Posted on April 30, 2010 in IP by Brian RoweComments Off

My favorite case law site,, is closing up any day now. This makes me a a little sad. I have blogged a few times about how people should Remove your Links from FindLaw and use as an alternative.  The main reason Columbia Law, who runs Alt Law, gives for shutting down is Google does what we do but better.

This both warms my heart and scares me a bit.  I am excited to see Goggle competing with the evil duopoly of West Law and Lexis that have held the keys to case law for too long, but deep in my heart of hearts I know that case law is too important a public asset to leave entirely to one company to make sure it is free and open.  What would happen to case law if Google was split up or started top loss money… Case law is the life blood of a civil law system and should be held in an open public format for everyone to have access to.  So I applaud Google for making a great product, but also wish the government would make its own open repository for the people to ensure that case law is never locked away by contracts and copyright claims again.

November 19, 2009

Earlier this week, Google announced the addition of legal cases to Google Scholar. It’s good, very good. But you don’t have to take our word for it: try it out yourself.

Everything we have done or planned to do with AltLaw, Google has does better. What else would you expect? Search is their core business; they have hundreds of brilliant engineers, a vast computing infrastructure, and billions of dollars invested in it.

While we could see this as the 800-pound gorilla stomping on our pet project, the truth is that we — a small academic group within Columbia Law School — were never really equipped to handle the challenges of building and maintaining a state-of-the-art search engine. When we started out, three years ago, our goal was to make primary legal research freely available to the public. In that, we have succeeded: primary legal research is freely available to the public, not only from Google, but from several start-ups and non-profits.

Therefore, we are happy to announce that Project AltLaw (Phase One) is complete. We will continue to maintain the web site and search service for a few months, but we will not be adding new features or new content., in its current form, will shut down in early 2010.

We would like to extend our sincerest thanks to everyone who helped make AltLaw happen. Special thanks go to our co-founder Paul Ohm, Tom Bruce at the Cornell Legal Information Institute, Carl Malamud at, and Tim Stanley at

The next question is, what will Project AltLaw (Phase Two) be? To be honest, we don’t know … yet. But we’ve got some cool ideas that have been sitting on the back burner for a while. Now that Google has taken over the hard work of collecting and indexing all the case law on the web, we can turn our attention to those other projects.

If you’re interested in following what we are doing, keep an eye on this page — we will make sure to post notice of new projects here. News about Columbia-sponsored projects will also be published on the Columbia Law School web site. You can also keep up with two of AltLaw’s founders, Tim Wu and Stuart Sierra, on their personal blogs. As always, we welcome your comments at [email protected].

Stuart Sierra
Assistant Director, Program on Law & Technology, Columbia Law School

Posted on April 29, 2010 in IP by Brian RoweComments Off

Open Access Week is really growing I remember it starting as a 1 day event a few years ago now they are planing months in advance.

Open Access Week 2010 declared for October 18 to 24
Researchers challenged to demonstrate the impact of Open Access on research and scholarship

(Washington, DC) Open Access Week, the global event to promote free, immediate, online access to research now entering its fourth year, has been declared for October 18 to 24, 2010. Open Access Week is an opportunity for the worldwide academic and research community to continue to learn about the potential benefits of Open Access (OA), to share what they’ve learned with colleagues, and to inspire wider participation in helping to make Open Access a new norm in scholarship and research.

This year’s OA Week preparations kick off with a challenge to researchers from Dr. Philip E. Bourne, Professor of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of California San Diego and Founding Editor-in-Chief of PLoS Computational Biology. In a video posted to the OA Week Web site, Bourne calls upon scholars to think beyond free and ready access to the literature – made possible by Open Access – and consider how technology may be deployed to advance research, to truly mine the increasing amount of available literature.

