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Library Copyright Alliance Files Amicus Brief in GSU E-Reserves Case

On Monday, February 13, 2017, ARL together with the American Libraries Association, Association of College and Research Libraries and the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed an amicus brief in support of Georgia State University (GSU) in the e-reserves fair use case. After years of litigation and two opinions by the district court and one by the Eleventh Circuit, the case is once again before the Eleventh Circuit.

The brief opens by noting that that the continued appeals in the case are unnecessary:

Appellant Publishers (“Publishers”) and their amici don’t know when to quit. Publishers could have declared victory in 2009, when GSU modified its e-reserves policy in response to the initiation of this lawsuit. Publishers could have declared victory in 2014 after this Court reversed the district court’s 2012 decision and provided detailed guidance on how fair use principles should be applied to e-reserves. Publishers could have concluded this litigation after the district court refused to re-open the record on remand. Instead, Publishers doggedly pursue their claims concerning excerpts used in three school terms, eight years ago.

The brief then urges the Eleventh Circuit to affirm the lower court’s decision. In doing so, the brief notes that GSU’s copyright policy is consistent with the ARL Code of Best Practices for Academic and Research Libraries. The brief also suggests that the district court’s analysis of the second fair use factor (nature of the work) was flawed and the context of the works actually favors fair use. Finally, the brief notes the importance of the public interest in considering the fourth fair use factor (market harm).

On the second factor, the brief states that analysis of the second factor should be focused on “ascertain[ing] whether copyright was needed to incentivize creation and, by extension, whether or not a fair use finding helps serve the purposes of copyright.”  The brief points out that the scholarly community is a “gift culture” and while

We do not suggest that scholarly works should receive no copyright protection.  But we do agree with Judge Posner that copyright-based incentives are less necessary in the context of many academic works to serve copyright’s own fundamental goal: to further the progress of science.  Because scholarly works require “thinner” copyright protection to ensure their production, the second factor strongly favors a fair use finding with respect to all of the works at issue here.

With respect to the fourth factor, the brief points the constraints of library budgets and the growth of open access publishing.  It states that,

Placed in this context, it is clear that the public benefit of e-reserve practices such as GSU’s far outweighs any potential cost to publishers.  Although some academic publishers may have difficulty adjusting to the digital environment, predictions of the devastating impact the decision below would have on the evolving scholarly communications ecosystem are complete fiction.

Finding Fair Use in Unexpected Places

We’re taking part in Copyright Week, a series of actions and discussions supporting key principles that should guide copyright policy. Every day this week, various groups are taking on different elements of the law, and addressing what’s at stake, and what we need to do to make sure that copyright promotes creativity and innovation.

Today’s theme is: 21st Century Creators: Copyright law should account for the interests of all creators, not just those backed by traditional copyright industries. YouTube creators, remixers, fan artists and independent musicians (among others) are all part of the community of creators that encourage cultural progress and innovation.

*This is a guest blog post by Jonathan Band, policybandwidth*

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In December 2016, strong endorsements of fair use appeared in somewhat unexpected places.

First, the Joint Strategic Plan (“JSP”) released by the Office of the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator on December 12, 2016, stated that nothing in the JSP

should be interpreted as limiting the scope of exceptions and limitations, such as fair use, under U.S. copyright law. To the contrary, the basic principles that have permitted the Internet to thrive must be safeguarded, and the Strategic Plan expressly recognizes and celebrates advancements in technology. The way people use and access content – which has led to new and innovative uses of media (e.g., remixes and mashups involving music, video and the visual arts), and fair use, for example – will undoubtedly continue to evolve. We must work to foster creativity, understanding the role of exceptions and limitations as not only part of our body of laws, but as an important part of our culture. Indeed, it is the combination of strong copyright rights with a balance between the protection of rights and exceptions and limitations that encourages creativity, promotes innovation, and ensures our freedom of speech and creative expression are respected.

The JSP concludes this discussion by observing that “IP enforcement options must be crafted to allow for effective measures against actors that unlawfully prey on the works of rights holders, while ensuring that enforcement activities do not affect lawful activity.”

