Category Archives: Law: Copyright and DMCA

Legal Proceedings So Weird We Need Hunter Thompson to Cover Them

The first story, about proceedings in District Court in Tampa, FL was pretty weird and blackly funny, as lawyers scrambled to disassociate themselves with the proceedings in Porn trolling case thrown out for “attempted fraud on the court”.

Now Ars Technica ups the ante with the Minnesota sequel, Man charges porn trolling firm Prenda Law with identity theft: Says firm listed him as the CEO of a shell corporation without permission.

Hunter Thompson could really have done something with this material.

Posted in Law: Copyright and DMCA, Law: Ethics | Comments Off on Legal Proceedings So Weird We Need Hunter Thompson to Cover Them

Stuff that Doesn’t Exist (and Stuff that Does)

First we learn that 49% of the Republicans polled think ACORN stole the election for Obama and we also learn this great fact:

…most Americans don’t have an opinion about [Bowles/Simpson]. 23% support it, 16% oppose it, and 60% say they don’t have a take one way or the other.

The 39% of Americans with an opinion about Bowles/Simpson is only slightly higher than the 25% with one about Panetta/Burns, a mythical Clinton Chief of Staff/former western Republican Senator combo…

So both the long-defunct ACORN and the (as yet)non-existent Panetta/Burns plan weigh heavily on the low-information-voter mind.

Meanwhile, in the department of good cheer, BoingBoing points me to a band called Do Not Foresake Me Oh My Darling that has made a shot-for-shot remake of the classic intro to the The Prisoner.

I’m not in love with the music (the Leonard Cohen cover on their page is not a crime, but I never want to hear it again), but I love the concept of “Episode 1 – Arrival”.

I’d also like to hear a copyright scholar tell me if this is a legitimate derivative work, or a potential copyright violation. It’s clearly too much a labor of love to be a parody.

Posted in 2012 Election, Kultcha, Law: Copyright and DMCA | 4 Comments

I’d Rather Own the Book

Every now and then I start to think it could be fun and even useful to buy a Kindle. Then I read stuff like Amazon remotely wipes woman’s Kindle, and come to my senses.

Posted in Law: Copyright and DMCA, Sufficiently Advanced Technology | 1 Comment

What He Said (Copyright Dept.)

Randy Picker has it exactly right in Politics, Copyright and the First-Amendment Commons.

When I saw NBC’s mendacious moaning about the Romney campaign’s use of archival NBC footage from 1997 of Tom Brokaw reporting on Newt Gingrich’s ethics problems, I immediately thought it to be about as fair use as fair use can be. But Picker also sees a bigger picture:

[T]he trump card that NBC and Brokaw sought to play would seem to mean that professional video representations of historical facts would simply be taken off of the table for political campaigns. It is hard to see how NBC and similar organizations could ever consent to use, given that consent itself would seem to be inconsistent with the neutral role of news organizations. Far better to have the fair use regime, where there is no consent and no sense of endorsement by a news organiation of one campaign over another.

Then we get to the bigger picture on this. I have this sense, with more frequency than I would like, that major media organizations think of the First Amendment as something that runs in their favor but never against them. A First Amendment for me but not for thee. It would have been nice if NBC and Mr. Brokaw had seen this as an opportunity to invest in the First Amendment ecosystem. That would have meant acknowledging the legitimacy of the use of the video clip by the Romney campaign and the need for such use in a vibrant democracy. Instead, NBC saw its interest in the narrowest terms possible and threw away a great opportunity to demonstrate how the First Amendment should work in a robust democracy.

(PS. For those with a poor memory of ancient history as regarding second-rate political figures, Newt Gingrich was briefly considered a serious challenger to Rick Santorum in the 2012 GOP Presidential contest.)

Posted in Law: Copyright and DMCA | Comments Off on What He Said (Copyright Dept.)

Open Access Research – The Money Quote

The NIH public-access policy has substantially increased public access to research results with benefits as described below that far outweigh the costs. Similar benefits can be expected from extending such a public access policy to other major federal funders.

from Committee for Economic Development, The Future of Taxpayer-Funded Research: Who Will Control Access to the Results? issued last week.

