Nina Paley’s Kickstarter: Mimi & Eunice Mini-books

Judging from Nina’s pitch video, she has run afoul of one of the limitations I’ve been hearing about Lulu’s otherwise wonderful print-on-demand service–an inability to set pricing below a set floor. Kickstarter fits the bill nicely for her to experiment with an alternate, almost throwback, approach of capitalizing something more like a traditional print run. Her goal is modest and pitching in at the higher levels can net you some nice rewards. I love my signed copy of “Mis-information Wants to Be Free” and am eager to add a signed mini-book to my special collection shelf.

Nina very neatly works into her pitch an educational aspect to the project. She has worked with Question Copyright in the past to develop some catchy, sticky memetic media that cram key ideas about free cultural sharing and against over-aggressive copyright into your ear like a didactic ear worm. The notion of pulling a mini-book out of your pocket at appropriate venues to that same end is appealing–at least to me. I’d actually love to be able to have a handful of these at events where I speak specifically about copyright. Judging by the eventual retail price she’s trying to reach, that’s the very idea, cheap enough to give away.

My First Kickstarter Project! Mimi & Eunice

Copyright Protest and Parody Song, “Death of ACTA”, Taken Down

Mike Masnick at Techdirt has the gory details of Dan Bull’s “Death of ACTA” song being taken down from the file locker service, Mediafire, one of the many ways Dan distributes his works on his own. Masnick undertook the difficult job of trying to parse a take down letter that was not exclusive to Bull’s work on Mediafire.

Dan was kind enough to forward on the takedown message… and it’s a total mess. There’s simply no useful info in it other than that a French company called TF1 wants the file (and a bunch of others) off of Mediafire as quickly as possible. Now, it’s not clear what the issue is here, but it’s not difficult to take a guess. “Death of ACTA” is obviously a play on Jay-Z’s “Death of Autotune” Jay-Z’s song features prominently a sample of the song “In the Space” by French film composers Janko Nilovic and Dave Sarkys. It’s quite likely that Jay-Z licensed the sample. Not surprisingly, Dan Bull did not, but that’s the nature of creating a parody song.

Masnick also reminds us that the EU (Dan himself is in the UK) doesn’t have fair use laws as such making a parody defense difficult. I interviewed Dan recently and he knows full well his works often exist in a troublesome legal gray area. He also doesn’t rely on only a single means to offer his songs and videos to fans. More likely this take down will serve as an opportunity to highlight the idiocy that the song itself speaks to in copyright law rather than interfering with Dan’s ability to produce his art and connect with his fans.

I would love to see Dan, or perhaps one of his creative fans, create a meta-rap about the takedown of the rap complaining about the overreach of intellectual monopoly like poorly justified takedowns.

‘Death Of ACTA’ Song Taken Down In Copyright Claim, Techdirt

Act Now Against Latest Rushed, Secret Trade Agreement

EFF is calling for folks concerned over the constant ratcheting of copyright maximalism to speak out against The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.

[The] trade agreement currently being negotiated by the United States and eight other countries: New Zealand, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. Like previous U.S. free trade agreements, the TPP includes a chapter on Intellectual Property. Based on previous U.S. free trade agreements like the U.S.-Korea FTA, it is likely to export controversial parts of U.S. Copyright law like the DMCA’s ban on circumventing digital locks without any of the exceptions and limitations that have enabled technological innovation, user generated content and education, to flourish in the U.S.

It may be tempting to see this as less of a concern than ACTA, to which EFF compares it. The negotiating parties are quite a bit different even if TPP is being discussed under the same veil of secrecy and on just as rushed, if not more so, a timetable.

The risk with intellectual monopoly enforcement being crafted absent the public interest in any trade agreement is that once some new rules or powers gain a toehold anywhere, they inevitably make their way into future such negotiations. EFF has a laundry list of the enforcement measures tabled by the US, often the main instigator for increasingly broad, over reaching enforcement.

Read through the list and see if the prospect of these measures becoming the international standard bothers you as much as it does me. If so and any of your elected representative are on the two relevant Congressional committees, please use the provided form to act.

