I’m just going to be blunt: Our patent system sucks. It’s terrible to deal with, protects ridiculous things, and encourages frivolous litigation. It’s about as popular as a leper in a nudist colony.
For 10 years, patent reform has had the backing of major corporations who, like everyone else, are sick of patent trolls and costly defensive IP purchases. Nobody—not consumer groups, business, or inventors—believes this system works. Despite all of this, Congress managed to punt on real change.
Apparently, I am an Internet child-raping fiend. How else could I be against something called the Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act? It's even supported by sheriffs associations and the Department of Justice, among others, and your representative may be voting on it soon (hint, hint).
Finally, rights holder and ISPs have found a foolproof way to punish you, their nefarious customer. The MPAA, RIAA, etc. have struck a deal with five of the largest ISPs in America on file sharing. It's perfect. No due process, judicial review, or evidence. It assumes you're guilty until proven innocent. And you get to pay for the whole thing!
After more than 90 legally questionable domain seizures for the non-crime of criminal contributory copyright infringement, the Department of Justice is facing its first suit from Puerto 80, the Spanish owners of Rojadirecta. The complaint tells the disturbing story of trying to discuss the seizure with the government and being ignored for months. Only after filing suit did the DOJ start returning phone calls, but even then the government's compromise was the illogical and impossible request that Rojadirecta's users never post a link to U.S. content. The New York Department of Homeland Security needs to take some Internet classes at their local community college.
In their ongoing quest to punch every puppy they can find, rights holders have turned to suing those most rapacious of pirates, professors. Academic publishers are asking a judge in Georgia for an injunction against Georgia State University for a liberal fair-use policy. What these publishers are objecting to is unapproved and unpaid-for book and article excerpts in class materials—essentially quoting and anthologizing. They want everything that can be paid for to be paid for.
There are so many places where the law doesn’t get the net, but few are as extreme as the Streisand Effect. Named for the singer/actress, it’s really about how the net responds to censorship. It is insufficient to say the net routes around censorship. The net wedgies censorship and hangs it on the school fence.
Last year, more than 70 domains were seized by the Department of Homeland Security for copyright infringement and replaced with layered 1990s drop-shadow graphics so eye-bleedingly bad they may have violated the Geneva Convention. Some of those seizures were as legally questionable as the government’s design sensibilities, targets of the copyright industry rather than real criminals. Rather than get shy about extralegal crackdowns, the New York DHS decided to double down.
Imagine you got a letter that said you had to take down your blog or Facebook page, or spend thousands lawyering up. That sensation running down your spine? It has a name in the legal world. It’s called a chilling effect. A legal threat doesn’t have to go to court to be effective. Most would-be defendants don’t want the hassle and expense of going to court, and so capitulate to threats, even invalid ones.
The secretive Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement is a done deal.
Negotiated, written, and even released where hoi polloi like us can read it, on the U.S. Trade Representative’s website. It’s still awful, calling for more parts of the DMCA to be worldwide, but not as awful as it was. Thanks to the efforts of groups like Public Knowledge and EFF, and New Zealand, which has taken the strange position of not criminalizing the normal behavior of its citizens, it was toned down. ACTA is now all packed up with a little bow waiting for legislatures to approve it, but the companies behind it have already left it like last week’s tuna sandwich.