QuickLinks - Copyright, trademarks and patents
QuickLinks - Copyright, trademarks and patents
Issue no. 380 - 30 September 2007
- US - NTP files patent suits against AT&T, Sprint and Verizon
The holding company that brought BlackBerry Nation to its knees in 2006 is once again on the advance, this time filing suit against AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile. Way back in 2002, NTP won a jury verdict that RIM infringed on patents for a wireless e-mail system. RIM tried several times to overturn that verdict on appeal but never prevailed, and in March 2006 the companies settled for $612.5 million. The settlement came despite the fact that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued final office actions invalidating most of NTP's patents at issue in the case. NTP is appealing that decision, in a process that could stretch on for years.
- US - Web ad blocking may not be (entirely) legal
Advertising-supported companies have long turned to the courts to squelch products that let consumers block or skip ads: it happened in the famous lawsuit against the VCR in 1979 and again with ReplayTV in 2001. Tomorrow's legal fight may be over Web browser add-ons that let people avoid advertisements.
Issue no. 379 - 2 September 2007
- DK - Dodos attack Sony BMG in Denmark, win landmark ruling
One of the biggest Danish pop bands of the 80's has won a case against its record label that could remake the European digital music scene. Dodo & the Dodos charged that Sony BMG had no contractual permission to distribute its music over the Internet, and the Danish Eastern High Court agreed last week. Now, record labels could be forced to negotiate new contracts with every band who signed a deal in the pre-Internet era, and those bands could rake in much higher royalties.
- EU - Kids in Europe justify piracy: "Papa pirates, so I do, too"
"Everybody's doing it!" That's one excuse provided by European kids as to why they pirate media or software from the Internet, according to new survey results from the European Commission. The qualitative survey consisted of 9-10 year olds and 12-14 year olds across all 27 of the European Union's member states (plus Norway and Iceland) and was meant to gauge how children in Europe use online technologies. And while most of them are aware that downloading things like music, movies, and video games is illegal, they're more than willing to justify it.
- EU - Kids justify illegal downloads, study finds
Children in Europe are aware of the risks of illegal downloading but often rationalize their act by saying that everyone - including their parents--is doing it, according to a major European Commission survey. Other excuses included: the download is for personal and private purposes; the Web sites presumably remunerate the artists; claims of harm inflicted on artists lack credibility; and DVDs and CDs are simply too expensive.
- Facebook kicks Audio off Platform, bigger questions loom
Facebook has completely kicked the Audio application off the Facebook Platform, a first in Platform history for an application of this size. The reasons cited were IP violations. Audio was an application that let Facebook users upload MP3 files, share them with friends, and listen to them on the site. One of the fastest growing apps after launch, Audio had about 750,000 users before Facebook pulled out the rug.
- RU - Russia throws out net piracy case
A former owner of Russia's music website Allofmp3.com who sold cut-price downloads of Western music has been acquitted of copyright offences. A court in Moscow ruled that Denis Kvasov and his site had operated within the bounds of Russian law.
- Universal sells songs without DRM
Vivendi's Universal Music is to test the digital sale of songs from artists without the customary copy-protection technology. It will allow the sale of thousands of albums and tracks available in MP3-form without the protection, known as digital rights management (DRM). Most major recording studios insist music sellers use DRM technology to curb online piracy.
- US - Judge says Unix copyrights belong to Novell
(New York Times)
In a decision that may finally settle one of the most bitter legal battles surrounding software widely used in corporate data centers, a federal district court judge ruled that Novell, not the SCO Group, is the rightful owner of the copyrights covering the Unix operating system. Judge Kimball's decision in favor of Novell could almost entirely undermine SCO's 2003 lawsuit against IBM.
- US - Second Life sex toy creates copyright hotbed
An entrepreneur in Second Life, maker of 'adult' items such as the SexGen bed, a piece of virtual furniture that allows Second Life users to simulate more than 150 sex acts, has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against a fellow virtual resident. lthough the concept of 'virtual' property has been bantered around by lawyers in recent years, this will be the first time that such a copyright case will be taken to a US court.
