In re: Kindle’s audio – blessing for the blind or copyright violation?

Users with disabilities are fighting back against a recent attempt by the Authors Guild to shut down the Kindle 2’s text-to-speech feature.

About 300 people drawn from the National Federation of the Blind and partner organizations protested outside the offices of the Authors Guild in New York Wednesday in hopes of reversing the Guild’s stance. The Guild claims that the text-to-speech feature of Amazon’s new e-book reader violates authors’ copyrights.

via Amazon’s Kindle 2 Pits Authors Versus the Blind | Gadget Lab | Wired.com.

Version 2.0 of Amazon’s Kindle added a controversial feature that turns text into speech.  Supposedly it doesn’t sound too artificial and is tolerable for a time for most users, but more then tolerable for those with diminished vision who consider it a huge advancement in getting content to them in a usable format (text to speech isn’t new, the article above notes some of the issues surrounding the current systems, but part of Kindle’s appeal is the library of titles you can load up in seconds and listen to – makes you think there is a market for Kindles without screens.)  As with all developments in technology we are getting confronted with new issues (Google Book Settlement and DVD Ripping issues are just two other ones among the many).  The question remains, when I buy your bestseller what bundle of rights am I getting and is one of them the ability to have a synthesized voice convert the words to audio?  Somehow I feel there is a losing battle for the Authors Guild on this one, but they shouldn’t fret in my opinion as I don’t think this will ever replace the mainstream audiobook market where authors, actors and professional voices read the books.

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In re: Coldplay caught stealing notes? Arena district a boom? Bookclubs…

Headed out west for a couple days tomorrow and figured I mention a few interesting things I saw recently, so just a hodgepodge post:

  • Coldplay is being sued for copyright infringement for their song Viva la Vida by guitarist Joe Satriani, (see a YouTube video comparison)  check out his much lesser known song in comparison – to me it seems like he has a pretty good claim.  (“[I]t is well settled that copying may be inferred where a plaintiff establishes that the defendant had access to the copyrighted work and that the two works are substantially similar.” Warner Brothers v. American Broadcasting Companies, 654 F.2d 204, 207)  It seems like Joe mike end up with a chunk of change from this, but only time will tell.  For more on this see discussion on The Volokh Conspiracy or article in Guardian (“On the one hand, you have Satriani’s six-and-a-half-minute instrumental from 2004, with cheese-ball guitar wailing, moments of shredding, and long bouts of soloing. On the other hand, you have Viva La Vida: Eno-produced, Grammy-nominated, full of strings, church bells, drum rolls, chorales. And a sort of harpsichord solo. Certainly Viva La Vida is cheese-ball as well – but it feels more cheddar than Dairylea.”
     
  • The other day there was an article in the NY Times on the Arena District in Columbus and the success that Nationwide Realty has had in turning what was a dilapidated area of town into one of the highest rent office districts in the city as well as creating viable ground floor commercial space due in large part to Nationwide Arena (and soon Huntington Park).  See the article here.  “A decade ago, a 75-acre area along the Scioto River less than a mile west of this capital city’s downtown was an industrial no man’s land, consisting of barren railyards, old warehouses and a shuttered 19th-century penitentiary. But that was before Nationwide Realty Investors, an affiliate of Nationwide Mutual Insurance, turned the area into the Arena District.”
     
  • Being in a somewhat functional (though rarely meeting book club) I found an article “Fought Over Any Good Books Lately?” in the NY Times Sunday magazine kind of amusing as it recounted failed book clubs who couldn’t agree if they wanted to read high end literature or Dan Brown thrillers.  See article here

In re: Court says copyrights apply even for free software

The free software movement had a tough choice of whether to appeal a lower court decision that held freely distributed software couldn’t be protected through the use of copyright infringement claims (only contract claims).  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C. overturned the lower decision saying that despite the traditional method for copyright owners selling their copyrighted material the court said. “The lack of money changing hands in open source licensing should not be presumed to mean that there is no economic consideration, however.”

