Category Archives: Fair Use

The Economic plus or minus of Fair Use

Fair use protects competition by guaranteeing that companies can reverse engineer software so that their products will work and ‘interoperate’ with the products of their competitors. Fair use guarantees journalists, scholars and ordinary citizens the right to quote and abstract from others’ writings, and so buttresses basic rights of free expression. And fair use guarantees that technological innovations such as the Internet itself, whose very function is to copy information from one place to another, can operate normally without running afoul of copyright law. Fair use thus helps to ensure that the benefits of copyright accrue to the public. It produces a multiplier effect without which we would all be poorer.

from Fair Use in the US Economy: Economic Contribution of Industries Relying on Fair Use (pdf), a report prepared for the Computer & Communications Industry Association. Commentary from Ars.

Is it that clear cut? Are most illegal downloaders expressing a desire for a fairer use, or are they simply digital criminals? Although the argument can be made the the music, tv and film industries are slow to adapt to competition in the digital era, they are, by at least some perspectives, making less money. Maybe a more relevant question is, will this issue be resolved through legislation, or simple economics consequences of the “darknet?”


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Filed under Business 2.0, Digital Commons, Fair Use

Digital Sharecropping: Lessig warns of user-generated content exploitation

In May, Lucasfilm announced plans to enable fans of the “Star Wars” series to “remix” “Star Wars” video clips with their own creative work. Using an innovative Internet platform called Eyespot, these (re)creators can select video clips or other content and then add images or upload new content, whether images, video or music. Eyespot is one of many new technologies inviting “users” to do more than use the creativity they are consuming. Likewise, Lucasfilm is one of many companies recognizing that the more “users” use their creativity, the thicker the bonds are between consumers and the work consumed.


A dark force, however, has influenced Lucasfilm’s adoption of Eyespot’s technology. A careful reading of Lucasfilm’s terms of use show that in exchange for the right to remix Lucasfilm’s creativity, the remixer has to give up all rights to what he produces. In particular, the remixer grants to Lucasfilm the “exclusive right” to the remix — including any commercial rights — for free.


Hybrids are an important future of Internet growth. Businesses will have to think carefully about which terms will excite the masses to work for them for free. Competition will help define these terms. But if one more lawyer protected from the market may be permitted a prediction, I suggest sharecropping will not survive long as a successful strategy for the remixer.

Commentary from Lawrence Lessig for the Washington Post

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Filed under A Culture of Participation, A democratic medium?, Aggregate, Digital Commons, Electronic Storytelling, Fair Use, Same as it ever Was, Tools, User generated content, When New Meets Old

Music acquired via P2P is valuable market research

The music industry has long blamed illegal file sharing for the slump in music sales. But now, a key part of the industry is trying to harness file sharing to boost its own bottom line. Earlier this year, Clear Channel Communications Inc.’s Premiere Radio Networks unit began marketing data on the most popular downloads from illegal file-sharing networks to help radio stations shape their playlists. The theory is that the songs attracting the most downloads online will also win the most listeners on the radio, helping stations sell more advertising. In turn, the service may even help the record labels, because radio airplay is still the biggest factor influencing record sales.

Read this item from the Wall Street Journal

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Filed under Business 2.0, Digital Commons, Fair Use, P2P (Peer to Peer), When New Meets Old

RIAA allegedly violated privacy laws during a private investigation of P2Pers

A grandmother targeted by the RIAA for file-sharing is striking back at the controversial music industry association, arguing that it has knowingly engaged in “one or more overt acts of unlawful private investigation” to further its case….At the heart of the issue is a Texas law which says that investigations companies must be licensed in order to collect evidence that can be used in a court. According to court documents, Ms. Crain says that MediaSentry—the company carrying out the investigations for the RIAA—was aware of this requirement, both in Texas and in several other states, and ignored it. The counterclaims even suggest that the RIAA encouraged this arrangement….MediaSentry, the investigative company at the center of the allegations, is used by the RIAA, MPAA, and a handful of other groups to track and identify P2P users believed to be infringing copyrights.

Read this item from Ars Technica

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Filed under Digital Commons, Fair Use, P2P (Peer to Peer), Privacy, The Politics of New Media

BitTorrents replacing ‘file sharing’ with an emphasis on film, tv

The news for the motion picture and television industries is not so good. BitTorrent has become far more popular: “We’ve seen real, dramatic growth in BitTorrent usage,” notes Garland. That has resulted in a greater average population of seeders and leechers per torrent. In May 2006, the average torrent had 817,588 people participating. 12 months later, that figure had jumped to 1,357,318 seeders and leechers: a 66 percent year-over-year growth rate.

Read this item from Ars Technica

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Filed under Digital Commons, Fair Use, P2P (Peer to Peer), Tools

Internet Radio: A moment of silence

A number of Internet radio stations will be participating in a Day of Silence on June 26 to protest the retroactive royalty rate increases due to go into effect on July 15. Organized by Kurt Hanson, publisher of the Radio and Internet Newsletter, the protest is designed to remind listeners that silence is “what the Internet could be reduced to on or shortly after” the royalty increase begins.

Read this article from Ars Technica

Internet radio sites are global by nature, streaming musical programs digitally to users all over the world. But there is no one-stop global shopping for royalty collections, which means that Pandora has to negotiate separate agreements with institutions from each territory or directly with music labels…“In actual practice, companies had two options if they wanted to remain legal,” said Lauri Rechardt, a legal consultant who helped negotiate the agreement for the federation, which represents 1,400 record companies in 70 countries. Either they limited their service to certain territories for which they had cleared the rights, Mr. Rechardt said, or they faced the physically impossible task of striking deals with hundreds of record labels.

Read this article from the New York Times

More coverage and commentary from C|Net, the Read/Write Web and Alternet.

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Filed under Business 2.0, Fair Use, When New Meets Old

Will torrent networks be required to narc on their users?

Two weeks ago, a judge ruled that BitTorrent search engine Torrentspy was required to enable server logs and turn the information over to the MPAA as part of the discovery process (the MPAA is suing Torrentspy for contributing to copyright infringement). That ruling was based on the theory that the information in question is already stored in RAM and therefore already exists; Torrentspy would not actually need to log any new data, just record what was already passing through its servers. The legal implications of this argument are staggering, and two technology groups have just pointed them out to the court in a new amicus brief.

Read this item from Ars Technica with commentary from C|Net and Alternet.

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Filed under A democratic medium?, Aggregate, Digital Commons, Fair Use, Networks, P2P (Peer to Peer), Privacy, Regulation, Same as it ever Was, Technology, our Mirror, The Politics of New Media