Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Digital Public Domain

Whatever one thinks about the rest of the Google Book business, I think it's important to focus on the digitization of public domain books by both Google and the Open Content Alliance and to use these efforts as the basis for conceiving of the Digital Public Domain as a more robust version of the traditional public domain.

Here's the gist of the argument:

1. Copyright and the Encouragement of Learning.

Copyright law is at the heart of concerns about using the Internet to provide universal access to learned and cultural works. These concerns arise in particular with respect to two related issues: access to books and other printed materials that can be digitized and shared over the Internet, and access to scholarly works yet to be produced, which could be shared over the Internet but routinely are not.

The purpose of copyright law has been to promote learning and the progress of knowledge. Two features of copyright law should provide the guide for how to respond to access concerns. First, copyright is an author's right. This is definitional. Prior to 1710, the law provided exclusive printing rights to printers, leaving authors with no rights other than ownership rights in a physical manuscript. The first copyright act, the Statute of Anne, fundamentally changed this relationship by giving rights to authors, who could then make choices about with whom or how to publish. Since that time, copyright law has consistently remained an author's right.

Second, copyright law explicitly balances the need to reward authors for their contributions to society with the public's interests in having access to works created by others and the rights to reuse such works. For this reason, copyright is a time-limited right. Copyright expires so that the public may ultimately gain unlimited access and use rights. This also is definitional. The Statute of Anne created the public domain, and the English courts held in favor of the public domain in the Battle of the Booksellers, in which English publishers argued that perpetual common law printing rights survived the creation of copyright law.

Therefore, by design, all copyrighted works are destined for the public domain. But, the public domain as a legal concept means only that a work is free from copyright restrictions. There is no positive commitment by the law to make such works available to the public other than the deposit requirement under U.S. law. Nonetheless, removing copyright restrictions gives those who would publish or publicize works an incentive to do so for works still deemed relevant or interesting to the public. See, e.g., Paul Heald's article.

2. The Digital Public Domain

In the age of the Internet, we need to reconceive the public domain as the Digital Public Domain. In the Digital Public Domain, it is not enough that a work is free from copyright restrictions. A positive commitment to universal access to the public domain requires first that public domain works be digitized or at least be subject to a protocol that enables digitization when cost effective.

Second, works free from copyright restrictions should be made accessible over the Internet. Mass digitization of the public domain promotes the goals of universal access, improved learning, and the progress of science.

Third, works free from copyright restrictions should not be subject to technological measures or contractual restrictions or "terms of use" that in any way inhibit members of the public from exercising their usage rights in public domain works.

Fourth, access and the absence of legal restrictions alone are insufficient. Those who search the Internet for information often do so for active purposes. It is not sufficient to find information that is topically relevant. The information also must be useful for the researcher's purposes. Marking and tagging works with their use rights enables computers to search for information that is both topically relevant and useful. I've argued more extensively about use relevance here.

From this principle follows the corollary that the digital public domain should be tagged and marked as such. An important purpose for making copyright a time-limited right is to make the work more useful to the public, who may now republish or repurpose the work without fear of legal liability. To further this purpose in the digital age, computers must be able to parse the public domain status of a work to communicate its usefulness to researchers.

Consequently, those public and private bodies that laudably have been investing in efforts to digitize public domain works should increase the returns on their investment by marking and tagging public domain works as such. Creative Commons provides a metadata standard for digitally marking works with their use rights, the Creative Commons Rights Expression Language (ccREL). Specifically, Creative Commons provides a means of marking a public domain work as such. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/publicdomain/. Creative Commons requires support to implement plans to update this protocol to provide more robust information about public domain works.

3. The Open Access Connection

Looking forward, how should the features of author's rights and balance between author and public influence the availability of contemporary and future learned works, particularly scholarly research reported in peer-reviewed journals? Here, the open access movement has an answer.

Faculty authors and other professional researchers have a responsibility to manage their copyrights in a way that ensures public access to the scholarly record well before copyright expires in these works. Why? Because the standard justification for granting author's rights does not neatly apply to these scholarly authors. They are motivated by the desire to be read and are not remunerated by journal publishers for publishing their work.

When authors have no need to limit access to their work for purposes of remuneration, they should make their work freely available to promote the progress of science. When researchers have been funded by the government or by private charities, it is inexcusable not to ensure reasonable and timely free public access to the fruits of this research consistent with copyright.

