Tag: news (page 1 of 2)

Open Access Week 2016

To kick off this year’s Open Access Week, we are sharing information on open access workshops offered by The Ohio State University Libraries throughout the week. This blog post first appeared on the Research Commons blog.

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Open Access Week Logo

Open Access Week 2016 by SPARC is licensed under CC-BY 4.0 (cropped).

 

Next week, October 24-30, 2016, we celebrate the 9th International Open Access Week. This year’s theme is “Open in Action” and will highlight ideas for taking action to open research and scholarship.

Open Access Week is a yearly global event to spread awareness of Open Access, a movement that supports free and immediate access to research. The Open Access movement seeks to maximize the impact and accessibility of published research through the removal of financial and use restrictions placed on research. Interested in learning more about Open Access? Peter Suber’s “Open Access Overview” provides a great summary of the Open Access movement and the different forms and vehicles through which Open Access research may be shared.

Join us at the Research Commons and Thompson Library to celebrate Open Access by attending an OA workshop offered by The Ohio State University Libraries next week:

 

Open Access: Know Your Rights, Share Your Research

This workshop will cover the basics of copyright and open access, including understanding your rights as an author, sharing your research to a broader audience, and publishing in open access journals. Presented in conjunction with International Open Access Week, this workshop will feature speakers from the University Libraries’ Copyright Resources Center and Publishing and Repository Services department. Light refreshments will be provided, and our presenters will be available afterward for consultations.

Light refreshments will be provided, and our presenters will be available afterward for consultations.
When: Tuesday, October 25, 11:00am – 12:30pm
Where: Research Commons, 3rd floor of the 18th Avenue Library

Register: go.osu.edu/oa-workshop

 

Open Access Week: Creative Commons

Please join the University Libraries’ Copyright Resources Center for a workshop on Creative Commons (CC). The session will introduce CC and explore how CC licenses benefit creators and users of licensed material. These licenses contribute to affordability and the development and use of Open Educational Resources, a particularly relevant topic for us in light of the university-wide focus on affordable learning. Bring your questions!

When: Wednesday, October 26, 10:00 am-11:30 am

Where: Thompson Library, Room 165

RSVP: http://go.osu.edu/oa-creativecommons

 

Open Data: A Panel Discussion

Curious about Open Data? Want to know more about where to find Open Data to use in your own research, or how to make your data open to comply with funding agency mandates? Have your top concerns and questions addressed by a group of campus experts – all who are interested in Open Data are welcome!

This event is part of Data Analytics Month @ Ohio State. Learn more at: go.osu.edu/dataanalyticsmonth.

 

When: Wednesday, October 26, 2:00 – 3:30pm
Where: Research Commons, 3rd floor of 18th Avenue Library

Register: go.osu.edu/opendata-panel

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By Maria Scheid, Rights Management Specialist at the Copyright Resources Center, The Ohio State University Libraries

Copyright Roundup, Part III

Continuing in our copyright roundup series, we will review some of the most recent legal cases and developments in copyright law and policy.

More Fair Use Victories:

Cambridge University Press v. Becker

Fair use has once again prevailed in the most recent decision of the Georgia State e-reserves case. The case, originally filed in 2008, involves Georgia State University’s electronic reserve system, a system through which professors made small excerpts of copyrighted books available to their students for free. Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, GSU modified their policy to provide professors with a fair use checklist to assist in selecting excerpts. In 2012, the district court found most of the uses in question to be fair uses. On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit held the district court erred by adopting an arithmetic approach to their fair use analysis.  The 2012 trial court ruling was vacated and sent back to the district court with instructions for a more holistic approach to fair use.

On March 31, 2016, the most recent decision from the district court was published, again finding the majority of claims (44 out of the 48) to be fair uses. The court’s analysis was specific to instances of nontransformative and nonprofit educational purposes of teaching. For an analysis of the decision and what it may mean for libraries going forward, see Krista Cox’s post “A Deeper Dive Into the New Georgia State Decision.”

Oracle v. Google

Oracle, owners of the Java programming language, sought $9.3 billion in damages for Google’s reproduction of the structure, sequence, and organization of 37 packages in the Java application programming interface (API) within Google’s Android operating system.[1] After three days of deliberation, a jury found Google’s use of Java APIs to be a fair use, notwithstanding Google’s commercial nature and evidence of internal emails questioning the need to obtain a license.

