Pirate Party NY Choir Protest on July 14, in front of ASCAP headquarters .

Pirate Party NY

What they're doing:

Dressing as pirates in a public square in New York City, and singing popular, copyrighted songs while holding up signs reading: "This is illegal", "We are violating copyright law", "We could get sued for this".

Where and when they're doing it:

Lincoln Center Plaza in Manhattan, New York City
Across the street from ASCAP Headquarters

Saturday, July 14th, 2012, 12:00pm.  (Meeting up at Columbus Circle 59th Street for a briefing first, then walking to Lincoln Center at 12:30.)

Pirate Party NY is providing signs, lyric sheets, bottled water, and snacks.

Golly, that's jolly!  Where can I find out more?

nypirateparty.org/piratechoir

'Nuff said.

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"Creatorism" and the Rise of Speculative Invoicing.

Portrait of Dirk Lasater

While most of our work at QuestionCopyright.org addresses artists and audiences, we're also always on the lookout for good pieces intended for the legal and policy research communities. When lawyer Dirk Lasater asked if we'd be interested in publishing these excerpts from his article “Closing Pandora’s Box: Speculative Invoicing and Opportunism in File Sharing”, we jumped at the chance.

What Lasater describes below is moral hazard: the inevitable abuse of a system that is optimized for large-scale, monopolistic, predatory behavior. Of course, he is more circumspect in his language, as befits someone writing for a legal journal — but read the excerpts yourself and see if you can come to any other conclusion.

In his full journal article there is also a Proposed Remedies section, with some suggestions that ought to be uncontroversial: an amendment to the DMCA requiring a "statement that the complaining party has examined the purported infringement and believes in good faith that there is no potential fair use or exempt use, as defined by this Act, of the alleged infringer", and, even more importantly, this amendment:

Unless otherwise provided, any person who threatens a lawsuit by mail, electronically, or in person; or any person who issues requests for pretrial settlement of infringement claims after obtaining a subpoena under this section and who knows, or should have known, that the alleged settlement was based on false statements or misrepresentations, including material omissions, shall be liable for any damages, including costs and attorneys’ fees incurred by the alleged infringer, and any damages including costs and attorneys’ fees of any service provider who is injured by such conduct as the result of the service provider relying upon such subpoena in removing or disabling access to the material or activity claimed to be infringing, or in disclosing the identity and private information of the alleged infringer. Treble damages shall be available in cases of willful or wanton disregard by the party obtaining the subpoena.

The idea that those who commit copyfraud should have to pay for the inconvenience they cause others is not new. What is new is the careful drafting Lasater brings to the proposed solution. He's not just saying it would be a good idea to amend the law so there are penalties for copyfraud — many people say that. But Lasater actually drafts the amendment, and backs it up with the kind of legal analysis and history that one wishes went into all legislation.

Biography: Dirk Lasater is a practicing lawyer in Winston-Salem, NC with an interest in intellectual property issues. He is currently working in a temporary capacity as he looks for a permanent legal position in some area of commercial transactional or intellectual property law. Dirk received his bachelor’s degree in the Classics from the University of Florida and earned his Juris Doctor from the Wake Forest University School of Law in 2011. From 2010-2011, Dirk served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Wake Forest Journal of Business and Intellectual Property Law. He has published various blogs on copyright law and has also authored two academic articles, one of which focuses on the competing concurrent use of virtual trademarks on the internet, and the other on the practice of speculative invoicing, portions of which are reprinted on Questioncopyright.org. While in law school, Dirk interned at Novant Health, Inc., a regional health care system, and also volunteered for two years as the Assistant Director of the Wake Forest Innocence Project where he worked on actual innocence claims and reintegration of recently released prisoners.

These excerpts are part of a larger article, “Closing Pandora’s Box: Speculative Invoicing and Opportunism in File Sharing” from the Fall Issue, Volume 12-1, of the Wake Forest Journal of Business & Intellectual Property Law. The author and Question Copyright thank the Wake Forest Journal of Business and Intellectual Property Law for allowing these portions to be published here under a Creative Commons Attribution license.

Author's Introduction

The Pandora’s box of file sharing as it currently exists has found renewed presence in public consciousness over the course of the last five to ten years. While dormant through much of the late 2000s, the government and content owners have begun a full court press aimed at preventing the free sharing of movies and music on the internet. The most recent action against Rapidshare and the grass roots rejection of SOPA and PIPA have brought internet related issues back into vogue, and have directed attention to the speculative invoicing approach to copyright enforcement used quietly and persistently over the last five to ten years. Following Napster’s demise, internet technology has continued to advance, with file sharing use skyrocketing and enforcement regimes struggling to keep pace.i Historically, as content owners and the RIAA searched for ways to close Pandora’s box, they targeted file sharing websites such as Napster, Grokster, and Limewire, and, in tandem, sued individual end users.ii While the content industry has had some success on both of these fronts,iii resolution of the larger problem has not been realized, Pandora’s ‘evils’ are out of the box, and all efforts are beginning to look like a seemingly futile attempt to prevent online file sharing.iv

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"In Defense of Free Music" -- Smashing Article by Zac Shaw

Mediapocalypse.com Zac Shaw of Mediapocalypse has just written one of the best explanations -- and justifications -- of the Free Culture movement we've yet seen: In Defense of Free Music: A Generational, Ethical High Road Over the Industry's Corruption and Exploitation.

To understand what he's responding to, you'll need a bit of background...

Last week, a 20-year-old intern at NPR named Emily White wrote a post for NPR's "All Songs Considered" blog, entitled "I Never Owned Any Music To Begin With".  She described, quite eloquently, how her relationship to recorded music was the same as the rest of her generation's, namely that they don't see the point of owning physical media like CDs.  She gets her music on iTunes and other online services, and stores it in the cloud and on her playback devices.  She doesn't see anything wrong with this.

From the point of view of someone steeped in the Free Culture movement, nothing Emily White said is controversial.  Indeed, it was if anything surprisingly tame: she took care to say that she rarely downloads songs illegally, but rather uses state-approved distribution channels, in part because she wants artists to get more money than they do under the old album-based model:

...I honestly don't think my peers and I will ever pay for albums. I do think we will pay for convenience.

 

What I want is one massive Spotify-like catalog of music that will sync to my phone and various home entertainment devices. With this new universal database, everyone would have convenient access to everything that has ever been recorded, and performance royalties would be distributed based on play counts (hopefully with more money going back to the artist than the present model). All I require is the ability to listen to what I want, when I want and how I want it. Is that too much to ask?

Then David Lowery at The Trichordist ("Artists for an Ethical Internet") wrote an impassioned response, "Letter to Emily White at NPR All Songs Considered", that was really aimed at the Free Culture movement, using White as a proxy.  Lowery's letter is worth reading: he's clearly sincere, and is willing to pull out every rhetorical trick in his bag to make his case (including, unfortunately, some unfair ones).  I don't think he makes a very good case, but he certainly put his heart into it.  His response got a huge amount of circulation, and the coverage appears to be still expanding.

Zac Shaw didn't think Lowery made a good case either, but instead of just picking apart Lowery's argument, Shaw constructed a convincing positive argument for the ethical solidity of the Free Culture movement's position (which Emily White herself did not articulate, but it was Lowery's real target, and Shaw was right to focus on it).

Enough introduction.  Read Zac Shaw's article -- it's really, really good:

In Defense of Free Music: A Generational, Ethical High Road Over the Industry’s Corruption and Exploitation

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