Don’t Let TPP Become the New ACTA: Contact Your Lawmakers and Demand Transparency! EFF

Join Letter Against Irish Copyright Censorship Amendment

The P2P Foundation has a letter drafted by Saor Cultur Eire (Free Culture Ireland) in protest of the latest draconian legislation being snuck into law in Ireland. The letter includes links for more information, among them the BoingBoing story that brought it this development to my attention. If you live in Ireland, read the letter and consider signing on. If preserving cultural creation is the desired outcome, online censorship and disconnection regimes are provably not the right means to effect it.

In response to rushed amendments to Irish Copyright law, P2P Foundation

Next Installment of New Remix Documentary Series Released

In part two of his planned four part series, Everything is a Remix, Kirby Ferguson turns his attention to Hollywood’s deeply ingrained urge to make and remake the same material over and over.

Everything is a Remix Part 2 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

Bear in mind, his point here isn’t to take Hollywood to task for being unoriginal. He is sustaining the point that all forms of creativity draw on acts of cultural creation that came before. If you enjoyed part one, you’ll enjoy this installment. Also consider donating to help support Kirby as he finishes the series.

Everything is a Remix Part 2, Everything is a Remix

Obama Appoints Former RIAA Lawyer as Solicitor General

Given how loaded Obama’s DoJ is with former industry attorneys, this nomination, announced on Monday, is hardly surprising. Donald Verrilli Jr. participated in several efforts to fight infringement, including both the lawsuits the trade association pressed against individuals and most recently the Viacom suit against YouTube.

Verrilli’s background in work for big content doesn’t necessarily mean his view of copyright policy will lean towards favoring maximalists. That ship has already sailed, seeing IP enforcement a clear priority in a variety of policy making efforts with this administration.

It is unclear to me how the role of Solicitor General will impact IP policy one way or the other, at least based on David Kravetz explanation in this short Wired piece.

The solicitor general is charged with defending the government before the Supreme Court, and files friend-of-the court briefs in cases in which the government believes there is a significant legal issue. The office also determines which cases it will bring to the Supreme Court for review.

The most chilling fact about Verilli from the article is that he was responsible for some of the most controversial legal theory advanced during the suits against individual file sharers.

And in 2008, Verrilli told a federal judge in Minnesota that merely making copyright works available on file sharing networks amounted to copyright infringement — and that no proof of somebody else downloading those files was required.

Verrilli still has to be confirmed by the Senate and Kravetz doesn’t mention any timeline for a hearing.

Obama Nominates RIAA Lawyer for Solicitor General, Wired

Music Publishers Planning a New Rights Database

The BBC has the details of a plan by publishers to assemble and make available a database of songs and which song writers or publishers own the rights to them.

It is being built by global consultancy Deloitte, which will work with publishers such as EMI Music Publishing and online music stores such as iTunes and Amazon.

It will make it easier for new music services to get started by ensuring that artists’ work can be easily licensed for the internet, mobiles and streaming services such as Spotify, said Neil Gaffney, executive vice president at EMI Music Publishing UK, which is backing the scheme.

The database will be a global one which no doubt has much to do with the two year timeline for delivery. Despite increasing harmonization between copyright laws in different countries, there are still a lot of vagaries of which to keep track.

Of course, one could argue that if copyright laws streamlined rather than eliminated copyright registration back in the 70s for most countries, there would be no need for this effort. The article doesn’t mention whether the publishers or Deloitte will charge innovators trying to spin up new online offerings on top of the royalty payments the database is primarily designed to facilitate. It is hard for me not to see this as yet another form of rent seeking mixed in with any modicum of cluefulness this might also represent.

As has so often been explained on the various copyright panels and interviews I’ve conducted over the years, there are many rights to deal with in clearing music for commercial use. The composition rights are just the start and the only ones this story addresses, though the BBC article does mention in passing that another, separate database is at least being considered for performance rights.

Music publishers plan rights database, BBC

Studio Donates Master Recordings to the Library of Congress

I really want to be happy about this announcement, as shared by Nate Anderson at Ars Technica. The donation is certainly exceedingly generous, including some two hundred thousand recordings from the twenties to the forties. In many cases, the Library will be receiving the master copies on original media including metal and lacquer discs and mono tape. Not all of the recordings are music but Anderson highlights some real gems that are, many that are uncut include between session chatter.

The recordings come from Universal’s in-house collection and feature the best existing master copies of Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas” in 1947 and Les Paul doing the “Guitar Boogie.” [T]hey feature plenty of material that was never released from such artists as Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Louis Armstrong.

