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OPLIN 4Cast #223: Copyright news

Posted in 4cast

Unless you work in a law library, you probably don’t pay a lot of attention to laws and legal issues, with the exception of copyright laws. Copyright laws have traditionally contained special limitations that allow libraries to loan books and other library items, so there are quite a few copyright laws and court cases that have a direct impact on libraries’ ability to do what they do. Now that intellectual property so often takes the form of non-print media, however, traditional copyright laws have been stretched and strained, and sometimes changed, to make them fit new media. Some people would even argue that copyright laws are either: a) being abused, or b) not relevant anymore. This week we look at a few recent developments related to copyright that might have some interest for libraries.

  • Free trove of music scores on web hits sensitive copyright note (New York Times/Daniel J. Wakin)  “Mr. Guo said volunteers checked every score—15,000 at the time—for copyright violations. […] A disclaimer was made to appear before any score opens, saying that the project provides no guarantee that the work is in the public domain and demanding that users obey copyright law. The site operates from servers in Canada, where copyright law is generally looser. ‘We cannot know the copyright laws of 200 countries around the world,’ Mr. Guo said. ‘It is up to the downloader.'”
  • Son of ACTA: meet the next secret copyright treaty (Ars Technica/Nate Anderson)  “Canadian law professor Michael Geist calls it ‘everything [the US] wanted in ACTA but didn’t get.’ ‘For example,’ he says, ‘the digital lock rules are the US DMCA, complete with [the] exact same exceptions (no more, no less). The term of copyright matches the US term of life of the author plus 70 years, beyond the Berne requirement and Canadian law. The ISP provisions including a copy of the US notice-and-takedown system as well as provisions that go beyond US law. In other words, the US envisions using the TPP [Trans-Pacific Partnership] to export its copyright law to as many countries as possible while creating backdoor changes to its own domestic laws.'”
  • Supremes to decide if public domain works can be re-copyrighted (Ars Technica/Matthew Lasar)  “Congress’ decision to uphold an international treaty allowing for public works to be ‘restored’ into copyright will create an atmosphere of uncertainty for libraries, they warn, caretakers of the public domain. ‘Because it protects our cultural commons, the public domain is equally essential, in turn, to free speech, helping to give meaning to the First Amendment right to receive information,’ wrote the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Internet Archive in a brief asking the Supremes to hear the matter.”
  • Amicus brief on behalf of Internet Archive in support of petitioners (brief filed with US Supreme Court mentioned above [pdf])  “The Internet Archive files this brief because the effects of Section 514—both the provision itself and the radical approach to the public domain that it represents—pose a significant threat to the ability of libraries and archives to promote access to knowledge. The emergence of this threat is particularly unfortunate now, when the advent of new technologies is making it more possible to share public domain works with more people, in more ways, than ever before—making the public domain truly ‘public.’ In accomplishing this task, libraries necessarily rely on a robust and static public domain that will allow them to confidently determine that they have the right to provide access to a given work.”

Terms fact:
Peter B. Hirtle has posted a very large chart at the Cornell Copyright Information Center that illustrates the daunting complexity of current copyright terms in the United States.