was being used to limit knowledge and that imagining had better end with Jefferson punching everyone involved.

So, who's fault is it? The answer is the combination of governments unwilling to consider change and, of course, publishers. Most egregious are the academic publishers. In many cases, it is the readers themselves who, through their taxes, pay the university authors whose studies they are then unable to access. It is also likely that many professors themselves cannot even afford a subscription to the journal in which their work is published. Subscription rates of up to €15,000 ($20,633) per year are hardly a rarity. The Journal of Comparative Neurology, for example, comes with a price tag of more than €20,000 annually. Authors who publish their works in such a journal usually don't see a single cent for their labors. Publishing companies such as Reed Elsevier, by contrast, regularly achieve pre-tax profit margins of over 25 percent.

"Publishers of scientific journals make so much money because they collect their product for free from taxpayers and then sell it back at inflated prices," says Günter M. Ziegler, a distinguished mathematician at Berlin's Free University. And the suppression of knowledge is the result of all this protectionist nonsense. When we've reached the point where the researchers aren't being paid and the public can't access their papers, things need to change.

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Categorieën: Technieuws

Innocence Of Muslims Actress Says Court Should Ignore Copyright Office Rejecting Her Copyright Claim

van TechDirt - vr, 04/04/2014 - 17:30
This will hardly come as a surprise, but Cindy Lee Garcia -- the actress who appeared in 5 seconds of the 13-minute "trailer" known as "Innocence of Muslims" and somehow convinced the 9th Circuit Appeals court to say she had a copyright interest in the film, allowing her to demand a widespread and highly questionable order to force Google to take down all copies of the video on its platforms -- doesn't think there's anything wrong with the ruling or with the 9th Circuit's denial of Google's request to stay the order until the case could be reconsidered. As we noted earlier, the court has asked for briefs on whether or not it should reconsider the request for the stay (prior to even deciding if it should reconsider the entire ruling). Garcia's lawyer, Cris Armenta has filed their brief on this issue, and as with many earlier filings, it is problematic on many levels.

In short, though, she of course argues that the original ruling was correct, that her "copyright" has been infringed and that any ruling to the contrary leaves her in great danger. Despite plenty of copyright lawyers and experts reacting in horror to the original ruling, she insists it's obvious that every actor in a film gets a copyright in their own performance. As for the fact that the Copyright Office itself rejected her copyright claim saying that "longstanding practices do not allow a copyright claim by an individual actor or actress in his or her performance contained within a motion picture," Garcia says that the court should just ignore all that bluster. I mean, really, who does the Copyright Office think it is, anyway? Actually, she first challenges the "questionable provenance" of the Copyright Office's rejection of her copyright, since she says Google got a copy before she did, and then that it apparently doesn't include a statement from the Copyright Office that it "is a true and correct copy of the record in question." Even then, she begs the court to ignore the Copyright Office. Further, this court should not defer to the letter because it is inconsistent with the Copyright Office's previous interpretation of the Copyright Act.... Previously, the Copyright Office interpreted the Copyright Act much differently than it does now. As recently as 2010, the Office explicitly stated that performances consisting of "the art of imitating or acting out situations, characters, or other events" are copyrightable as pantomime. Of course, that's a totally different issue. Yes, the Copyright Office says that pantomimes are copyrightable (a different issue that has its own problems), but that's unrelated to the question of whether an actor in a motion picture retains the copyright in their performance. Instead, Garcia tries to reverse this question, by saying that nowhere has the Copyright Office ever said that actors do not get a copyright in their performance. Because anything the Copyright Office doesn't say is clearly what they allow. With respect to the issue of motion pictures, nowhere does the Compendium state that actors who are not employees and who have not transferred the rights in their work are not entitled to copyright protection.... Indeed, the Compendium only states that a film's producer is the "author" for purposes of copyright in situations where the participants are employees or have entered into work-for-hire agreements. If the Office's "longstanding practices" truly forbade an actor who never assigned the rights in her performance from asserting copyright, the Office would have mentioned those practices before now. Of course, the other problem with Garcia's filing is that it doesn't actually focus on the issue at hand. The Court specifically asked that the filings focus on the question of whether or not an en banc panel should rehear the question of a stay for the injunction. Garcia's filing focuses on the overall ruling, not the specifics of the stay, and why the initial injunction can't be stayed until further proceedings occur. That said, given the way Kozinski has handled this so far, who knows what will happen.

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Categorieën: Technieuws

CIA Put In Charge Of Declassifying Senate's Report That Condemns The CIA's Torture Program

van TechDirt - vr, 04/04/2014 - 16:12
In our post about the Senate Intelligence Committee agreeing to declassify the executive summary and major findings of the $40 million, 6,300 page "devastating" report on how the CIA tortured people for no good reason and then lied about it, we noted that there was still a battle over who would handle the declassification process. Senator Mark Udall directly noted that the White House had a choice. It could handle the declassification efforts itself, give it to the director of national intelligence... or give it over to the CIA itself. Guess which choice the White House has gone with? Yup, you guessed it: The CIA itself gets to choose which parts of the report remain secret. Considering the CIA has spent many months attacking the report, declaring that it was misleading and full of errors, it seems rather ridiculous that the Agency itself is in charge of determining what can and can't be released from the report.