But what exactly is an API? Defining “API” has been a challenge for both sides throughout the litigation. Google received attention for wheeling in a physical file cabinet labelled “java.lang” in their opening arguments during May’s jury trial, while Oracle previously took the approach of constructing a hypothetical situation referencing Harry Potter. Earlier in its 2012 opinion, the district court outlined the package-class-method hierarchy of the Java programming language, analogizing APIs to a library.  In this analogy, Google replicated the names and functions of the API packages (bookshelves in the library) but wrote their own code to replicate the classes (books on the bookshelves) and methods (how-to chapters of the books).

Terry Reese, Head of Digital Initiatives at University Libraries provides clarification on what exactly an API is and how the restrictions on the use and reproduction of APIs may impact the Libraries. Terry shares, “APIs act as a common language between developers enabling faster and more efficient development.  In essence, they are the bridges between systems and services that allow the tools and technology that we use to simply work.  Take for example, the simple task of printing this blog post.  Think about what’s really happening.  The application (your browser) is communicating with the operating system, which in turn, communicates with a printer device driver to pass the data to the printer.  Very likely, the browser, the operating system, the printer — these are all created by different developers and different companies.  However, the applications and services can communicate together due to the utilization of a common set of APIs.”

The use and reproducibility of APIs supports interoperability between programs and services, and as Terry notes, the fair use of APIs is “hugely important for the long-term health of IT and open development.  Within today’s technology environment, integration between services, applications, standards, etc. drive innovation and integration.  This integration is possible due to the availability of common APIs.”

Oracle has stated their intention to appeal the decision.[2]

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Copyright Roundup, Part II

In Copyright Roundup Part I we discussed the fair use of an “aesthetically displeasing” photograph, copyright protection for cheerleading uniforms, and copyright ownership for non-human authors. In this post we will discuss the latest development in the Google Books litigation, fair use considerations in issuing DMCA takedown notices, and the public domain status of Happy Birthday to You.

Another fair use win for Google in most recent Google Books lawsuit.

Many of our readers are familiar with the Google Books litigation which began in 2005 when a number of publishers and the Authors Guild brought separate lawsuits against Google for Google’s Library Project.[1]  As part of the project, Google partners with research libraries to digitize works in the participating libraries’ collections. Digital scans of books are indexed and added to Google Books, providing the public with the ability to do full-text searches of terms within the books. Users can use the full-text search function in Google Books to determine how many times a particular term appears in any book within the Google Book collection. Absent an agreement with the copyright owner, Google does not provide the full scans to the public. Users can, however, see snippets of text containing the searched-for terms. Additionally, Google provides a digital copy of the scanned book back to the submitting library.

On October 16, 2015, the Second Circuit affirmed the lower court’s decision, holding Google’s digitization activities to be a transformative fair use. In analyzing the fair use factors, the court identified Google’s new purpose in providing otherwise unavailable information about the books, allowing users to identify works that include (and do not include) terms of interest. The court also found the snippet view to add important value to the search function, providing users with the context necessary to determine if the book fell within their scope of interest. While Google is a for-profit company, the Google Books project is provided as a free service without advertising. The court found Google’s ultimate profit motivation was not enough to deny a fair use finding in light of other factors, including its transformative purpose in using the works.

The court held that use of the entire work was reasonably appropriate to achieve the transformative purpose of enabling a full-text search function. For the snippet view feature, Google had a blacklisting process in place to permanently block about 22% of a book’s text from snippet view. In addition, researchers for Authors Guild were only able to access an aggregate of 16% of a text. The fragmented and scattered nature of the snippets results in an insubstantial amount of the work being displayed.

The court held the search and snippet view functions did not serve as a competing substitute for the original works. While snippet view may cause some loss of sales it did not rise to the level of meaningful or significant effect upon the potential market or value of the copyrighted work required to tilt the fourth factor in favor of the Authors Guild.

Finally, the court held that providing library partners with the digital copies of the works in their own collections was not infringing. Whether the libraries would then use the copies for infringing purposes was mere speculation and insufficient to place Google as a contributory infringer.

Why does it matter?

Despite ongoing litigation, Google continued their partnerships with libraries to digitize works in library collections, meaning they faced huge potential costs in damages. Consequently, this decision was a big fair use for Google, partnering libraries, and the public who use Google Books.

