Tag: copyright

Copyright Law’s Abuse

Yesterday, we had a very interesting discussion of copyright at our event on Tom W. Bell’s book, Intellectual Privilege. (Video will be available soon.) Today, I received an email that reflects how the copyright statute can be misused.

In a 2009 blog post about an $18,000,000 U.S. government web site, I pointed to the web site, Recovery.org, which was then hosting the same information as the government site, and doing it for free. Since then, the Recovery.org domain has evidently been transferred to an organization specializing in recovery from addiction (to alcohol and drugs, not government spending).

The email I received today purports to be from an attorney named “Rick Smith” of the “Law Offices of Rick Smith & Associates”—no web site or phone number, and only a Gmail account. It asks me to remove the link to http://www.recovery.org/, claiming to have “received numerous complaints” from readers of the 2009 blog post.

It goes on: “If you fail to respond by May 13 we will be forced to serve you with a formal DMCA take down notice. A copy can also be sent to the hosting provider and major search engines that can exclude this and other pages from organic search rankings.”

The notice-and-take-down provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act allows aggrieved copyright holders to attack the wrongful Internet posting of material over which the law gives them control. It is not there to help people seeking correction of web site inaccuracies, much less for them to threaten suppression of access to material in which they do not hold the copyright.

I know this, of course, but many people don’t. Emails like this can fool people into thinking that they have to make demanded changes.

I’m going to make the change because there’s no sense in preserving a bad link. I’m also going to contact the folks at Recovery.org to see if they’re aware that someone purporting to be their attorney is misusing copyright in their name.

Copyright on the (Cato) Docket May 7th

This week, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced four upcoming hearings on issues raised in the Department of Commerce Internet Policy Task Force’s July 2013 paper, “Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economy.” The hearings will be held in or near Nashville, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco in May, June, and July.

Cato will host its own hearing early next month on Tom W. Bell’s new book Intellectual Privilege. That event will occur May 7th at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C.

In the book, Bell treats copyright as a statutory privilege that threatens not just constitutional rights, but natural rights, too. He argues for a new libertarian view of copyright that reconciles the desire to create incentives for creators with our inalienable liberties. Bell’s vision is of a world less encumbered by legal restrictions and yet richer in art, music, and other expressive works.

Register now for what is sure to be a lively discussion of this perennially interesting issue on May 7th!

It’s All About the Authors

In anticipation of a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday afternoon, Sandra Aistars, executive director of the Copyright Alliance, writes in the Hill about the principles that should guide copyright reform, calling for debate “based in reality rather than rhetoric.”

Chief among these principles is that protecting authors is in the public interest. Ensuring that all creators retain the freedom of choice in determining how their creative work is used, disseminated and monetized is vital to protecting freedom of expression.

Arguing for authors in terms of freedom of choice and expression is good rhetoric, but it’s quite unlike what I expect you’ll hear during our noon Wednesday forum on copyright and the book Laws of Creation: Property Rights in the World of Ideas.

Authors Ron Cass and Keith Hylton methodically go through each intellectual property doctrine and explore its economic function, giving few words to authors’ “choice” or their “freedom of expression.” They certainly don’t denigrate authors or their role, but Cass and Hylton don’t vaunt them the way Aistars does either.

Recent events in the copyright area are providing much grist for the discussion. You can still register for the book forum, treating it as a warm-up for Wednesday afternoon’s hearing, if your freedom of choice and expression so dictate.

A Copyright Comeback?

Register here now for next Wednesday’s book forum.

There is certainly excellent Cato work on copyright and intellectual property that predates mine, but the starting point for my work in the area was the 2006 “Copyright Controversies” conference. Along with considering whether copyright is founded in natural law or utilitarian considerations, we examined the challenges to copyright posed by emerging modes of creation and by enforcement issues.

Since then, I’ve made it my practice to periodically return to copyright, intellectual property law, and other information regulations when I’ve come across a new book that brings new ideas to the table.

At our most recent book event, on the Mercatus book Copyright Unbalanced: From Incentive to Excess, the case for copyright reform made by Cato alumni Jerry Brito and Tom W. Bell was met with a strong, first-principles defense of copyright by Mitch Glazier.

Now comes Laws of Creation: Property Rights in the World of Ideas, in which Ronald A. Cass and Keith Hylton reject the idea that changing technology undermines the case for intellectual property rights. They argue that making the work of inventors and creators free would be a costly mistake.