Progress has been made recently in improving free public access to recent scholarship. As directed by the United States Congress, the National Institutes of Health now requires researchers who accept NIH funds to ensure that NIH receives a copyright license to make peer-reviewed articles publicly available on the Internet no later than 12 months after the date of publication. Many public and private science funders in Europe, Canada, and Australia have similar policies, with 6 month deadlines.

Faculty authors are coming to the realization that the way they manage their publishing rights should reflect their core values and the university's core commitment to disseminating knowledge. A number of faculties have adopted resolutions recommending open access, but these have led to very few results. Just as was the case when the NIH policy was voluntary, authors at these institutions generally continue to sign away their rights to make their work available on the Internet or fail to use such rights when they have them by depositing manuscripts in an open access repository.

Change is on the way. Taking the lead in the United States, the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences has adopted a policy through which faculty authors commit to deposit their peer-reviewed articles in the university's new digital repository and to grant the university an advance copyright license to any scholarly journal articles written by faculty members, subject to the author's right to waive the license on a per-article basis. Under the policy, faculty authors must manage their copyrights to ensure that their publication agreements are consistent with the university's public access license. Some faculties or departments at universities around the world have adopted similar open access mandates.

4. The Role of Universities

It is time for faculty and university administrators to get serious about the Internet as a knowledge medium. They need to organize a campus-wide process for developing a policy on knowledge dissemination in the digital environment. At most institutions it would be unwise or impractical for university administrators to impose an open access policy on faculty authors, unless the university were to take the position that peer reviewed journal articles are works made for hire and are therefore owned by the university. But, administrators should show leadership by organizing an ad hoc task force on scholarly communication comprised of leading scholars from major departments.

This should not be done by the library committee because the issue goes to the heart of the university's mission and is not merely a departmental budgetary concern. And, it should be made clear that experience teaches that if the task force recommends only adoption of a hortatory resolution requesting that faculty authors provide for open access, that is tantamount to a decision to do nothing to improve access to the scholarly record. Mandates work. Requests do not.

Those studying open access should take note that some authors have gone further to use public licensing as a means of giving the public broad use rights along with free access. Scholars who publish with publishers such as the Public Library of Science, BioMed Central or Rockefeller University Press grant the public a Creative Commons license that provides generous rights to translate, adapt and republish (with proper credit) their articles.

In sum, the initiatives to digitize public domain works and to provide open access to contemporary learning share the common goal of making the Internet a repository for human knowledge and a more powerful resource for researchers, students, teachers, and learners of all kinds around the world. Three principles derived from the purposes of copyright law, should guide these efforts: (1) the works should be freely available; (2) public domain works should be free from any contractual restrictions on use; and (3) the works should be marked with their use rights.

This post is derived from my presentation at the Boston Library Consortium's Universal Access Digital Library Summit in September with the aim of showing connections between book digitization projects and the open access movement.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Jesse Dylan and Creative Commons/Science Commons

Jesse Dylan, who directed the Emmy Award-winning "Yes We Can" Barack Obama campaign video in collaboration with rapper will.i.am., has donated his talent to make two videos for Creative Commons.
"A Shared Culture", explains the goals of Creative Commons.

Today, the release of the "Science Commons" video was announced in connection with a letter of support for Science Commons from Richard Bookman, University of Miami's Vice Provost for Research, Executive Dean for Research and Research Training.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Please Support Creative Commons

Creative Commons is asking for your support this year to enable us to continue the work we've been doing in promoting openness in the cultural, educational, and scientific fields. http://support.creativecommons.org/

If you support the vision, please help to staff the vision. Why? You might ask. How hard is it to host a web site?

Well, first of all, running a site that needs constant updating is more work than you might think. But, there's also much more to the organization. For example, CC staff, most of whom are professionals, promote the commons through a series of activities such as fielding inquiries from organizations that want to implement CC licensing, explaining CC licenses through public speaking engagements, working with communities - such as the open education community - to understand copyright law and CC licenses.

Some of that work is the more visible aspects of what we need support for. We continue to work with creators and other owners of copyrights in cultural works, our ccLearn division is promoting the use of CC licenses as a tool to support open education, and our Science Commons division is engaged in pathbreaking work on a number of fronts.

Here, I want to write about some of the less visible work that is hard, important, and really requires your support to continue.

Most people know Creative Commons through the licenses. We have been busy on that front. With support from the Mellon Foundation, CC is in the midst of a study about people's understandings and intuitions about commercial and non-commercial use to see if more should be done to clarify the non-commercial term of some CC licenses.

