Category Archives: copyright

Online Piracy legislation: Wikipedia to go on strike over SOPA

The discussion of the US Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) has been causing plenty of noise online.  Wikipedia is planning a strike this week – for 24 hours they are going to pull the plug on their site.  This will no doubt grab the attention of their estimated 25million daily visitors!

Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia has (according to the Guardian):

  “been a persistent critic of Sopa, calling it “the worst internet legislation I have ever seen.””

This is one of many voices against the proposed legislation.  Last year the BBC reported:

“The founders of Google, Twitter and eBay have signed a strongly worded letter criticising controversial US legislation ahead of a debate in Congress… Sopa was introduced by Judiciary Committee chairman Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, who said the legislation was designed to “stop the flow of revenue to rogue websites… that profit from selling pirated goods without any legal consequences”.”

Yesterday however, The Guardian reported that:

“Congress ready to drop Sopa vote after White House says it would not support legislation that threatens openness of internet”

Again from the Guardian:

“…while Sopa now looks severely damaged, Protect IP is still up for a vote on 24 January and there is widespread support among politicians for tighter control of the internet”

Of course there is support for this legislation.  Whilst it seems the voices against have been most successful in capturing media headlines, there are also compelling arguments in support of legislation (see video below).

What is clear is that striking a balance between infringement and fair use is very difficult to legislate for….  Fair Use is a concept that we often rely on in our work so it’s worth taking the time to exploring the wider issues.

Final comment from the Guardian:

…So far, the Sopa battle has been largely fought out in the tech, media, and business pages. All that could change Wednesday when Wikipedia goes dark.”

Read the official legal docs

Some background Q&As

Intangible, invisible and of rapidily growing importance – IP

This week I caught up with an episode of a BBC podcast “Peter Day’s World of Business” that was all about intellectual property.

As you would expect the issue of copyright in the digital economy was discussed at length – to listen visit the link below.

Well worth a listen!

GlobalBiz: Take a Copy: 09 July 11 (Duration: 27 mins)

“Intellectual property sounds an innocuous enough idea, but patents and copyright have recently been stirring up a lot of strife. Peter Day finds out why copyright in particular is such a contentious issue in the Internet age.”

Info and presentations from Open Access Africa 2011

Last month BioMed Central ran an event to coincide with Open Access Week.  In true open access style they have now made all the presentations available:

“Open Access Africa 2011, hosted by BioMed Central in conjunction with Computer Aid International, was held at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, Ghana, during Open Access Week 2011. The conference brought together representatives from Google, British Medical Journal (BMJ), Department for International Development (DFID), Pan African Medical Journal and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) to discuss open access publishing in an African context. All conference presentations and images are now available from our website.”

I was looking at the presentation from Helena Asamoah-Hassan, University Librarian, KNUST in Ghana entitled: “Case studies of open access initiatives for access to information in developing countries” in which she wrote of major benefits/obstacles:

Major Benefits: – Unrestricted access to knowledge, – Speed and reduced cost of distribution,  – Access to grey literatures from developing world, – Expanded opportunity to publishMajor Obstacles: -Poor State of ICT – limited computer literacy; high cost of internet access limiting access ; – low bandwidth, –  Copyright issues (authors sign away their rights and so cannot self archive their own papers) and – Misconception of Open Access resulting from lack of awareness.”

These points are certainly are worth remembering!  For me the issue is both an IP one, and a communications one – i.e. raising awareness where required and providing tailored solutions to access.    In her presentation Helena Asamoah-Hassan provides many examples of African initiatives already underway, and her suggestions to improve the OA situation.

It’s going to be a long, hard, and continuous process but there are many laudable projects moving in the right direction, as the presentations from the Open Access Africa event show!

Other related posts:
Offline OA: “OA’ (OA Prime): bringing OA resources to low connectivity areas”  a solution (hopefully a stop-gap) for low connectivity.  And “Open Access; more than just citation considerations” which talks about access, readership, download and citation of OA.

Addressing legal barriers in sharing of research data

The following is a press release of interest from “Knowledge Exchange” – “a co-operative effort that supports the use and development of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) infrastructure for higher education and research.”

