posted by Lea Shaver
Say we agree there’s very little being translated into languages like Zulu and we agree that’s a problem. Is the problem that copyright makes it too expensive? Or is the real problem that translation or publication is inherently too expensive, given the limited size of these audiences and low ability to pay?
A theoretical model and some examples
It’s clear that the potential profits from Zulu translations aren’t sufficient to cover the costs. But those costs fall into lots of different categories: copyright licensing fees, the translator’s labor, distribution costs… etc. Would merely eliminating the copyright barrier be enough to tip the equation?
Let’s build a theoretical model first and then my research can look for data points…
P = potential income from book sales
C = costs of copyright compliance (including fees to the copyright owner, transaction costs of negotiating the license, and lawyer’s fees to handle copyright compliance and disputes)
T = costs of performing the translation (translator’s labor)
D = distribution costs (printing costs, shipping costs, overhead, leaving a profit margin for retailers, etc.)
For translated works to be produced, we would need to see that potential sales outweigh the copyright, translation, and distribution costs.
P > C + T + D
We can think about this equation as applying generally to works in a particular language market. Or more accurately, we can think about it applying to any specific work. If potential sales appear to be greater than costs, then the market should produce the work. So, let’s look at some specific works that the market is producing in Zulu right now…
posted by Lea Shaver
Are the costs and benefits of copyright protection roughly the same in English and in Zulu? Or is copyright law’s impact radically different from one language to another?
Copyright protection gives authors the exclusive right to market their works. This has the benefit of channeling profits back to authors, enhancing the financial incentives to create new works. But it also has the cost of limiting competition, inflating prices for consumers, and restricting public access to existing works.
Copyright scholars have extensively debated these costs and benefits. But we have not yet done much thinking about how the cost-benefit calculus might play out for different languages.
That project lies at the heart of my current work-in-progress, which advocates targeted copyright reforms to promote publishing in lesser-spoken languages.
From an economic perspective, the publishing market is fundamentally different from one language to another. English books can be marketed to an enormous and wealthy global audience. The audience for Zulu works, however, is 1% as large and has significantly less disposable income.
Scholars continue to debate the relative effectiveness of financial versus nonfinancial incentives for authorship. But there is no doubt that the incentives are powerfully present for English-language works. That does not appear to be true for works in Zulu.
According to recent data, 77% of books sold within South Africa are in English, though only one in ten South Africans speaks English at home. The vast majority of South Africans speak African languages such as Zulu. Yet books in all African languages combined account for only 11% of the South African publishing market. Of African language book sales, 89% are textbooks, subsidized by government purchasing.
The copyright system that has so effectively incentivized the production and distribution of works in English has not produced equivalent benefits in Zulu. The costs of copyright protection – including higher prices and barriers to translation – are also particularly burdensome for the Zulu-speaking community.
In theory, the costs of copyright protection may outweigh the benefits in many linguistic communities characterized by small size and low wealth. I’m working now on some case studies to see whether facts on the ground support that prediction.
If so, my suggestion is not to change copyright law generally, but to adjust the rules for certain languages. There are thousands of different linguistic communities in the world, each as unique as the various expressive works that copyright law protects. A one-size-fits-all regime is unlikely to be ideal.
Reforms to strike the right balance could be implemented at the level of national policy making. By treating different languages differently, countries may be able to improve publishing in languages such as Zulu without prejudicing the interests of authors and publishers in the dominant markets.
In a series of posts during my month as a Co-Op guest blogger, I’ll explore how we might structure such reforms and other issues raised by this project.
February 3, 2013 at 1:02 pm Tags: copyright, languages, local language limitations, publishing, South Africa, translation Posted in: Culture, Intellectual Property, International & Comparative Law, Uncategorized Print This Post 5 Comments
posted by Ted Striphas
I first happened across Julie Cohen’s work around two years ago, when I started researching privacy concerns related to Amazon.com’s e-reading device, Kindle. Law professor Jessica Littman and free software doyen Richard Stallman had both talked about a “right to read,” but never was this concept placed on so sure a legal footing as it was in Cohen’s essay from 1996, “A Right to Read Anonymously.” Her piece helped me to understand the illiberal tendencies of Kindle and other leading commercial e-readers, which are (and I’m pleased more people are coming to understand this) data gatherers as much as they are appliances for delivering and consuming texts of various kinds.
Truth be told, while my engagement with Cohen’s “Right to Read Anonymously” essay proved productive for this particular project, it also provoked a broader philosophical crisis in my work. The move into rights discourse was a major departure — a ticket, if you will, into the world of liberal political and legal theory. Many there welcomed me with open arms, despite the awkwardness with which I shouldered an unfamiliar brand of baggage trademarked under the name, “Possessive Individualism.” One good soul did manage to ask about the implications of my venturing forth into a notion of selfhood vested in the concept of private property. I couldn’t muster much of an answer beyond suggesting, sheepishly, that it was something I needed to work through.
