Apple has spun a very integrate and systematic marketing web in its ill-advised stand against the FBI in the San Bernardino terrorism case. The San Bernardino case is the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since the 9/11 attacks. The terrorists were killed and the government needs information on one of their smartphones to discover evidence of the terrorist cell.

Apple’s flawed reasoning for withholding assistance in building a case against the terrorists, however, is filled with misinformation and outright lies. Apple has mounted a campaign that attempts to mold the facts to support a better image for Apple, one that has been fading since the death of its founder and cheerleader, Steve Jobs.scarecrow-on-bale-of-hay

Apple is, of course, no stranger to spreading marketing that inaccurately portrays their products and company in a good light. They have successfully convinced an entire generation into thinking they built the first smartphone when, in fact, smartphones of varying degrees have been around for years prior to the release of the iPhone. Every innovation that Apple conceives is portrayed as the first. Some might argue here that Apple just does it better, simpler, more stylish, etc. – and that admittedly may very well be true – but the facts seem to point to the conclusion that Apple is, for the most part, a follower in most of the actual technologies that it exploits.

So how does this tie in to the San Bernardino shootings and Court Order issued against them? The positions that Apple is taking in its refusal to comply with the court order are rooted in the same arrogance. Apple is portraying itself as the defender of data security and privacy in an effort to skirt the real issues.

The allegations of arrogance are clearly seen in Apple’s own “Message to Our Customers” posted February 16, 2016, beginning in the first paragraph:

The United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers. We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand. This moment calls for public discussion, and we want our customers and people around the country to understand what is at stake.

The very first sentence of Apple’s plea is false. First, the step being ask of Apple in this case is decidedly not “unprecedented.” The FBI is asking for Apple’s assistance to “bypass or disable the auto-erase function” and “enable the FBI to submit passcodes” to the terrorist’s phone. Apple itself admits that it has complied with many such orders in the past, at least 70 times according to the FBI. This led to many allegations on the web from Apple-automatons blindly following their appointed savior, who suggest that the FBI is lying, as here.

It is actually Apple who is spreading the most lies regarding this issue. In a second statement in the February 10th message, Apple claims that “the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation.” They claim that the new “operating system” would be a “master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks – from restaurants and banks to stores and homes.” Really? That’s ballsy even for Apple.

What the government is asking is very clearly laid out in the judge’s Order of February 16, 2016 (note that, not coincidentally, this is the same date that Apple released its open statement). Instead of a “new version of the iPhone operating system,” Judge Pym ordered Apple to create a Software Image File that could be side loaded onto the terrorist’s iPhone. In complete denial of Apple’s claims, Paragraph 3 of the order specifically says “the SIF will load and run from Random Access Memory (“RAM”) and will not modify the iOS on the actual phone. . . .” Further, the judge says that the SIF will contain a “unique identifier of the phone so that the SIF would only load and execute” on the terrorist’s iPhone.

Apple lies are not limited to the current marketing campaign presented to the public, but permeate the testimony it has given in this and the New York case involving a similar fact pattern. In that case, Apple Senior VP of Worldwide Marketing said that it is literally “impossible” to unlock the current operating system on the iPhone.

Most of the families of the 14 victims in the attack have pleaded with Apple to comply with the order so that the government can bolster their case against the perpetrators, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, but those pleas have fallen on deaf ears, weakening the company’s assertions that they are “shocked and outraged” by the terrorist attack. Apple finds itself in the awkward position of being the underdog in its claims, as over 50% of the American public believes that they should comply with the order. Most also believe that assisting the FBI will have little or no effect on the security of personal data on other iPhones.

But that doesn’t mean that the unfounded marketing campaign isn’t effective. Several high ranking officials in both government and industry support Apple’s stance, for differing reasons and motivations. For example, one Congress person who should know better, Rep. Anna Eshoo, a ranking Democratic member of the Congressional Communications and Technology Subcommittee, ignores legal precedent in her assertion that “what Congress would not legislate, the FBI is now seeking to accomplish through the courts.” She quotes the now decease Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia, who stated in Arizona v. Hicks, that “the Constitution sometimes insulates the criminality of a few in order to protect the privacy of all” in support of her position. Of course, in doing so, she thumbs her nose at her Commander-in-chief, Barrack Obama, who came out in support of the FBI’s position. In addition, Scalia’s statement should be taken in the context that such instances are rare when the rights of the few outweigh the rights of the many. Yes, there are times when that is the case, but our laws are built on the utilitarian principles that “what is good for the many is good for the few,” not the other way around.

