Copyright in Cyberspace

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February 28

The Internet has enabled individuals to become involved in the production of media and to distribute their contributions widely at a very low cost. The former bastion of the entertainment industry is opening up to what many are calling a democratization of culture. The copyright doctrine of fair use seemingly bolsters the right to "recut, reframe, and recycle" previous works, but the protection fair use gives to those re-purposing copyrighted material is notoriously uncertain.

Digital and file-sharing technologies also spawned the proliferation of sharing of media and music, which has led to a number of controversial legal and technological strategies. The "notice-and-takedown" provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act ("DMCA") allow Internet service providers to limit their liability for the copyright infringements of their users if the ISPs expeditiously remove material in response to complaints from copyright owners. The DMCA provides for counter-notice and "put-back" of removed material, but some argue that the statutory mechanism can chill innovative, constitutionally-protected speech.

This class provides an overview of some major copyright law concepts and takes up some of the issues swirling around copyright in cyberspace.

Required Readings

Optional Readings

Class Discussion

Just wanted to share an interesting post from The Wall Street Journal Law Blog on trademark infringement and online shaming: Shame on You, Trademark Holders
Aditkowsky 14:21, 23 February 2012 (UTC)

A relevant article for this week is one about domain name seizures. Also, filed a FOIA request on behalf of Aaron Swartz (founder of Demand Progress, or maybe better known for his break in to JSTOR @ MIT and subsequent arrest a couple years ago) with the DHS requesting records related to domain name seizures of many websites. I am kind of blown away by this practice and fairly certain it would have happened more frequently if SOPA had been passed.

Now, turning my attention to this week's readings. Is it just me, or does Cary Sherman and his misinformation/twisted view of reality remind anyone else of Fox news? Anyways, the Intro to Lessig's "Remix" touched on a few (well, a lot) things that I found very interesting. I liked his exploration of creativity and the description of music as more interactive. Music is very much about its audience, and how that audience interprets and interacts with said music. To me, this helps to show how the current copyright statute is archaic in a sense. The bit about Breitz's issues with the Lennon installment shed light on the true (and many times ugly) face of copyright holders and the entertainment industry. Unfortunately, it does seem to be the case that the "collateral damage" in these instances is creativity, as Lessig wrote. Breitzs' installments (which I saw in Berlin) were wonderful, and I'm surprised Ono didn't respond like Marley's widow, Rita. At least Breitz persevered and touched the lives of the fans and exhibit viewers.

I very much enjoyed the article that responded to Sherman's op ed piece. The government and the entertainment industry have not been able to keep up with the net. The net is too transformative for bureaucracy and old fashioned "cronyism." Even the VCR was labeled "pirate technology" (from "Remix") at one point. I think it will take awhile for the laws, policies, and the entertainment industry to catch up with the generativity of the net. Heck, it took America awhile to come to terms with Elvis' ( pelvic thrust]. Aberg 23:52, 27 February 2012 (UTC)

February 28: Copyright in Cyberspace Just Johnny 17:10, 15 February 2012 (UTC)

I've been waiting for the right time to share this link, I think this is it. Whenever TPB (The pirate bay) gets send a cease and desist letter they post it and their (often funny) response here [1]. (Some replies contain NSFW language).
Gregor 14:21, 27 Febuary 2012 (UTC)

I have been particularly sensitive of copyright laws since I am interested in music recording and video. Lawrence Lessig’s article Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy does bring up an important point; do companies really stand to lose profits by targeting artists who may use short clips of their copyrighted material or are these cases mostly based on ideology and principle with little concern for lost profits? In the case of Stephanie Lenz and the Youtube video of her child dancing to Prince, clearly Lessig is correct in pointing out that the inclusion of Prince music in the video would not cut into the album sales. The clip was short and the sound quality was poor. In fact, popularizing the clip through the video could only broaden interest in Prince’s music and may lead to additional sales.

In the case of Gregg Gillis who remixed existing clips, I think his response to the copyright infringement law suit was apt; “This wasn’t something like a bootlegging case.” While Gillis’s music involves hundreds of different clips and I can only assume that no one single clip defines an entire song, certain copyright infringement cases are trickier. For example, rapper Vanilla Ice’s hit song Ice Ice Baby clearly took the entire bass line of the Queen song “Under Pressure” and used the clip repeatedly throughout the song. While Vanilla Ice never credited Queen, he would ultimately be forced to pay royalties. Therefore it may be a little more nuanced between Gillis’s case where the sum of the clips is more important than any one clip and Vanilla Ice’s situation where a single clip makes up the entire song. --Jimmyh 17:52, 27 February 2012 (UTC)

I found this week’s articles very interesting. Copyright has always been an interesting subject to me and I have found myself once doing extensive research on it and involving my lawyers as well for a specific case which I thought to be copyright infringement. Right out of college I found a temporary job working in a museum in Rome, Italy. In the meantime a photographic contest ended with a winning picture of an area of the Museum which had me at the center of it walking away from the photographer with no idea that I was in it. At first when I found out I thought it was simply funny but then the Museum started using that picture for numerous publications and advertising it in subway stations and around the city. Everyone knew it was me and all my friends recognized me; the Museum director even complimented me but when I talked to my lawyers to find out whether or not it was an infringement of copyright laws, I was told that it was indeed but unfortunately since my head was turned it wasn’t that easy to determine whether or not the subject in the picture was actually me. I also enjoyed Lessig’s article especially the sections concerning John Lennon since I am also a big fan and the first story about the 18 month old child dancing to Prince. In the article it said that the child was recorded for about 29 seconds and I must say that regardless of the other possible issues concerning the case, I have listened hundreds of times to songs for free on websites like which reproduce quotes or samples for 30 seconds and allow you to listen to all of their repertoire for that time as many times as one wants. For what concerns Helft’s article on Google’s victory, I don’t know if I really agree with it and the Safe Harbor clause in general. It was always said that “ignorance of the law is no excuse” so why would someone be protected for not controlling what is infringing the law and what isn’t on their own website? I still have trouble understanding this decision. About the Cooks Source article instead, I think that if someone published their story online, then they would at least have to be notified if someone would like to use it for their own purpose. In the articles talking about SOPA and PIPA and the misleading and biased information found on Wikipedia I thought a lot about our first assignment and how Wikipedia does have rules but as we can see once again, many users do not respect them and then cause public disputes. Once again, I think that Wikipedia should find a way to better enforce their rules and take care of any articles which infringe their policies somehow. Emanuele 18:13, 27 February 2012 (UTC)