Tag Archives: copyright

Viacom so devastated by piracy that CEO gets $50 million raise

Last year, Viacom, whose Paramount subsidiary is an MPAA member, told the Wall Street Journal that “a new wave of digital piracy could threaten the US media business” if it lost its copyright infringement case against YouTube. Similarly, the MPAA has argued that “when profits are reduced, the studios have fewer dollars to invest in movies, and when there is less money to invest they make fewer movies and the diversity and variety of films we love become more limited.”

 

So we were interested in this CNN story on the 20 biggest CEO pay raises. The winner? Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman. He got a raise of $50.5 million in 2010. That represents an impressive 149 percent pay increase from his 2009 compensation of $34 million.

Iit makes us wonder about the merits of spending even more taxpayer dollars (and trampling civil liberties) to better protect Viacom copyrights. Making movies seems pretty profitable as it is. And it seems a bit counterintuitive for a company that says its business is threatened by piracy to be so lavish with executive compensation. Neither the MPAA nor Viacom were willing to comment on this story.

 

If Android is a “stolen product,” then so was the iPhone

Apple revamped its notification system in iOS 5, introducing a Notifications Center that was strikingly similar to Android’s notification scheme. Apple added its own refinements, such as the ability to add widgets displaying the weather, stock prices, and other frequently-updated information. But the basic approach—notifications displayed at the top of the screen accessible through a pull down gesture—is virtually identical to the approach Google invented.

Users benefit from this kind of copying. Google’s notification scheme was better than the original iPhone notifications, so it is in iOS users’s interests for Apple to copy the idea. The alternative—a world in which companies scrupulously avoid using each other’s ideas—would be much worse. It would become impossible to buy a smartphone incorporating the best innovations from across the industry.

Inventing in the dark

Legally, the question is whether Google infringed on Apple’s patent, copyright, or other possessions. Google appears to be on safe ground from a copyright perspective. Android is built on Linux and uses a Java-like virtual machine; iOS is built on Darwin and uses NeXT-derived Objective C frameworks. We don’t know of any allegations that Android was developed with literal copies of iOS code.

But whether Google infringed on Apple’s patents is a harder question. And it would have been especially difficult to answer as Google was creating the first versions of Android.

Patent law generally gives a firm like Apple one year from the public disclosure of an invention to file for a patent on it. Apple unveiled the iPhone in January 2007, so the filing deadline for iPhone-related inventions would have been in January 2008. After filing, there is an additional 18-month delay before applications are made public. So if Apple filed an iPhone-related patent application on the last day before the deadline, Google wouldn’t have learned of its existence until July 2009—almost a year after the first Android phone hit the market.

Who does this benefit, other than board members and shareholders? Patent / copyright laws are absurdly out of date, a remnant hundreds of years old which no longer makes sense for today’s climate of innovation.

Jailbreaking Is Not A Crime: Tell the Copyright Office to Free Your Devices! via @eff

The Problem – Smartphones, tablets, and video game consoles are powerful computers with lots of untapped potential. Yet many of these devices are set up to run only software that’s been approved by the manufacturer.  Modifying a device to run independent software – known as jailbreaking – is important to programmers, enthusiasts, and users. But jailbreaking creates legal uncertainty. Some device manufacturers claim that jailbreaking violates Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which carries stiff penalties.

The Solution – EFF is asking the U.S. Copyright Office to declare that jailbreaking does not violate the DMCA, and we need your help. In 2010, the Copyright Office said jailbreaking smartphones doesn’t violate the DMCA.  This year, we’re asking them to renew that exemption (otherwise it will expire) and expand it to cover tablets. We’re also asking for a new exemption to allow jailbreaking of video game consoles.

Please help the EFF fight for your rights by clicking through the link and submitting your own documentation of how jailbreaking enables you to do work, better!  I’m attaching an example of my own letter to the office, below:

Google, needing patents, buys Motorola wireless for $12.5 billion

Google announced plans to acquire Motorola Mobility this morning for $12.5 billion in cash. One of Google’s biggest motivations for the purchase is to bolster its patent profile, which has been under relentless attack by companies including Microsoft and Apple. With the purchase, Google will gain control of more than 17,000 mobile-related patents worldwide, with 7,000 more Motorola patent applications in the pipeline.

Apple sues Amazon over “App Store” trademark via @ArsTechnica

Apple is suing Amazon.com for trademark infringement and unfair competition over its use of the term “App Store.” The complaint, filed in US District Court for the Northern California District on Friday, asks that Amazon be ordered to stop using “Appstore” to refer to its Google Android Market alternative, set to launch Tuesday.

Well, Apple did come up with a pretty good idea. Generic lawsuit infringements generally annoy me, but they do have a decent cause for action here. Surprising Amazon would steal the name so blatantly.

Supremes to decide if public domain works can be re-copyrighted

The Supreme Court will says it will hear a case considering whether public domain works can be pushed back into the copyright closet. And advocacy groups say that free speech is at stake in this fight. Congress’ decision to uphold an international treaty allowing for public works to be “restored” into copyright will create an atmosphere of uncertainty for libraries, they warn, caretakers of the public domain.

“Because it protects our cultural commons, the public domain is equally essential, in turn, to free speech, helping to give meaning to the First Amendment right to receive information,” wrote the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Internet Archive in a brief asking the Supremes to hear the matter.

“Given the large number of works in the collections of US libraries, libraries must reasonably fear that they could be sued multiple times if they continued to provide access to the materials in their collections that might be withdrawn from the public domain.”

MediaShift: Who Owns Your E-Book of ‘War and Peace’? Probably Not You

If we are talking about an e-book version of the latest translation that was bought online and downloaded to an e-reader or other mobile device, then the question of ownership of the copy is not so simply answered. Unlike works published in print, electronic works are typically sold subject to agreements, in transactions that look less like an outright sale and more like a limited license.

I can’t wait to hear where sites like this one fall in terms of ownership and copyright law; Is curation an artistic process subject to some of the same privileges? My gut says so; I am adding value and perspective simply in the act of collection and filtration. Not sure about the courts, though.