The exaggerated claims of Apple’s key officials are perhaps best neutralized by the comments of Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, on the subject, who recognized the FBI’s request as fairly routine. “Apple has access to the information, “they’re just refusing to provide access. . . . You shouldn’t call the access some special thing,” Gates said, in an obvious reference to their allegations that the government is asking them to build an entirely new operating system. Gates compared the FBI’s request to a search warrant issued against a bank or some other third party who possesses sensitive information. “There’s no difference between the information.”

Gates is alluding to the fact that courts have allowed search warrants in the past on all types of data contained in all sorts of format, including digital: banks, medical records, financial information, smartphones, etc. Requiring a bank to release financial information of one customer does not have any impact on the date of millions of other customers.

The statement of FBI Director, James B. Comey, confirms as much:

“We simply want the chance, with a search warrant, to try to guess the terrorist’s passcode without the phone essentially self-destructing and without it taking a decade to guess correctly,” Comey wrote on the website Lawfare, a prominent national security law blog. “That’s it. We don’t want to break anyone’s encryption or set a master key loose on the land.”

The real question here is what gives Apple the right to refuse to comply with a court order? What gives the company the right to become a standard bearer for digital privacy at the expense of our country’s security. No ordinary citizen would be entitled to refuse the court’s request without being subjected to criminal contempt charges and be locked in prison. If the officers of Apple continue in their refusals to comply, the same should happen to them.

By all accounts, Farook and Malik were part of a “homegrown, self-radicalized [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][group of] individuals operating undetected before striking one of many soft targets in the U.S.,” according to the New York Times. The FBI has already uncovered and arrested at least one additional member of this terrorist cell, Enrique Marquez, Jr., their next door neighbor. The FBI and the San Bernardino County District Attorney, Michael Ramos, confirmed that their believed the iPhone in question belonged to Farook and was used to communicate information about the attack. They further believe it will contain evidence of a possible third shooter as well as a “dormant cyber pathogen,” i.e., malware, that could have been released into the government’s computer networks.

Knowing this, would not any reasonable person say that the needs of the people of the U.S. demand that Apple comply with the court’s order? The information is desperately needed to avert future attacks on U.S. soil and to prevent the spread of further terrorism. Apple responds that if they comply, the government “would have the power to reach into anyone’s device to capture their data” and “extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages….”  That is simply not true.  

Apple’s entire argumentative response falls squarely into the classical logical fallacy of the “straw man” argument, which attempts to refute a given proposition by showing that a inaccurate form of the proposition (the “straw man”) leads to absurd, unpleasant, or ridiculous consequences. Here, Apple sets up the argument that the FBI is requesting that they build a new version of the iOS, which will lead to unchecked government surveillance. The straw man argument relies on the audience failing to notice that the argument does not actually apply to the original proposition. In this case, all of Apple’s assertions contradict the actual language of the Court’s February 16th Order. Read it for yourself and see if you agree.  The Court’s order applies only to the single terrorist’s iPhone5 and does not ask Apple to build a new iOS for the phone.  This is the kernel of untruth that Apple is spreading through its marketing prowess.

The fact remains that Apple’s refusal to comply with the Court’s order is both arrogant and criminal.  They’re not selling iPad’s or iPhone’s here – it might be forgivable to spread false marketing claims in order to sell products, that’s the American way – rather, Apple is plainly impairing the ability of the U.S. people to defend themselves against terrorist attacks in the name of protecting the privacy of individuals, and that’s not American.  It’s time for Apple to do its civil duty and comply.


Mark Twain had a lot to say about statistics, ranking them as the highest of all lies:  “There are three kinds of lies:  lies, damned lies, and statistics.  Twain is also attributed with the more insinuated saying that “statistics are like ladies of the evening, once you get them down, you do anything with them!”   It’s been quite awhile since I’ve seen a manipulation of statistics that illustrates Twain’s philosophy about them more than what is found in the article posted by self-styled “political evangelist” and anti-copyright activist, Rick Falkvinge, this week entitled Kill Copyright, Create Jobs. Absent three very slick and attractive graphics, the only “facts” that Falkvimark_twain_pic_440_1_nge offers in support of this conclusion is statistics which, as far as I can tell, are made up!

