Maybe if we stopped saying “copy” everywhere we’d find a way to fix copyright?
- Why is a song that I play digitally or a book I read electronically subject to extensive controls that are not considered appropriate to physical records or books? It’s because they are subject to licenses that can’t be applied by the seller to the physical works.
- Why can those licences be imposed on digital works? Because the use of digital works is considered subject to copyright, whereas the use of physical works is not because of a legal doctrine called “copyright exhaustion”.
- Why is that? Because the act of instantiating the work for use has been described as “copying”, allowing the rules surrounding copyright to be used as a threat to back up arbitrary license terms controlling use.
In a thread on Twitter, the CTO at Chef Software defended the company against the accusation from an open source contributor that it demands copyright assignment from contributors. Chef’s CTO Adam Jacob explained that the company does copy Apache rules and thus requires a copyright license agreement (CLA) in addition to Apache’s open source license – not copyright assignment. He said:
we have never asked for copyright assignment. We do ask for a license, as Apache license requires.
That’s not actually correct, even if it’s a sufficiently common misunderstanding that Jacob really shouldn’t be called out for asserting it (especially as he was probably just suffering from Twitter’s 140 character limit!). Copying Apache’s license does not imply you should copy the rest of Apache’s CLA practice. The Apache License v2 (ALv2) is the best choice among non-reciprocal licenses for new projects, mostly because it includes explicit patent licensing. It is a perfectly effective license to use for any open source project where the community has no expectation of contribution on the part of users of the code, as it conveys all the rights you need to work with the code independently of others. Continue reading
Last week Google petitioned the Supreme Court of the United States for permission to appeal the Federal Circuit decision to overturn their victory against Oracle. You may remember that Oracle sued for patent and copyright infringement over Google’s use of a small subset of the huge Java class API in Android. Oracle lost in front of a jury in the district court in San Francisco, but then won on appeal.
The case will be a significant landmark for the technology industry regardless of the outcome, but the real impact of any decisions reached will be felt first by Android. The petition itself then suggests that the wider impact of the case is narrower than others might have feared, as its effects only come into play with substantial systems of APIs. Still, in the event of an Oracle win, open-source-licensed APIs would suddenly become much more important and the work of creating developer ecosystems around proprietary APIs would become much more challenging.
The Google petition includes three detailed and thorough arguments for the overturning of the Federal Circuit decision. For a look into what those arguments are and more on the significance of the case, try Simon’s InfoWorld article.
Draft regulations have been published in Britain that will finally end the anomaly where quotation, parody, caricature and pastiche are considered breaches of copyright. If approved by Parliament, they will come into force on June 1st, finally closing the loophole in copyright law that allowed copyright owners to chill criticism and stifle research in cases that are otherwise reasonable.
For more details, see our article on ComputerWorldUK.
It’s amazing how often our work lives and personal lives overlap one another; when we write about digital rights, open source, the power of community or the threat of mass surveillance, it’s clear that these are not just workplace issues. This weeks ComputerWorld UK posting is contributed by Miriam and shows how one of her hobbies raises some pertinent questions about intellectual property in the meshed society.
Narrative role playing is a form of collaborative fiction writing, uniquely enabled by the world wide web. Usually building their stories in the existing fantasy worlds of published writers or hit TV shows and films, the work found on narrative role play sites is often dismissed as “mere fan fiction”. Site contributors reject the label on the basis that all characters and plots on the sites are their own original creations. Whilst authors might consider it a compliment to have other people making this sort of work, it seems that they do not always have respect for the rights inherent in original content creation. Site admins claim that they have witnessed multiple cases in which newly published material by an author closely resembles the work found on their narrative role play sites. In most cases the site contributors consider this to be a great compliment to their own creative skills, but questions of copyright and intellectual property theft lurk menacingly in the corners.
This is just one example of peer creators treading carefully around the grey areas of intellectual property law. As new copyright law is drafted, the rights of a whole new generation of creative communities hangs in the balance. Read Miriam’s full article here.
Alexandra starts seriously wondering if the EU institutions are not making fun of European citizen. If not, a lack of competence must be denounced. Read more.
Good news : the deadline for the Consultation on EU Copyright Rules has been extended to March 5th. With a bit of efforts, you might complete your responses to the eighty questions, and cross fingers that your voice will be heard… Unless this is just a distraction to keep civil society busy while the real legislative process is happening ? Alexandra expresses her doubts in ComputerWorldUK.
Last May Judge Alsup ruled that APIs are not copyrightable. Oracle was left flat on its face, even handing over $1m to Google at the conclusion of the case they had claimed would end with their own pockets being well lined. Feeling somewhat put out by this result, Oracle decided to appeal the decision on the Federal Circuit.
The case has been well covered. Almost everybody with a working understanding of the case is in agreement with the ruling. If APIs were copyrightable the software industry would be transformed in a very negative way, stifling innovation.
A number of amicus briefs have been submitted to the proceedings to make these views known, including one from the EFF, to which Meshed Insights’ Simon Phipps is a signatory. The message of the brief is clear; Oracle should not be pursuing this. Alsup’s ruling accurately reflects both industry and legal perspectives on the case.