Bad news: copyright industry attacks on the Internet’s plumbing are increasing – and succeeding

Back in October 2021, Walled Culture wrote about a ruling from a US judge. It concerned an attempt to make the content delivery network (CDN) Cloudflare, which is simply part of the Internet’s plumbing, responsible for what flows through its connections. The judge rightly decided: “a reasonable jury could not – at least on this …

Somebody wants to copyright a rhythm – get ready for the dembow tax if they succeed

One of the most pernicious effects of today’s copyright maximalism is the idea that every element of a creative work has to be owned by someone, and protected against “unauthorised” – that is, unpaid – use by other artists. That goes against several thousand years of human creativity, which only exists thanks to successive generations …

How to update copyright: Nigeria shows the way for Africa – and the world

Too often the posts on Walled Culture are about the latest copyright madness, or new laws making copyright even worse for the digital world. Against this background, it’s good to read that, as this blog hoped back in 2021, something positive has just happened in Nigeria that is likely to have important ramifications across the …

Why sharing ebooks is good for people – and good for publishers

One of the joys of reading is being able to share your favourite books with friends, family and colleagues. As I am sure is the case for most people, in these circumstances I often go on to buy my own copy of a book I have been lent and like. In this respect, sharing books …

Judge puts corporate profits above public benefits in Internet Archive copyright case

Walled Culture has just written about the selfish and short-sighted lawsuit that four of the biggest publishers brought against the Internet Archive. Unfortunately, following oral arguments last week, Judge John G. Koeltl has rather quickly found in favour of the former. The Internet Archive has already said that it will appeal against the decision, so …

The EU has brought back opt-in copyright for text and data mining: let’s build on that foundation

The central theme of Walled Culture the book (free digital versions) is the clash between copyright, devised for an analogue world, and the Internet, which is inherently digital. There are many manifestations of the the bad fit of the two, but if I had to choose one step that doomed copyright in the online world …

Publishers have long hated libraries; here’s the history, and the next attack

As a Walled Culture post last year noted, publishers hate libraries (well, many of the bigger publishers do, at least.) A handy piece of research entitled “The Publisher Playbook: A Brief History of the Publishing Industry’s Obstruction of the Library Mission” (freely available as a preprint) confirms that the hatred is long-standing: Libraries play an …

Here’s a puzzle: when is the public domain not in the public domain?

Walled Culture is a big fan of the public domain. The amazing artistic uses that people are able to make of material only once it enters the public domain are an indication that copyright can act as an obstacle to wider creativity, rather than something that automatically promotes it. But there’s a problem: because the …

Why the emerging new copyright landscape is both good news and bad news for creators and the public

The Walled Culture blog has been writing about the hot topic of generative AI and its impact on copyright for nearly six months now. One of the sharpest commentators on this area is Dr Andres Guadamuz, whom we interviewed a year ago. He’s just written a great blog post about a video by Corridor Crew …

The EU link tax was bad enough, but Canada’s threatens to be even worse

At the heart of Walled Culture the book (available as a free ebook in various formats) is the story of the disgraceful EU Copyright Directive and how it was passed. I won’t go into the details here, except to note that Article 15, aka the snippet tax or the link tax – the idea of …

Copyright means you may need permission to put photos of your own furnished room online

One of the life’s certainties is that copyright maximalism will continue to encourage absurd rulings by complaisant courts. Here’s a rather spectacular case from Germany. It involves a “photo wallpaper”. For those of you who – like me – aren’t quite sure what that means, it is the name given to wallpapers that are essentially …

Research shows that, when given the choice, most authors don’t want excessively-long copyright terms

Last week Walled Culture mentioned the problem of orphan works. These are creations, typically books, that are still covered by copyright, but unavailable because the original publisher or distributor has gone out of business, or simply isn’t interested in keeping them in circulation. The problem is that without any obvious point of contact, it’s not …

Copyright has been one of life’s certainties: but will it always be?

Copyright seems to be a fixture of our legal, economic and social systems. For 300 years, it has formed the backbone of the structures used to incentivise and remunerate creators. During that time, copyright has been extended repeatedly in length and breadth. The original term of the 1710 Statute of Anne – 14 years’ monopoly …

How publishers lobbied to “axe the reading tax” on ebooks, won – and then paid it to themselves

One of the (many) villains in Walled Culture the book (free ebook versions) is the publishing industry, specifically in the context of the transition from analogue books to ebooks. What could have been one of the most important expansions of the power and possibility of the book form became instead its opposite – a diminishment …

In a world where AI art is cheap and easy to generate, do we still need copyright?

To say that AI-generated art is controversial would be something of an understatement. The appearance last year of free tools like Stable Diffusion has not just thrown the world of art into turmoil, it has raised profound questions about the nature of human creativity. AI art also involves thorny issues of copyright that have piqued …

The copyright world is preparing to hobble yet another innovative technology – generative AI

Last week Walled Culture noted that there already are two lawsuits against generative AI systems that are causing such a buzz at the moment. Both those legal actions involved the visual arts, but as this blog noted back in October last year, generative AI is going to have a massive impact across all the creative …

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