In an effort to defeat the claims of the United Kingdom’s “copyright industry” that 1.2 million jobs will be lost by 2015 if stricter enforcement of copyright laws is not enacted, Falkvinge begins with the exaggerated conclusion that “for every job lost (or killed) in the copyright industry due to nonenforcement of copyright, 11.8 jobs are created in electronics wholesale, electronics manufacturing, IT, or telecom industries — or even the copyright-inhibited part of the creative industries.”
Falkvinge reaches this absurd conclusion through a somersault of logic involving segregating the “creative industries” into various categories of groups subdivided into “copyright-dependent” and “copyright-inhibited” sectors.  Of course, these phrases are never precisely defined but, reading between the lines, the reader can gather that the latter sector includes industries “fueled by a lack of copyright monopoly enforcement,” while the former we must assume includes some form of enforcement.  Once he groups the various creative industries according to this loosely defined structure, he asserts that “the contribution of the copyright-inhibited industries outweigh the copyright-dependent industries by a factor of 11.8,” and then draws the leap of faith that when a copyright-dependent job is lost, a copyright-inhibited job is created.  He then forms this general conclusion: “Prevent copyright enforcement, or weaken or kill copyright, and create jobs. Lots more of them.”  Wow!  Please, Obama, take note of this staggering feat of intellectual prowess!
There are so many errors in this article, it’s hard to begin, and I don’t intend to address each one.  But as you start to examine the sectors of industry that Falkvinge places into these divisions, you can easily see where his analysis falls apart.  Seriously, I don’t think it’s intended so much as analysis as it is rhetoric.  Nonetheless, let’s look at some examples.
In the first instance, Falkvinge erroneously relies on the conclusions of Peter Higgs in Beyond the Creative Industries for his foundational argument that the “creative industries” of the U.K. only account for 7% of its GDP, which he divides into three categories:  copyright-dependent, copyright-inhibited and copyright-agnostic.  I say he relies on this statistic “erroneously” because the 7% figure contained in Higgs’ report is based on what Higgs calls the “creative core” of the industry, not the entire industry.  Higgs’ defines the creative core as the “pre-creative and creative stages of the value chain” (p. 27).   This approach, Higgs establishes, only focuses on those involved in the initial stages of creation, i.e., the musicians, the dancers, the producers, etc (p. 28).  Thus, by default, the analysis does not factor in the post-creation employment of the creative industry and, thus, cannot be used in support of Falkvinge’s overall asssertion that on 7% of the GDP of the United Kingdom is based on the creative industries.
Second, in one sweeping yet unexplained fell swoop, Falkvinge places the entire advertising and marketing industry in the “copyright-inhibited” category.  Last time I checked, the advertising and marketing industry relied in large part on the creation of intellectual property, much of which is copyrighted work which relies on enforcement.   In another breathe, again without laying any factual foundation, he states that only 25% of the software, electronic publishing, games, film, television, radio and photography industries are “copyright-dependent.”  Twenty five percent?  Seriously?  Then he “estimates” than only 50% of the music and performing arts sectors of the creative industry are dependent on copyright protection.  Again, really?
With regard to his category of “architecture, visual arts and design,” Falkvinge’s “analysis” is totally off the mark.  First, again, he simply asserts that 100% of the architecture industry is copyright-inhibited, meaning it does not rely on copyright protection for enforcement.  He doesn’t define whether he is referring to architecture as a visual art or whether he is referring to the more intellectual and abstract protection of the actual structure which the U.S. Congress protected in 1996 with the Architectural Works Copyright Protection Act.   One can only assume that Falkvinge is unaware that the U.S. and most other Berne Convention signatory countries protect such works, since he groups architecture with the visual arts.