In his opinion, Judge Leval emphasized the goal of copyright to expand public knowledge and understanding, making the public, rather than the individual author or creator of a work, the primary beneficiary of copyright. Google’s activities served this goal. Public knowledge was augmented by making available information about the scanned books without serving as a substantial substitute for the copyrighted works.

The Authors Guild has indicated their intention to appeal the ruling but it will be up to the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether they will hear the case.

Continue reading

Copyright Roundup, Part I

The past few months have seen a number of interesting trials and developments in copyright law. We are providing a two-part Copyright Roundup to summarize those cases you may have missed and to let you know why they are important. In part I, we discuss embarrassing photos, cheerleading uniforms, and monkey selfies.

Blogger’s use of “aesthetically displeasing” photograph of Miami Heat investor still a fair use.

We first covered the facts in the Katz v. Chevaldina case in our blog post, “Copyright as an Instrument for Censorship?”, noting that Mr. Katz had filed an appeal of the district court’s finding that defendant Irina Chevaldina was entitled to summary judgement based on a fair use defense. On September 17, 2015, the 11th Circuit released their opinion, affirming the lower court’s decision. Analyzing the purpose and character of use, the court found every use of the Mr. Katz photo to be primarily educational, rather than commercial (educating others about the nefariousness of Mr. Katz) and use of the photo to be transformative (Chevaldina used the photo to ridicule and satirize Mr. Katz’s character). When considering the nature of the copyrighted work, the court found the previously published photo to be primarily a factual work (the photo was a candid shot and the court found no evidence to establish that the photographer attempted to “convey ideas, emotions, or influence Katz’s expression or pose”.[1] Finally, the use of the photo would not materially impair Katz’s incentive to publish the work—because Katz obtained ownership to prevent publication, there was no market for the original work.

Why does it matter? Katz’s conduct in initiating this lawsuit raised some big questions about the role of copyright law in censoring speech. In this case, Katz’s attempt to use copyright law as a shield against unwanted criticism ended up helping to strengthen Chevaldina’s fair use defense. The court’s central question under the fourth fair use factor was whether Chevaldina’s use of the photo would cause substantial economic harm that would impair Katz’s incentive to publish the photo. By obtaining the copyright in the photo and initiating a lawsuit to prevent publication of the photo, however, Katz demonstrated his desire to stop any use of and access to the photograph. The court held that Chevaldina’s use of the photo did not impair Katz’s incentive to publish the photo because Katz had no incentive to publish the photo and the likelihood of Katz changing his mind was “incredibly remote.”

The court also had an interesting analysis of the factual nature of the photograph. For a thoughtful discussion of this point, read Kevin Smith’s post, “Photography, Fair Use and Free Speech.”

Copyright protection for cheerleading uniforms: Varsity Brands v. Star Athletica

Varsity Spirit Corporation and Varsity Spirit Fashions and Supplies, Inc. (Varsity) designs and manufactures cheerleading apparel and accessories, having received copyright registrations for many of their design sketches. These designs included different combinations and arrangements of stripes, zigzags, chevron, and color blocks. The question on appeal was whether these elements were needed to make a cheerleading uniform or whether the design elements could exist separately from the uniform.

On August 19, 2015, the Sixth Circuit reversed the district court’s decision that Varsity’s designs were not physically or conceptually separable from the utilitarian function of the cheerleading uniform, holding that the graphic designs on Varsity’s cheerleading uniforms were separate and therefore copyrightable. The Court distinguished Varsity’s design from dress designs, which typically do not receive copyright protection.

Why does it matter? U.S. copyright does not protect useful articles. Useful articles are articles that have a utilitarian function beyond portraying the appearance of the article or conveying information. To the extent that a work includes a useful function, copyright will only protect those original elements of the work that can be independently separated from the useful function of the work.

Prior to this case, the Sixth Circuit (binding authority for Ohio’s federal district courts) had not adopted an approach for determining separability. After reviewing the approaches taken by other circuits, the Sixth Circuit decided to adopt a hybrid approach to determine if a particular design is a copyrightable pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work. To make this determination, the following questions must be asked:

  1. Is the design a pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work?
  2. If yes, is it a design of a useful article?
  3. If the design is of a useful article, what are the utilitarian aspects of the useful article?
  4. Can the viewer of the design identify pictorial, graphic, or sculptural features separately from the utilitarian aspects of the useful article?
  5. Finally, can the pictorial, graphic, or sculptural features of the design of the useful article exist independently of the utilitarian aspects of the useful article?