While this is of immense historic value, the commercial value for most of it is more limited. An important Library of Congress study found that only 14 percent of pre-1965 recordings are available commercially; even in the age of iTunes, huge quantities of recorded music still can’t be purchased.

And this donation doesn’t change the public accessibility to these recordings all that much. Anderson mentions streaming but I cannot find the original LoC announcement to see if there are more details. None of the other trustworthy mentions of this donation state otherwise. The NPR post about it suggest that Universal already digitized anything it felt was of commercial value and is making the gesture perhaps to avoid the cost of further digitizing works it feels aren’t worth selling.

It is grand that such high quality copies will be digitized by our nation’s library and archived for posterity. It is not so much that we’ll have to wait a generation or more, under the current copyright law, to be able to do anything with these recordings that the label doesn’t explicitly permit, and likely only at a dear cost.

Library of Congress gets first big gift of major label music, Ars Technica

US Law Enforcers Seize Dozens of Domains

Slashdot has linked to a variety of articles, including ones at OSNews and TorrentFreak, with details of a flurry of seizure warrants issued from Homeland Security. enigmax at TorrentFreak has done some work to contact the relevant entities within the DHS for confirmation and has acquired the fuller list of domains seized.

I see this as confirmation that COICA, the bill that would eliminate the need for the Department of Justice to secure seizure warrants, is not strictly necessary if the desired outcome is to remove sites that are clearly infringing. However, the existing process is obviously flawed, in a way that will no doubt ease passage of COICA. The operator of Torrent-Finder, the initial site that tipped off the larger swath of takedowns, didn’t receive any kind of notice of the seizure. The warrant was served well upstream of the site, fulfilling any requirements of notice but for parties other than the one ultimately affected.

I fear that this action will be used as a rhetorical tool to defend COICA. I can easily envision the same sort of double talk that we heard around the secrecy surrounding ACTA. You know the patter I mean, the bit that sounds like a Marx routine; the push me, pull you over secrecy, negotiators backing out, and the claim that agreement wouldn’t change local law. If we complain about lack of notice, proponents will undoubtedly point out the improved procedures spelled out by COICA. If we highlight the flaws, defenders will side step and emphasize how costly and inefficient the current system is, using the same example.

DHS Seizes 75+ Domain Names, Slashdot

Piracy Bill Clears Committee

Yesterday, while I was otherwise out of pocket, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted in favor of COICA. This is the bill that will grant the DoJ the power to take force alleged pirate sites out of the DNS system, effectively making them inaccessible. Past versions of the bill included a secret black list, a hallmark of typical online censorship regimes. I linked to EFF’s very well stated arguments against the bill the day before yesterday.

Govtrack.us doesn’t yet have this latest draft, still linking to the September 20th draft, the first of three so far. I received a link on one of my private mailing lists to the current draft posted on the Judiciary committee’s site. The wording around publication of the black list is unchanged, in section 2(f). The IP Enforcement Coordinator may publish block domains but is not required. This is an incredibly weakening compared to the original draft that required the list to be published. This is a glaring alteration as there are many remaining, unchanged bits requiring the IPEC and the AG to publish information on procedures.

The other big change in this draft, confirmed on reading it for myself, is a language about advertisers and payment processors not doing business with blocked sites, in section 2(d)(5)(B). This block is labeled voluntary actions and is a bit inscrutable. If I understand it right, these service providers are not required to stop working with targeted sites but cannot be held liable if they do so.

There is no date yet on when a vote will be conducted on the floor of the Senate, though that is the next step. The bill still has a long way to go and hopefully public pressure will weaken it if not outright kill it.

Even if this law is narrowed considerably, it is still a huge problem. The ridiculously upper limit on statutory damages that has been repeatedly exercised hasn’t affected copyright infringement. Countries implementing Internet disconnection have merely see a shift of where file trading takes place. Even if blacklisting domain names wasn’t uncomfortably close to the common approach to online censorship and rife with potential for abuse, it is merely the next desperate cranking of the copyright maximalist’s ratchet. If COICA passes, regardless of form, it won’t change anything. When it fails, what will Big Content ask for next? That’s the real problem if this becomes law, that question of what is next.