Secondly, Falkvinge lumps all of the “visual arts and design” industry into “fashion design” and then asserts that it is “copyright agnostic,” since fashion design is not entitled to copyright protection.  Ignoring the fact that there are many other arts to be considered in the visual arts and design sector of a country’s industries, let me just address the last assertion about fashion design.  There are several nations that actual do offer copyright protection for fashion design, namely the European Union, and France individually, and Japan, just to point out a few.  The U.S. currently has legislation pending that would follow in the footsteps of these country and protect U.S. fashion designers whose designs are pirated as soon as they are released.  (See this post on Law on the Row regarding the pending legislation).
As Falkvinge draws to a long and painful conclusion, he states that U.K’s “monopolized entertainment [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][industries’]” claim that they will lose 1.2 million in jobs by the year 2015 is “deceptive, dishonest and bordering on fraudulent,” which he uses to link to another self-aggrandizing article in which he claims that we as a culture are creating now more than ever, that copyright monopolies are an obstacle, and the copyright abolishment would only intensify this effect.  All I can say to Falkvinge’s claim is bull$^!+.  Isn’t that something akin to the pot calling the kettle black?  Is it really deceptive to say that most of my songwriting clients, the people who write the music, are struggling to feed themselves and have to take full time retail employment to make ends meet?  Is is dishonest to say that those same songwriters do not create as much music as they did before they were forced to work 10-12 hours a day to support their families?  And how can you deny the decline in sales of recorded music?  How can you deny the falling profits of the world’s entertainment conglomerates?  I certainly don’t pretend to know about the music industry of the U.K., but I do know that the local economy in Music City U.S.A., Nashville, Tennessee has suffered dramatically as a direct result of illegal downloading of copyrighted works.  I certainly know that this has a trickle down effect on all sectors of the music industry here, including my own practice!  If any of these claims are fradulent, then call me a fraud.
Long before Falkvinge began spinning his  illogical analyses, a company of men including Jefferson, Madison and Pinkney and other great thinkers of their day dealt with the issue we are dealing with – should creative ideas be entitled to protection as individual property?   These men debate natural law versus utilitarianism, and ultimately derived what is arguably a very workable system of protecting intellectual properties.  The U.S. system is based on theories like those of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, who believed that we should “give to every man his own,” and that man acquired the ownership of property by exerting labor and converting nature – in this case ideas – into something that benefits society.  In fact, Locke believed that because a work created by an individual enriched society in general, and would theoretically continue to do so in the future, the author should have the right to be compensated as long as that benefit to society continued.  But, our Forefathers also wisely saw that in order to create, it is helpful to have a thriving public domain, so they placed certain limitations on these rights, namely granting the monopoly for “limited time.”  The “monopoly” of copyright protection – Falkvinge derisively refers to it as the “copyright monopoly” as if it’s a bad thing – is merely a reflection of these ideas.  If we believe that one should benefit from his or her own creation, his or her own expression of an original idea, then laws and rules are the only way to enforce that in a developed society.  Because of the wisdom of our Forefathers, we have that in Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the U.S. Constitution.  For my money, the logic of Locke, Hobbes, Jefferson and Madison surpasses the diatribe of Falkvinge at least by a factor of 11.8 to 1!
So, in summary, I am quite certain that Falkvinge, if he even takes note of my existence, would categorize me as just another one of the “lawyer who advocate maximization of the copyright monopoly.”  He would likely also allege that my claims are misleading if not bordering on fraudulent.  Regardless, I think that it is evident that Falkvinge’s assertion that for every 1 job lost to copyright infringement, 12 more will pop up to replace them is unfounded and, frankly, completely manufactured.



