Courts have said it again and again: consumers have the right to resell their used physical media. That's why used game sales are booming at GameStop and you can pick up old Michael Jackson CDs at a buck a pop down at your local flea market. But do those same rights apply to digital versions? Can you "resell" an iTunes track? We'll know soon enough, as the concept is slated to have its day in court soon.
Bad news for Brits: you too can be punished for violating U.S. copyright law! Richard O'Dwyer, a 23 year old student at Sheffield Hallam University, created the TVShack.net website, which U.S. officials claim linked to illegal movie and TV show files. Not hosted; just linked. Today, the Westminster Magistrates' Court ruled that O’Dwyer could be extradited to the U.S. and brought to trial for copyright infringement.
Think the whole RIAA/MPAA lawsuit factory is ridiculous? You should see what what Righthaven's pulling in the newspaper world. The company's entire purpose is to sue the pants off of small-time bloggers, websites and forum members who post newspaper clips and articles online. They target itty-bitty operations who probably can't afford litigation and strong arm them into ponying up $2,000 to $5,000 settlements instead. Well, that M.O. backfired recently; a Righthaven case was tossed out of court and they were ordered to pay $34,000 in legal fees to the defendant – but you should hear the shenanigans they tried to pull to get out of paying.
Time was that if you wanted to see a movie, you went to a theatre or you waited a few months to rent a VHS tape or DVD at five bucks a pop. That's just the way it was. An artist/performer/writer would create something and you would pay real money to buy a copy. But in the purely digital, networked era, old school routines have been forever altered. And while that's theoretically great news for the end user, who can now buy selectively and at his or her convenience, it also presents us with a whole new set of hassles. Hassles such as copy protection.
It’s not as daft as it sounds. Henrik Anderson, a Danish citizen, turned himself into police, confessing he had broken Danish anti-piracy laws by breaking the Digital Rights Management (DRM) on more than one hundred legally purchased DVDs. He did so because he wants some clarification. It seems, under Danish law, it’s okay to copy, and at same time not okay to copy.
Danish law allows the owner digital media to make private, non-commercial copies of works they own. And, it prohibits owners from making such copies without the rightholder’s consent if the copying circumvents DRM.
Anderson initially sought clarification from the Danish anti-piracy outfit Antipiratgruppen: was he a criminal or not? Antipiratgruppen never got back to Anderson on whether he would be prosecuted, so he took, for him, the next logical step: he turned himself in. Anderson wants a trial so the law can be clearly established.
Anderson may have a broader motive here--drawing attention both to the inconsistency in the law, and to the matter of whose rules he should be following: the laws of Denmark or the dictates of the lawyers for the companies whose DRM is being circumvented.
A couple of weeks after eBay agreed to sell 65% of Skype to a group of investors, the founders of Skype, Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, contrived to gatecrash eBay’s party. Joltid, a company in which the two Skype founders are stakeholders, filed a copyright lawsuit on Wednesday against Skype. Skype's founders retained control over the peer-to-peer technology at the VoIP client’s core even after selling Skype to eBay for $2.6 billion. They had agreed to license the source code to eBay.
Joltid has accused eBay of unlawfully modifying and sharing the source code. An adverse decision could even force eBay to shut down Skype until it can come up with an alternative version. The San Jose-based internet company has said that it is making arrangements to face any such eventuality. However, the presence of a contingency plan should not be construed as a lack of confidence on its part. “We remain on track to close the transaction in the fourth quarter of 2009,” an eBay spokesperson said.
Youtube was probably as tailor-made for copyright woes as it was for success. Apart from a copyright infringement law suit filed by Viacom, it is also contesting the claims made by a group of copyright owners in a separate class action law suit.