Issue no. 378 - 5 August 2007
- Eminem sues Apple over downloads
Rap star Eminem is suing computer firm Apple for allegedly selling his music in its iTunes store without permission. A lawsuit claiming infringement of copyright has been filed on behalf of the singer by his music publishing company Eight Mile Style. Apple pays Eminem's record label for each download - but Eight Mile Style argues it has not approved the deal.
- Please don't steal this Web content
Automated digital plagiarism in which software bots can copy thousands of blog posts per hour and publish them verbatim onto Web sites on which contextual ads next to them can generate money for the site owner. Such Web sites are known among Web publishers as "scraper sites" because they effectively scrape the content off blogs, usually through RSS (Really Simple Syndication) and other feeds on which those blogs are sent.
- UK - Cameron pledge over violent music
David Cameron has pledged to extend copyright on music to 70 years - in exchange for an effort by music bosses to curb violent music and imagery. The Tory leader told record industry chiefs they had a responsibility to help fix Britain's "broken society". See speech. See also ISPs face down Tories on file sharing (The Register) ISPs have given David Cameron's call for them to block P2P music sharing short shrift, repeating their stance that they are not "the gatekeepers of the internet", as he insists.
- UK - Government rejects the extension of the copyright term for performers
To the big disappointment of the music industry, the UK Government refused to promote at the EU level, the extension of the presently 50-year copyright term for performers. According to the EU rules, the copyright period for song writers and their families covers their entire lives plus 70 years while performers and their producers benefit of a 50 year copyright period starting from the recording date. UK Government considers that the majority of the performers would not benefit of the extension as most of them "have contractual relationship requiring their royalties be paid back to the record label." It also stated that such an extension would lead to the increase of costs for the industry and to the consumers.
- UK - Survey finds pirate downloads at all-time high and set to rise
Illegal music downloading is at an all-time high and set to rise further, according to a report that urges the record industry to make legal buying easier and cheaper. Although social networking sites are boosting interest in music that translates into sales, a growing band of consumers are unconcerned about being prosecuted for illegal downloads, according to Entertainment Media Research.
- US - eBay wins round in 'Buy it now' patent dispute
A tiny patent-licensing company has once again lost a plea to prohibit eBay from using its patent covering the auction giant's "Buy it now" feature, but the closely watched battle isn't over yet. Ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit whether an injunction is necessary in the long-running spat, a U.S. District Judge ruled that awarding monetary damages alone to MercExchange is enough to compensate any harms it experienced as a result of eBay's infringement.
- US - Mom Sues Universal Music for DMCA Abuse
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed suit against Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG), asking a federal court to protect the fair use and free speech rights of a mother who posted a short video of her toddler son dancing to a Prince song on the Internet. Under federal copyright law, a mere allegation of copyright infringement can result in the removal of content from the Internet.
- US - Patent law changes ahead in Congress
The U.S. patent system transformation long sought by high-tech industry players like Microsoft, Amazon.com and Cisco Systems may finally be gaining momentum in Congress. Supporters say the proposed Patent Reform Act of 2007 would go a long way toward staving off expensive court litigation, limiting what are perceived as excessive damage awards, and keeping questionable patents off the books in the first place.
Issue no. 377 - 5 July 2007
- ENDitorial : The End of Multilateral Broadcast Treaty
The summer special session of United Nation's World Intellectual Property Organization's (WIPO) Standing Committee on Copyright and Related rights (SCCR) ended with an outcome that effectively killed the proposed treaty for protection of broadcast organisations (Broadcast Treaty). The committee called off the Diplomatic Conference that was supposed to take place in November to approve the treaty. Even if the treaty remains on the agenda of SCCR, it is unlikely that there will be any serious push to overcome the vastly different positions on key issues relating to objectives, scope and object of protection.
- EU - EC seeks comment on loosening copyright rules
The European Commission charged the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC) in February 2006 with imposing anticompetitive territorial restrictions on authors and composers. Authors and composers have until July 9 to comment on proposed new European Union rules that would loosen restrictive territorial contracts for copyright registration on material transmitted via the Internet, satellite and cable.
Issue no. 376 - 10 June 2007
- Microsoft puts a figure on open source 'patent infringements'
Microsoft's top lawyer says open source software violates exactly 235 entries in the firm's vast patent portfolio. General counsel Brad Smith released the figure to Fortune as part of Microsoft's long-running campaign to seed doubts over the legality of Linux and other open source efforts. (See also http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2007/05/28/100033867/ ).
