By highlighting journalists’ need to protect confidential sources and other information, the Justice Department’s recent seizing of AP phone records without notice may finally lead to passage of a federal press shield law. The Authors Guild, which has long backed the enactment of such a law, is part of a coalition of media organizations calling on Congress to use this as an opportunity to strengthen the First Amendment protection of press freedom. It’s going to be an uphill battle, says legislation monitor GovTrack.us.
Still, the moment seems right. Amid the uproar over the DOJ’s actions, President Obama has asked New York Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to revive shield law legislation that was shelved in 2009. Last week Schumer said he would reintroduce the bill, The Free Flow of Information Act, and Texas Republican Rep. Ted Poe introduced shield law legislation in the House. Here’s the text of the bill from THOMAS (Library of Congress) and an analysis of the bill’s sections by the Newspaper Guild.*
The U.S. government is calling out Ukraine for its shoddy enforcement of intellectual property rights laws, putting the Eastern European nation literally in a class by itself among trading partners who fail to protect copyright holders.
A new report from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative designates Ukraine a Priority Foreign Country (PFC), a benign-sounding label reserved for the worst intellectual property rights offenders. It’s been more than seven years since a U.S. trading partner had PFC status. That country? Ukraine, a PFC from 2001 to 2005, when it improved its practices enough to (temporarily) lose the designation.
Update: Pirate Bay’s moved yet again! TorrentFreak reports today that when Swedish prosecutors moved to seize Pirate Bay’s Swedish (.SE) and Icelandic (.IS) domains, Pirate Bay swiftly migrated its virtual home to Sint Maarten, proprietor of the .SX top-level domain. Sint Maarten, a constituent country of the Netherlands, comprises the southern half of the Caribbean island Saint Martin.
The Pirate Party, an Internet libertarian group, has been on the political map for a while, particularly in Europe. It has gained seats in state legislatures (in Germany) and, through a coalition, a senate seat in a national legislature (in the Czech Republic). It now claims its first national, directly elected representative, in the Icelandic parliament.
It’s been an especially big month for the piracy minded in Iceland. Last week, Iceland became the virtual home of file-sharing promoter Pirate Bay. Pirate Bay, no longer welcome in its home country of Sweden, had briefly moved its site from a Swedish domain (.SE) to Greenland-based domain (.GL). Greenland’s domain name host, however, quickly booted Pirate Bay, so it moved again, to Iceland (.IS). It seems to have found a more hospitable home there, at least for the moment. TorrentFreak reported last week that Iceland’s top-level domain name registrar had no plans to kick out Pirate Bay.
What does the Pirate Party’s parliamentary victory mean? Leo Mirani at Quartz, a business news site, thinks it means the Pirate Party will need to grow up:
…the Pirate Party will need to refine its ideology and find a balance between the ideal vision of online freedom it espouses and the unsavoury activities and people it can easily find itself associated with. That is a tricky line to walk, especially since it can’t pick its supporters and members.
On Thursday, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a trial court’s decision, ruling that an artist’s uses of 25 copyrighted photographs were sufficiently transformative to be protected by copyright’s fair use defense. The court was uncertain, however, whether the artist’s uses of five other photographs should be considered adequately transformative to trigger the defense. The court’s opinion, Cariou v. Prince, is available here.
The artist, Richard Prince, had copied the work of photographer Patrick Cariou, who had taken the photographs over a six-year period in Jamaica. Cariou had published the collection in a book, “Yes Rasta,” in 2000.
Prince used 30 photos from Cariou’s book in creating “Canal Zone,” a series of large-scale works exhibited at galleries in St. Barth’s and New York City in 2007 and 2008. Prince’s modifications to the black-and-white photos varied, but included enlarging the images, adding acrylic paint, pasting on new elements, tinting them, and using them in collages. According to the court, some of Prince’s works exhibited at the galleries almost entirely obscure Cariou’s original photographs. In others, Cariou’s original images are still readily apparent.
The court found that 25 of Prince’s works “manifest an entirely different aesthetic from Cariou’s photographs”:
Where Cariou’s serene and deliberately composed portraits and landscape photographs depict the natural beauty of Rastafarians and their surrounding environs, Prince’s crude and jarring works, on the other hand, are hectic and provocative. Cariou’s black-and-white photographs were printed in a 9 1/2″ x 12″ book. Prince has created collages on canvas that incorporate color, feature distorted human and other forms and settings, and measure between ten and nearly a hundred times the size of the photographs.
The court cautioned, however, that not all “cosmetic changes to the photographs would necessarily constitute fair use. A secondary work may modify the original without being transformative.” As an example, the court cited its 1998 ruling that a book providing synopses of Seinfeld television episodes infringed the original shows’ copyrights, since the book simply repackaged the episodes’ content in a new form.
The appellate court was uncertain whether Prince’s modifications were merely cosmetic for five of the thirty works. The court remanded the case to the trial court to determine whether those “relatively minimal alterations” were sufficiently transformative to be deemed fair uses of Cariou’s photographs.