This is big for a few reasons, one of which it helps keep the cycle of development in free products moving.  It requires those who wish to update or use the code to publish their changes or provide attribution (pointing people back to the larger movement).  The reason the usage of copyright infringement to protect this is so useful is the strength of copyright infringement claims compared to the breach of contract claims the lower court limited them to.

The “attribution and modification transparency requirements directly serve to drive traffic to the open source incubation page and to inform downstream users of the project, which is a significant economic goal of the copyright holder that the law will enforce,” according to the appeals court.’ See PC World article

In re: Cablevision’s Network DVR Doesn’t Infringe Copyrights

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit just overturned a lower court’s March 2007 ruling, which found Cablevision’s Remote Storage Digital Video Recorder infringed on copyrights. The Second Circuit held that offsite DVRs were not copyright violations (could still head to Supreme Court some think), paving the way (for now) for cable companies to provide subscribers with DVR functionality sans the home unit (users would still need a digital cable box capable of on demand interaction). Still, this can be seen as a big win for those who argue for broader usage rights, then those put forth by Hollywood and other major content owners. Cable companies can provide this type of service much cheaper than the current at home products.

See story

In re: “Monsanto’s Harvest of Fear”

Most Americans know Monsanto because of what it sells to put on our lawns— the ubiquitous weed killer Roundup. What they may not know is that the company now profoundly influences—and one day may virtually control—what we put on our tables. For most of its history Monsanto was a chemical giant, producing some of the most toxic substances ever created, residues from which have left us with some of the most polluted sites on earth. Yet in a little more than a decade, the company has sought to shed its polluted past and morph into something much different and more far-reaching—an “agricultural company” dedicated to making the world “a better place for future generations.” ‘ – Monsanto’s Harvest of Fear

Vanity Fair this month has a good article by  Donald Barlett and James Steele on Monsanto, the chemical turned agribusiness who sells most of the GMO seeds in the world.  As you can imagine their business is booming despite backlashes from those oh so stubborn Europeans and Japanese who don’t seem to have a taste for GMO soy products.  In any event the article touches on a few issues and I’ll warn you it is a lefty leaning article so keep yourself balanced, but a lot of it is true about their campaign of fear, intimation and enforcement of their IP rights (over the seeds).  Unlike most companies they have found that their customers keep coming back despite hating Monsanto.  The article touches on some various issues including their history of toxic waste and harm (which may not be fully connected to the current company as they split into so as not to taint the seed business).  

One of the things I have always thought was garbage that Monsanto has been able to do is fight the labeling laws, trying to prevent dairy farmers from labeling their milk as being free of growth hormones.  Thankfully they haven’t gotten those through the FDA (though from the sound of the article they practically run it) but farmers are required to say the treated milk has not been shown to be any different (mind you no long term studies have ever been done)

Read it at Vanity Fair: “Monsanto’s Harvest of Fear”

In re: Guest Blogging

So some of you may be new and not remember the itsy bitsy origins of In re: one fateful day a few summers ago while I was in Oxford for summer law classes.  If you were reading then you were one of the few, and you’ll remember that it was Prof. Edward Lee of Ohio State’s College of Law that got the idea into my head to start bloggin and you may have read a few of my posts on his blog.  Well anyway, you can now be on the look out for some posts from him as he will be doing some guest posts, subjects unknown.  He also writes on you tube and the law surrounding it on his utube blog which you can check out as well.

In re: So who owns the MP3 patent anways?

Well if you check out the NY Times(“Patent Fights Are a Legacy of MP3’s Tangled Origins”) article over the recent fighting involving the licensing of MP3 technology you’ll learn that it isn’t quite so simple and why so many different groups and companies have partial claim to it.  Once  you get your fill of that bounce over to Techdirt to see a bit more on the subject and relation to patent trolls.

As you may know I am not a huge fan of our current system, its bogging down with too many patents for not enough innovation and I think that the patent is too long.  The battle over MP3 is evidence also that the system of patents isn’t aligned with the style of innovation that exists today, where a single inventor isn’t creating whole products anymore.

Also the Microsoft Alcatel has had another moment, with a Judge dismissing one of Alcatels charges for infringement.