It’s difficult and even problematic to divine back-story based on a single text. Still, having read Cohen’s latest, Configuring the Networked Self, I suspect that she may have undergone a crisis not unlike my own. The sixteen years spanning “A Right to Read Anonymously” and Configuring the Networked Self are enormous. I mean that less in terms of the time frame (during which Cohen was highly productive, let’s be clear) than in terms of the refinement in the thinking. Between 1996 and 2012 you see the emergence of a confident, postliberal thinker. This is someone who, confronted with the complexities of everyday life in highly technologized societies, now sees possessive individualism for what it is: a reductive management strategy, one whose conception of society seems more appropriate to describing life on a preschool playground than it does to forms of interaction mediated by the likes of Facebook, Google, Twitter, Apple, and Amazon.
In this Configuring the Networked Self is an extraordinary work of synthesis, drawing together a diverse array of fields and literatures: legal studies in its many guises, especially its critical variants; science and technology studies; human and computer interaction; phenomenology; post-structuralist philosophy; anthropology; American studies; and surely more. More to the point it’s an unusually generous example of scholarly work, given Cohen’s ability to see in and draw out of this material its very best contributions.
I’m tempted to characterize the book as a work of cultural studies given the central role the categories culture and everyday life play in the text, although I’m not sure Cohen would have chosen that identification herself. I say this not only because of the book’s serious challenges to liberalism, but also because of the sophisticated way in which Cohen situates the cultural realm.
This is more than just a way of saying she takes culture seriously. Many legal scholars have taken culture seriously, especially those interested in questions of privacy and intellectual property, which are two of Cohen’s foremost concerns. What sets Configuring the Networked Self apart from the vast majority of culturally inflected legal scholarship is her unwillingness to take for granted the definition — you might even say, “being” — of the category, culture. Consider this passage, for example, where she discusses Lawrence Lessig’s pathbreaking book Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace:
The four-part Code framework…cannot take us where we need to go. An account of regulation emerging from the Newtonian interaction of code, law, market, and norms [i.e., culture] is far too simple regarding both instrumentalities and effects. The architectures of control now coalescing around issues of copyright and security signal systemic realignments in the ordering of vast sectors of activity both inside and outside markets, in response to asserted needs that are both economic and societal. (chap. 7, p. 24)
What Cohen is asking us to do here is to see culture not as a domain distinct from the legal, or the technological, or the economic, which is to say, something to be acted upon (regulated) by one or more of these adjacent spheres. This liberal-instrumental (“Netwonian”) view may have been appropriate in an earlier historical moment, but not today. Instead, she is urging us to see how these categories are increasingly embedded in one another and how, then, the boundaries separating the one from the other have grown increasingly diffuse and therefore difficult to manage.
The implications of this view are compelling, especially where law and culture are concerned. The psychologist Abraham Maslow once said, “it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” In the old, liberal view, one wielded the law in precisely this way — as a blunt instrument. Cohen, for her part, still appreciates how the law’s “resolute pragmatism” offers an antidote to despair (chap. 1, p. 20), but her analysis of the “ordinary routines and rhythms of everyday practice” in an around networked culture leads her to a subtler conclusion (chap. 1, p. 21). She writes: “practice does not need to wait for an official version of culture to lead the way….We need stories that remind people how meaning emerges from the uncontrolled and unexpected — stories that highlight the importance of cultural play and of spaces and contexts within which play occurs” (chap. 10, p. 1).
It’s not enough, then, to regulate with a delicate hand and then “punt to culture,” as one attorney memorably put it an anthropological study of the free software movement. Instead, Cohen seems to be suggesting that we treat legal discourse itself as a form of storytelling, one akin to poetry, prose, or any number of other types of everyday cultural practice. Important though they may be, law and jurisprudence are but one means for narrating a society, or for arriving at its self-understandings and range of acceptable behaviors.
Indeed, we’re only as good as the stories we tell ourselves. This much Jaron Lanier, one of the participants in this week’s symposium, suggested in his recent book, You Are Not a Gadget. There he showed how the metaphorics of desktops and filing, generative though they may be, have nonetheless limited the imaginativeness of computer interface design. We deserve computers that are both functionally richer and experientially more robust, he insists, and to achieve that we need to start telling more sophisticated stories about the relationship of digital technologies and the human body. Lousy stories, in short, make for lousy technologies.
Cohen arrives at an analogous conclusion. Liberalism, generative though it may be, has nonetheless limited our ability to conceive of the relationships among law, culture, technology, and markets. They are all in one another and of one another. And until we can figure out how to narrate that complexity, we’ll be at a loss to know how to live ethically, or at the very least mindfully, in an a densely interconnected and information rich world. Lousy stories make for lousy laws and ultimately, then, for lousy understandings of culture.
