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

Jason Schmitt a Professor at Wayne State University makes an interesting pro file sharing argument this week over at the Huffington Post. He argues that access in knowledge is a class issue and the people harmed by copyright protectionism that bans personal noncommercial sharing are the poor.

From my 2010 vantage point, after watching the war between the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and illegal downloading for quite some time, I have no option but to say: go illegally download everything you want.

My reasoning for such a bold statement isn’t for my own greed, frugality, or to stick it to the man. Instead, my thought process exists to protect the under privileged. We live in an economic period which is widening the class gap between rich and poor, and cutting out the middle. From this reasoning, if a kid in Silicon Valley with a $3,000 silver laptop has the privilege from his Palo Alto technical education allowing him to figure out how to go on ZTorrent (a file exchange program), and download away to his hearts content — without paying Owl City for Fireflies, or a Mad Men episode, or for the $1,000 Final Cut Pro Suite — the act of the file showing up on his hard drive speaks more of his societal privilege than of his moral ethics.

In contrast, a large portion of my student body at Wayne State University graduated from Detroit Public Schools and have no concept of how to go about downloading files illegally. Why should an underprivileged student in one of my Detroit classes say she is going to spend $4.50 to go rent a video for my course? She is being blatantly penalized for her lack of a technical education provided by her schools, peer group, and larger community. Her life does not need another penalty.

Read the full story at the Huffington Post. I strongly agree that file sharing creates more access to works and has positive effects from a social justice perspective.

Posted on May 25, 2010 in IP by Brian RoweComments Off

Fighting ACTA:

As a creator, consumer and constituent, I am very concerned about the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) being negotiated by the Office of the United States Trade Representative.  The agreement’s stated purpose was to coordinate a global effort to fight counterfeit products, but the language recently released by the U.S. Trade Representative — after two years of secrecy ridiculous  — shows clearly that ACTA is an attempt to change copyright without consulting the people!  This “wolf in sheep’s clothing” will do serious harm to Americans’ right to free speech and innovation on the Internet.

ACTA would set up a draconian global framework that could:

* Require Internet service providers (ISPs) to disconnect individuals accused (not convicted) of repeated copyright infringement; (no due process!)

* Require ISPs to hand over their subscribers’ identities to copyright owners without any due process or judicial oversight; (no privacy!)

* Require ISPs to make potentially expensive modifications to their networks in an effort to prevent copyright infringement; (waste for resources that should go to developing better broadband)

* Prohibit the U.S. Congress from reforming the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which makes it a crime to defeat copy protection even when making a copy is perfectly legal; (killing free speech rights)

* Require all countries to implement DMCA-like laws for their own populations, without the benefit of fair use or other legal exceptions that provide a modicum of protection for speech; (spreading the US’s anti-free speech, anti-circumvention laws to other)

* Threaten potential innovators with outrageous financial penalties for copyright infringement; and (creating a war on end users and transformative creators)

* Criminalize even non-commercial uses of copyrighted materials. (all NC use should be legal)

ACTA is being negotiated by a handful of countries behind closed doors and is on track to be finished by the end of this year.  Despite its potentially far-reaching impact for consumers and the future of the open Internet, the U.S. Trade Representative has claimed that it can shut out Congressional oversight by negotiating ACTA as a “sole executive agreement” under the President’s executive power, rather than a treaty.

Please don’t be fooled by ACTA’s dishonest name.  ACTA is not about trade, and it is certainly not limited to counterfeiting.  ACTA goes far beyond its original mandate of fighting counterfeit products, and it should not be allowed to damage the growth and development of American innovation.  I urge you to protect the American public and insist that ACTA be limited to its purported purpose — addressing counterfeit goods that pose serious health and safety concerns for consumers.

I just sent this to:
* Senator Maria E. Cantwell
* Representative Jim McDermott
Thx EFF, send your own.

PS I personalized the text a lot EFF’s text is a little more dry and less pro transformative creator. If you want people to read it needs to be in your voice.

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

The IP CZAR Victoria Espinel has posted an update of her recent work on the White House blog. It looks good for those of us that want to see balance restored to copyright policy.  

Over the last few months, I have met with big technology companies that make sophisticated hardware and network systems as well as early stage companies that are just in the process of getting off the ground, all of which are hurt by IP infringement.


I also sat down with those who want strong defenses and exceptions to intellectual property liability, including academics across the country, or consumer rights organizations. I met with Internet companies that organize information and help our citizens find out what they want to know about the world today and connect people around the globe, and Internet auction sites that allow consumers to buy what they want at the price they want, all of which are affected by our enforcement efforts.