In addition, CC staff have worked with the network of affiliated professionals around the world to create a legal tool that will enable a person to waive copyright or dedicate their work to the public domain anywhere in the world. Because copyright law is national, and varies by nation, creating standardized tools that are effective on a global scale is challenging. Every copyrighted work is on its way to the public domain because all copyrights expire.

But around the world, the law makes it difficult for copyright owners to speed up that process by putting works into the public domain ahead of time. The CC zero tool is a substantial refinement of an existing tool that enables copyright owners to dedicate their copyright to the public domain in those countries that accept this and to otherwise waive or promise not to assert copyright-related rights against anyone.

One use for this tool is to help clean up the boundaries of copyright. Because copyright has become so expansive, this tool will be useful to those who want to put works at the edge of copyright that are connected to public domain information into the public domain. A prime example is arguably original database structures wrapped around factual data.

With your support, we would like to also improve on the tool that allows a person to assert that a work already is in the public domain, such as older works and works produced by U.S. government employees within the scope of their employment.

The CC tech staff also do amazing and important work. From the beginning, CC licenses were designed to be machine readable. Not all search tools currently fully exploit the machine-readable aspects of CC licenses, but one day they will. I've argued at length that copyright is an example of "use relevance" and anyone searching for information on the web with the question "What can I do with this" cares about use relevance. CC licenses provide an answer, and the Flickr search engine, which does use the license metadata, organizes the information according to its use relevance.

CC metadata has also become a case study for the future of the web, what some people call Web 3.0. CC people have been essential and instrumental in promoting a flexible technical standard, called RDFa, within the World Wide Web consortium. The vision behind this standard supports the decentralized architecture of the web while providing a means to enable machines to make better sense of the information published to the web.

The goal of this work is to enable tools to develop to support the commons by making works in the commons easier to find and to use. Importantly, these standards are also designed to support the role of attribution in the gift economy. With the right implementation, machines could do a better job at identifying the source material and its creators in mash-ups, remixes, and the like.

Obama-Biden and Creative Commons

The Obama-Biden transition team has adopted the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license for the content on its web site, http://change.gov/about/copyright_policy. This is great news, and the team should be congratulated for adopting openness and for making it machine-readable openness.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

IP/Gender - April 24, 2009


IP/Gender: Mapping the Connections
6th Annual Symposium
April 24, 2009

Special Theme: Female Fan Cultures and Intellectual Property

Sponsored by American University Washington College of Law’s
Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property
Women and the Law Program
Journal of Gender Social Policy & Law

In collaboration with
American University’s Center for Social Media
Rebecca Tushnet, Georgetown University
Francesca Coppa, Muhlenberg College

Deadline for submission of abstracts: December 19, 2008

The 6th Annual Symposium on “IP/Gender: Mapping the Connections” seeks papers on female subcultures and their relationship to intellectual property and copyright regimes, with a particular emphasis on fan works and culture. Appropriate topics include: fan arts, including fan fiction, arts, music, filk, crafts, and vids; and fan communities: including clubs, forums, lists, websites, wikis, discussion groups, rec sites, and other creative, celebratory, or analytical communities.

Introduction & Context

Historically, the study of subcultures has been biased toward male groups and activities: first, because male activities (e.g. punk rock, motorcycling, football hooliganism) tend to be public, and therefore visible; second, because many male groups have been seen as overtly resistant to mainstream norms. In contrast, many female subcultural activities took place in private, in the domestic realm or in other less visible spaces, and those that were visible tended, in the words of Sarah Thornton, to be "relegated to the realm of a passive and feminized 'mainstream' (a colloquial term against which scholars have all too often defined their subcultures)"; in other words, the things women did and do have often been framed as mainstream, passive, commodified, and derivative; consuming (in the negative sense of passive product consumption), rather than consuming in the sense of a passionate obsession or devotion to art or criticism.

This has changed significantly in the last twenty years, not only due to a rising feminist interest in subculture studies but also with the rise of fan and audience studies. In their pioneering "Girls and Subcultures" (1975), Angela McRobbie and Jenny Garber presciently suggested that scholars turn their attention "toward more immediately recognizable teenage and pre-teenage female spheres like those forming around teenybop stars and the pop-music industry." Even they had trouble seeing what girls do as interesting and importing, noting that "[b]oys tended to have a more participative and a more technically-informed relationship with pop, where girls in contrast became fans and readers of pop-influenced love comics." McRobbie and Garber don't associate being "fans" with participation, and they see girls as "readers" only. In fact, as we know from fifteen years of fan and audience studies, fandom is a highly participatory culture, and female fans also write, edit, draw, paint, "manip," design, code, and otherwise make things.