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Origins of an Idea–Nothing New Under the Sun?

It was allegedly King Solomon who declared “there is nothing new under the sun!” Now a recent strain of thought seeks to recast King Solomon’s casual observation in order to challenge the basis of U.S. copyright laws, i.e., original ideas. This line of reasoning is perhaps best exemplified in the popular cult film by Brett Gaylor entitled RIP, A Remix Manfesto, inspired by his need to defend the work of his favorite mash up artist, Girltalk. Gaylor makes no bones about his attack on ideas, explaining to his audience near the beginning of the film that this is “a film about the war of ideas, where the Internet is the battleground.” So be it. Let’s debate the film’s primary cornerstone, the first and foundational clause of the Remix Manifesto, which is that “Culture always borrows from the past.” Is that true? Let’s look at what Jefferson said about ideas:

That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. – Thomas Jefferson

To be fair to Gaylor, let me initially point out that the entire ReMix Manifesto, and certainly the ideology that undergirds it, is actually borrowed from Dr. Lawrence Lessig, who is a professor at Stanford Law School. Lessig develops the thesis in his book, Remix: Making Art & Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy. Lessig is prominently featured in the film and Gaylor does not shy away from his support of Lessig’s thesis.

Now back to the premise that “culture always borrows from the past.” Without getting too far down the path towards the logical fallacy of drawing a universal conclusion from purely inductive reasoning (as Gaylor does in the film), such a conclusion is, at best, probable, and not definitive. Further, it is only probable if one can assume the truth of the premises used to support the conclusion, for the instant a person can find but one example of an contradicting premise – i.e., in this case an example of something that does not borrow from the past – then the conclusion must be flawed.

Can we find such an example, or are King Solomon and Dr. Lessig correct? Is there no original thought? I personally have a hard time accepting this premise. Spawning original ideas or creating an original thought is, in my humble opinion, what separates us and truly defines us as a species. Sure, the human species uses words, notes, colors, shapes, etc. as the building blocks of its ideas. In that sense, yes, we are using “the past” to create, at least in some fundamental sense. But if you think about it, you’ve heard the old postulation that if you put 50 monkeys in a room filled with typewriters they are statistically incapable of creating a work of Shakespeare simply by striking out random characters on the page and even, perhaps, hitting upon a string of a few words every so often! This illustrates the proposition that the mere existence of the building blocks does not negate original nor creative thought.

King_SolomonEvery now and again, albeit perhaps rare, a human being has a spark of an idea: something is invented or created – something original and unique – that changes, even if only in a small senses, the very nature of life for all humans that follow. It is these original thoughts that propel us forward toward the destiny that is mankind’s, affected forever by the new idea. What it must have been like to be around in the days when the first human species began to formulate language. Creating symbols, be it words or drawings, that communicated their thoughts to another human being. To have been present when the first rudimentary tools were developed to perform the tasks necessary to sustain one’s life in a hostile environment. In the film, Gaylor makes the point that Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press occurred during a time when the “public domain” flourished. His use of this example is, in this case, ironic, since the printing press can truly be defined as one of those creative bursts of unique ideas that only come along one is a few millennia. Since that invention, perhaps only the creation of the Internet has affected the world as much as Gutenberg’s original thought.

So, with these examples, I ask what part of the past did they build on? One might argue that language “borrowed” from the idea of communicating through gestures. Another will say that Gutenberg incorporated language and writing and therefore borrowed from the past. But only in the most general of senses can one seriously maintain that these remarkably useful and unique ideas sustain the principle that “culture always borrows from the past.” I maintain that these are examples of those brilliant moments in human history when someone has that flash of an original idea – whether inspired by God, by his or her muse, by hallucinogenic means, or by heartburn – and creates something that is uniquely and totally new, something that does not, in any substantive sense, borrow from the past. In that moment, we witness the origins of an idea. Perhaps more importantly, when that original idea is expressed in a tangible format, we see the origins of a copyright in the U.S., a copyright that is protectable as a limited monopoly for the life of the author plus seventy years.

In that last conclusion lies the crux of the problem. Lessig and Gaylor make their proposition in the context of trying to solve a perceived problem with current copyright laws: because the length of protection has been extended, there are fewer works going into to public domain and therefore fewer ideas from which to borrow. As a result, “artists” like Girltalk who use pre-existing copyright sound recordings to “mash” together and “create” new songs have fewer popular songs to work with.

In Remix, Lessig says that this results in the criminalization of copying ideas and that, therefore, we should deregulate amateur creativity and decriminalize file sharing. In his words, “chill the ‘control freaks.’” This is where Lessig jumps in to save the day with his “creative commons” license, which uses existing copyright concepts to allow an author to “issue” a license allowing anyone to freely use his or her work, with the only requirement being that of attribution. Ironically enough, Lessig has copyrighted his own books and has, to date at least, not issued a creative commons license for Remix! Now who’s the control freak?