- New DVD DRM "fix" hacked in a day
The ongoing war between content producers and hackers over the AACS copy protection used in HD DVD and Blu-ray discs continues the hackers came out on top. The hacker "BtCB" posted the new decryption key for AACS on the Freedom to Tinker web site, just one day after the AACS Licensing Authority (AACS LA) issued the key.
- The Sound of Copy Restrictions Crashing
The idea of ditching "digital rights management" for music downloads is rapidly changing from dream to business reality - and faster than anybody might have hoped. Amazon said that it would open an online store that stocks only MP3 music files without copying restrictions. That would be huge news, except that Amazon is only catching up with Apple, which announced in early April that it would offer DRM-free downloads by the end of this month.
- UK - MP3 site's voucher system closes
An online voucher system which allowed customers to buy music from the Russian website allofmp3.com has been closed following a police raid in London. The worldwide music industry says the site, which offers downloads for around $1 (50p), is operating illegally. Before it closed, allofmp3vouchers.co.uk contained a code that allowed UK and European consumers to access and download music from allofmp3.com. Online payment companies and major credit card companies such as Visa and MasterCard have withdrawn their payment facilities from allofmp3.com following complaints from the music industry.
- UK - Patent damages not refunded if EPO cancels patent
Damages for patent infringement awarded by a UK court must not be paid back even if the patent is later declared invalid by the European Patent Office (EPO), the Court of Appeal has ruled. The Court was addressing the question of which body has the final say in a patent case, a UK court or the EPO. It ruled that when the UK courts system is exhausted and an order is made that damages must be paid, that order cannot be overturned because of actions at the EPO.
- US - Apple, Microsoft et al accused over media players
A California company that makes technology designed to prevent ripping of digital audio streams has accused Apple, Microsoft, RealNetworks and Adobe Systems of violating federal copyright law by "actively avoiding" use of its products. Media Rights Technologies argues that the companies have manufactured billions of copies of Windows Vista, Adobe Flash Player, Real Player and Apple's iTunes and iPod "without regard for the DMCA or the rights of American intellectual property owners."
- US - Novell joins EFF for patent reform
Facing criticism for its patent pact with Microsoft, Novell said it is supporting the Electronic Frontier Foundation's effort to challenge what it believes are bogus patents. In addition, Novell will work for patent reform in general and work to remove patent encumbrances from otherwise open standards.
Issue no. 375 - 9 May 2007
- Agence France-Presse, Google settle copyright dispute
News agency Agence France-Presse has entered into a licensing deal with Google, ending the dispute between the two over AFP's articles appearing on Google News. The agreement allows Google to post AFP content, including news stories and photographs, on its Google News aggregator as well as on other Google services. No further details or financial terms were disclosed by either party. Paris-based AFP had sued Google in March 2005 for $17.5 million in damages over alleged copyright infringement on Google's news site, claiming that the search giant was posting headlines, photographs and news summaries without permission. With Friday's deal, AFP has agreed to drop the lawsuit.
- EU - Copyright deal clears way for European Digital Library
An EU expert group on digital libraries has agreed to a basic model for handling copyrights for digitalised cultural publications in libraries. The break-through deal is part of the European Digital Library initiative, launched in June 2005, to preserve European cultural and scientific heritage and make it available online in closed networks. The model agreed on Wednesday (18 April) by the parties, which included major stakeholders such as the British Library, the German national library, the Federation of European Publishers and Google, covers only orphan works and out-of print works, but it has also built in elements that could be adopted for commercial publications in the future. See Commission Press Release and Report on Digital Preservation, Orphan Works and Out-of-Print Works and Model agreement for a licence on digitisation of out of print works.
- EU - IP crimes Directive approved by European Parliament
A controversial Directive which criminalises intellectual property violations in Europe has been approved by the European Parliament but does not include its most controversial element, the criminalising of patent infringement. Supporters of the Directive say it is aimed at organised crime, but opponents claim that it could criminalise legitimate activities. The proposed directive is also controversial because if passed it would become the first directive to impose criminal penalties across Europe.