However, even within this brave new world of mashup, remix, and fan cultures, what boys do (fan films, machinima, music mash-ups, DJing) is often seen by outsiders and critics as better--more interesting, more original, more clearly transformative-- than what girls do (fan fiction, fan art, vidding, coding fan sites, social networking). This normative judgment risks legal consequences.

We are seeking projects that investigate the ways in which issues of originality and ownership as related to copyright and other issues of intellectual property intersect with this gendered understanding of cultural productions and engagement, especially since these historically female subcultural activities and practices have increasingly become culture.

IP/Gender Mapping the Connections Organizational Details

· DEADLINE for submission of abstracts is DECEMBER 19 at 5:00pm.

· To submit an abstract for consideration, fill in the web-based form at https://www.wcl.american.edu/pijip/ipgender/proposals.cfm . Participants will be notified if their paper has been accepted for presentation by January 15.

· The symposium will begin at 6:00 Thursday, April 23, 2009 at the American University Washington College of Law in Washington, D.C. The symposium will convene from 9:00 am until 4:00 pm on Friday, April 24, 2009.

· To view papers and programs from prior IP/Gender: Mapping the Connections symposia, please visit http://www.wcl.american.edu/pijip/go/events/ip/gender/ip/gender-mapping-the-connection

· Papers may be published in the American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy and the Law.

· If you are interested in attending the event, but not presenting work, please contact Angie McCarthy, Women and the Law Program coordinator at angiem@wcl.american.edu for details.

Open Access to Privately Funded Research - Autism Speaks

If private funders of scientific and scholarly research want to maximize the impact of their investments, they should condition their funding on a promise from grantees to make any resulting peer reviewed journal articles openly accessible on the Internet within a reasonable time after publication.
To date, the most prominent private funder on this front is the United Kingdom's Wellcome Trust, which funds medical research and requires resulting articles to be deposited in PubMed Central or UK PubMed.
Private philanthropies in the United States have lagged on open access. But the tide is finally turning. On November 12, 2008, Autism Speaks, the United States' largest autism advocacy organization announced that effective December 3, 2008, all researchers who receive an Autism Speaks grant will be required to deposit any resulting peer-reviewed research papers in the PubMed Central online archive, which will make the articles available to the public within 12 months of journal publication.
This is a very important initiative. As Peter Suber notes, advocacy organizations that seek cures for particular diseases should have a particular interest in making sure that their communities have access to published research. I would add this is further evidence to refute the elitist argument against open access.
To learn more about Autism Speaks, see www.autismspeaks.org

Monday, November 17, 2008

Jillian Raye and the Bard: The Vitality of the Public Domain

So, my family recently lost a friend, Jillian Raye.
I'd keep my remorse to myself, but Jillian had a special relationship with William Shakespeare, and that relationship is emblematic of why copyright's public domain matters and how it maintains its vitality in our cultural life.

When we lived in Takoma Park, Maryland, Jillian, her husband, David Minton, and their daughter, Imogen Minton, moved into our neighborhood and changed it forever.
Jillian founded Lumina Studio in their home as a community youth theater to stage primarily Shakespeare's plays. Jillian and David trained as Shakespearian actors and met onstage and off in a production in Dallas, Texas.

Jillian built her casts from the community, and the ages ranged from young children to middle-aged adults, with young teens as the principal actors. My daughters had their first stage experience as fairies in Midsummer Night's Dream, which we subsequently staged outdoors on a midsummer night. Jillian's vision for the show required that all the lights be turned off near the end of the show so that these three-to-five-year-old fairies could flit about the stage with lit candles. Jillian's will overcame parental objections, and the result was pure magic.

For each show, Jillian developed a highly distinctive but adaptable vision, and she drove hard to realize it. Her visions were animated by her deep understanding and personal relationship with Shakespeare's works. The kids in the cast would begin rehearsals for each show as usual middle and elementary schools would for any after-school activity. But, Jillian would quickly impress upon them that this was serious fun. She worked with the actors to understand their characters and the context for the action.
In the course of these interactions, she breathed life into the Bard's alien language and demanded that the actors make it their own. And, they did. I can still distinctly hear the young actress playing Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, as she stalked the stage, poised for the fight, and spat out:


Tybalt, you rat-catcher, will you walk?