In answering these questions, the court identified a utilitarian function of a cheerleading uniform to “cover the body, wick away moisture, and withstand the rigors of athletic movements.”[2] The court found that the top and skirt of the uniform could still be identified as a cheerleading uniform even without stripes, chevrons, color blocks, or zigzags. Finally, the interchangeability of the designs indicates the graphic features can exist separately and independently from the utilitarian features of the uniform.

Can a monkey own a copyright?

The “Monkey Selfie” case has taken an additional twist with a new lawsuit brought on behalf of Naruto, the crested macaque. The monkey selfie case began in 2011 when photographer David Slater took a trip to Indonesia and left his camera unattended. A monkey (Naruto) used the camera to take a number of photos of himself grinning into the camera. One self-portrait was reproduced in publications around the world, eventually being added to Wikimedia Commons under the presumption that the work was in the public domain.[3] This prompted Mr. Slater to issue several DMCA takedown notices.

In 2014, Mr. Slater published a book containing copies of the Monkey Selfies, continuing to assert himself as copyright owner of the photographs. Later that year, the Copyright Office revised the Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices, to clarify that the U.S. Copyright Office would not register works produced by animals, including, for example, “a photograph taken by a monkey.”[4]

On September 21, 2015, PETA filed a copyright lawsuit on behalf of Naruto against Mr. Slater, alleging that Mr. Slater falsely claimed to be the author of the photographs and made unauthorized copies of the works for commercial purposes. The lawsuit seeks an order to permit PETA to administer and protect Naruto’s rights in the photographs, declaring Naruto the author and copyright owner of the works.

Why does it matter? U.S. copyright law does not specify human authorship, though the U.S. Copyright Office has provided guidance on the issue through the Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices. This case raises a number of interesting questions around how we define, or should define, “author.” If non-human authors are recognized as eligible copyright owners, should lines be drawn? Should the law, for example, provide exclusive rights to machines? And if the author can’t communicate their preferences, should we allow someone to speak on their behalf?

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We will continue our Copyright Roundup in part two, where we will look at some important fair use developments in the Google Books lawsuit and Stephanie Lenz’s “dancing baby” case against Universal Music and answer the question, “is Happy Birthday to You finally in the public domain?”

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By Maria Scheid, Rights Management Specialist at the Copyright Resources Center, The Ohio State University Libraries

 

[1] Katz v. Chevaldina, No. 14-14525 (11th Cir. 2015).

[2] Varsity Brands, Inc. v. Star Athletica, LLC, No. 14-5237 (6th Cir. 2015).

[3] Wikimedia Commons refused to remove the photograph on the basis that Mr. Slater was not the author of the work. Without a human author, Wikimedia Commons argued, the work may not be protected by copyright.

[4] U.S. Copyright Office, Compendium of the U.S. Copyright Office Practices (3d ed. 2014) § 313.2.

Copyright Education at OSU Libraries

The Ohio State University Libraries has made significant changes in its copyright educational program in the past several months. The changes began in April when Sandra Enimil started as the Head of the Copyright Resources Center, a new department designed with the purpose of bringing greater outreach to the OSU community on the subjects of copyright and rights management. Along with Sandra, the new Copyright Resources Center includes Shannon Baird, Rights Management Specialist.

Since Sandra’s arrival the Copyright Resources Center has worked to develop a number of improved services to help educate faculty, staff and students about the legal uses of copyrighted materials in their teaching and research. One of the biggest projects so far has been to redesign the Copyright Resources Center website. The goal of this redesign is to improve the quality of information available and make it easier to access.

There are a number of changes in the new version of the website. The pages have been reorganized to deal with specific copyright related topics, such as Fair Use and Author’s Rights. The Fair Use page includes a video that was created in conjunction with the Digital Union as an introduction to the concept of fair use. It is a great resource to use in class as a quick introduction to fair use for students.

There are some additional topics, such as information for Libraries use of copyrighted materials and OSU policies on ownership and using copyrighted works. The new site also includes many more links to online resources for further study.  One can also keep up to date with new developments in copyright by following links to the Copyright Corner blog and Twitter feed, @OSUCopyright.

Please take a look at the new page and let us know what you think. Feedback is welcome on both the information included and the design. Is there a topic that you would like to see covered? Let us know by emailing us at libcopyright@osu.edu.