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Categorieën: Technieuws

Chilling Effects: Climate Change Deniers Have Scientific Paper Disappeared

van TechDirt - vr, 04/04/2014 - 14:12

Let me let you in on a little fantasy of mine: every once in a while, I like to imagine finding myself meeting the person who came up with the term "global warming." Why? So I can punish that person. Severely. See, what a term like "global warming" does is allow the guy in the cubicle next to me to point out of the window in Chicago and say, "If global warming is true, why is it snowing out again?" And that, friends, is something nobody should have to deal with.

Climate change is the better term, of course, and the majority of the scientific community firmly believes that there is such a thing as man-made climate change. From there, we could have a discussion about how profound the effects of climate change are, whether they're actually better or worse, what other contributing factors might be in play in impacting climate, and all the rest, and those would be worthy conversations to have. What we shouldn't do is try to use the law to silence dissenting opinions, particularly if those opinions come in the form of scientific research. Yet, that is exactly what one scientific journal has allowed to happen after publishing an article on the link between those who deny climate change and those who believe in a more wide-ranging array of conspiracy theories. Frontiers originally published the piece last year, but took it down once the legal threats started rolling in. After an internal investigation found the peer-reviewed study to be sound, you'd have thought they'd re-publish it. You'd be wrong. Here's the statement about the retraction from the journal itself. In the light of a small number of complaints received following publication of the original research article cited above, Frontiers carried out a detailed investigation of the academic, ethical and legal aspects of the work. This investigation did not identify any issues with the academic and ethical aspects of the study. It did, however, determine that the legal context is insufficiently clear and therefore Frontiers wishes to retract the published article. The authors understand this decision, while they stand by their article and regret the limitations on academic freedom which can be caused by legal factors. In other words, a study that was judged by peers to be scientifically sound, has been disappeared over the murky threats of possible legal action. Let that sink in for a moment: science is undone because some people didn't like it. The author of the study resided at the time in the UK, where libel laws used to be of a construction specifically designed to fill the courthouses with all manner of craziness. Just recently, the UK has improved its libel laws to lessen the chilling effect of lawsuits from harming the progression of science. On top of that, the internal review at the journal found no issues with the study after making some minor alterations to appease the angry. Frontiers didn't see fit to re-publish, however. It is hard to imagine a set of outcomes that would have better remedied each issue flagged by Frontiers as a matter of concern. So it came as quite a shock to hear that the journal had decided to retract the paper ostensibly because “the legal context is insufficiently clear”. Look, if you're a climate change denier, that's cool. I don't agree with you, but feel free to write up your own research, publish any compelling information you can come up with, and all the rest. Consensus is never something I've been much interested in; I'd rather have multiple ideas to choose from and study. And, hey, if you think we never landed on the moon, Hitler was actually fighting the lizard-people now running world government, and 9/11 was all a holographic light-show designed to allow George Bush to fulfill his childhood dream of landing on an aircraft carrier in a flightsuit, have at it. I want you to let me know you believe in that stuff, because that's how I'll know to keep my future children away from you.

But the other side of the coin is that we shouldn't be allowing your side to silence science, either. Fair is fair, after all.

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Categorieën: Technieuws

La Quadrature s'engage dans la lutte juridictionnelle contre la surveillance de masse

van La Quadrature du Net - vr, 04/04/2014 - 13:20

[MÀJ : dans une lettre datée du 11 avril, la CJUE a annoncé l'ajournement de cette procédure. L'examen du cas pourrait n'avoir lieu qu'après la fin des procédures démarrées au Royaume-Uni et être retardé de 10 mois]

Paris, 4 avril 2014 — En octobre 2013, les ONG Big Brother Watch, Open Rights Group, English Pen ainsi que Constanze Kurz ont engagé un recours1 devant la Cour européenne des droits de l'Homme (CEDH) contre le Royaume-Uni afin qu'il soit mis fin aux mesures de surveillance de masse mises en place, sans aucun contrôle, dans le cadre des systèmes PRISM et TEMPORA.

L'association néerlandaise Bits of Freedom a récemment formé une coalition d'organisations de défense des droits et libertés sur Internet, à laquelle s'est jointe La Quadrature du Net, dans le but de soutenir ce recours engagé auprès de la CEDH. À cette fin, cette coalition a formulé le 1er avril dernier une demande auprès de la CEDH en vue d'intervenir au soutien des prétentions des requérantes (via un amicus curiæ). La réponse de la Cour de Strasbourg devrait intervenir d'ici quelques semaines.

En France, où les éléments s'accumulent pour démontrer l'existence d'une surveillance massive des communications Internet – qu'il s'agisse des révélations concernant la coopération entre Orange et la DGSE en dehors de tout cadre légal ou de l'adoption de la loi de programmation militaire –, la jurisprudence qui se dégagera de la décision de la CEDH sur PRISM et TEMPORA pourrait avoir d'importantes retombées.

