Welcome to the website of the Digital Media Law Project. The DMLP was a project of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society from 2007 to 2014. Due to popular demand the Berkman Klein Center is keeping the website online, but please note that the website and its contents are no longer being updated. Please check any information you find here for accuracy and completeness.
John Tehranian, a law professor at the University of Utah, has an article coming out in the Utah Law Review in which he concludes that the dichotomy between copyright law and social norms "is so profound that on any given day even the most law-abiding American engages in thousands of actions that likely constitute copyright infringement."
William Patry has an excellent post today called "Misuse via Cease & Desist Letters." It discusses the recent trend of lawyers asserting copyright in cease-and-desist letters in an effort to prevent posting of those letters on the Internet.
Today, the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse posted a cease-and-desist letter from MediaDefender to gpio.org complaining that MediaDefender's leaked emails had been posted to the site. The operator of the site, which subsequently moved to http://mediadefender-defenders.com (but not because of the letter), also posted the letter and his reply. His reply quite effectively points out that he and his server are in Norway and thus "it appears that your legal grounds for throwing letters at me claiming this-or-that is shaky enough that you might want to relocate."
This exchange reminded me of an article in Ars Technica a few weeks back discussing the reactions of peer-to-peer site operators to similar letters from MediaDefender. I meant to post on this article at the time, but forgot about it until today. The gist of the story is that some peer-to-peer site operators received cease-and-desist letters from MediaDefender and responded with blistering comments ridiculing the MediaDefender lawyers for their impoverished understanding of U.S. copyright law. For example:
[isoHunt's] formal response to SMR&H is filled with caustic wit and considerable legal expertise. "If Mr. Gerber is truly as experienced in IP law as his bio claims he is," asks the isoHunt administrator in his response, "why is it that he is incapable of composing a DMCA takedown notice as per USC Title 17 Section 512?" The isoHunt administrator explains that Gerber failed to adequately specify the allegedly infringing content as required by law. The administrator also helpfully provides a link to a valid sample complaint so that SMR&H will be less likely to send the improper information in their second attempt. The following is an excerpt of the isoHunt administrator's response:
"This e-mail serves as a counter notification under USC Title 17 Section 512(c)(3)(A)(iii) that you have failed to properly identifying links to content that allegedly infringes your copyright/trademark/rights (or, in this case, has something to do with really embarrassing trade secrets *and* employee social security numbers) AND you have failed to address your e-mail to the appropriate agent, namely email@example.com, so I invite you and your clients to take a long walk off a short pier, since you and/or your clients might actually manage to NOT get something that simple wrong."
In closing, the isoHunt administrator says that the he will comply with the request if it is properly submitted. "Despite us being located in Canada, if you do actually figure out how to compose a valid DMCA notice, we will honor it," he concedes, "just as soon as we're done laughing at you."
Among those users whose videos were taken down was the Rational Response Squad (RRS), a group of atheists dedicated to "fighting to free humanity from the mind disorder known as theism." Apparently, the videos flagged for removal were all critical of CSE, and some consisted of expression entirely original to the YouTube poster. Other videos used portions of CSE's own videos to make critical commentary about the organization. When its videos were removed, RRS unleashed a firestorm of criticism, threatening to sue CSE for abusing the DMCA's notice-and-takedown provisions and even contacting the prosecuting attorney in Hovind's tax case to inform her of CSE's conduct. Others have joined in the mix (here, here, and here). It appears that YouTube canceled RRS's entire account for a time (the rationale for doing so is not clear), but later reinstated it.
Reprinting content from other information sources is one of the trickiest areas of communications law -- especially for bloggers and other publishers on the Internet, where the legal framework has yet to be established. InfoMean blog has a useful set of pointers to help publishers avoid infringement lawsuits when reprinting information.
(Matt C. Sanchez is a second-year law student at Harvard Law School and the CMLP's Legal Threats Editor.)
David Lat runs a legal tabloid blog called Above the Law, which provides "news and gossip about the profession's most colorful personalities and powerful institutions, as well as original commentary on breaking legal developments." No stranger to notoriety in the past, he's recently become the center of attention in a humorous episode involving a leaked "celebratory anthem" created by the law firm, Nixon Peabody, when the firm made Fortune magazine's 2007 list of the best companies to work for. The song is embarrassingly bad -- As Frank Pasquale of Concurring Opinions puts it, "think 'Up With People' meets Sheena Easton meets B of A's version of U2's One." Lat himself writes:
On the musical merits, the song itself is just as horrific as the idea of a law firm theme song. Yes, we miss the eighties, but not this much. The lyrics include such gems as "Everyone's a winner at Nixon Peabody" (the chorus) and "It's all about the team, it's all about respect, it all revolves around integri-tee yeah." . . . Check it out for yourself below. But we're warning you: even though the Nixon Peabody anthem is dreadful, it's as catchy as HPV. If that "everyone's a winner" chorus gets stuck in your head for the rest of today, don't blame us.
[T]he authors did nearly a complete re-write of the guide because copyright, trademark and publicity rights receive different treatment in Canada. One example, is that Canada has many collecting societies that need to be understood if licensing music from Canadian artists (see page 15). This adapted guide for Canada also includes a "copyright matrix" (page 16) and a "rights clearance flow chart" (page 19), both of which will help explain the various rights and who get's paid for what in the world of music licensing.
The Canadian version, with the intriguing subtitle "Northern Rules For The Revolution," is available in both html format and pdf format.
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