What wouldst thou have with me?

Good king of cats, nothing but one of your nine
lives; that I mean to make bold withal, and as you shall use me hereafter, dry beat the rest of the eight. Will you pluck your sword out of his pitcher by the ears? make haste, lest mine be about your ears ere it be out.

I am for you.

Jillian could stage the shows as she envisioned and as she wished because the works of William Shakespeare are in copyright's public domain. She could not legally have applied her prodigious talents to the works of playwrights whose works were still under copyright without a license. And, those licenses often are quite expensive or not available at all.

So, the fundamental policy that copyrights must expire was necessary for a unique institution like Lumina Studio to exist and to grow. And, those who care about this policy need to document how creative individuals like Jillian Raye keep works in copyright's public domain alive and relevant.
While her family mourns, her community has institutionalized her vision and will carry on staging plays and making magic. Perhaps Jillian has joined Oberon and Titania in the kingdom of Shadows and Fairies. It's hard to say, but I know that we will miss her.

With this field-dew consecrate,
Every fairy take his gait;
And each several chamber bless,
Through this palace, with sweet peace;
And the owner of it blest
Ever shall in safety rest.
Trip away; make no stay;
Meet me all by break of day.

(Midsummer Night's Dream, Act V)

Goodbye Jillian.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Law Professors Defend NIH Policy

I want to thank my colleagues in the legal academy who responded to the AAP's unfounded legal attack on the NIH Public Access Policy by deflecting the TRIPS Hammer with a straightforward explanation of why TRIPS does not apply to the NIH policy. NIH is fully respecting copyright - an author's right.

The letter to Chairman Conyers and shared with the other Members of the House Judiciary Committee has made some on the Hill start to think that certain copyright owners are misusing the TRIPS Hammer.

Here's the letter:

September 8, 2008

The Honorable John Conyers, Jr.
Committee on the Judiciary
U.S. House of Representatives
2138 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C., 20515

Re: NIH Public Access Policy

Dear Chairman Conyers:

The undersigned professors at law schools throughout the United States teach copyright law or engage in scholarly research about copyright law. We write to respond to serious misstatements relating to copyright law contained in a recent submission to the National Institutes of Health with respect to the relationship between the NIH Final Policy on Public Access and certain aspects of U.S. and international copyright law. The letter (hereafter "the Proskauer Letter") was written by Jon A. Baumgarten of Proskauer Rose LLP, dated May 30, 2008, to Allan Adler, Vice President for Legal & Government Affairs, American Association of Publishers in response to Mr. Adler's request and with the understanding that the letter would be part of a public submission to NIH by the AAP.

As you know, the NIH Policy requires grantees to ensure that all investigators funded by NIH submit an electronic version of their final peer-reviewed manuscripts to the National Library of Medicine's PubMed Central (PMC), which then makes the manuscript publicly available within twelve months of the official date of publication. The NIH adopted this policy as required by a provision included in the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies FY 2008 Appropriations Bill.

The Proskauer Letter alleges that the NIH Policy may constitute an involuntary transfer of copyright in violation of Section 201(e) of the Copyright Act. Contrary to the Proskauer Letter's assertions, the Policy does not create an involuntary transfer, a compulsory license, or a taking of the publishers' or investigators' copyright. Rather, under the Policy, NIH
conditions its grant of funding on the grantee's agreement to ensure that investigators provide PMC with a copy of articles reporting NIH-funded research along with a non-exclusive copyright license to make the article publicly available within one year after the article's publication in a journal.
In other words, if the investigator chooses not to receive NIH funding, the investigator has no obligation to provide the article to PMC or a copyright license to NIH. But if the investigator elects to receive NIH funding, he or she accepts the terms of the grant agreement, which include the requirement to deposit the article with PMC so that the article can be made publicly accessible within one year after publication. Because the investigator has this basic choice, the policy does not constitute an involuntary transfer.
Furthermore, because the author makes this choice long before the publisher enters into the picture, the policy does not take any intellectual property away from the publisher. When the investigator transfers copyright to the publisher, as most publishers require as a condition of publication, the copyright is already subject to the non-exclusive license granted by the investigator to NIH. Thus, the policy does not change the scope of the publisher's copyright after the publisher has acquired it.