He says, “What I think ultimately will be the main success of Open Access, is that you have the full text of the literature in an XML format that can be analyzed and used by computer. The idea that we’ll be able to keep up with [the volume of literature being published] is just untenable. To actually make full use of the literature, we’re going to require tools to help us.” He challenges his peers in the research community to surface efforts like SciVee (a new type of learning experience that mashes up journal articles with rich media) and UCSD’s BioLit (an initiative to integrate database identifiers and rich meta-data from open-access articles with biological databases) – both of which “would not be possible without unbridled and free access to the literature.”

Challenges like Dr. Bourne’s, and responses to them – experiences and projects that demonstrate the power of Open Access to enable the Web and advance discovery – will be highlighted across global efforts in conjunction with the Week. Details may be posted or linked on the Open Access Week Web site by October 10, 2010.

The new Open Access Week Web site details how participants across sectors – from research funders and producers to students and libraries – have taken advantage of the event to advance Open Access, and offers ideas for 2010.

“There are a multitude of ways to participate in OA Week,” said Alma Swan, program adviser. “It can be as simple as wearing a bright orange shirt or as complex as introducing a new OA policy. OA Week may also be the chance to let your imagination have full rein and come up with something ambitious, wacky, or fun.”

Organizations and individuals planning to participate or interested in more information about Open Access Week 2010 should register now on the Web site for access to regional and global contacts and resources.

Posted on April 27, 2010 in IP by Brian RoweComments Off
Public Knowledge will be urging Congress and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to protect openness as part of the National Broadband Plan.  This is greatly need given disapointing in  Comcast v. FCC. :

Posted on April 26, 2010 in IP by Brian RoweComments Off

Netflix refuses to stream Sita Sings the Blues without DRM. The artist, Nina paley, wants her movie distributed DRM-free! Nina was even willing to compromise by using DRM but inserting a message before the movie pointing to where people can get it for free without DRM. Netflix would not budge on the issue. this resulted in Nina turning down a 5k contract and netflix losing out on a great movie we can all see elsewhere for free.

I’ve been the “change I want to see” in regards to copyright monopolies. People told me I’d lose everything by copylefting Sita, including all hope of professional distribution. But in fact, some professional distributors became willing to distribute Sita without claiming monopolies over it, and we’re all fine.

Nina understands DRM is bad for artist and bad for the future of knowledge & culture! /cheer one more artist that gets the revolution.

Other coverage on this topic:
Sita vs Netflix from Copyfight
Boing Boing w/ Cory – Another example of how DRM is really not in place for artists

Posted on April 21, 2010 in IP by Brian RoweComments Off

Great video from WebProNews on Fair Use by Pat Aufderheide of Center of Social Media at American University, and Attorney Michael Donaldson of Donaldson & Callif.

Posted on April 20, 2010 in IP by Brian RoweComments Off

Summer is coming up quickly and many orgs have filled there summer spots.  Here are two in the IP policy realm that are still open:

  1. The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is the Executive Branch’s agency tasked with addressing telecommunications and information policy. Their work has been highlighted in recent months through the Broadband Grants program and the recent speech by Larry Strickling calling for Internet Policy 3.0. They are seeking interns for both the summer and during the school year and if you are interested, get in touch with Christopher Hemmerlein who coordinates their program [chemmerlein (at) ntia (d0t) doc (dot) gov]. Please note that they can only consider American citizens.
  2. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is the UN agency that focused on the global IP regime. In recent years, they have been at the center for discussions over copyright exceptions and limitations and the Treaty for the Blind. The new division of economic research at WIPO is offering a couple internships to PhD or otherwise qualified students who are interested in spending 3-6 months in Geneva. Completed applications can be submitted to staff (dot) engagements (at) wipo (dot) int [cc: sasch (dot) wunsch-vincent (at) wipo (dot) int].

THX, Kevin Donovan @ Students for Free Culture for pointing these out.

Posted on April 19, 2010 in IP by Brian RoweComments Off

This is great news.  Costco v. Omega was a horrible ruling out of the 9th curcuit that limits the first sale doctrine to goods produced and sold in the US.  This is an attempt by Omega to kill legal grey market sales that trademark does not prevent by abusing copyright law. Here is more from IP Watch:

Because trademark law often cannot stop the import of grey market goods, a growing number of brand owners are trying a new tactic. They are using copyright law to protect their markets in the US. (This tactic doesn’t work well in Europe because the EU lacks a single, harmonised approach to copyright law, according to Klett.)