In regard to this issue of works no longer falling into the public domain, while it may be true that extending the period of protection has the effect of slowing down the process, the fact is that our forefathers, primarily Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Charles Pinckney, clearly anticipated and struggled with the concept that “ideas should spread freely” – as Jefferson says in the quote above – but nonetheless built appropriate safeguards into the copyright provision of the Constitution (Article I, Section 8, Clause 8), providing that Congress may protect the works of “authors and inventors” for “a limited time.” While one can argue, perhaps, that the period of a “limited time” has been grossly exaggerated, one cannot argue that the public domain concept has been abolished.

Frankly, as I see it, giving up on the concept of original thought is not the foundation upon which we as a society should build a debate against the current construct. We should cling to that concept, for it is in that moment – that origin of an original idea – that persons can distinguish themselves from the past, not borrow from it. It is at that moment that our culture is propelled into the future. It is at that moment, I believe, that we are truly alive.

By Barry Neil Shrum & Nathan Drake

Since before the day that Napster was a twinkle in Sean Parker’s eye – well over a decade ago now – the legal and music industries have each struggled with ways to cope with and transform their dusty old business models from the physical status quo to the digital revolution. After the industry watchdog, the RIAA, initially targeted the Diamond Multimedia’s Rio MP3 player and then Parker, and then finally individuals were illegally downloading, the major record labels began to realize something: that perhaps the fact that consumers were downloading music illegally was merely a symptom of the problem rather than the source of the problem. So, the RIAA also began suing P2P file-sharing websites that sprang up instantly in the place of Napster, websites like Kazaa and LimeWire. While this method proved to be a bit more effective, the process still accomplished little in preventing future P2P file sharing services from materializing, each taking the place of its predecessor and each growing as rapidly as the one before. In yet another continuing effort to solve the music industry’s nightmare, new legislation has been introduced to Senate which is entitled “Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act.” (S. 3804)

The purpose of the “Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act” (COICA) is to provide owners of intellectual property additional weapons in the battle against illegal downloading. As indicated, the inherent difficulty of deterring and prosecuting these myriad individuals who aimagere profiting off copyrighted materials is that they easily hide behind the anonymous wall of the Internet. Many of the sites providing access to this illegal property are situated well off the shores of the United States, overseas and beyond the long reach of the court’s jurisdiction.

Another problem is the sheer mass of the problem. One study indicates that as much as 1 in 4 Internet users download illegal music – an astonishing statistic! Let me state that another way: 25% of the traffic on the Internet is to sites that allow illegal downloading of copyrighted material, be it digital books, movies or music.

As Senator Leahy, one of the sponsors of COICA says, it is essential that the government enforce a

“means for preventing the importation of infringing goods by rogue websites, particularly for sites that are registered overseas.”

Through focusing on the domain names, COICA gives the Department of Justice the authority to pursue and prosecute offending website, both domestically and abroad. Incentivizing and rewarding creative endeavors remains the core ideology of American copyright protection, and instilling this value in our society is crucial if our society will continue to create. According to the Chamber of Commerce, “…American intellectual property accounts for more than $5 trillion and IP-intensive industries employ more than 18 million workers.” Therefore, protecting this integral aspect of American ingenuity and economy should be a priority.

Additionally, COICA provides universal jurisdiction to the Department of Justice in pursuing and prosecuting domain names that solicit American intellectual property in the United States. If the law succeeds, individuals committing copyright infringement will no longer be able to hide behind the protection of their native country, without fearing that their action can and will be pursued by the United States.

In addition, COICA allows third party participants to be prosecuted for “enabling” the website to sustain itself and lend legitimacy to the practices and products of the website. As Senator Leahy states, “These [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][third] parties monetize the Internet site by enabling U.S. consumers to access the infringing website, to purchase content and products off the website, and to view advertisements on the website. Without partnering with these entities, the financial incentive to run an infringing Internet site is greatly diminished.” Those directly and indirectly supporting copyright infringement will be prosecuted.

For the purposes of COICA, the government defines a website as, “dedicated to infringing activities.” Due to the outstanding number of infringing websites, the government intends to pursue only the most “egregious rogue websites that are trafficking in infringing goods.” To be considered an infringing website, one of two criteria must be identified. First, the website exhibits the “existing threshold for forfeiture” under U.S.C. 2323, or the website reveals no commercial value and intends to only sell copyrightable items protected under Title 17 of the United States Code.