The purposes of Configuring the Networked Self are many, no doubt. For those of us working in the twilight zone of law, culture, and technology, it is a touchstone for how to navigate postliberal life with greater grasp — intellectually, experientially, and argumentatively. It is, in other words, an important first chapter in a better story about ordinary life in a high-tech world.
posted by Vanderbilt Law Review
Vanderbilt Law Review En Banc is pleased to present our current Roundtable on Golan v. Holder, which is to be argued at the Supreme Court on October 5, 2011. In Golan, the Court will consider whether Congress may constitutionally confer copyright on works that have fallen into the public domain. Congress created a new class of “restored” works in 1996 in order to fulfill its obligations under the Berne Convention, an international copyright treaty. Professor Tyler T. Ochoa introduces the case, discusses the history of the Berne Convention, and analyzes how the Court’s decision will affect the idea of the public domain. Professor Daniel Gervais takes a closer look at the Berne Convention. He argues that Berne is a flexible document and that Congress provided greater protection to restored works than is actually required by the treaty. Dale Nelson, Senior Intellectual Property Counsel at Warner Bros., questions whether restoration has had as significant an effect on the public domain as its detractors believe. She argues that the benefits of restoring foreign works to copyright greatly outweigh the burdens to users. Professor David Olson looks at Golan’s constitutional questions from a perspective not emphasized in the parties’ briefs. He argues that, because restoration is in violation of the Progress Clause, the Government can assert no legitimate interest to support its claim that restoration does not unconstitutionally restrict the Petitioners’ First Amendment speech rights. Finally, Professor Elizabeth Townsend Gard takes a detailed look at the mechanics of the statute enacting copyright restoration. In her view, the statute does not achieve the Government’s stated interests and transgresses the traditional contours of copyright. She provides several recommendations for statutory amendments that would make determination of public domain status a more manageable exercise.
Tyler T. Ochoa, Is the Copyright Public Domain Irrevocable? An Introduction to Golan v. Holder, 64 Vand. L. Rev. En Banc 123 (2011).
Daniel Gervais, Golan v. Holder: A Look at the Constraints Imposed by the Berne Convention, 64 Vand. L. Rev. En Banc 147 (2011).
Dale Nelson, Golan Restoration: Small Burden, Big Gains, 64 Vand. L. Rev. En Banc 165 (2011).
David S. Olson, A Legitimate Interest in Promoting the Progress of Science: Constitutional Constraints on Copyright Laws, 64 Vand. L. Rev. En Banc 185 (2011).
Elizabeth Townsend Gard, In the Trenches with § 104A: An Evaluation of the Parties’ Arguments in Golan v. Holder as It Heads to the Supreme Court, 64 Vand. L. Rev. En Banc 199 (2011).
On the Colloquy: The Credit Crisis, Refusal-to-Deal, Procreation & the Constitution, and Open Records vs. Death-Related Privacy Rights
posted by Northwestern University Law Review
This summer started off with a three part series from Professor Olufunmilayo B. Arewa looking at the credit crisis and possible changes that would focus on averting future market failures, rather than continuing to create regulations that only address past ones. Part I of Prof. Arewa’s looks at the failure of risk management within the financial industry. Part II analyzes the regulatory failures that contributed to the credit crisis as well as potential reforms. Part III concludes by addressing recent legislation and whether it will actually help solve these very real problems.
Next, Professors Alan Devlin and Michael Jacobs take on an issue at the “heart of a highly divisive, international debate over the proper application of antitrust laws” – what should be done when a dominant firm refuses to share its intellectual property, even at monopoly prices.
Professor Carter Dillard then discussed the circumstances in which it may be morally permissible, and possibly even legally permissible, for a state to intervene and prohibit procreation.
Rounding out the summer was Professor Clay Calvert’s article looking at journalists’ use of open record laws and death-related privacy rights. Calvert questions whether journalists have a responsibility beyond simply reporting dying words and graphic images. He concludes that, at the very least, journalists should listen to the impact their reporting has on surviving family members.
September 5, 2010 at 1:15 pm Tags: Antitrust, Constitutional Law, copyright, discrimination, financial crisis, free speech, Intellectual Property, Privacy, trademark Posted in: Antitrust, Bioethics, Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Corporate Finance, First Amendment, Intellectual Property, Privacy, Securities, Securities Regulation Print This Post No Comments
posted by Gaia Bernstein
Many consider digital music a success. But, looking back at the history of an older music technology – the CD – should make us pause. The CD was invented in 1982 and made its market debut the same year with Billy Joel’s album 52nd Street. It was adopted quickly and in 1987 surpassed the sales of vinyl records. Digital music, on the hand, suffered a different fate
Digital music technology was invented in the early 1980s. Several advances enhanced its marketability. The latest steps occurred in 1998 when Napster added the distribution advantage through file sharing and a fully functional MP3 player allowing portability was released. But, surprisingly, a decade later, the latest available music sales statistics show that in 2008 CD sales still compromised 77.8% of music sales, while digital music sales comprised only 12.8%.
This delayed adoption of digital music is perplexing given the overwhelming advantages of digital music over CDs. One factor that doubtless affected the sales of digital music is downloading from file sharing networks. But, I would like to offer another explanation. I believe that copyright enforcement particularly through technological measures — use of digital rights management systems (DRM) - played a role in delaying the adoption of digital music. DRM limit interoperability between digital music devices and music tracks. For example, Apple, the owner of the leading digital music device iPod, refused to license its Fairplay DRM system to competitors. The result was that music purchased from iTunes and protected by Fairplay could only be played on iPods and other Apple devices. Surveys showed that DRM’s effect on interoperability frustrated consumers digital music experience and that consumers were more likely to purchase digital music if DRMs will be removed.
This story about the delayed adoption of digital music is not commonly told. But, it is an important story to tell for two reasons. First, those objecting to copyright enforcement argue that lawsuits against file sharing systems, such as Napster or Grokster, inhibit innovation in dissemination technologies. But, they fail to address the policy argument of the dissemination failure of digital music technology itself.