Second, the Copyright Office, in its December 15, 2016 report on software enabled consumer products, noted that “courts repeatedly have used the fair use doctrine to permit copying necessary to enable the creation of interoperable software products.” In support of this declaration, the report discussed the decisions in Atari v. Nintendo, Sega v. Accolade, and Sony v. Connectix, where the courts found that fair use excused the copying performed during the course of reverse engineering. The report added that “the case law generally holds that intermediate copying for purposes of reverse engineering and creation of interoperable products is, in most cases, a fair use.”

The report concluded its discussion of fair use by stating that “proper application of these principles should ensure that copyright law preserves the ability to create interoperable products and services.” In support of this statement, the report quoted the Ninth Circuit in Sega v. Accolade stating that “an attempt to monopolize the market by making it impossible for others to compete runs counter to the statutory purpose of promoting creative expression and cannot constitute a strong equitable basis for resisting the invocation of the fair use doctrine.”

Third, in an amicus brief it filed in Georgia State University electronic reserves case on December 9, 2016, the Copyright Alliance stated that it “is a staunch supporter of fair use principles, which allow for copyright to achieve it purpose without undermining the incentive to create. Its members regularly rely on these principles to create new, expressive, transformative works, consistent with the Copyright Act’s inherent purpose.”

Fair use is often referred to as a “user’s right.” But as these statements correctly indicate, fair use is a creator’s right as well. Fair use is essential to the creation of new works in all forms, including books, films, music, and software.

Access to Text Provides Meaningful Transparency

We’re taking part in Copyright Week, a series of actions and discussions supporting key principles that should guide copyright policy. Every day this week, various groups are taking on different elements of the law, and addressing what’s at stake, and what we need to do to make sure that copyright promotes creativity and innovation.

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Today’s theme is Transparency and Representation: Copyright policy must be set through a participatory, democratic, and transparent process. It should not be decided through back room deals, secret international agreements, or unilateral attempts to apply national laws extraterritorially.

Transparency is critical in understanding what laws may be created that will affect the public. For years, the United States has been involved in negotiated trade agreements in secret, without giving the public ample opportunity to make comments and engage in a meaningful way.  ARL has blogged about the concerns around the lack of transparency in trade negotiations many times in the past, noting that this is a primary failing of the negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and other agreements, resulting in a lack of democratic process.  Although USTR has claimed transparency due to the opportunities to provide stakeholder presentations at various negotiations round, the secrecy of the negotiating texts and proposals made it impossible to actually give meaningful engagement.  Unlike the EU, for example, in the TTIP negotiations, USTR has not released draft textual proposals.

In 2016, ARL joined a coalition making critical recommendations for the United States Trade Representative Open Government Plan.

  1. Publish U.S. textual proposals on rules in ongoing international trade negotiations: USTR should immediately make available on its website the textual proposals related to rules that it has already tabled to its negotiating partners in the context of the TTIP, TiSA, and any other bilateral, regional, or multilateral trade negotiation it undertakes.
  2. Publish consolidated texts after each round of ongoing negotiations: USTR should impose as a prerequisite to any new or continuing trade negotiations that all parties agree to publish consolidated draft texts on rules after each negotiating round.
  3. Appoint a “transparency officer” who does not have structural conflicts of interest in promoting transparency at the agency.

These are the critical steps that USTR should take in negotiating trade agreements, whether the government is negotiating new agreements or, as President-elect Trump has promised to do, revisiting old agreements. The textual proposals are key to understanding what is being negotiated. While fact sheets may be useful, they are no substitute for the actual language of the texts which are highly technical and nuanced. As noted in ARL’s analysis of the final TPP text, there were significant improvements in the text from earlier proposals. Some of these improvements may have been made possible through the input of civil society and academics, but these comments were only possible due to access to leaked text.

To Kill A Mockingbird Remains Under Copyright

We’re taking part in Copyright Week, a series of actions and discussions supporting key principles that should guide copyright policy. Every day this week, various groups are taking on different elements of the law, and addressing what’s at stake, and what we need to do to make sure that copyright promotes creativity and innovation.