- Legal troubles mount for YouTube
The widespread legal challenges that some experts have long predicted would dog Google's YouTube appear to have arrived. The Football Association Premier League, England's most prestigious soccer organization, filed suit in New York against the massively popular video-sharing site, accusing it of enabling users to violate copyright law. On the same day, in California, NBC Universal and Viacom filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of journalist Bob Tur, who in a lawsuit filed last summer accused YouTube of infringing on his copyrighted material by posting without his permission video he shot during the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
- US - DRM group vows to fight bloggers
Bloggers 'crossed the line' when they posted a software key that could break the encryption on some HD-DVDs, the AACS copy protection body has said. A row erupted on the internet after popular website Digg began taking down pages that its members had highlighted were carrying the key. The website said it was responding to legal "cease and desist" notices from the Advanced Access Content System. Digg's users responded by posting ever greater numbers of websites with the key, and the site eventually sided with its users. See also In Web Uproar, Antipiracy Code Spreads Wildly (New York Times).
- US - Supreme Court loosens patent 'obviousness' test
A unanimous U.S. Supreme Court ruling Monday backed away from a decades-old legal test that firms argue has sparked an abundance of obvious patents. The justices called for loosening the current approach set by the nation's dedicated patent appeals court for deciding when a combination of existing elements deserves patent protection.
Issue no. 374 - 1 April 2007
- EU - IP Directive to harmonise criminal law across Europe
A European Parliament committee has voted in favour of an EU-wide law which would criminalise intentional infringements of an intellectual property right on a commercial scale. If the proposed Directive on criminal measures aimed at ensuring the enforcement of intellectual property rights becomes law, attempting, aiding or abetting and inciting such infringements will also be treated as criminal offences. Under an accompanying Framework Decision, those convicted will face penalties of up to ?300,000 and four years in jail.
- Opensource - New GPL draft has olive branches, thorns
The latest draft of revisions to the dominant open-source license offers an accommodating approach to some significant objections, but it could throw a wrench into the works of a major open-source company, Novell.
- Rampant piracy threatens PC games
Rampant piracy is threatening the future of the PC games industry, Todd Hollenshead, head of Doom 3 creator Id software has said. He warned that unless the problem was tackled some companies could relegate the PC to a second tier platform.
Issue no. 373 - 11 March 2007
- Microsoft vs. Google: More at Stake Than Books
In a prepared speech to the American Association of Publishers, Microsoft attorney Thomas Rubin accused Google of taking a 'cavalier approach to copyright' and of using its Book Search project to make money off other people's copyrighted creations. His comments have stirred up a debate over the importance of free-market competition versus what is ethical when accessing information. see also Microsoft: Google 'cavalier' on copyright (Guardian)
See also Is Google really flouting copyright law? (BBC) [Ed: quick summary of issues for non-specialists - recommended].
- US - Royalties threaten internet radio
Internet radio stations are warning they could be forced off the air by a big increase in the royalties they pay to play music. The warning comes after a decision by a US copyright body to increase royalty payments for music via the net.
Issue no. 372 - 25 February 2007
- BE - Google will appeal Copiepresse decision
Google will appeal against a judgment from a Belgian court that it broke the law when it used newspaper material in Google News. The company will have to stop publishing links to certain newspaper sites having been found liable for copyright infringement. see also Why the Belgian court ruled against Google.
- FR - Droit d'auteur et les droits voisins dans la société de l'information (DAVDSI)
La Circulaire du 3 janvier 2007 de présentation et de commentaire des dispositions pénales portant sur la loi nº2006-961 relative au droit d'auteur et les droits voisins dans la société de l'information et d'action publique dans le domaine de la lutte contre les atteintes à la propriété intellectuelle au moyen des nouvelles technologies informatiques.
- Microsoft CEO repeats patents threats against Linux
Steve Ballmer has reissued Microsoft's patent threat against Linux, warning open-source vendors that they must respect his company's intellectual property. In a no-nonsense presentation to New York financial analysts, Microsoft's chief executive said the company's partnership with Novell, which it signed in 2006, "demonstrated clearly the value of intellectual property, even in the open-source world."