Secondly, and even more importantly, by focusing on the adoption failure the parties to the digital music copyright disputes could find common ground. Both could benefit from accelerated adoption of digital music. Clearly, individuals who do not use digital music fail to benefit from the immediacy of downloading, the ability to choose individual songs and general convenience of digital music. But, the music industry could also benefit from a rise in the sales of digital music. Digital music allows direct selling resulting in savings on storage and mobilization of physical products. It does not involve physical copies so music providers do not end up with redundant copies of CDs. Music providers can also benefit from the flexibility of providing consumers with the option to buy specific songs — this lets them cater to a broader range of tastes and expand their sales. And finally. digital music allows instant delivery – again allowing expansion of sales through profiting from impulse buys.
There are good reasons then to consider the delayed adoption of digital music. For a more complete description of this alternative story, see here.
posted by Matthew Sag
In my forthcoming article, Copyright and Copy-Reliant Technology, I investigate the significance of transaction costs in the context of technologies that copy expressive works for nonexpressive ends. These “copy-reliant technologies”, such as Internet search engines and plagiarism detection software do not read, understand, or enjoy copyrighted works, nor do they deliver these works directly to the public. They do, however, necessarily copy them in order to process them as grist for the mill, raw materials that feed various algorithms and indices.
Copy-reliant technologies usually, but not invariably, incorporate some kind of technologically enabled opt-out mechanism to maintain their preferred default rule of open access. For example, every major Internet search engine relies on the Robots Exclusion Protocol to prevent their automated agents from indexing certain content and to remove previously indexed material from their databases as required. A robots.txt file at the root level of a website in the form of: User–Agent:* Disallow: / will banish all compliant search engine robots from a website.
The Robots Exclusion Protocol is pretty easy to implement and it is highly customizable. The interesting question for copyright law is “does the provision of an opt-out make any difference?”
In the Article, I argue that it opt-outs are significant in the context of a fair use analysis. The doctrinal analysis is in the paper, but the basic point is that when transaction costs are otherwise high, opt-out mechanisms can play a critical role in preserving a default rule of open access while still allowing individuals to have their preferences respected.
The notion that the rights of the property owner can be protected under permissive default rules coupled with an opt-out is hardly new. Robert Ellickson famously describes the “fencing out” rule whereby cattle were allowed to roam freely on the property of others unless that property was fenced. Landowners still maintained their property rights, subject to the burden of fencing out neighbors’ cattle. Presumably, if cows could read, a sign not unlike the Robots Exclusion Protocol would have been sufficient.
posted by Deven Desai
Ann Bartow’s post about Paul Zukofsky, son of Louis and Celia Zukofsky, and his attempt to exert extreme control over his parents’ work reveals that heirs are problem for copyright. Mr. Zukofsky asserts some untenable points about his power over the material and the need for academics to seek his approval. The full letter is on his site. Here are some choice quotes:
Despite what you may have been told, you may not use LZ’s words as you see fit, as if you owned them, while you hide behind the rubric of “fair use”. “Fair use” is a very-broadly defined doctrine, of which I take a very narrow interpretation, and I expect my views to be respected. We can therefore either more or less amicably work out the fees that I demand; you can remove all quotation; or we can turn the matter over to lawyers, this last solution being the worst of the three, but one which I will use if I need to enforce my rights. …
Next, other than for the following, I am not trying to censor you. I hardly give a damn what is said about my father (I am far more protective of my mother) as long as the name is spelled properly, and the fees are paid. My interest is almost purely economic. That being said, I do not approve of delving into the personal lives of my parents. If you wish to spend your time worrying if LZ did or did not shtupp alligators, that is your problem, but I will not approve quotation. That is not scholarship. That is gossip, and beneath contempt. …
Finally, when all else fails, and you remain hell-bent on quoting LZ, but you really, really REALLY do not want to deal with me, or you have been stupidly advised to try to circumvent me — remind yourself again and again, and yet once more, what Lyndon Baines Johnson’s said about J. Edgar Hoover i.e.: “I’d rather have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside pissing in”.
Although these statements may seem like ravings, Mr. Zukofsky is not alone in having these perspectives. As some know, the Joyce, T.S. Elliot, J.R.R. Tolkien, J.M. Barrie, Sylvia Plath, Samuel Beckett, and Bertolt Brecht estates have expressed similar views. What strikes me here is that although Louis and Celia Zukofsky are important figures in American poetry, I would bet that many are unaware of who they are. Their son’s perspective of wanting extreme control, little discussion, and rent extraction indicates his interest in, well, his interests. Those do not seem to include aiding people who wish to keep the artists in question alive as part of our culture. All of which makes me think Mr. Zukofsky might take a lesson from another poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, for I think that not even the pedestal may remain for his parents if he maintains this posture.
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter’d visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp’d on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Description: The British Museum, Room 4 – Colossal bust of Ramesses II, the ‘Younger Memnon’ From the Ramesseum, Thebes, Egypt 19th Dynasty, about 1250 BC. One of the largest pieces of Egyptian sculpture in the British Museum. Weighing 7.25 tons, this fragment of his statue was cut from a single block of two-coloured granite. He is shown wearing the nemes head-dress surmounted by a cobra diadem.