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It’s Copyright Week once again and today’s theme is Building and Defending the Public Domain: The public domain is our cultural commons and a crucial resource for innovation and access to knowledge. Copyright policy should strive to promote, and not diminish, a robust, accessible public domain.

One of my favorite and least favorite things to do each year in January is to check out Duke’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain and see what would have entered into the public domain, were it not for the changes to copyright term in the 1976 Copyright Act and the 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act. I find some morbid curiosity in looking to see what could have entered the public domain while mourning the fact that these great copyrighted works will remain under protection for another forty years. While most of the works covered in the Center for the Study of the Public Domain’s yearly list are well-known and the rightholder would presumably be easy to find, there are many more works that are orphans because of the lengthy term. The current copyright term significantly damages the public domain and raises the costs of access to knowledge.

As always, this year’s list has so many wonderful classics and well-known works, including Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue fish, and Jean-Paul Sartre’s Critique de la raison dialectique. Aside from these books, there are a number of classic films and music that are going to remain under copyright until 2056 rather than enter into the public domain now. To Kill a Mockingbird is a perfect example of the damage these copyright terms have; last year, I noted the swift action by Lee’s estate, weeks after her death, issuing a notice halting publication of the mass market version (also known as the “school” version) of the book (note that HarperCollins announced it would offer a discounted version to school purchasers — but not student purchasers — after a backlash against the elimination of the cheaper mass market publication).

Aside from these great books (the blog post also highlights films and music that would have entered the public domain), one of the notable points is that many of the scientific advances published in 1960 that is still copyrighted and behind paywalls:

1960 was another significant year for science. Max Perutz and Sir John Kendrew published articles on the structure of hemoglobin and the structure of myoglobin, respectively, and Robert Burns Woodward published an article describing a total synthesis of chlorophyll. (All three later won Nobel Prizes in Chemistry.) Theodore Maiman demonstrated the first working laser, a ruby laser. And the US launched its first successful weather satellite, TIROS-1.

If you follow the links above (and you do not have a subscription or institutional access), you will see that these 1960 articles are still behind paywalls. You can purchase the individual articles from the journal Nature for $32. A distressing number of scientific articles from 1960 require payment or a subscription or account, including those in major journals such as Science and JAMA. And the institutional access that many top scientists enjoy is not guaranteed—even institutions such as Harvard have considered canceling their subscriptions because they could no longer afford the escalating prices of major journal subscriptions.

It’s remarkable to find scientific research from 1960 hidden behind publisher paywalls. Thankfully, some publishers have made older articles available in full online, so that you can read them, even though it may still be illegal to copy and distribute them. In addition, some older articles have been made available on third party websites, but this is not a stable solution for providing reliable access to science. Third party postings can be difficult to find or taken down, links can get broken, and would-be posters may be deterred by the risk of a lawsuit. Under the pre-1978 copyright term, all of this history would be free to scholars, students, and enthusiasts.

With the fast pace of scientific and technological advances, it seems crazy that scientific research published 56 years ago remains behind paywalls.  The public domain is critical to promoting advances in culture and science, it is the very foundation of the Constitutional goal “to promote the progress of science and the useful arts.” It is a shame to see our current copyright terms restrict the rate at which works enter the public domain.

California Assembly Aiming to Copyright All State & Local Government Works

*Guest post by Caile Morris, ARL Law & Policy Fellow*

On March 15, 2016, the California Assembly amended a Bill, AB-2880, dealing with state intellectual property. Introduced by Assemblyman Mark Stone in late February, the main goal of AB-2880 is to grant local and state governments the authority to create, hold, and exert intellectual property rights. The federal government is prohibited by the Copyright Act from claiming copyrights in any of the materials it creates. As TechDirt explains, the states are free to create their own approach on their copyright policies, and may decide what, if anything, a state can claim copyright in. This bill’s effect is incredibly detrimental, and if it is passed into law, it will deny California citizens the right to free and easy access to state laws and other government works.