One of the primary opponents to the passage of COICA is the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). Although CEA supports and agrees with the general direction of COICA, they feel its vague and wide reaching language could potentially harm legitimate businesses that are not committing copyright infringement. CEA says, “Our primary concern is that the scope of S. 3804 was significantly broader than its intended purpose of shutting down ‘rogue’ or foreign websites solely engaging in the exchange of pirated content or goods.” The ambiguous language of COICA could potentially diminish previous milestone cases according to CEA, including the “Betamax Case” determined by the Supreme Court in 1984.

While the technological environment is constantly changing and creating new hurdles for the consumer and business, the importance of copyright protection still remains. A constantly transforming environment requires innovative and relevant legislation to meet the creative needs of our culture. In an attempt to counter this decade long battle, legislation like COICA would allow the government to target the source of global piracy, and enforce the relevance and weight of American copyright protection. But our legislators must be certain to craft language that does not impede the rights of its citizens. Balance is need lest we resort to the overreaching, irrational, and over reactive activity the RIAA engaged itself in over the past decade.


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Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster once penned one of my favorite lyrics in the song Me and Bobby McGee, i.e., “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”  The sentiment is perhaps appropriate for the ongoing war that is being waged against copyright laws as we know them.  The latest battle in this war was fired by the esteemed Lawrence Lessig, famous lawyer and copyright scholar, in his new book Remix: Making Art & Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy.  If Lessig has his way, the songwriter and music publisher will, indeed, have nothing left to lose.

Remix Lawrence Lessig The main goal of the book is the demolishment of existing copyright laws, which Lessig has described as Byzantine.  He believes our current copyright laws are futile, costly and culturally stifling. The “hybrid economy” is described by Lessig as one in which a “sharing economy” coexists with a “commercial economy.”  See this very humorous interview by Stephen Colbert.  He gives examples such as YouTube, Flikr and Wikipedia, which rely on user-generated “remixes” of information, images and sound to illustrate his point.  This “hybrid economy,” in Lessig-speak, is identical to what he calls a “Read/Write (RW)” culture — as opposed to “Read/Only (RO)” — i.e., a culture in which consumers are allowed to “create art as readily as they consume it.”  Thus, the “remix” to which he refers is the concept of taking another persons copyrighted work and “making something new” or “building on top of it.”  This is what us less-published copyright lawyers like to refer to as a derivative work!  And that is the crux of Lessig’s problem:  the copyright law DOES in fact make provision for this type of creative endeavor, provided that the creator of the derivative work gains the permission of the copyright owner.  This is that with which Lessig seeks to do away.

In the Colbert interview, Lessig drolly points out that 70% of our kids are sharing files illegally and that the “outdated” copyright laws are “turning them in to criminals.”  This reminds me just a bit of what my Daddy used to tell me: just because everybody’s doing it doesn’t make it right!   Or, as Colbert blithely responded, “isn’t that like saying arson laws are turning our kids into arsonists?”  The obvious conclusion is that perhaps the law is simply not the problem.

Colbert then comically crosses out Lessig’s name on the cover of his his advance copy of Lessig’s book, draws a picture of Snoopy inside, and then questions Lessig as to whether the book was now his (Colber’t’s) work of art, to which Lessig says “that’s great,” we “jointly” own the copyright.  That’s a point to which Lessig’s publisher, Penguin Press, would surely not acquiesce.  In the final retort to Lessig, Colbert makes the point that he likes the current system, and I quote, “the system works for me.”  I might add that the system seems to be working extremely well for Lawrence Lessig as well.  Lessig is making a fortune exploiting the very system he criticizes as antiquated – the very essence of free speech, I suppose, but in the final analysis, a bit disingenuous.

While I do admire Professor Lessig for working toward a solution to a perceived problem, it’s very difficult to believe that tearing down the entire system of copyright laws in order to accommodate a large percentage of prepubescent teenagers who are too cheap to pay for their music is the appropriately measured response we need in this instance.   Call me crazy.