This is great news too often the copyright policy has been made while ignoring the need for innovation and user rights exceptions.  Now if they would just let people comment on the blog.  Read the whole post at:

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

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has decided to come out fighting against a new round of litigation targeted at Bit Torrent users. 50,000 lawsuits have already been filed against unnamed litigants in DC’s federal court.  The ironic part about this is that the file sharing targeted in the lawsuit is the file sharing that is most beneficial to many creators.  The independent movies in the claims are likely gaining more fans from file sharing, and those fans are much more likely to buy products if they like the films.  Independent film makers need viral marketing, the U.S. Copyright Group (taking up evil where the RIAA left off) is harming both consumers and the artist with this spam litigation.  This type of copyright litigation is designed to extort settlements out of end users and never go to court.  The suits exploit the broken state of Statutory Damages (pdf) which threaten automatic damages of up to $150,000 even when no harm has been done.  These lawsuits are betting that most people will settle instead of hire a lawyer.  I am glad to see EFF acting to stop these suits before they get off the ground by protecting end users privacy at the ISP level.

Here is the full press release from EFF:

Are you an attorney licensed to practice law in the United States? If you are, EFF needs your help to fight spam-igation.

The U.S. Copyright Group has quietly targeted 50,000 Bit Torrent users for legal action in federal court in Washington DC. The defendants, all Does, are accused of having downloaded independent films such as “Far Cry,” “Steam Experiment,” and “Uncross the Stars” without authorization. U.S. Copyright Group has recently announced that it will also be targeting unauthorized downloaders of the film “Hurt Locker.” News reports suggest that the attorneys bringing these suits are not affiliated with any major entertainment companies, but are instead intent on building a lucrative business model built from collecting settlements from the largest possible set of individual defendants.

The lawsuits proceed similarly to the RIAA lawsuits against unauthorized music downloaders: US Copyright Group files a copyright infringement suit in federal court in Washington DC, against thousands of Does, identified by IP address. Then it presents ISP’s with the list of IP’s and dates and subpoenas the billing address of the user who had that IP at that date. The ISP’s then contact then contact their customers, inform them of the subpoena, and give them an opportunity to file a motion to quash.

In the event that no motion to quash is filed, the ISP gives up the identity of the user. US Copyright Group’s attorneys then contact the user and offer a settlement, usually starting at $2500.

EFF is seeking as many attorneys as possible to advise the targets of these lawsuits and, where appropriate, file motions to quash. Respondents’ contact information would be added to a website that will act as a resource for the targets of these lawsuits.

If interested, please contact [email protected] with your contact information or the contact information for your firm, and the states in which you are licensed to practice law.


Posted on May 17, 2010 in IP by Brian RoweComments Off

Ironically this image was locked away in an inaccessible PDF! so here is the text in an accessible format:

Intellectual Property & Disability

IP law implicitly relies on abstract conceptions of “ordinary” people. What does this mean for people with disabilities?

An architectural achievement that can’t be touched…
The Architectural Works Copyright Protections Act of 1990 exempts from infringement “pictures, paintings, photographs, or other pictorial representations” of copyrighted buildings. This safe harbor protects the interest of the public in being able to perceive great works of architecture. But the exemptions do not embrace three-dimesional models, which can be perceived by the visually impaired.

Thus, under the current state of copyright law, blind persons do not have the same rights as others to appreciate the curves of Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall. Rights That you are exercising right now.

The above image is by Eric E. Jonson, Assistant Professor of Law, Univeristy or North Dakota. Photograph by Carol M. Highsmith Download your own copy.

I strongly agree with this poster, too often copyright law does not consider the impact on those of us with disabilities.

Posted on May 3, 2010 in IP by Brian RoweComments Off


Public Knowledge has a great job opening for someone passionate about webdesign, social media and finding balance in copyright policy while fighting for an open internet.  PK is hiring a New Media Associate:

“The Web Content and New Media Associate will work with Public Knowledge (PK) outreach and legal staff to ensure that PK’s website is regularly updated, relevant, timely and widely dispersed through the use of social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube). Public Knowledge is a growing, internationally prominent consumer advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. that works to defend citizens’ rights in the emerging digital culture.”

The position focus on internet outreach through both the PK website (which is build on drupal) and other social networks, including Youtube, Twitter, facebook, and emerging tools.

PK is looking for a college graduate with a passion for technology, public policy, media reform and activism. Candidates should have strong communications skills, be a quick learner and able to produce high-quality results on tight deadlines.

Recommended Skills:

  • Basic web design (HTML/CSS)
  • graphic design
  • video production
  • social media experience
  • Drupal experience
  • web activism experience is a plus!

This is a fulltime position with benefits and opportunities for professional growth.  Interested candidates should provide a cover letter, resume, and writing sample of less than 1,000 words to Mehan Jayasuriya (mehan [at] publicknowledge [dot] org).  This is the type of communications positions more nonprofits should add to thier communications team.

Thx Kevin Donovan for pointing this out on the FC Blog.  The FC blog is a great place to watch for free culture internships and job opportunities.