From the folks who brought you SOPA & PIPA: Congressional offices downloading movies via BitTorrent

From no less a “liberal” source than U.S. News and World Report comes news that IP addresses in the U.S. Congress have been linked to BitTorrent file-sharing of copyrighted movies:

In late October, someone at the U.S. House of Representatives decided to catch up on the latest season of Dexter, illegally downloading an episode of the TV series while at a congressional office. In the days that followed, with Hurricane Sandy threatening to keep federal workers hunkered down at home, employees of Congress downloaded the 2012 mob film Lawless, a Halloween-themed episode of The Middle, and an episode from Season 9 of CSI: New York.

Over the last four months, employees of the House of Representatives have illegally downloaded dozens of films and TV shows . . . .

This from the good folks who brought you SOPA, and PIPA. I wonder whether the Feds will prosecute members of Congress or their staffs for copyright infringement, akin to the witch-hunt against Aaron Swartz?

Right . . . .

Source: US News & World Report, via Parislemon on Tumblr. Cross-posted to Infoglut Tumblr.

The right kind of chilling effect: “Instagram loses half its daily users after T&Cs debacle”

Companies have to understand that people are finally starting to pay attention to T&Cs.

“After a month which saw Instagram float some rather contentious changes to its terms and conditions as well as ditching support for Twitter cards, the number of people using the service daily has dropped by almost half.”

Source: Wired.co.uk. Cross-posted to Infoglut Tumblr.

Get out of jail free: how the WWII Allies used the game Monopoly to help POWs escape

Most of us think of Monopoly as a board game. Intellectual Property folk also think of it as a source of IP issues: trademarks in the name, trade dress of the game, copyright, and even patents. But how about this: a POW escape kit?

Megan Garber writes in the Atlantic about how the WWII Allies used the board game Monopoly to help POWs escape. Turns out that the U.K. manufacturer and licensee of Monopoly, Waddington, had perfected a method of printing on silk, which is in turn an extremely useful way of making maps that can be easily hidden and which make no noise when pocketed or used. (Again patent issues in the method of making the silk!)

The games/escape kits were sent via fake charities:

Posing as “charities” . . ., [the Allies] sent packages to their POWs that featured clandestine escape kits — kits that included tools like compasses, metal files, money, and, most importantly, maps.

And: They disguised those kits as Monopoly games. The compasses and files? Both disguised as playing pieces. The money, in the form of French, German, and Italian bank notes? Hidden below the Monopoly money. The maps? Concealed within the board itself. “The game was too innocent to raise suspicion,” ABC News’s Ki Mae Heussner put it — but “it was the ideal size for a top-secret escape kit.”

As someone who grew up watching Hogan’s Heroes and movies such as The Great Escape, this is fascinating stuff. Although numerous maps were made and helped prisoners to escape, unfortunately, none of the Monopoly escape kits remain.

For more info, see the story Garber links to at ABC News.

Cross-posted at Infoglut Tumblr.

Washington Declaration on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest

Despite the slings and arrows of Hurricane Irene hitting Washington a week ago, the recent Global Congress on Intellectual Property Law and the Public Interest has produced an important document calling for more transparency and public participation in the crafting of IP law.The Washington Declaration on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest is an important step in the fight for the public interest and against governments that have been co-opted by copyright and patent owners. Truly a global effort, the Global Congress included over 180 experts from 35 countries in six continents and was held (during Irene!) at American University Washington College of Law.

As argued in my recent article on private copyright enforcement and feedback loops, a deficit of transparency and public participation in private copyright enforcement has fostered gross overreach by copyright owners. A recent example of copyright overreach is amply demonstrated by the so-called Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, which was negotiated secretly and addresses far more than mere “counterfeiting.” (See here for a law professors’ letter I’ve signed against ACTA.)

It’s good to see such concerns echoed in the Congress’ just-released Declaration. For example:

International intellectual property policy making should be conducted through mechanisms of transparency and openness that encourage broad public participation. New rules should be made within the existing forums responsible for intellectual property policy, where both developed and developing countries have full representation, and where the texts of and forums for considering proposals are open. All new international intellectual property standards must be subject to democratic checks and balances, including domestic legislative approval and opportunities for judicial review.

Along similar lines, the Declaration calls excessive IP enforcement out to task, noting that “Government and private IP enforcement are commandeering greater social resources in order to impose stricter penalties than ever before, with fewer safeguards and less procedural fairness.” The Declaration contains many other important ideas, such as making sure that new IP protections are rooted in transparent research that demonstrates the need for new IP rights, including addressing the fact that fair uses and other IP limitations also generate economic value. Other important mentions are the importance of libraries and archives, strengthening IP exceptions, rejuvenating notice-based formalities, and much more.

I’d go on, but instead you should read the full document at http://infojustice.org/washington-declaration. Even better, sign it. (I did: I’m # 95.).

New article on SSRN: “Civil Procedures for a World of Shared and User-Generated Content”

I’ve posted a draft of my forthcoming article Civil Procedures for a World of Shared and User-Generated Content to SSRN. It’ll appear in print in the University of Louisville Law Review. Here’s the abstract:

Scholars often focus on the substance of copyrights as opposed to the procedures used to enforce them.  Yet copyright enforcement procedures are at the root of significant overreach and deserve greater attention in academic literature.  This Article explores three types of private enforcement procedures: direct enforcement (cease-and-desist practice); indirect enforcement (DMCA takedowns); and automated enforcement (YouTube’s Content ID filtering program).  Such procedures can produce a “substance-procedure-substance” feedback loop that causes significant de facto overextensions of copyrights, particularly against those creating and sharing User-Generated Content (“UGC”).  To avoid this feedback, the Article proposes descriptive and normative frameworks aimed towards the creation of better procedures. Looking to the source of procedures, the relevant actors, and the functions of enforcement (the descriptive framework), the Article suggests principles of transparency, participation, and “balanced accuracy” (the normative framework) that might lead to private enforcement procedures that accommodate the reasonable cost and efficiency needs of copyright owners without trampling on UGC.

You can find the abstract and download the article here.