- Microsoft patent case stirs software export fears
It's not every day that both the U.S. government and advocates of free and open-source software align themselves in court with Microsoft. But a high-stakes patent case, set to be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, has attracted a slew of briefs supporting the Windows maker's stance in a complex battle with AT&T over rules governing software code exported to foreign locales.
- MySpace introduces automatic video blocking
Social networking market leader MySpace will use software to monitor videos posted to the site in a bid to block unauthorised use of copyrighted content. The company will use technology to analyse videos' audio tracks to identify infringing posts. The move is a bid to placate the big copyright holding music and entertainment industries, which are taking legal action against social networking and video sharing sites over the copyright infringing activity of their users.
- UK- Forwarding an email can infringe copyright
Business letters can be protected by copyright and forwarding them to others can be an infringement, the UK High Court has ruled. The decision could have implications for email communication because the same principles will apply. Struan Robertson, editor of OUT-LAW.COM, said: "Emails can be protected by copyright too. Just because it's easier to forward an email than a letter does nothing to weaken that protection."
- US - Apple's Jobs calls for DRM-free world
Record companies are the ones who demand digital rights management technology, not Apple, CEO says in rare open letter. Steve Jobs urges record companies to abandon these technologies.
- US - 'Electric Slide' on slippery DMCA slope
Yes, you can copyright a dance. The inventor of the "Electric Slide," an iconic dance created in 1976, is fighting back against what he believes are copyright violations. An engineer at San Francisco's Linden Lab, said he received a Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notice about a video he had shot at a recent convention showing three people doing the Electric Slide. The 1998 Digital Millenium Copyright Act governs copyright infringement as well as technology whose purpose is to circumvent measures intended to protect copyrights. Under the DMCA, rights-holders can complain to services like YouTube that content uploaded by users infringes their copyrights. "You can copyright the choreography for dances and then enforce the copyright against anyone who publicly performs the dance." --Jason Schultz, Electronic Frontier Foundation
- US - Microsoft hit with $1.5 billion MP3 patent verdict
A federal jury has ordered Microsoft to pay $1.5 billion to Alcatel-Lucent in a patent dispute over MP3 audio technology used in Windows. The case could have broader implications, should Alcatel-Lucent pursue claims against other companies that use the widespread MP3 technology.
- US copyright lobby out-of-touch
Internet law professor Michael Geist takes a look at intellectual property protection in the US and finds it somewhat out of step with the rest of the world. The International Intellectual Property Alliance, delivered its annual submission to the US government featuring its views on the inadequacy of intellectual property protection around the world. The IIPA submission generated considerable media attention, with the international media focusing on the state of IP protection in Russia and China, while national media in Canada, Thailand, and Taiwan broadcast dire warnings about the consequences of falling on the wrong side of US lobby groups. The lobby group ultimately shines the spotlight on how US copyright policy has become out-of-touch and isolated from much of the rest of the globe.
- YouTube asked to 'remove' videos
Viacom, the parent firm of cable networks MTV and Nickelodeon, has told popular video sharing site YouTube to remove 100,000 "unauthorised" clips. YouTube and its parent Google failed to install tools to "filter" the unauthorised video clips, said Viacom. YouTube said that it works with "all copyright holders to identify and promptly remove infringing content" as soon as it is officially notified.
Issue no. 371 - 28 January 2007
- Ageing rockers and evergreen stars in cash plea
Some of the most famous names in music, including Sir Paul McCartney and Sir Cliff Richard, U2, Yoko Ono, Barry Gibb, Petula Clark and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, were among 4,500 artists who put their names to a newspaper advertisement, calling on the government to extend the copyright in sound recordings to 95 years. se also Dead musicians sign petition in FT (Lawrence Lessig). For almost 10 years now, I've been waging a war against retrospective term extension. My simple argument has been that copyright is about creative incentives, and you can't create incentives retrospectively. I now see I am apparently wrong. An ad in the FT listed 4,000 musicians who supported retrospective term extension. At least some of these artists are apparently dead (e.g. Lonnie Donegan, died 4th November 2002; Freddie Garrity, died 20th May 2006). I take it the ability of these dead authors to sign a petition asking for their copyright terms to be extended can only mean that even after death, term extension continues to inspire.
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