Consider the method used by Omega SA. The watchmaker inscribed a tiny, 0.5 cm globe design on the underside of its watches. This design is invisible when the watches are worn, so individuals are unlikely to purchase Omega’s high end watches in order to obtain copies of this inconspicuous design. Because this design is copyrighted, however, it may enable Omega to stop the import of grey market watches into the US.

Section 106(3) of the US Copyright Act grants copyright owners the right to control the distribution of copies of their works. This includes the right to control imports of copies of their works, according to Section 602(a) of the statute. So if someone imports a copy without authorisation, they are guilty of copyright infringement. And that is precisely what Omega has alleged against Costco Wholesale Corp., a major discount retailer with stores throughout the US.

Omega makes its watches in Switzerland and sells them in Europe at prices well below its authorised US prices. Some watches that were initially sold in Europe and intended for that market were resold to Costco, which imported them into the US. Omega objected and sued Costco in 2004 for infringement.

Costco asserted that importing the watches does not infringe because of Section 109(a) of the Copyright Act. This statute codifies the copyright first sale doctrine, which is similar to the one in trademark law: upon the first sale of a copy of a copyrighted work, the copyright owner loses its right to control any further distribution of that particular copy. The copyright owner’s right of distribution has been extinguished, so the purchaser can resell, lend or give away the copy without committing copyright infringement.

There is, however, one significant difference between the first sale doctrines in US copyright and trademark law. Copyright law has an added qualification. Its first sale doctrine, Section 109(a), applies only to copies “lawfully made under this title.”

Omega argued that because the copies of its watch design were made outside the US, they were not made under US copyright law and were thus not covered by the first sale doctrine. Costco argued that because the copies were made by the US copyright owner, they should be considered “lawfully made” under US copyright law.

The 9th Circuit US Court of Appeals agreed with Omega’s interpretation of the statute. The court ruled [pdf] in 2008 that applying the first sale doctrine to goods made overseas “would impermissibly apply the Copyright Act extraterritorially.”

Costco has asked the US Supreme Court to review this decision. That court in October asked the US Department of Justice to file a brief on the case. Many observers see this as a sign that the court may take the case.

If the 9th Circuit ruling is left in place, it would be a huge win for companies that wish to stop grey market goods from being imported into the US. It would, similarly, be a big blow to consumers and to many businesses that import or sell grey market goods in the US. Moreover, according to some experts, it would be a misuse of copyright law.

Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported from IP Watch

Posted on April 16, 2010 in IP by Brian RoweView Comments

It looks like the US Pirate party is getting more organized.  I have not been involved personally for a while.  I am more on the radical side supporting the platform of the EU party. The US party is more moderate on several issues.

I unfortunate can not make the meeting.  I am very curious to hear what they have planed.  If anyone who reads this goes please send me a link to any notes from the meeting:

“I invite you to join the IRC and be an active member of the Washington Pirate Party. We need you to help voice our concerns and show congress what we care about.”

Event: First Meeting
What: Rally
Start Time: Tuesday, April 20 at 7:00pm
End Time: Tuesday, April 20 at 8:00pm

Where: IRC – server:

channel: #WAPP

Posted on April 16, 2010 in IP by Brian RoweComments Off

Patent Absurdity explores the case of software patents and the history of judicial activism that led to their rise, and the harm being done to software developers and the wider economy. The film is based on a series of interviews conducted during the Supreme Court’s review of in re Bilski — a case that could have profound implications for the patenting of software. The Court’s decision is due soon…

With interviews from Eben Moglen, Dan Bricklin, Karen Sandler, Richard Stallman and others!

Watch the video

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Great Video! My only negative comment is the ND license! This needs to be remixed for other purposes, guess I will have to use fair use.