New Zealand is about to commit copyright theft – the real kind

When modern copyright was invented with the Statute of Anne in 1710, it consisted of a bargain. In return for a time-limited, government-enforced monopoly, creators agreed that their work would pass afterwards into what came to be called the public domain – free for anyone to do anything with. Whatever you might think of the …

DRM on paper shows why anti-circumvention laws are copyright’s biggest blunder

Most people are familiar with the Dymo label printer in some form or another. Not an exciting product perhaps, but quite a useful one. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has some bad news – Dymo is adding DRM to its label paper in the form of RFID chips: Dymo’s latest generation of desktop label printers use …

First financialisation, now securitisation: copyright music industry moves further away from artists

I’ve written a couple of times about a worrying new trend: music copyrights becoming completely divorced from the original creativity that lies behind them, thanks to the increasing financialisation of the sector. As songs are viewed simply as assets that can be bought and sold, they can also be manipulated in other ways, including securitisation, …

A bit is a bit is a bit: digital platforms begin to merge with digital producers

Last week Walled Culture wrote about Microsoft’s planned purchase of the video gaming company Activision. That’s been followed by some other news stories that may not involve such headline-grabbing acquisitions, but which do form part of the same larger trend. First, there’s the Joe Rogan kerfuffle at Spotify. Tim De Chant on Ars Technica explained …

Google Drive’s automated monitoring system flags up the number 1 as a copyright infringement

Earlier this week, Dr Emily Dolson, Assistant Professor at Michigan State University, posted the tweet shown above. It’s a warning that one of Dr Dolson’s files violates Google Drive’s Copyright Infringement policy, and that some features related to the file “may have been restricted”. As she tweeted, the file contains a single line with the …

Copyright means you can’t tweak how a Web page appears on your screen, according to media giant

Advertising is one of the commonest ways of financing Web sites and services. There’s nothing wrong with that, at least in principle. But the fact that, according to one estimate, 42% of Internet users worldwide employ an ad blocker to remove those ads from their screens is a clear sign that something is seriously wrong. …

Rock star worth $450 million wins copyright case against widow who offered bootleg CD for €9.95

As the very first post on this blog pointed out, copyright is fundamentally unsuited to the digital world. It assumes that copying material is hard, and can therefore only be carried out by larger organisations. As a consequence, punishments for copyright infringement are extreme, since they are calibrated to dissuade even well-funded groups from making …

Guest post | How a politicians’ thesis could affect a country’s scientific culture

The president of the Colombian House of Representatives, Congresswoman Jennifer Arias, allegedly plagiarised parts of her master’s thesis. The Colombian Universidad Externado explained in a recent press release that journalists are denied access to the thesis based on copyright concerns. This is a case of public interest, since the validity of the academic degree of …

What has copyright got to do with the Tiananmen Square massacre?

Hong Kong was supposed to enjoy a special “one country, two systems” approach for 50 years after it was handed back to China by the UK in 1997. It’s clear now that the Chinese authorities have no intention of waiting that long. After the Hong Kong national security law was passed in 2020, Beijing has …

Remembering Aaron Swartz, who died on this day, a victim of the copyright system

On this day in 2013, Aaron Swartz died by his own hand, at the age of 26. His short but full life as a hacker and activist is summed up well on Wikipedia – one of the many projects he was involved with. It is widely believed that Swartz hanged himself because he faced the …

How the financialisation of music could lead to demands for perpetual copyright

Back in October, this blog noted the huge amounts of money pouring into music copyrights, largely driven by the global rise of online streaming. Since then, that trend has continued, most notably with Bruce Springsteen’s sale of his recordings and songwriting catalogue to Sony, for a rumoured $550 million. As we pointed out in the …

It took a 15-year fight to be allowed to use an existing DRM exception: who still thinks copyright is fair?

In his Walled Culture interview, Cory Doctorow explains cogently why Digital Rights Management (DRM) is such a disaster. It’s also pointless: DRM can always be broken, and once there is one unprotected copy out on the Internet, the material with DRM effectively become an inferior, hobbled version. The copyright companies reacted to this fact in …

Public Domain Day is here again: it should be an occasion for condemnation, not celebration

Once copyright’s walls come down, creative material enters the public domain. It is free for all to use, modify and build upon. It is part of the matrix from which future creativity springs. One of the best places to explore it and its importance is the Center for the Study of the Public Domain at …

Another example of how the playing field is tilted in favour of copyright owners

It’s widely known that artists of all kinds often get a raw deal from the contracts they sign.  But this kind of legal unfairness is not the only danger they face: copyright can also be turned against creators in other, illegal ways.  For example, according to a report on MarketWatch: Two men have been charged …

Is protecting copyright more important than saving lives during the Covid-19 pandemic?

Although the Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked terrible suffering across the world, we are fortunate that we already have several vaccines that have been shown to be highly-effective in reducing the number of deaths and hospitalisation rates. Discovering vaccines proved easier than expected, but ensuring that everyone – including people in developing countries – has access …

YouTube is “neck-and-neck with Netflix”, and bigger than the world’s entire recording industry

Everyone knows that Google (strictly speaking, the parent company, Alphabet) is a digital giant. But recent figures reveal that YouTube alone is also enormous, and in two markets: video and music. Alphabet’s third quarter results showed that YouTube ads went from $5 billion to $7.2 billion, year on year. As Robert Kyncl, YouTube’s chief business …