Author: Mujtaba Chohan E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Source: British Museum Visit
posted by Matthew Sag
The now defunct version of the Google Book Class Action Settlement is a complicated document consisting of 141 pages, 160 definitions, 17 separate articles and 116 separate clauses, not including the substantial provisions contained within the 15 attachments where several important features of the deal were buried.
The initial draft of the agreement dates back to October 28, 2008, when Google announced that it had reached a settlement of the highly publicized class-action lawsuit brought by the Authors Guild and another equally important lawsuit brought by the American Association of Publishers.
Opposition from various quarters caused the parties to reconsider the details of the settlement and a new version is due on Monday November 9, 2009. In my recent article I compared the settlement to the most likely outcome of the litigation the settlement resolves. In this post I speculate about the contents of the revised agreement.
The essential features of the old settlement agreement were:
- Money. Google made some pretty significant financial concessions, including one-time payments of over $100 million dollars and a revenue sharing agreement.
- Digitization, Indexing & Search. In return for these concessions Google received the right to continue to operate its book search engine, substantially in its current form which is arguably consistent with copyright law’s fair use doctrine.
- Commodification. The settlement also gave Google the ability to explore new revenue possibilities in cooperation with authors and publishers. The highlights consisted of extensive book previews, consumer e-book purchases, institutional subscriptions to the entire Google Book database and various other “New Revenue Opportunities”.
- New institutional arrangements. Beyond the mechanics of the agreement itself, the key elements of the new Google Book universe were to be the “Book Rights Registry” and the “Author-Publisher Procedures”. Although the Registry received more attention from critics of the settlement, the Author-Publisher Procedures appeared to be the key vulnerability from a class-action fairness perspective. These procedures determine who controls the exploitation of a work within the Google Book universe and who benefits from that exploitation. In many cases the Author-Publisher Procedures act like a standard form publishing contract that supersedes deals negotiated before the importance of digital rights was widely realized.
- Orphan works exploitation. The treatment of orphan works pervades all aspects of the current Settlement agreement. The agreement increased public access to orphan works by presumptively including almost all works in most commercially significant uses. Orphan works could be digitized, indexed, made available for partial-previews, sold as consumer purchases and incorporated into institutional subscriptions. As well as benefiting Google, revenues attributable to these uses will flow in part to the Registry, and to registered authors and publishers.
- Orphan works monopoly. In its current form the Settlement only solves the orphan works problem for Google.
What should we expect on Monday?
The most desirable change from an antitrust perspective would be to allow Google’s competitors to exploit orphan works on the same terms as Google. The problem with this solution is that it further strains the boundaries of class action law and looks more and more like private legislation. This should not, in my view, be enough to derail the deal if the parties can show that all of the relevant sub-class interests were adequately represented.
The Author-Publisher Procedures enhance the coordinating function of the Settlement by streamlining the incorporation of existing author-publisher contractual terms into the framework of the Google Book universe. However, where an existing author-publisher contract gives both parties some control over electronic exploitation, or simply fails to make any provision for electronic rights, the Author-Publisher Procedures effectively overwrite those contracts. These new terms do not appear to systematically disadvantage either authors or publishers, but they strike me as a one size fits all solution that could be substantially improved upon.
Finally, I expect the revenue sharing aspects of the deal to become more complicated.
posted by Matthew Sag
Should we fear Google? This question, unthinkable ten, maybe even five, years ago, seems to dominate internet policy discussion today. AT&T is afraid of Google Voice. Apple might be afraid of the Google Phone. Microsoft is afraid that Google Apps will make its Office suit redundant. These fears are justified, but they are also good. In most cases Googlephobia is a condition suffered by competitors. Google will probably kill off some competitors, but it will force many more to continue to innovate and provide better products to the consumer at lower prices. So, yes, some people should fear Google. But should we the public?
“Fear is often preceded by astonishment, and is so far akin to it, that both lead to the senses of sight and hearing being instantly aroused. In both cases the eyes and mouth are widely opened, and the eyebrows raised.” Charles Darwin, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals.
In its pre-settlement incarnation, the Google Book Search (GBS) project was merely an astonishing attempt to build a comprehensive search engine to allow full text searching inside millions of books. The GBS envisaged in the Settlement (before the DOJ sent the parties back to the drawing-board) was much more ambitious. Not satisfied with digitization, indexing and limited display of books consistent with copyright law’s fair use doctrine, Google, the Authors Guild and a handful of publishers struck a deal which allowed for the commoditization of digital books as direct substitutes for paper copies. Subject to an opt-out and a few other exclusions, the Settlement swept in almost all books subject to U.S. copyrights and established an entirely new institutional framework for clearing digital book rights.
My personal view is that justified astonishment at the GBS Settlement has, in too many cases, given way to unjustified fear. Google is still far from being the new Microsoft as the Department of Justice’s Christine Varney has asserted. It certainly does not act like it. Google’s track record of openness and innovation are heartening and there is very little evidence so far that they plan on abandoning their “don’t be evil” corporate culture.