PRESS RELEASE. 4 October 2011.  “Addressing legal barriers in sharing of research data

It is difficult for researchers and those supporting them to understand how open access to research data can be legally obtained and re-used. This is due to the fact that European and national laws vary and researchers work across national boundaries. A possible approach to providing clarity would be that researchers assign a licence to their data. This practice could be incorporated in a code of conduct for researchers.

This is one of the recommendations from the report ‘The legal status of research data in the Knowledge Exchange partner countries’ which was commissioned by Knowledge Exchange (KE) and written by the Centre for Intellectual Property Law (CIER). The aim of the report was to provide clarity by analysing the intellectual property regimes in the four KE countries and European database law. Moreover, the report provides three recommendations to achieve better access: making contractual arrangements with authors, harmonisation of European copyright law and setting up of policies on commercial interests.

Licence for re-use to be included in code of conduct

On 9 September the findings of the report were discussed in Brussels with national legal experts and representatives from the European Commission. In the discussion a waiver or licence for researchers was considered to be most likely to be adopted. This could also be incorporated in a code of conduct for researchers. The discussion revealed that joint publicly and privately funded research poses a complex challenge as this requires balancing the interests of public funding and those of private companies. Harmonisation of copyright law was considered a very complex matter and not feasible in the short term.

The full report and the four national reports are available at:

A report on the seminar is available at:

Social media for science; be ready with some IP guidelines

Recent article on SciDevNet encouraging scientists to better utilise social media networks.  “How scientists can reach out with social media” They say:

“The general public has the power to deny your funding or restrict your experiments. It’s important to reach outside your laboratories, offices and field stations to engage with the wider world, to show people that science is essential and that researchers are working hard to help address important issues”

And the article goes on to give some great practical advice about how this can happen.  IP practitioners need to be aware of these efforts, and also be ready to insert IP relevant content into social media guidelines that might be produced.  I have blogged on this subject in the past, see “IP issues in social media networks” – this is an important area that will only grow in relevance.

The FAO have a comprehensive Social Media Policy which anyone can access.  It includes information and advice for their employees about copyrights,  logo use, as well as disclaimer usage, and guidelines about which blogs should be considered “official” and which not, and how that distinction is made.

More and more we will need to think about the usage of these tools and how they are maintained so not to loose any built value, or valuable user names.  Think of a simple example whereby a social media account might be built, and then access lost once the employee who was maintaining it moves on.

Back to the original item.  The advice from SciDevNet is good advice.  Social media noise is a great way to get science noticed and communicated to a broader audience.  Just be aware of the wider implications from an IP perspective, and be ready to act accordingly.

Trial and error tackling online copyright infringement

Spotted this news item today in the Guardian today: UK policy makers are struggling to find workable policy solutions that can bridge gaps between the interests of rights holders, consumers, and internet service providers (ISPs).

 “Government scraps plan to block illegal filesharing websites

 “A consultation document … said that ministers intend to do more work on what other measures can be pursued to tackle online copyright infringement in an effort to stop widespread music piracy, which is increasingly spreading to television and film…

[Cable recognised] that more needs to be done to crack down on illegal filesharing to protect the copyright holders, but nevertheless backed down on introducing site blocking legislation…”The basic philosophy is we do recognise the need for protection, but it has to be protection that’s proportionate to needs and based on evidence.”

Problems are often connected to the stick approach.  As well as legislation to allow the blocking of sites by ISPs there is the use of Digital Rights Management (DRM) software.  From, “Vince Cable: You can own your own property”:

“DRM is a means for companies to stop you from copying your own content, mostly due to fears of piracy, but it stops users from legitimately enjoying property that they have legally bought. You know, in shops”

The Guardian article highlighted this problem too, “We can’t say that businesses should embrace technology but say to consumers they can’t use technology for products they have paid for said the Digital Economy Act was much criticised, and rushed legislation can come back to haunt.  The issue of online copyright infringement is a moving target which needs careful consideration.  However, in the meantime rights holders must be frustrated with the amount of time this careful consideration is taking – they are the ones who are losing out financially in the meantime.  It seems highly probable that sticks are not going to be enough, not whilst the technology can move faster than the law making.  But are carrots enough, especially as building them into a profitable business model remains somewhat elusive?

