‘Bong Hits 4 Jesus’ Case To Be Heard By Supreme Court

Madness.

WSJBlog:

Justices agreed to hear the appeal by the Juneau, Alaska, school board and principal Deborah Morse of a lower court ruling that allowed the student’s civil rights lawsuit to proceed. The school board hired former Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr to argue its case to the high court.

The Justices had examined the appeal in this freedom-of-expression case five separate times before agreeing to hear it, according to SCOTUSblog. Kick back and have a look at the petition.

U.S. Copyright Office Cuts Into DMCA

The much-vaunted Digital Millennium Copyright Act (PDF, Wikipedia), passed in 1998, was designed to criminalize the circumvention of copyrighted material, while taking the load off ISP’s and redirecting liability to the “incriminating” individual.

Last week, on Thanksgiving Day!, the AP released this article outlining 6 exemptions written into the DMCA (EFF posted this the day before). Brief summaries of these exemptions can be read at http://www.copyright.gov/1201/. The Copyright Office meets to review the DMCA every three years, and previously approved exemptions in 2000 and in 2003, not all of which have been renewed.

Some of these exemptions reflect a loosening of some of the more constricting titles of the DMCA and most notably, fair-use and accessibility are provided with broader, less limiting definitions.

— Breaking CSS encryption to make excerpts and compilations from DVDs, especially for educational purposes, is now more likely to pass the test for fair use.

— The sight- and hearing-impaired are now allowed to break DRM-locks on eBooks to access reading tools and software.

— It is now legal to unlock cell phones!

— Circumvention is now officially permitted for the testing, researching, or correcting of security flaws from “rootkits” or other access control measures.

Ed Felten goes further into detail on the 6 exemptions in this commentary. Cory also goes more in-depth on the 6 exemptions at BoingBoing as does Karen at KSL News and Bill at PublicKnowledge.

More background: The Evil That is DMCA.

Internet Libel OK’d by Courts

UPDATE: Comprehensive coverage of blogger reaction to the Barrett v. Rosenthal decision at CJR.

Always nice to see Internet legislation shot down in the courts — in this case, the California Supreme Court ruled that allowing prosecution of name-calling and online flame wars by third parties would lead to an uncontrollable number of ridiculous lawsuits.

The L.A. Times reports:

“The prospect of blanket immunity for those who intentionally redistribute defamatory statements on the Internet has disturbing implications,” Justice Carol Corrigan wrote for the court. But, she added, immunity “serves to protect online freedom of expression and to encourage self-regulation.”

[…]

The court explained that Internet defamation law differs from that of other media.

“Book, newspaper or magazine publishers are liable for defamation on the same basis as authors,” Corrigan wrote. “Book sellers, news vendors or other ‘distributors’ … may only be held liable if they knew or had reason to know of a publication’s defamatory content.”

Congress “chose to protect even the most active Internet publishers, those who take an aggressive role in republishing third-party content,” she wrote.

[…]

She said the threat of liability also would reduce the flow of ideas on the Internet. “The volume and range of Internet communications make the ‘heckler’s veto’ a real threat,” Corrigan said.

The defendant, Ilene Rosenthal of the Humantics Foundation, blogs here. The case was brought by the erstwhile thugs known as the Quackbusters.

Here is EFF’s FAQ on Online Defamation.

Wikipedia entry on the 1996 Communications Decency Act.

* Discussion @ /.

Universal Goes After Bank of America for U2 “One” Parody

How broke-ass will UMG and their copyright hounds get? Maria Aspan @ The New York Times tackles this hilarity:

A video of two Bank of America employees singing a version of U2’s “One” to commemorate their company’s acquisition of MBNA recently made the rounds of the blogs, prompting amusement and some ridicule from online viewers.

But the intended comic effect of their performance and the retooled lyrics (“One spirit, we get to share it/Leading us all to higher standards”) seemed lost on lawyers on the lookout for copyright violations.

On Tuesday, a lawyer for the Universal Music Publishing Group, a catalog owner and administrator, posted the text of a cease-and-desist letter in the comments section of Stereogum.com, a Web site carrying the video. It contended that Bank of America had violated Universal’s copyright of the U2 song.

The two employees featured in the video were the guitarist, Jim Debois, a consumer market executive for Manhattan, and the singer, Ethan Chandler, a Manhattan banking center manager, who provoked much of the ridicule with his earnest interpretation and also for straying a bit far from U2’s lyrics with lines like “Integration has never had us feeling so good/and we’ll make lots of money.”

Mr. Chandler, who has independently released an album and is working on another, said he was asked to write and perform the song for an August meeting of credit card division executives at MBNA headquarters in Wilmington, Del.

He said he was surprised to learn about the cease-and-desist letter, stressing that his performance was meant for an internal audience. “There was an approved list of songs to use,” he said, “and as far I knew, that was an approved song.”

Universal said on Stereogum that it had sent the letter by fax and registered mail to Bank of America last Monday. On Friday, a bank spokeswoman, Betsy Weinberger, said the legal department had not yet received it.

The letter was signed by Raul R. Gonzalez, a lawyer for Universal Music. Reached at his office, Mr. Gonzalez said, “No comment” and hung up.

Online commentators accustomed to viral marketing said they suspected that the video was the latest corporate attempt to co-opt Internet video for promotional purposes. But Ms. Weinberger said it was “absolutely not” leaked by Bank of America as a marketing ploy.

Mr. Chandler also denied any involvement in leaking the video, although he admitted that, despite the cutting online criticism, the incident had an upside. “A lot of people thought it was fake, but I really do sing,” he said. “I’ve been doing this a long time.”

Continue reading “Universal Goes After Bank of America for U2 “One” Parody”

John Gilmore on Taking ‘Secret Laws’ to SCotUS

What is a “secret law?

This question is the foundation of a cert petition filed (.pdf) with the U.S. Supreme Court recently.

I spoke with John Gilmore on a drive from San Francisco to LA last week, and discussed the objectives and background of the case, which originated in 2002 as a challenge against the unwritten law requiring one to show identification in airports. Click here to download the interview (36.1mb MP3, 26min15sec). Click at bottom to play. Continue reading “John Gilmore on Taking ‘Secret Laws’ to SCotUS”