Les groupes signataires de cette demande à la CEDH :

  • ApTI (Roumanie)
  • Bits of Freedom (Pays-Bas)
  • DFRI (Suède)
  • Digital Courage (Allemagne)
  • Digital Rights Ireland (Irlande)
  • Digitale Gesellschaft (Allemagne)
  • EDRi (Bruxelles)
  • Electronic Frontier Finland (Finlande)
  • Initiative für Netzfreiheit (Autriche)
  • IT-Pol (Danemark)
  • La Quadrature du Net (France)
  • Panoptykon (Pologne)
  • VIBE (Autriche)
Categorieën: Technieuws

Germany Opens Hearings On NSA Spying, Want To Offer Safe Passage For Snowden To Come To Berlin

van TechDirt - vr, 04/04/2014 - 12:06
Last fall, one of the big stories concerning NSA surveillance efforts was around the fact that it had spied on German Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone calls. While this didn't sound particularly surprising (spying on foreign leaders is kind of what you expect intelligence agencies to do), from a diplomacy standpoint, it certainly was awkward. In response to this, the White House agreed to stop spying on her, but it appears to have simply shifted to spying on everyone she talks to. Just a few days ago, new leaks showed how NSA partner-in-spying, GCHQ out of the UK directly targeted Merkel with its spying tools.

Given all of this, Germany has now launched hearings into the spying done by the US, and apparently some lawmakers would like to bring Ed Snowden to testify in person: The hearings also have the potential to provoke further antipathy. Indeed, a number of lawmakers here are now demanding safe passage to Berlin for Snowden — who is living in self-imposed exile in Moscow — to testify before the eight-person committee. Any such move would likely outrage the United States, which is seeking to take Snowden into custody.

Given the potential for angering Washington, analysts believe Merkel’s government will find a way to sidestep such a move. Nevertheless, the push to give Snowden his day here serves as another reminder that, even as the scandal appears to be dissipating in other parts of Europe, it remains at the top of the agenda in Germany.
As noted above, this seems unlikely to happen and is almost certainly just for show. I would imagine that Snowden himself might not feel all that safe in Berlin either, given its close ties to the US, though potentially he could use a trip to Berlin as a launching point to go somewhere else (one issue he's had in seeking asylum is that many countries say you have to be present in that country before requesting asylum). Also, there's a separate issue that suggests much of this is just for show, which is that Germany's own intelligence agencies are likely involved in similar activities themselves. So while it makes sense from a political standpoint to stomp and scream about all of this, it's doubtful that Germany will do too much, for fear that its own intelligence practices will become public as well.

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Categorieën: Technieuws

[Investigation] Secret EU lawmaking: the triumph of the trialogue

van EU Observer - vr, 04/04/2014 - 09:29
The setting could not be less spectacular – but trialogue meetings are a central hub of the EU's law-making machine.

Categorieën: Europees nieuws

[Investigation] Secret EU lawmaking: the triumph of the trialogue

van EU Observer - vr, 04/04/2014 - 09:29
The setting could not be less spectacular - but trialogue meetings are a central hub of the EU's law-making machine.

Categorieën: Europees nieuws

Building A More Decentralized Internet: It's Happening Faster Than People Realize

van TechDirt - vr, 04/04/2014 - 09:08
More than three years ago, I wrote a post predicting that "the revolution will be distributed." In talking about a variety of attacks (mainly on Wikileaks), I pointed out that these were only going to inspire more and more interest in building an internet that is not nearly as centralized, but actually much more decentralized and distributed -- and that those defending the status quo still don't realize what an astoundingly big impact this will have. Soon after, we noted that the real battle lines for the future will be about distributed and open systems against centralized and closed systems. Movement in this arena has certainly been slow, but it's continued to move forward. The Snowden leaks of the past year have really only accelerated the process -- and interest in these kinds of projects.

Over at the New Yorker, they have a pretty good status update on "the mission to decentralize the internet," though, unlike a big centralized project, that "mission" is done in a decentralized and open manner as well. The short summary might lead some to dismiss this whole trajectory -- as many of the initial attempts have failed to gain much traction. But that would be a huge mistake. One of the things that you will see, if you study the history of innovation, is that this is exactly how it always happens. The early projects may have some minor successes here and there, but are littered with failures. But the amazing thing about a rapidly changing world where people are doing things in a decentralized and open way is that each of those failures only contributes to the knowledge for future projects, in which more and more people are testing more and more things, getting closer to hitting that point in the "innovator's dilemma" curve, where the new systems actually serve people's needs much better than the old way.

It often feels like these new systems suck at first, and it's easy to dismiss them as not being real competition for the established ways of doing things -- but the rapid rate of improvement, and the almost underground nature of many of these advancements means that when they suddenly catch on, they'll catch on quickly, and the folks who previously dismissed them as not being viable won't know what hit them. In fact, I've seen a few much more ambitious projects than what Joshua Kopstein discusses in his article, which suggests we're already well on our way to creating much more distributed systems that will make many of the debates we have today about the internet, internet governance, surveillance, copyright and much, much more totally obsolete. It's an issue I'm planning to explore in much more detail in 2014, so stay tuned...

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Categorieën: Technieuws