The Copyright Resources Center is always available to answer questions, provide consultations or present workshops. Send us an email or give us a call at 614-688-5849. You can also stop in and visit our new office located in Suite 221 of Thompson Library.

The Copyright Resources Center is here to help the OSU community!

Some of the Copyright News That’s Fit to Print

Several people here at Ohio State have asked me what’s going on with a few copyright issues and cases that have been in the news recently.  Some of you who follow the library press and social media closely may know all about these situations, but others may be not watch for this news as closely.

Georgia State Litigation

Cambridge v. Patton, the copyright litigation that most know as the Georgia State case, began in 2008 when Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, and Sage Publications sued administrators at Georgia State University.  The plaintiffs alleged copyright infringement with regard to reproductions in electronic reserves and the university’s course management system.  The trial concluded recently and all the parties are waiting for a verdict.

One of the aspects of the case that has generated the most interest lately is the plaintiffs’ proposed injunction.  This injunction would require Georgia State to implement stringent controls on every faculty and staff member’s use of copyrighted materials and submit to monitoring to show that there is compliance. For a round up of various points of view on the impact and merits of the case, see the Chronicle’s What’s at Stake in the Georgia State Copyright Case.

Google Book Search Settlement

In March, a judge rejected a proposed settlement of the class action lawsuit that publishers and authors brought against Google for the digitization and display of books as part of the Google Book Search project.  Since the rejection, the parties have been attempting to reach an alternative settlement with an opt-in arrangement.  Most recently, they appeared before a judge and asked for more time.  There is another status conference on July 19.

In the Meantime…

…After a lengthy process to try to identify and contact each book’s rights holder, the University of Michigan will start making digitized copies of orphan works available to members of the UM community.   Orphan works are works that are still in copyright, but the rights holder is now unknown or unavailable.

Three Pieces of Copyright News

In the past few weeks, there have been three pieces of copyright news that are of interest to those in higher education.

The first is that on March 7 the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of Golan v. Holder.   There are two issues in this case.  The first is whether Congress may restore copyrights once works have entered the public domain as it did with some foreign copyrights through the Uruguay  Rounds Agreement Act of 1994.  The other is whether the law that restored these copyrights violated the free speech rights of people such as performers, conductors, and film distributors who had used those works when they were in the public domain.    This case has implications for many cultural institutions, including libraries and others involved in digitization projects.

In addition,  Judge Chin rejected the Google Book Search settlement this week.  Locally, University Libraries’ Director Carol Diedrichs has a good roundup  of news and commentary on the subject, including a statement from the CIC, on her blog.

Finally, Cambridge v. Patton, the litigation between publishers and Georgia State over copyright infringement with regard to electronic reserves, is scheduled to go to trial on May 16.  This is after three years of discovery and preliminary motions.

Point of View: Medicines, Treaties and Intellectual Property

As usual, this week brought a variety of points of view and types of news in the world of intellectual property. Two publications show this contrast vividly.

One was the 2010 U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC) Annual Report on Intellectual Property Enforcement (a bit of a redundant name).   This Report chronicles the Department’s efforts in the past year to strengthen intellectual property enforcement in order to create jobs, protect American business domestically and internationally, and protect consumers.  One of the ways IPEC is doing this is through various actions to combat the sale of counterfeit drugs, including drugs that either are ineffective or are actually harmful to patients.

The other was a new book from MIT Press, Access to Knowledge in the Age of Intellectual Property, edited by Gaëlle Krikorian and Amy Kapczynski.  Krikorian and Kapczynski provide a collection of essays that chronicles the history of thinking of the Access to Knowledge social movement, which includes activists working to open up intellectual property with regard to drug patents in the developing world, indigenous farmers anxious to preserve access to traditional seeds and plants, students involved with the free culture and open access movements, and many others .

Two essays on drug patents and the developing world caught my attention.  The first, “The Revised Drug Strategy: Access to Essential Medicines, Intellectual Property, and the World Health Organization,” chronicles the process and struggle of developing the Model Lists of Essential Medicines through the World Health Organization.  A place on the list allows a developing country to issue a compulsory license for that drug.    The second, Sangeeta Shashikant’s essay on “The Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health,” points out the problems of “evergreening” to extend the life of patents and concerns about supplies of generic medicine in developing countries since treaty obligations required India to start issuing pharmaceutical patents in 2005.