Additionally, it is important to note that the Policy requires deposit of the author's final manuscript after peer review, not the final published version of the article. This aspect of the Policy renders moot any debate about whether the publisher obtains a copyright interest in the article through the process of copy editing or layout. The publisher performs its copy editing after the investigator submits the manuscript to PMC. While the publisher plays a role in coordinating peer review, this process does not result in any copyrightable expression attributable to the publisher. Any edits or additional text written in response to peer reviewers' comments is written by the investigator, not the publisher.
Building on the erroneous premise that the Policy is an involuntary transfer of copyright or a compulsory license, the Proskauer Letter then suggests that the NIH Policy might violate U.S. obligations under the Article 9 of the Berne Convention or Article 13 of the TRIPS agreement. This argument lacks any basis in law. As discussed above, the NIH Policy governs the terms of contracts, not exceptions to copyright law. As such, the Policy in no way implicates Article 13 of TRIPS or Article 9 of the Berne Convention, which address permissible copyright exceptions. These treaty provisions are completely silent on the issue of the terms a licensee can require of a copyright owner in exchange for valuable consideration.

The federal government provides funding to state and local government agencies and private entities for a wide range of activities, including homeland security, law enforcement, agriculture, transportation, education, and research. Congress frequently imposes conditions on recipients of this federal funding. While one might question the wisdom of a particular condition, Congress without doubt has the authority to impose
them. Similarly, Congress has the authority to require NIH grantees to deposit their manuscripts with PMC and to grant a license to make these publicly accessible over the Internet within a year of publication. Such a requirement conflicts neither with the Copyright Act nor with international treaty obligations.


Keith Aoki, Professor of Law
University of California Davis School of Laaw
Davis, CA 95616

Ann Bartow, Professor of Law
University of South Carolina School of Law
Columbia, SC 29208

Dan L. Burk, Chancellor's Professor of Law
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA 92697-8000

Adam Candeub, Acting Director, IP & Communications Law Program
Michigan State University, College of Law
East Lansing, MI 48824-1300

Michael W. Carroll, Visiting Professor of Law
Washington College of Law, American University
Washington, DC 20016

Anupam Chander, Visiting Professor of Law
University of Chicago Law School
Chicago, IL 60637

Andrew Chin, Associate Professor of Law
University of North Carolina School of Law
Chapel Hill, NC 27599

Margaret Chon, Donald and Lynda Horowitz Professor for the Pursuit of Justice
Seattle University School of Law
Seattle, WA 98122-1090

Robert Denicola, Margaret Larson Professor of Intellectual Property
University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Law
Lincoln, NE 68583-0902

William Fisher, Wilmer Hale Professor of Intellectual Property Law
Harvard Law School
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138

Brett M. Frischmann, Visiting Professor of Law
Cornell Law School
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901

Lolly Gasaway, Associate Dean For Academic Affairs & Professor
School of Law, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, NC 27599

Deborah R. Gerhardt, Director of Intellectual Property Initiative
University of North Carolina School of Law
Chapel Hill, NC 27599

Llewellyn Joseph Gibbons, Associate Professor of Law
University of Toledo College of Law
Toledo, Ohio 43606-3390

James Grimmelman, Associate Professor of Law
New York Law School
New York, NY 10013

Dan Hunter, Visiting Professor of Law
New York Law School
New York, NY 10013

Peter Jaszi, Professor of Law
Washington College of Law, American University
Washington, DC 20016

E. Judson Jennings, Professor of Law
Seton Hall University Law Center
Newark, New Jersey 07102-5210

Dennis Karjala, Jack E. Brown Professor of Law
Arizona State University Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law
Tempe, Arizona 85287-7906

Jay P. Kesan, Professor of Law & Mildred Van Voorhis Jones Faculty Scholar
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Champaign, IL 61820

Raymond Ku, Professor of Law
Case Western Reserve University School of Law
Cleveland, Ohio 44106

David S. Levine, Assistant Professor of Law
Charlotte School of Law
Charlotte, NC 28208

Doug Lichtman, Professor of Law
University of California, Los Angeles
Los Angeles, California 90095-1476

Jessica Litman, Professor of Law
University of Michigan Law School
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-1215

Lydia Pallas Loren, Professor of Law
Lewis & Clark Law School
Portland, Oregon 97219
Michael J. Madison, Professor of Law
University of Pittsburgh School of Law
Pittsburgh, PA 15260