Prior to AB-2880, California had one of the best state copyright law policies, and if AB-2880 is passed then it will drop to being one of the worst. EFF explains that previously, California forewent almost all copyright authority over works created by public entities, ensuring that the citizen tax dollars used to create the works ultimately benefits the citizens paying the taxes. California currently only has five special cases where it asserts copyright over public works. However, as EFF points out, if AB-2880 passes through the rest of the California Legislature then California state and local government agencies will “own, license, and if [they] deem appropriate, formally register intellectual property [they create] or otherwise [acquire].”

The California Committee on Judiciary, which Assemblyman Stone chairs, responded to the criticism of AB-2880 by explaining in a policy analysis that the bill would not interfere with information requests through the California Public Records Act, and thus provides the requisite amount of transparency and access. However, this ignores the fact that the works created by the local and state governments should be available to the public easily and automatically, rather than through the arduous process of filing an information request. The policy analysis itself noted that, “state ownership of intellectual property might restrict the dissemination of information.” The California State Auditor also mentioned public policy considerations when recommending how to form a state-wide intellectual property policy: “the State can ensure that the public benefits from state-owned intellectual property . . . by placing it into the public domain free of cost.” She specifically cautioned against the use of copyright protection for government works because of:

[T]he need to balance the State’s interest in protecting government publications through the use of a copyright with the public’s right of access to government records . . . . [C]opywriting government publications can be controversial; given that taxpayers already paid once to support the creation of the work, one can argue that they should not have to pay royalties to use or reproduce the written work.

While some state officials and legislators note the public policy implications of passing AB-2880, many in the Assembly seem to believe that the bill’s effect on dissemination of information is negligible compared to the benefits of government ownership of government-created intellectual property.

The intentions under which AB-2880 was created are well meaning. In early March 2016, an ugly legal battle began between Yosemite National Park and Delaware North, the concessions vendor within the Park that trademarked many of the common names of landmarks and corresponding logos. However, the knee-jerk reaction to the actions of Delaware North by Chairman Stone and the rest of the California Assembly is a disservice to the purpose of intellectual property to “promote the progress of science and useful arts,” as well as to the constituents who rely on the Legislature to provide tax-funded works and laws to the public by default.

Furthermore, as the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) wrote in a 2014 hearing before the House Committee on the Judiciary on State Laws and Building Codes Under Copyright,

[C]itizens must have free access to the laws that bind them. This fundamental policy is more compelling now than ever before. Government at all levels continually increases its regulation of the activities of citizens both at work and at home. Moreover, the Internet and other forms of technology, by integrating activities conducted at home with the outside world, are increasing the likelihood that private actions will be subject to legal rules governing the public sphere. Because their activities are more likely to be subject to regulations, citizens have a greater need to have easy access to the law so that they can better understand their expanding legal obligations.

As EFF explains, this kind of intellectual property ownership by California would have a chilling effect on free speech, restrict open government, and lodge a massive hit to the public domain. Both EFF and Creative Commons have called California residents to action by contacting their state representatives and demanding that the works created by the state and local government, paid for by tax dollars, remain in the public domain for all Californians to use.

A basic government function is to provide citizens with free access to the laws. If this function is not carried out at the state level, or requires a fee or license to view or reproduce these laws, it sets a dangerous precedent. Citizens who are increasingly regulated in their everyday lives have a substantially greater need for simple, cost-free access to state and local laws.

To withhold laws and other government works from citizens discourages informed participation in any form of governance, from the town hall meeting to petitioning state legislators for changes in the state laws. In addition, copyrighted government works could result in frequent law-breaking by citizens engaging in what they believe to be innocent activities, simply because those citizens cannot access the laws. Assemblyman Stone may have had good intentions when proposing AB-2880, but what he does not grasp is that this bill has far-reaching, detrimental effects and indeed is counterintuitive to the ideals of American democracy.

Copyright Week!

Today is the start of Copyright Week,  a series of actions and discussions supporting key principles that should guide copyright policy. Every day this week, various groups are taking on different elements of the law, and addressing what’s at stake, and what we need to do to make sure that copyright promotes creativity and innovation.

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Stay tuned the rest of this week for posts on technological protection measures, fair use, transparency in policymaking, and the importance of the public domain!