Googlephobia appears to be the foundation of some pretty wild assertions in the context of the Google Book dispute in particular. Google conceives that it is set to liberate out-of-print books from their dusty dungeons on the relatively inaccessible shelves of the worlds great libraries. Critics of the deal (and the initial more modest GBS) see plans for monopolization of hitherto non-existent markets, the destruction of libraries, universities and even the book itself.
The Google Book Settlement was not perfect, but my own fear is that Googlephobia and the intervention of the Department of Justice have left us worse off than we would have otherwise been. The Google skeptics are right about a number of the Settlement’s shortcomings, but now that the parties renegotiating the deal we had all better hope that GBS version 3 is better, fairer, and more accessible — not just smaller and less ambitious.
It might be naive to simply trust in Google, but the fear Google now inspires seems equally misplaced.
posted by Deven Desai
Apparently Stephenie Meyer, the author of the Twilight series, started writing a version of the series from a different character’s (Edward’s) point of view and the early, incomplete draft was leaked onto the Internet. Jacqui Lipton’s post about Stephenie Meyer’s “reaction to the unauthorized release” of her partial draft reveals another way to think about what is going on here. I followed the link to Ms. Meyer’s post about the problem. I was quite surprised to see that Ms. Meyer has posted the draft on her web site while also expressing her view about reading the draft:
I’d rather my fans not read this version of Midnight Sun. It was only an incomplete draft; the writing is messy and flawed and full of mistakes. But how do I comment on this violation without driving more people to look for the illegal posting? It has taken me a while to decide how and if I could respond. But to end the confusion, I’ve decided to make the draft available here (at the end of this post). This way, my readers don’t have to feel they have to make a sacrifice to stay honest. I hope this fragment gives you further insight into Edward’s head and adds a new dimension to the Twilight story. That’s what inspired me to write it in the first place.
Why post the draft? One could simply ask readers not to read the draft floating around the Internet. Note that Ms. Meyer explicitly does not want to drive people to the unauthorized work. To me this move seems like a way to re-capture the attention that might have gone the sites with the download. In that sense, she may be using her reputation and attention power to undercut the benefits that may flow from unauthorized distribution. Of course there may be sales problems here as some may have been willing to pay even for the rough draft. But that idea probably does not cut off the usual claim that leaking will harm the final market. I would be surprised if those who read the early manuscript will not be more than happy to buy the final draft. In other words, the law often claims that the harm in such leaking or copying is that the unauthorized version is a substitute for the full work which I don’t think is the case.
To be clear, I think Ms. Meyer doesn’t want people to read the draft. But faced with the draft being out there, her response is simply a wise strategy. She tells her fans 1) Don’t read it 2) If you have to read it, read it from my site, 3) Reading from my site is a way to stay “honest” and not “sacrifice” (I am not sure what is being sacrificed but I think it is integrity or loyalty to the author) which means not fueling those who are taking value away from her.
There is an extra point here. When Ms. Meyer says she can’t continue with the book, she is giving honest information to her fans: certain acts (i.e., unauthorized copying and distribution of her work) upset her. In fact, they upset her enough that she will not finish the work in question. I don’t think this point is a threat. And, regardless of motivation, the move tells fans how she wants to interact with them. Insofar as there is relationship with her fans, Ms. Meyer has communicated what she expects. A Rebecca Tushnet pointed out in the comments to Jacqui’s post, there are already “over 100,000 Twilight stories–some of them from Edward’s perspective–available at fanfiction.net. How Ms. Meyer feels about those stories may differ from how she feels about her draft being distributed without permission. So as Jacqui points out this one is personal, but I think it may also be professionally wise.
P.S. Those interested in more on how reputation and attention will be a key asset in an online world may want to read my essay Individual Branding: How the Rise of Individual Creation and Distribution of Cultural Products Confuses the Intellectual Property System.
posted by Deven Desai
So I had my iTunes open and on shuffle yesterday when Monty Python’s “Finland” came on. That was what prompted me to check YouTube for Python offerings. Now the Python chaps have offered their own channel. This video has the usual Python cheek as they talk about YouTube, being ripped off, and the open plea that viewers buy the products after they enjoy them. The clip also touts the troop’s interest in showing the clips as they wanted them to be shown and in high quality.
Fun stuff but here is the problem. The Monty Python Channel has nowhere near the quantity of Python material one can find elsewhere on YouTube. I wonder whether the Python folks chose to leave the other posters alone and offer what they see as the best or most in demand clips in a branded area. Then again, they may have decided to go after the other posters too. And to think this train of thought all started in Finland. Finland? Yes, because I could take a CD, put into MP3 format, and listen to “Finland” as a shuffle tune. But wait. There’s more! The devil you say. No, really.