Mark P. McKenna, Associate Professor of Law
Notre Dame Law School
Notre Dame, IN 46556

Michael J. Meurer, Professor of Law and Michaels Faculty Scholar
Boston University School of Law
Boston, MA 02215

Joseph Scott Miller, Visiting Associate Professor of Law
University of Georgia School of Law
Athens, GA 30602

Neil Netanel, Professor of Law
UCLA School of Law
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Tyler Ochoa, Professor of Law
Santa Clara University School of Law
Santa Clara, California 95053

Ruth Okediji, Professor of Law
University of Minnesota School of Law
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Frank Pasquale, Loftus Professor of Law
Seton Hall University School of Law
Newark, New Jersey 07102-5210

Malla Pollack, Professor of Law
Barkley School of Law
Paducah, Kentucky 42001

David G. Post, I. Herman Stern Professor of Law
Beasley School of Law, Temple University
Philadelphia, PA 19122

R. Anthony Reese, Arnold, White & Durkee Centennial Professor
School of Law, The University of Texas at Austin
Austin, TX 78705

Michael Risch, Associate Professor of Law
West Virginia University College of Law
Morgantown, WV 26506-6130

Matthew Sag, Assistant Professor of Law
DePaul University College of Law
Chicago, IL 60604

Pamela Samuelson, Richard M. Sherman Distinguished Professor
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720-4600

Joshua D. Sarnoff, Practitioner in Residence
Washington College of Law, American University
Washington, DC 20016

Wendy Seltzer, Visiting Practitioner-in-Residence
Washington College of Law, American University
Washington, DC 20016

Katherine J. Strandburg, Professor of Law
DePaul University College of Law
Chicago, IL 60604

Madhavi Sunder, Professor of Law
UC Davis Law School
Davis, CA 95616-5201

Hannibal Travis, Visiting Assistant Professor of Law
Villanova University School of Law
Villanova, PA 19085

Rebecca Tushnet, Professor of Law
Georgetown University Law Center
Washington, DC 20001

Deborah Tussey, Professor of Law
Oklahoma City University School of Law
Oklahoma City, OK 73106

The AAP tries to kill the NIH policy with the TRIPS Hammer

Having failed to stop the NIH Public Access Policy from becoming mandated by Congress, the American Association of Publishers reached for the handy TRIPS hammer. Their argument - the NIH Policy makes the United States look weak on IP. The legal argument they rely on is here.

The TRIPS Hammer

Lobbyists for the trade organizations of large copyright-owning intermdiaries, such as the MPAA, RIAA and AAP, have become fond of pulling out the TRIPS hammer whenever they meet resistance to their proposals for more rights.

The TRIPS hammer is the argument that Congress must do what the lobbyist wants or the United States will be non-compliant with its international obligations under the TRIPS Agreement. The hammer then comes down with the argument that the United States has to set an example for the rest of the world about how to "respect" intellectual property because otherwise, certain trading partners will undermine the effectiveness of the TRIPS agreement.

And, of course, this is all said with a straight face even after the United States has been judged to be in violation of TRIPS and has failed to remedy the violation.

The Attack on the NIH Policy

I am behind on posting, and there's much news.

Last month, Chairman Conyers (D-MI) introduced the "Fair Copyright in Research Works Act" (H.R. 6845) into the House. Paul Courant, Peter Suber, and others, rightly pointed out that "fair" is foul in this case.

The aim of the bill is to use the Copyright Act to override longstanding federal procurement law, including the NIH Public Access Policy and to assert Judiciary Committee jurisdiction over federal procurement agreements that involve support for the creation of copyrighted works, such as journal articles reporting the results of scientific research.

The sad news is that the American Association of Publishers were successful in persuading the Chairman to introduce this bill even though it is terrible public policy.

The better news is that it does not look like this bill is going anywhere during this Congress. Neither Mr. Berman (D-CA)(Chair of the relevant House Subcommittee) nor Mr. Coble (R-NC) (Ranking Member on the Subcommittee) signed on as co-sponsors.

This initiative to snuff out the NIH policy has actually had a galvanizing effect on the community of supporters, and it's time to press the other agencies, such as the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation, on the question of public access to federally-funded research.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Politics and Popular Music

As seems to happen during every federal election campaign season, we're seeing a new round of controversies emerge as politicians seek to harness popular music for their own purposes.