Although no one wants the sale of medicines that are ineffective and harmful—the IPEC report mentions the sale of a counterfeit medicine that contained an ingredient used to make sheetrock—here are two very different ways of describing the problem and its solution.

January 28 is Data Privacy Day, 2011

January 28, 2011 is Data Privacy Day.  Sponsored by a variety of businesses, universities, not-for profit organizations, and governmental entities, the purpose of Data Privacy Day is to encourage dialogue about “digital lives in a networked world.”  Privacy is on many people’s minds right now, as we grapple with the often-conflicting desires to reveal and conceal information about ourselves online.

Here are some recent news items about privacy, plus resources that I consult regularly for information:

Here at OSU, the Office of the CIO has resources about privacy, security, and safe computing at Buckeye Secure.

Recently, there was an interesting investigative piece in the Wall Street Journal on personal data sharing from smartphone apps.  One of the offenders they single out Pandora, one of the most popular apps  (and one I use heavily, sigh).

On Wednesday, January 26, Facebook announced that it can now be used completely via https for additional privacy and security.  Also, in some cases, it will start requiring social authentication through identifying people in photographs rather than through the more commonly-used captchas.  

The International Association of Privacy Professionals  has a Knowledge Center with many links and articles about privacy.  It’s a good place to get some background reading or keep up with the latest information on the subject.

Daniel Solove  is one of my favorite writers about privacy and the law.  Two of his recent books, Understanding Privacy and The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor and Privacy on the Internet are thoughtful and accessible to the non-lawyer.  He will publish Nothing to Hide: The False Tradeoff Between Privacy and Security this year.

Jonathan Zittrain’s The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It addresses privacy and more in his discussion about how to preserve the generativity of the Internet.  Zittrain’s blog  is also a good source for commentary on privacy issues in the news.  Zittrain is a professor at Harvard Law School, but much of his work has a heavy technical and social orientation.

You Caught My Eye: Recent Intellectual Property News

Here are some intellectual property issues and news items that have caught my eye recently and that may be of interest to the university community:

TIGAR—Accessible Print Formats Internationally

Coincidentally, just before the Digital Media Collective program on Rights for the Disabled and Copyright (Thompson Library 150 A&B, Nov. 9, 11:00 a.m.) comes news from the World Intellectual Property Organization of an initiative that the organization correctly calls “unprecedented.” TIGAR, the trusted intermediary global accessible resources project, will help publishers make book titles available to the visually impaired and print disabled.  The intermediaries will convert the books to accessible formats and distribute them to each other and to specialized libraries.  TIGAR will also provide tools for searching for books in these formats.

Since only a small percentage of the books published in the world are available in accessible formats, this is a great step forward internationally.

Dancing Baby Continues

In 20007, Stephanie Lenz put up a video on YouTube and received a takedown notice.  University Music Group claimed that the 30-second video, which showed her baby son dancing with Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” playing in the background, violated copyright law.  Claiming fair use, Lenz filed suit with the help of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).  She is asking for a declaratory judgment that she has not violated copyright, and also for an injunction and damages.  Most recently, both sides have filed motions for summary judgment.

The EFF has a web page charting the progress of the suit.  Lenz v. Universal is of interest to anyone who is dealing with fair use and social media.

Unexpected Brief from the DOJ in Human Gene Patents Appeal

This spring, in a surprising decision, a federal court ruled that patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes were illegal.  Mutations of these two genes are responsible for most hereditary breast and ovarian cancers, and the company that holds these patents has had a monopoly on the diagnostic tests on those genes.

Now the case is being heard on appeal, and the Department of Justice has weighed in with an amicus brief, arguing that it takes more to patent a gene than identifying it—“A product of nature is not transformed into a human-made invention merely by isolating it.”  Although the Department of Justice does not govern the actions of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the brief does not argue against all gene patents, many wonder if it  signals a change in governmental attitudes on the subject.

Pre-1972 Sound Recordings

In the U.S. sound recordings made before 1972 are not governed by federal copyright law, but instead are subject to a variety of state laws that the U.S. Copyright Office calls “a patchwork.”  Under the current law, this situation is not due to be rectified until 2067.  Digitization of these recordings is difficult, because clearing rights is extremely complicated.  Now the U.S. Copyright Office is asking for comments on “the desirability and means of bringing sound recordings fixed before February 15, 1972, under federal jurisdiction.”

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