Between Glazier’s performance and this new book, perhaps the intellectual tide is turning back to support for copyright and intellectual property law. But two data points are probably not enough to identify a trend.

On March 20th, we’ll have Cass and Hylton at Cato to present their work, with Jerry Brito providing commentary. It’s up to you do decide for yourself whether copyright is making a comeback. The question is especially acute with the recent ruling that unlocking one’s cell phone in order to use it on another network is illegal.

Register now!

Laws of Creation: Property Rights in the World of Ideas

“What can be said about copyright that doesn’t anger somebody somewhere?”

“Not very much,” I said in answer to my own rhetorical question at the beginning of a December book forum on Copyright Unbalanced: From Incentive to Excess (Mercatus Center, 2012).

Copyright and other intellectual property laws are controversial: Some libertarians regard inventions of the mind as the rightful property of their creators. The Framers, they point out, empowered Congress to secure these rights to authors and inventors. Others lament these laws as information regulations that conflict with natural rights.

The latest turn in the copyright controversy is the Librarian of Congress’s decision no longer to exempt the unlocking of (newly purchased) mobile phones from the proscriptions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. In other words, consumers can no longer use their phones on a different network without the original carrier’s permission, even after their contracts have expired.

Derek Khanna, the former Republican Study Committee staffer fired after penning a memorandum strongly critical of current copyright law, called it in The Atlantic the “Most Ridiculous Law of 2013 (So Far),” and a petition asking the president to reverse the Librarian’s ruling has more than 87,000 of the 100,000 it requires to get the White House’s response.

We won’t necessarily get into that particular issue on March 20th when we hear from Ronald Cass and Keith N. Hylton, authors of the book Laws of Creation: Property Rights in the World of Ideas. But Cass and Hilton argue against the notion that changing technology undermines the case for intellectual property rights. Indeed, they argue that technological advances only strengthen the case for intellectual property rights. 

In the view of Cass and Hylton, the easier it becomes to copy innovations, the harder to detect copies and to stop copying, the greater the disincentive to invest time and money in inventions and creative works. Intellectual property laws are needed as much as ever.

Register now for this March 20 noon-time event. It’s the latest in a long series of Cato events examining copyright and intellectual property, subjects on which libertarians often find themselves divided.

What I’m Telling Thursday’s Panelists

This morning, I’m gearing up for Thursday’s noon-time Cato book forum on the Mercatus/Jerry Brito book, Copyright Unbalanced: From Incentive to Excess.

With the recent release and withdrawal of a Republican Study Committee memo on copyright policy, there is even greater tension around the issues than usual. So here’s a line from the planning email I sent to panelists Jerry Brito, Tom W. Bell, and Mitch Glazier.

Given how hot the issues we’ll discuss tend to be, I’ll emphasize that we’re all friends through the transitive property of friendship. I’ll be policing against ad hominem and stuff like that coming from any side. In other words, don’t bother saying or implying why a co-panelist thinks what he does because you don’t know, and because I’ll make fun of you for it.

It might be worth coming just to see how well I do with my moderation duties. Whatever the case, I think our panelists will provide a vibrant discussion on the question of where libertarians and conservatives should be on copyright. Register here now.

Where Should Libertarians and Conservatives Be on Copyright? (Event 12/6)

Last week, an influential House Republican group made a feint toward supporting revamp of copyright law. On Friday, the Republican Study Committee issued a paper harshly criticizing copyright law as it stands today and calling for a variety of reforms. Then it quickly retracted the paper. On Saturday, the paper came down from the RSC site, and RSC Executive Director Paul Teller issued a statement saying that the paper had been issued “without adequate review.”

Today, it’s hard to find a source on the tech policy beat that isn’t writing about it: Politico, Hillicon Valley, C|Net, TechDirt, Ars Technica, and TechCrunch, for example. The American Conservative was on the story early, coming out with a highly laudatory comments on the RSC policy brief.

That was the beginning of the conversation. It continues on Thursday, December 6th when we’ll be hosting a book forum on the topic of copyright here at Cato.

The Mercatus Center’s Jerry Brito has edited a volume the thesis of which is evident in the title: Copyright Unbalanced: From Incentive to Excess. In addition to Brito, contributor (and Cato alum) Tom W. Bell will speak. And we’ll have able response and counterpoint given by Mitch Glazier, Senior Executive Vice President at the Recording Industry Association of America.

Jerry Brito has written more about the book in a Tech Liberation Front blog post this morning. Our book forum is on December 6th here at Cato. Register now.