August 9, 2006

Non-Copyrightable Stats

Posted in copyright, judgments and transcripts at 5:54 am by thelawthoughts

Marty Schwimmer at the Trademark Blog points to a case in the US where it was held that MLB does not own the statistics of baseballers, and therefore cannot prevent others making money from running fantasy leagues which use those statistics.

Well, yeah. I am not surprised that this was dealt with by summary judgment (albeit 49 pages. 49 page summary judgment? Sheesh). My mother even knows that facts are not copyright. It is the way one reduces those facts to material form that becomes the copyright material.

So here is my question – do fantasy league owners use stats generated by the MLB and published by them? If they do, surely that is infringement. If, for example, I run a little basketball fantasy league between my friends, charge them $10 each to enter and get the stats from, that much be infringement. Only if I compile the stats myself am I not reusing the expression of another.

What am I missing here?

June 26, 2006

Digital Libraries

Posted in copyright, EU, fair use, globalisation, internet law, politics at 3:39 am by thelawthoughts

The EU is establishing a digital library, with cooperation from museums and libraries around Europe.

I am interested in the difference in reaction between this and Google's attempt. I have never even heard of the EU effort in the media. Why don't Europeans care? Why do Americans care so much?

I'm tempted to put it down to a European-sharing stereotype, which is interested in shared culture and cultural heritage, versus an American individual-centred protection of wealth regime.

It must be more than that, but I just can't see it.

Relevance and Discovery in Copyright Proceedings

Posted in copyright, discovery, judgments and transcripts, procedure at 1:39 am by thelawthoughts

Greenwood J on 9 June, 2006 handed down a short but interesting judgement on the extent to which discovery of relevant materials must be made in copyright proceedings. (See Norm Engineering Pty. Ltd. -v- Digga Australia Pty. Ltd. (No.2) [2006] FCA 732)

Basically, emails were sent describing the nature of the Applicant's buckets, as well as a short discussion about how the Respondent's were better because they had taken the features of two of the market leaders and made their own. They didn't want to discover this document (hmmm, wonder why) and so said it was not relevant.

The relevance argument was based on the fact that the Court would determine objective similarity when deciding whether copyright had been infringed.

Greenwood J held it was an essential part of determining objective similarity that emails discussing the early conceptions of the product were examined. He held the documents were relevant because they detailed how the product came into existence, which can be taken into account when determining objective similarity.

The Respondent also complained they had a dodgy IT system, which could not search emails properly, and they had 711,000 emails they might need to read.

Greenwood J, rightly so, was 'essentially unsympathetic'.

The case is set down for trial.

The Court

June 11, 2006

BBC gets into a Virtual World (updated)

Posted in contracts, copyright, internet law, law reform, virtual worlds at 4:36 am by thelawthoughts

I am going out on a limb and will say that the law of virtual worlds is going to be one of the most important legal discussions we, as a society, need to have.

The BBC has rented space on a virtual island, to broadcast a concert to people who are 'visiting' the virtual world. Here are some critical questions the law needs to answer:

Should virtual world creators be allowed to set the rules? Does this mean we have 'private States' rather than our current public government? In other words, should game or virtual world creators be allowed to 'legislate' so that their rules apply over 'real world' legislation? What happens when real money is exchanged for 'virtual goods'? Do real world contract laws apply? Who owns the copyright in the BBC's concert? Do property laws apply to virtual worlds? What happens if a gifted coder hacks the virtual world and destroys parts of it? Should owners of virtual property get compensation?

This is effectively a rambling list off the top of my head. There are even more important issues to discuss than these and it is a fascinating development.

UPDATED: To follow this up, I found an interesting piece by the Counterfeit Chic on counterfeiting in virtual worlds. See? I told you this was important!

Fair Use Copyright Review

Posted in copyright, fair use, law reform at 4:00 am by thelawthoughts

Kim Weatherall provides an in-depth commentary on the Fair Use review just held in Australia.

They are getting there, although I always doubt the ability of Parliament to keep up with technology as the Attorney General says it should. Why not draft the legislation to allow the US case-by-case assessment of whether the use is fair use? My impression of the Copyright Act provisions were that they were so narrow as to be almost non-existent.

My biggest gripe is that, although it is now legal to tape your favourite show and watch it later, if you watch it more than once, watch out.

Why would a review which was designed to weed out the ridiculous time- and format- shifting anomalies in the current Act leave oddities like this in there by choice?

June 9, 2006

Captain Copyright

Posted in copyright, marketing, politics at 4:50 am by thelawthoughts

The IPKat put a link up the other day to a new superhero called Captain Copyright. Take a few minutes to have a look through this website and come back.

Done? Did you see the 'Story of Captain Copyright' comic? If you didn't, the superhero, wrote a comic when he was a child. The big bad 6th grade bully stole it, then sold it to everybody in the school corridor. Captain Copyright has dedicated his life to not letting the bullies win.

I think depicting people who use the work of others in this way is incredibly dangerous. They have exercises in the teachers section for 1st graders (6 year olds?). Stuffing this kind of propaganda down the throats of impressionable children is wildly irresponisble.

The concept was created because there was a gap in the ability to teach kids how copyright works. Even if you are in favour of copyright, it is terrible to present the ideas in such a slanted way. Yes, the infringer in this case was in the wrong. However, the loaded associations with bullies and rip off merchants is simply not fair. To associate infringers with bullies means that kids growing up with this stuff will not in future come to the concept with an open mind to decide what is best for society in terms of the balance of copyright.

I must admit, however, this is an incredibly visionary campaign from whoever thought it up.