Check out the clip for Finland below. It is a good quality stream of the music. It is funny and adds a fair amount of creativity. It attributes the visual work and the software to make the work. It also acknowledges Python as the source of the music. In addition, it has embedded ads to allow a viewer to buy the song from iTunes or Amazon. Now given all the new works, Python’s failure to offer a similar video (even if they did the video is a new work albeit one needing the song to make much sense), AND the ads is it fair use? After all YouTube and the poster probably take a cut, as would the seller, but as the Python folks acknowledge they too are giving access to and enjoyment of their clips away for free with the plea that people buy their work. As my essay Individual Branding: How the Rise of Individual Creation and Distribution of Cultural Products Confuses the Intellectual Property System argues these facts present confusing situations for intellectual property. Sharing, attribution, some control, encouraging purchases, remixing, and more can all be seen in my encounter with Finland which may be my new personal metaphor for IP. Watch the video and tell me what you think, fair use, attribution, new work, infringement, all of the above?
posted by Deven Desai
Earlier this week Live365 filed a law suit arguing that the Copyright Royalty Board is unconstitutional. Today is the deadline for authors to opt-out of the class in the Google Book Settlement. The idea that this Settlement ought to approved is more than suspect. Others have noted the myriad issues the settlement raises. As Pam Samuelson has put it “Exploiting an opportunity made possible by lawsuits brought by a small number of plaintiffs on one narrow issue, Google has negotiated a settlement agreement designed to give it a compulsory license to all books in copyright throughout the world forever. This settlement will transform the future of the book industry and of public access to the cultural heritage of mankind embodied in books. How audacious is that?” The nature of the class, whether class action (which I usually see as better suited to resolving tort rather than property claims) is the correct approach, the way in which this class purports to operate, and the anti-trust issues alone should make it clear that this deal, although possibly offering benefits, should be slowed down and put under further scrutiny.
It is ironic that one one hand Live365 has been able to raise a Constitutional challenge to a copyright royalty issue, and on the other hand what is surely a turning point in copyright history and the question of how society governs access-to-knowledge is subject to a private deal between private parties who have little concern for society’s claim to access and use the works in question. To be clear, I am not arguing that it is improper to figure out a possible payment system. Samuelson’s work on mapping the public domain is clear about reasons we may need and want to have certain groups build, maintain, and charge money for information repositories. The questions that concern me are what will that system look like? Will it allow innovation and competition in the provision of the similar services or will it hinder such efforts? Is this service a natural monopoly? Will the incumbents after the deal is done be able to extract rent? What about the different uses that are conflated here (e.g., higher educational uses, research uses, social networking uses, and more)? What about the spillovers that could come from a more open system such as empirical research on the data in the works and computer science work on the way language operates?
I have begun a close read of the 140 page contract and its appendices. I urge all of you to take a look at the contract. It reminds a little too much of entertainment deals I have read in practice. Some clauses are opaque; some bizarre. All protect one party and ignore others. In a Hollywood or other publishing arena that may be O.K. When talking about the modern Library of Alexandria, it is not.
To whet your appetite about why one should not accept the deal at face value look at this statement of objectives:
The economic terms for Institutional Subscriptions of Books will be governed by two objectives: (1) the realization of revenue at market rates for each Book and license on behalf of Rightsholders and (2) the realization of broad access to the Books by the public, including institutions of higher education. Plaintiffs and Google view these two objectives as compatible, and agree that these objectives will help assure both long-term revenue to the Rightsholders and accessibility of the Books to the public.
My initial comments are at the Public Index in Section IV. But in brief, the assumption that the objective of market rates and the realization of broad public access are compatible is on the surface semi-plausible but facile. The following sub-clauses make it clear that broad public access is not the animating force on the deal. Intense control over access and the ability to price discriminate (including a ban on k-12 access unless the Registry (publishers) agree) are the goals. Again if others read the sections and can show where I err, I am all ears.
As a general matter, if anyone can share why class action was wise and/or a good fit here, please share your insights.
Last, I suggest that this deal is so important that Congress has to be involved. As private re-writing of the Copyright Act is not the correct way to proceed. It will likely take away the chance for copyright to roar into the twenty-first century with a winning solution for authors, publishers, and society at large and instead will repeat history with the system being captured and benefiting only a narrow class of stakeholders.
September 4, 2009 at 11:33 am Tags: class action, copyright, Google Book Settlement Posted in: Constitutional Law, Google & Search Engines, Intellectual Property, Technology, Web 2.0 Print This Post 2 Comments
posted by Deven Desai
As anyone who follows the music industry should know, the history of record labels, artists, and exploitation is long and a bit dirty. K.J. Greene has argued that the problems of race and music business practices should be part of the reparations debate. Today, however, it appears that a pioneer of hip-hop, Dr. Roxanne Shante, has her PhD from Cornell because of her recording contract. Now before one thinks that all was close and loving, know that Dr. Shante had to fight with the record label for quite some time before it honored the clause which stated that the label would fund her education for life. Luckily the Dean at Maymount Manhattan College allowed then Ms. Shante to attend the college while the bills were still sent to Warner Music and being debated by the company. Although there is a silver lining of sorts here, it is sad that Dr. Shante sold more than 250,000 records, saw little of the money she generated for the label, and left the business because “‘Everybody was cheating with the contracts, stealing and telling lies,’ …And to find out that I was just a commodity was heartbreaking.’”
As general take away, it seems that any corporate entity that is taking on a young talent in sports, music, or any other field, ought to consider such a clause as a good thing. Agents should at least insist on it. The odds are already stacked against many of these talents. In some cases they are giving up education time to help a sports program. In others, like Dr. Shante’s, the talent may “be a teenage mom, come from the projects, and be raised by a single parent, so as the article about her put it, the clause may be “a throwaway” because no thought it would come to anything. In other words, I hope these clauses persist and even appear more often. It seems quite fair and an oddly (or really unfortunately) low-risk bet for labels and other industry players in these deals.