There are two kinds of controversies. One involves public performance at rallies and other campaign events. Usually, these performances are licensed under a collective license issued by ASCAP and BMI. The recent complaint issued by Heart against the McCain-Palin campaign for use of the song "Barracuda" falls into this category.

The second involves synchronizing music for use in viral videos on video-sharing sites. Warner Music issued a take-down notice to YouTube for a McCain ad that used Franki Valli's "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You". In these disputes, the use is not licensed and is therefore infringing unless it is a fair use.

Query whether, from a free speech perspective, it is appropriate to let the copyright license status cause these cases to be treated differently? The answer would be yes if the artists' or copyright owner's interests were primarily economic. However, because the concern about implied endorsement is heightened in the campaign setting, should the artist's or copyright owner's interest in being free from an unwanted association be given greater weight while also acknowledging the campaign's desire to use popular culture as a means of connecting with voters?

So as a trial balloon I'm wondering whether copyright law and trademark law ought not be interpreted to yield a result under which campaigns should be free to use popular music at rallies and in connection with promotional videos so long as they prominently disclaim any implied endorsement from the songwriters or performers, regardless of whether such use is covered by a collective license.

I have some reservations about this particular solution, but it seems to me that we need a resolution to this recurring conflict that is medium-neutral and that targets the relevant expressive and economic interests on both sides.

Attacking Public Access Through the Copyright Act

On September 9th, Mr. Conyers introduced H.R. 6845, "The Fair Copyright in Research Works Act", into the House of Representatives. There is nothing fair about this bill at all, and it should be opposed by anyone who cares about public access to publicly funded research.

The immediate aim of the bill is to cut off public access to NIH-funded research articles which currently must be made available within 12 months of the date of publication. Yesterday, a hearing was held on the bill in the House Subcommittee on the Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property. Any further action during this session is unlikely.

The bill is an odd duck because it would do far more than simply end public access to NIH-funded research. It would also impliedly amend public procurement law and impliedly repeal portions of the longstanding "rights in data" contracting provisions of the Federal Acquisition Regulation, the DFARS, and portions of the intangible property provisions of OMB Circular A-110.

Traditionally, the Copyright Act has not been used for this purpose. Certain journal publishers have asserted to NIH and to the Committee that the NIH policy is in some vague way inconsistent with the Copyright Act and U.S. international copyright obligations. This assertion lacks any basis in law, and a group of 47 professors at American law schools who teach or write about copyright law sent a letter to the committee making this point.

Here's a quick summary of the bill:

1. The Scope of the Amendment

The bill would apply in cases in which a copyrighted work arises from:

(1) a contract, grant agreement or cooperative agreement with any federal agency that involves "experimental, developmental or research activities";


(2) the creation of the work was funded in substantial part by a non-federal non-party to the agreement


(3) the work "represents, reflects, or results from a meaningful added value or process contributed by one or more other entities, other than a Federal agency, that are not a party to the funding agreement or acting on behalf of such a party."

[Try decoding this. One can intuit that the publishers assert that the "meaningful added value" they have in mind is coordinating the peer review process. They need this odd hook because all of the copyrightable expression in the article is the grantee's (actually the researcher's) made in response to the comments of the peer reviewers (who do it for free). Even if this bill were to become law, it would be debatable whether the coordination of peer review is sufficiently "meaningful" in light of the value contributed by the authors and referees.]

2. The Effect of the Amendment

For covered works, the following prohibitions apply:

(a) the agency may no longer receive a transfer of rights or a license to distribute copies to the public; publicly perform the work or publicly display the work.

[This would mean that the work could not be put on a web site. If it were an audiovisual work, it could not be supplied to the news media for broadcast. If it were printed material, it could not be handed out or sold. So, for example, anything produced by a public-private partnership for which the agency would need a license to share with the public couldn't be done.]

(b) the government may not receive a license to make copies or to adapt the work, if doing so "involves the availability to the public of that work"

(c) the agency may not impose a term or condition that requires the "absence or abandonment" of any of the rights described in (a) and (b) above

(d) the agency may not require the recipient of federal funds to grant a waiver or to assent to the violation of (a) - (c)

(e) the agency may not "assert any rights under this title in material developed under any funding agreement that restrain or limit the acquisition or exercise of rights under this title in an extrinsic work."

[That is, even though the public has paid for the research and the creation of the article, the public may not assert rights in the work in a way that would impair a publisher's ability to fully privatize the research.]