Can a monkey own copyrights?

A great copyright dilemma discussed on the 1709 blog about a photo taken by a monkey.  Quite a good picture too, good enough to be published in a newspaper under a copyright notice.  But who really owns the copyright?  The post “Monkey See, Monkey Do, Monkey get Copyright, too?” explores the issues involved…

The plot thickens (probably more than it needed to) if you read Techdirt item “Monkeys Don’t Do Fair Use; News Agency Tells Techdirt To Remove Photos” This moves the debate on to the principle of Fair Use, and also highlights the dangers of quick-fire email replies.

You can see the works of art in question by reading the item: “Cheeky monkey! Macaque borrows photographer’s camera to take hilarious self-portraits.” Not sure I am entirely convinced it’s a genuine story, but that is another debate entirely…!

UK Copyright Law: “current system has failed to “keep pace” with the fast-moving digital economy”

This was one of the messages included in the news item, “Vince Cable to back copyright law reform”.  The article talked a lot about what was going to be said ahead of a review of the UK copyright system due to be published this week.

“Chaired by Professor Ian Hargreaves and assisted by a panel of experts… It aims to identify barriers to growth within the IP framework, which consists of the rules and regulations covering how IP is created, used and protected …

…The IP Review team has published a call for evidence that seeks information on how well the current IP system serves to help promote entrepreneurialism, economic growth, social and commercial innovation.”

According to the Guardian article it is expected the report will “call for a loosening and simplification of some aspects of copyright law.”  We will have to wait and see what details are included when the report is published shortly.  It is encouraging that this report acknowledges the barriers to research efforts.  The Guardian said:

“The minister is expected to say that “one of Hargreaves’s great contributions has been to show the importance of copyright in less obvious contexts. He describes how academic work on malaria – which seeks to draw on previous research through a process known as data mining – is being stymied by copyright and contract restrictions.””

The Vatican, blogging & copyright

I was reading about a recent meeting of bloggers in Rome, organised by the Vatican.  The post from Techdirt:  “Could The Ultimate Legacy Organization – The Vatican – Be Out In Front On Copyright?” reports that:

“Italian blogger and author Mattia Marasco highlighted the importance of attribution, but said that copyright is “an old model,” when it comes to new media…

…The Vatican also announced an upcoming website, which will make extensive use of social media and apparently use a non-commercial Creative Commons license”

In a Pontifical Council for Social Communications blog post about the event (which is unfortunately available only in Italian) there was mention of the importance not just of communication, but also of interaction. Listening and responding to feedback and responses to gauge how the message has been received.   Social media tools are perfect for this approach. 

For those involved in public sector communication, it would be well worth watching how the Vatican embraces new media, and how it deals with copyrights.  They have, after all, a very long history of communicating content!

Yahoo!, Italy and liability for content of search engine results

A post on Slashdot that caught my attention: “Yahoo! Liable In Italy For Searchable Content”.  What is this about?  It’s a ruling that took place in Italy regarding Yahoo! and their potential liability for the content of sites included in their search results.

Taken from another article, “Yahoo Found Guilty of Linking in Italy” :

“The judge ruled that Yahoo! is liable for contributory infringement, copyright infringement facilitation, if Yahoo! doesn’t remove search results after it has been notified of privacy violations. Each of the major search engines has had processes in place for years which enable copyright holders to notify the engines of infringement. However, in this court ruling, the search engine becomes a party to the infringement apparently from the moment the notification is submitted.

It remains to be seen how this will play out. Yahoo! and Google can easy argue that any system where results were immediately removed based on a user notification would be subject to abuse. It’s easy to imagine competitors submitting false privacy notifications to remove their competition. The question is then if the search engines should also have to under take due diligence to determine the rightful copyright holder for any content on the web, and if so, to what degree of certainty and in what time frame.”

The Slashdot site contained an interesting string of comments – raising many points about what the outcome of such rulings could be.  It does present some difficult choices…  

If you are interested in further details read the IP Kat write-up which is, as usual, informative and full of useful links! “Search Yahoo! for Elly? Not on your Nellie