You can go here to hear the entire song “Roxanne’s Revenge.” (imeem only had the 30 second clip for embedding).
posted by Kaimipono D. Wenger
I’m not really a copyright person, but I thought that this recent Harvard working paper by Felix Oberholzer-Gee and Koleman Strumpf (which I noticed via Michael Geist) had some very interesting analysis — gathering and examining quantitative evidence which suggests that weaker copyright protection leads to greater creative output. Read the rest of this post »
posted by Deven Desai
Space the final frontier. These are the voyages of … ah, you know the rest. Exploration and the idea of frontiers seem to capture an important part of the human experience. The possibility of finding something new, of entering uncharted territories excites people. And, although one may want to keep the secret of the Northwest Passage or the Straits of Magellan a secret, sooner or later a map is created to increase the amount of benefit that can be extracted from the discovery. Yet with the world seeming to collapse into one connected place, the role of maps has changed. In short, maps are a new frontier for property and privacy.
As Jacqueline Lipton noted Google Maps has enabled the persistence of race discrimination. Google Maps has also spawned some other curious creations and connections. For example, I wrote about the flap over what is a true IMAX screen and that folks put together a map of IMAX screens with information about the screen size. The H1N1 (aka swine) flu epidemic revealed an interesting dual use for maps. One person created a frequently updated map with information about claimed incidents. I was curious about the source and found that one person at, what else, a bitotech company focused on recombination and disease, was behind the map. In addition, a group called Health Map seeks to offers a map that connects “disparate data sources to achieve a unified and comprehensive view of the current global state of infectious diseases and their effect on human and animal health.” On the light side, Total Film has a feature that uses Google Street view to show 25 favorite film locations.
As seems always to be the case, folks will probably soon argue about who owns what. The more interesting point might be the way maps show the malleability of information. In some hands, maps show fun things like where a film was shot. In other hands, maps provide useful epidemiological information. Yet, certain home owners may not be pleased about having tourists show up to gawk at what had been a quiet abode. Cities, counties, and even states may be upset if lay people assume that suspected or even confirmed outbreaks mean they should create a de facto or quasi-quarantine. Last, knowing where specific racial, religious, and other groups are can all too easily lead to mob behaviors.
The information mill churns. We have to sort it out. Old tools have new impacts. Today maps pose challenges. Tomorrow it will be something else. I am never certain that the law is the best way to manage these changes. Nonetheless, we have to consider what they are and how they function in case the law is asked to do so. On that note, please share any other creative and/or challenging uses of maps of which you are aware.
Last here is a little music for the trip:
May 29, 2009 at 3:42 pm Tags: copyright, Google maps, H1N1, IMAX, maps, Privacy, property Posted in: Google & Search Engines, Health Law, Intellectual Property, Privacy, Privacy (Medical), Property Law Print This Post 2 Comments
posted by Michael Madison
Late last year the Virginia Law Review published a provocative and entertaining article by Dotan Oliar and Christopher Sprigman (both on the Virginia law faculty) on copyright law and the social norms of stand-up comics. There’s No Free Laugh (Anymore): The Emergence of Intellectual Property Norms and the Transformation of Stand-Up Comedy, 94 Va. L. Rev. 1787 (2008).
Earlier this Spring, the law review’s online supplement, In Brief, published a series of responses to that article, by me, Katherine Strandburg, Jennifer Rothman, and Henry Smith:
Jennifer E. Rothman, Custom, Comedy, and the Value of Dissent
Henry E. Smith, Does Equity Pass the Laugh Test?: A Response to Oliar and Sprigman
Katherine J. Strandburg, Who’s In the Club?: A Response to Oliar and Sprigman
Michael J. Madison, Of Coase and Comics, or, The Comedy of Copyright
And In Brief just published Oliar and Sprigman’s great response to all of the critiques, From Corn to Norms: How IP Entitlements Affect What Stand-Up Comedians Create.
The collection of pieces makes up an engaging virtual symposium on a topic that is simultaneously important (the relationship between law and social norms) and entertaining (how often do legal scholars get to dedicate professional energy to Lenny Bruce?).
This kind of extended public colloquy among scholars is among the best uses of the online supplements that many of the top law reviews have created. The “virtual symposium” could be even more effective if the elements of virtual symposia were collected (tagged, perhaps) and publicized as such (“Symposium on Law and Social Norms in Stand-Up Comedy”, or something like that) in both new and traditional electronic media (Westlaw, Lexis/Nexis, CILP, the law review websites themselves and their posts to this blog and others, SSRN, etc.)
That suggestion is directed to all those students, librarians, indexers, and bloggers who contribute to the ecology of online information about scholarship, and it comes from the perspective of the reader. Here’s a suggestion from the perspective of the author. If your piece is being pitched at a journal that hosts an online supplement, consider offering to partner with the student editors in soliciting critiques and responses, and designing an issue of the supplement that constitutes, in effect, a low-cost symposium on your work.