As you may know, works of the U.S. Government are not protected by copyright in the U.S. (17 USC §105), but we often discover copyrighted government publications that one would reasonably think would be in the public domain and, more recently, we see works that were treated as public domain in print suddenly being treated as copyrighted when they are converted to digital. No matter how clear the law is, this can lead to confusing situations. Take the case of a movie produced by the United States Information Agency. USIA was was prohibited by law from distributing films in the United States, but a Congressional Resolution did authorize USIA to sell six master copies of the film to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Then Carl Malamud obtained a copy of a video tape of the movie from NTIS, digitized it, and posted it at the Internet Archive. Now the Kennedy Center is claiming that the film is copyrighted and that the Center has exclusive rights for distribution and NTIS has requested that Malamud take down the digital copy he created.
The Resolution (Congressional Record, August 26, 1965, p.21256) says:
Accordingly, the United States Information Agency is authorized to make appropriate arrangements to transfer to the trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts six master copies of such film and the exclusive rights to distribute copies thereof, through educational and commercial media, for viewing within the United States. The net proceeds resulting from any such distribution shall be covered into the Treasury for the benefit of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
The film begins with a notice (at 00:00:25) that says the film "is presented in the United States by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington DC, in accordance with a resolution of the Congress." It ends (at 1:26:08) with what looks like a copyright notice (it is hard to read in the digital version) that (I think) says "Copyright 1964 by the National Center for the Performing Arts, All rights reserved." I assume that these were added by the Center to the original film.
What will Malamud do? He asks you to advise him:
One agency of the federal government has issued a takedown notice to another agency of the federal government, which in turn demanded that we remove a film from the Internet. Not knowing what to do, I have appealed for your help.
I hereby bring this plea before the Court of Appeals for Wonderful Things, appealing to a jury of my peers, all happy mutants, for their verdict.
Read the complete story here:
- US government sends itself a takedown notice over JFK documentary: you decide what to do!, posted by Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing (Apr 26, 2013).
And watch the movie while you can:
- John F. Kennedy: Years of Lightning/Day of Drums (1964), United States Information Service, AVA11312VNB1, 1964. (Run time: 1h 26' 18")
The program dramatizes the thousand days of John F. Kennedy's presidency, from his inauguration in 1961 to his tragic death on November 22, 1963. The videotape emphasizes Kennedy's and America's hopes for his term as president. Uploaded by Public.Resource.Org under Joint Venture NTIS-1832 with the National Technical Information Service.
Happy 2013 FGI readers! As we begin the new year, it's always good to be reminded every year by Jennifer Jenkins and James Boyle and rest of the fine folks at the Duke Center for the Study of the Public Domain about the number of books, film and music that could have entered the public domain this year were it not for the 1976 Copyright Act. It's a fascinating and depressing read, especially the scientific material that may never become truly free and open knowledge -- not to mention the Scifi ("Minority Report" and Around The World in 80 Days -- the movie -- should have been "Around The World in 34,699 Days"), music, films, and literature.
Current US law extends copyright for 70 years after the date of the author’s death, and corporate “works-for-hire” are copyrighted for 95 years after publication. But prior to the 1976 Copyright Act (which became effective in 1978), the maximum copyright term was 56 years – an initial term of 28 years, renewable for another 28 years. Under those laws, works published in 1956 would enter the public domain on January 1, 2013, where they would be “free as the air to common use.” Under current copyright law, we’ll have to wait until 2052. And no published works will enter our public domain until 2019.
What books would be entering the public domain if we had the pre-1978 copyright laws? You might recognize some of the titles below.
* Winston Churchill, A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, Volume I and Volume II
* Philip K. Dick, Minority Report
* Ian Fleming, Diamonds are Forever
* Fred Gibson, Old Yeller
* Billie Holiday, Lady Sings the Blues
* Alan Lerner, My Fair Lady
* Eugene O’Neill, Long Day’s Journey into Night
* John Osborne, Look Back in Anger
* Dodie Smith, 101 Dalmatians
Here are a few of the movies that we won’t see in the public domain for another 39 years.
* Around the World in 80 Days
* The Best Things in Life are Free
* Forbidden Planet
* Godzilla, King of the Monsters!
* It Conquered the World
* The King and I
* The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956 remake by Alfred Hitchcock of his 1934 British film)
* Moby Dick
* The Searchers (1956 film version with John Wayne from Alan Le May’s 1954 novel)
* The Ten Commandments (1956 version by Cecil B. DeMille, who also directed a similar film in 1923)
Staffer axed by Republican group over retracted copyright-reform memo, by Timothy B. Lee, arstechnica (Dec 6 2012).
The Republican Study Committee, a caucus of Republicans in the House of Representatives, has told staffer Derek Khanna that he will be out of a job when Congress re-convenes in January. The incoming chairman of the RSC, Steve Scalise (R-LA) was approached by several Republican members of Congress who were upset about a memo Khanna wrote advocating reform of copyright law. They asked that Khanna not be retained, and Scalise agreed to their request.
UPDATE: That Was Fast: Hollywood Already Browbeat The Republicans Into Retracting Report On Copyright Reform, by Mike Masnick, Techdirt (Nov 17th 2012)
...as soon as it was published, the MPAA and RIAA apparently went ballistic and hit the phones hard, demanding that the RSC take down the report. They succeeded. Even though the report had been fully vetted and approved by the RSC, executive director Paul S. Teller has now retracted it...