Posted in Econ & Money, Internet, Law: Copyright and DMCA, Readings | 1 Comment

The Name-Your-Own-Price Pricing Model Applied to Casebooks, A Field Report

What if you let law students choose what they would pay for their (digital) casebook? Would you make any money?

That’s the gamble behind the Semaphore Press, the publishers of James Grimmelmann‘s, Internet Law: Cases and Problems, which is the book I am using in my Internet Law class this semester.

Semaphore Press’s name-your-own-price publishing model was publicized by Radiohead (although not invented by them). It is very different from the traditional law school casebook publishers who now charge well upwards of $100 per book. The Press suggests students pay $30 for this casebook, but allows them to pay as little as a penny:

What do you have to pay?
Each publication has a suggested price. We price full casebooks based on our belief that it is fair to ask a student pay about $1 for the reading material for each one-hour class session. Different schools use different calendars and credit hours, so we’ve settled on a suggested price for most of our casebooks of $30. We ask that you pay the suggested price either with a credit card (by clicking the appropriate link on our page), or by sending us a check, and then download a digital copy of the casebook. Note that if your professor has assigned, e.g., only 10 class sessions of material from a Semaphore Press book, then we suggest that you pay $10.

We have expenses that we need to cover. Our authors hope, and deserve, to receive some royalty revenue from the works that they’ve created. But we also recognize that law school is expensive. We’ve heard stories of students not buying the required books because they just can’t afford them. These students – who want to learn just as much as those who can afford the books – borrow a classmate’s book some days, read the copy that is on reserve in the library other days, and some days simply can’t do the reading. We think that is not the best way to go about obtaining, or offering, an excellent legal education. Download the required reading and pay what you can, or what you think is fair.

The risk of freeriders
We know that the biggest risk to our business model is freeriders. If too many students pay little or nothing for the materials they download, Semaphore Press won’t be able to pay its bills over the long run, and we won’t be able to attract authors to publish their casebooks with us. Put simply, we need a critical mass of students to pay for the materials they download. Be a part of the solution to $130 casebooks, by fostering the creation of $30 casebooks: Please pay the suggested price. If you can’t pay it, please at least pay something to help Semaphore Press succeed.

In my introductory note to my students, I repeated to the language Semaphore requests faculty use:

This book has a suggested price of $30. I urge you to pay the suggested retail price in order to keep high-quality legal educational material available at reasonable prices. You might want to read the Semaphore Press FAQ before you buy the book.

I was curious: What did law students, a notoriously hard-bitten bunch, actually pay? So I asked them. Every student in my class was asked to write on a piece of paper, without their names, how much they paid, their age, gender, and what year of law school they were in. The tallied results are interesting.

Average price paid in entire class: $21.19 N=26

Average male payment: $20.63 N=16
Average female payment: $22.10 N=10
Average 2L payment: $23.40
Average 3L payment: $17.00
1 LLM @ $30

Paid zero: 5 (3M 3L, 1F 3L, 1M 2L)
Paid $.01: 1 (1M 3L)
Paid $.02-$29.99: 3 (3F: $5, $15, $20)
Paid $30.00 :1 7 (11M 6F)
Paid over $30: none

Age range was 23-29, no particular correlations seemed visible.

We might also conclude from this small sample that the Semaphore Press model may have a future. This is consistent with the Radiohead experience, by the way: as Ed Felton noted in 2007, Radiohead’s Low Price Might Mean Higher Profit. Casebooks are perhaps even less highly substitutable than songs, and the demand is likely less elastic, so the parallel is far from exact. Even so, I think it’s an interesting result.

(We might also conclude from this small sample that male 3Ls are cheap.)

Meanwhile, however, even though name-your-own-price seems to have worked out well for Radiohead, for their latest album Radiohead have gone back to fixed prices.

Posted in Law: Copyright and DMCA, Law: Internet Law | Comments Off on The Name-Your-Own-Price Pricing Model Applied to Casebooks, A Field Report