Slate has a piece on the use of Google’s Book Seach in detecting plagiarism. It is an interesting area, as it really represents technology removing another barrier to something that was previously relatively hard to do.

Previously, there were a number of barriers to detection of plagiarism. The scope of detection was limited by people’s access to the original books (hence the popularity of plagiarising material published overseas, or which was out of print for some time, or both), their ability to read them (ie to have the time to read it, and to translate the work if necessary), their recollection of what they had read, and the likelihood of finding and reading the infringing work. And in most cases, you would just get a feeling that something was amiss, rather than knowing straight away which portions had been copied and from where.

Now, it is a simple matter of setting a powerful computer loose on a massive database. (more…)

According to the Australia, Sir Cliff Richard is leading a push to have the period of copyright in the UK extended from 50 to 95 years. The reason? Some of his songs, such as “Move It” from 1958, are about to fall out of copyright.

As always, the underlying point not addressed is the rationale underlying copyright laws. Is it to allow perpetual quasi-ownership of something you have created? Is it to allow a reasonable reward by a limited monopoly of exploitation? And if so, for how long? And why should the time–presumably enough when the song was created if you are looking at it from an incentive point of view–be extended any further? The Disney/Sonny Bono Effect hits the UK…

The New York Times is carrying a story about an artist who is being sued by the University of Alabama. His wrongdoing? Selling paintings of football matches that include players wearing the university’s “famous crimson and white color scheme”.

According to the article, the suit is a trade mark action, and it is not someone’s idea of a joke. The artist, Daniel Moore, has been painting football pictures for over 25 years, and says he paints using photographs for reference, but adds his own interpretation and style to them. The accompanying photos suggest that Moore does have an ultra-realistic style. The lawsuit alleges that Moore’s paintings are effectively facsimile images of a football ‘play’ and “adds no message whatever not conveyed by the play itself”. (more…)

Update: The move to a new host is completed, and I think things are working properly now. Please drop me a line at lawfont @ if not. Thanks.

Just to let our readers know: I will be moving LawFont to a new webhost over the next few days. There may be periods of downtime, and it is possible that comments on posts might fall into a black hole (but I will try to do my best to prevent this).

Other than this, the changes will be completely behind the scenes, and so the web address (still — no need to change your bookmarks), the look and feel, etc, will all be the same.

Apologies for any inconvenience caused.

You may also have noticed comments are back on after a massive spam blitz over the last couple of weeks. I am still tweaking it, but we’re again down to one or two per day.

And then I have a few further improvements planned for after that.

Yesterday, Engadget carried an interview with Viodentia (the guy who cracked Microsoft’s DRM). Today, it is reporting that Microsoft is now suing him for copyright infringement. He is one of 10 unidentified defendants (called “Does”, as in “John Doe”). In the lawsuit, Microsoft will seek to get discovery of documents which will allow the identification of the defendants. (more…)

Engadget has an interview with “Viodentia”, creator of software which cracks Microsoft’s Windows Media DRM (Digital Rights Management). Engadget last month confirmed that the software (FairUse4WM) will strip the protection from music files downloaded from Napster (meaning that they could continue to play the music files after their Napster subscription ended).

It’s a relatively rare interview, given that this kind of activity now opens one up to prosecution under copyright legislation. (more…)

The Washington Post is reporting that starting this October Term, the US Supreme Court will release transcripts of oral arguments the same day they are held. Very good news. It also looks as though the transcripts will fully identify each Justice asking a question (which has only been available in the paid transcripts in the past). It’s taken a long time, but a same-day service would be impressive: the Australian High Court (which has had transcripts posted online on AustLII for over 12 years), usually takes between one to three or four days.

In March, it was news that Google had acquired a neat web startup called Upstartfile, which was creating a site called Writely. New registrations were closed.

Today, Google quietly re-opened Writely to the general public, who can once again sign up.

I’ve just had a quick look at the new service. In fact, I’m using it to write this blog post. As for impressions? Well, in a word: (more…)

Recently, there has been a considerable amount of attention given to this announcement by Piratpartiet (the Pirate Party of Sweden), which says it has:

launched a new Internet service that lets anybody send and receive files and information over the Internet without fear of being monitored or logged. In technical terms, such a network is called a “darknet”.

The promise seems to be that people can send or receive copyrighted files without breaching copyright.

On the technical side, this looks to be a neat piece of coding. However, on the legal side, sadly for the Piratpartiet, I don’t think it will do what they think, for two reasons. (more…)

Today’s funny moment is from The Australian, which is carrying a story that French cosmetic company L’Oreal has won a copyright suit against a Dutch company for copying a perfume. The story appears to have originated in The Times, but does not as yet appear to have been widely syndicated. The bizarre thing, of course, is how such a claim could be brought in copyright. (more…)

The SMH is carrying an article quoting a telemarketing industry spokesman as saying that many Australian companies have chosen not to renew contracts with Indian call centres after July 1. The proffered reasons are fear of a consumer backlash, and the forthcoming introduction of the register.

Choice quote: “A lot of organisations realised the damage being done to their brand by this form of telemarketing, especially in telecommunications.”

Yahoo reports that the US Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by AA Milne’s granddaughter Clare to cancel a licence to the Winnie the Pooh characters from the estate of a long-time licensee so she could license them to Disney.

According to a scanned article on the website of the licensee’s lawyer’s firm, Disney was a co-plaintiff of Clare Milne’s at trial, but did not join the appeal. The estate of the licensee, Stephen Slesinger, won both the trial and appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals from which Milne unsuccessfully sought certiorari. (more…)

The Do Not Call Register legislation (previously noted on LawFont) was today passed in the Senate. There is no word on its date of commencement (and nothing on Senator Coonan’s home page yet either, although there is a release about government subsidising of internet porn filters that I noted noted the other day). Edited to update: ACMA now has a press release online stating that the register “is expected to be up and running in 2007”, and Senator Coonan also has a release stating that she “look[s] forward to being able to announce the start of the Register in early 2007”.

The text of the bill is also available online, and it looks to carry on the tradition of over-drafted and over-complex legislation. (more…)

IPLaw360 reports on a lawsuit by a Stanford researcher against the estate of James Joyce to use material to supplement a book she has written about the author.

According to the story, the researcher, Professor Carol Shloss, removed material from her 2003 book about the Irish author and his daughter in response to threats of a copyright infringement lawsuit by the estate. She is now suing in the Federal Court for the Northern District of California to obtain a declaration that posting the removed material on her website as a companion to the book would not result in copyright infringement.

Stanford’s Center for Internet and Society has a copy of the suit. There is comment on the case in The New Yorker, and it was also mentioned in a lecture given last year by Matt Rimmer.

What I wonder about is how much of this material is actually copyrighted, given that at least some of it seems to have predated (in the USA) the 1976 Copyright Act, and (in the UK) the 1956 Act. (It is not clear from the complaint when all the material complained of was created. It’s also not entirely clear whether or when copyright in material created by third parties was transferred into the estate.)

You may have noticed a few little changes to LawFont over the last week:

1. You can now click on an author’s name to see all posts by that author (I will soon make the underlining of the link a little more obvious)

2. There are now small buttons to help in bookmarking/submitting the URLs of our posts to various online sites. These are only visible in the view full post mode – for longer posts, you get there by clicking on “(more…)” or on the post’s title; for shorter ones, just the title.

I have also tweaked the comment spam filter – again, I don’t expect too many problems, but if you experience any, please contact me on lawfont at gmail dot com.

Any further feedback or suggestions also welcomed!

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