The link below to house.gov is now broken. A copy of the file is available here.
David Weinberger points to a Republican House policy paper "that nails three myths about copyright law and suggests four areas of reform."
- RSC Policy Brief: Three Myths about Copyright Law and Where to Start to Fix it. The Republican Study Committee Jim Jordan (chair), Derek S. Khanna (Staff Contact), November 16, 2012. [PDF, 9 pages]
This paper will analyze current US Copyright Law by examining three myths on copyright law and possible reforms to copyright law that will lead to more economic development for the private sector and to a copyright law that is more firmly based upon constitutional principles.
The Three myths:
- The purpose of copyright is to compensate the creator of the content
- Copyright is free market capitalism at work
- The current copyright legal regime leads to the greatest innovation and productivity
And the policy solutions:
- Statutory damages reform
- Expand Fair Use
- Punish false copyright claims
- Heavily limit the terms for copyright, and create disincentives for renewal
Here is a useful and informative article about copyright by Peter Hirtle, Senior Policy Advisor at Cornell University Library. It includes a section on "The confusing case of government works."
- When Is 1923 Going to Arrive and Other Complications of the U.S. Public Domain by Peter B. Hirtle,Searcher 20.6 (2012): Searcher 20.6 (2012).
Think 1923 is the magic year? Think again! "Probably the oldest work still protected by copyright in the U.S. is a letter from John Adams to Nathan Webb written on Sept. 1, 1755."
Hours after NASA's successful landing on Mars of its Mars rover, one of NASA's official clips from the mission was pulled from YouTube, and replaced with a notice from the video site indicating that the "video contains content from Scripps Local News, who has blocked it on copyright grounds."
The video was replaced and Scripps apologized, but it is an example of how the scale are tipped in favor of the "content industry" and even obvious, public-domain content gets caught in the privatization of information trap. EFF has the background on the technology and how it works:
- Mars Landing Videos, and Other Casualties of the Robot Wars, by Parker Higgins, Electronic Frontier Foundation (Aug 8, 2012).
[T]he problem likely lies not with the DMCA itself, but with the additional (and voluntary) automated Content ID system YouTube has developed. Content ID uses digital fingerprinting technology to identify duplicate audio and video on YouTube and, depending on the "business rules" configuration of the designated rightsholder, blocks or places ads next to videos. Unfortunately, the robots behind that copyright enforcement machine have the tendency to shoot first and ask questions later, even when it ends up silencing real -- human -- speech.
As a complement to Cory Doctorow's excellent talk about "The Coming War on General Purpose Computation" (see http://freegovinfo.info/node/3594), an article in Miller-McCune says we need a better understanding of technology before trying to regulate it.
- SOPA Debate Highlights Congress's Ignorance, By Emily Badger, Miller-McCune (December 29, 2011).
When members of Congress earlier this month considered the Stop Online Piracy Act -- better known to anyone who actually hangs out on the Internet as #SOPA -- the most notable feature of the debate turned out to be the sheer ignorance of the elected officials discussing it. One after the other, members of the U.S. House of Representatives professed -- nay, bragged about -- approaching this weighty legislation from the vantage point of someone who is not "a nerd" or a "tech expert."
The article highlights the book, The Information Diet by Clay Johnson, which discusses the relationship between power, authority, and information.
You have probably seen references to this presentation by Cory Doctorow, but if you have not taken the time to watch it (or read the transcript), I urge you to do so. He not only explains the issues and their importance, but why laws and regulations that sound reasonable to many people manage to fail in accomplishing their stated goals while simultaneously having disastrous unintended consequences.
- The Coming War on General Purpose Computation, by Cory Doctorow, [video of December 26 keynote at the 28C3, the Chaos Computer Congress in Berlin; 55 minutes]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUEvRyemKSg
"[T]he copyright wars are just the 0.9 beta version of the long coming war on computation."
- transcript by Joshua Wise
Greetings from DC.
Here's a roundup with a bunch of recent postings from our INFOdocket site containing news and new resources of possible interest to the FGI community.
This is a small sample of what we post each day. Most of the following items were shared in the past week or so. We are also available on Twitter.
1. New From U.S. Census: 2008-2010 ACS 3-Year Estimates
5. New from U.S. Census: American Indians and Alaska Natives in the United States Wall Map
7. U.S. Census: USA Counties (New Stats)
12. Campaign Finance: OpenSecrets.org Unveils New Interactive Features To Monitor 2012 Presidential Money Race
14. New From the C-SPAN Video Library: MP3 Audio Files Available for All Programs
We hope you find these resources useful. We hope you stop by or follow.
Hello From DC.
Here are some catchup items from the past couple of weeks that I was unable to get to when the stories were first posted over the past 10 days.
I've culled a selection of items from our INFOdocket.com site that we update seven days a week.
We hope you find them useful.
4. Canada: Government Documents: Library and Archives Canada Digitizes Past Issues of the Canada Gazette (1841-1997)
More than 150 years of content.
5. Privacy: Social Media: U.S. Congress Members Want FTC To Investigate Facebook Tracking
Includes link to full text of a letter sent to FTC.