Here are several good critiques of Lessig’s work and ideas here for further exploration of this issue:

The Future of Copyright, by Lawrence B. Solum (download PDF from this page)

Lessig’s call for a “simple blanket license” in Remix, by Adam Thierer

Copyright in the Digital Age, by Mark A. Fischer

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Word is spreading on the Internet about PassAlong Networks, Inc.’s recent infusion of investment capital.  PassAlong is a digital music distribution and sharing service aptly headquartered in Franklin, Tennessee.  According to VentureWire, the company plans to close a $30 million funding round later this month.

PassAlong, also known as the Tennessee Pacific Group, LLC, was founded in 2002 by former Microsoft executive, Dave Jaworski and, Scott Lewis, an independent entrepreneurDave Jaworskier.  Mr. Jaworski’s blog, Can’t Stop the Music, can be found here.  The company raised $40 million in start up monies from angel investors – an unusually substantial amount from individual investors – and also raised another $10 million in investment capital in April 2007.

Music veteran Jeff Skillen recently went to work for the company as their VP of Entertainment Relations.

PassAlong has a patent pending on its media service engine architecture, which is designed to work across all operating systems and platforms and is device-independent.  It launched its first digital music download store on e-Bay in September 2004

The company has digital music catalog agreements with all four major record labels: Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group, EMI, and Sony/BMG.  The PassAlong catalog includes nearly 3 million songs, including not only catalog from the majors, but also nearly 2 million independent songs in MP3 format.  Most of its music is either DRM or MP3, and the company became certified by Microsoft PlayforSure in December 2004.

The music-sharing services gets its name from the fact that it allows consumers to recommend music to friends with links to song clips sent through email and instant messaging services from AOL, MSN and Yahoo. PassAlong

PassAlong Network Inc.’s portfolio of other products, many of  which are interactive, includes:

StoreBlocks, an online platform of tools and templates for building digital music/media stores, including PassAlong’s library of songs from the four major labels and MP3 files from independent artists.  This system currently powers 120 digital music stores, including Proctor and Gamble’s Julie’s Jukebox;

OnTour, is an award-winning family of concert notification applications, widgets and websites;

freedomMP3, is a “non-DRM” solution, providing protection technology and media tracking services designed to safeguard artists’ rights without hindering consumer rights via interoperability;.

Skylocker is a media storage and market-management platform;

Speakerheart a subsidiary of PassAlong, is an exciting independent-artist publishing and promotion system; and

Connected Consumer, a series of platforms and services aimed at enhancing the connected consumer experience.

Look for this exciting company to go places on the web.

On August 4, 2008, the Second Circuit court of appeals overturned a lower courts opinion that Cablevision’s Remote Storage” Digital Video Recorder (“RS-DVR”) system violated the Copyright Act by infringing plaintiffs’ exclusive rights of reproduction and public performance.  The full 44-page opinion is available at Cartoon Network, LLP, et al. v. Cablevision.  In my humble yet fully animated opinion, the Second Circuit’s opinion was not at all well reasoned nor, for that matter, even common sense — I believe it misinterprets at three very important areas of the Copyright Act and interpretation thereof:

When is a work “Fixed” According to Section 101

Through a system of buffers, Cablevision’s RS-DVR will allow customers who do not own stand alone DVR’s to record programming, which resides on Cablevision’s servers, and “time-shift” it to view it at a later date.  Certainly a great concept, but one which, in my opinion, should require authorization from the owners of the copyrights.

In arriving at its conclusion, the court determined that the buffer used to process the steam of data only “copies” the data for a duration of 1.2 seconds, before transferring it to another buffer used to reconstruct a copy of the program for any customer who has asked to view it at a later time.  The court concluded that this “embodiment,” i.e. the copy, was transitory in duration and therefore not “fixed” pursuant to Section 101 of the Copyright Act.  Therefore, the copyright owners’ right of reproduction was not violated.  This is clearly erroneous reasoning:

The definition of “fixed” in Section 101 of the Copyright Act states, in its entirety:

A work is “fixed” in a tangible medium of expression when its embodiment in a copy or phonorecord, by or under the authority of the author, is sufficiently permanent or stable to permit it to be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated for a period of more than transitory duration. A work consisting of sounds, images, or both, that are being transmitted, is “fixed” for purposes of this title if a fixation of the work is being made simultaneously with its transmission.

In arriving at its determination, the Second Circuit focused on its condensed version of the definition, i.e. a work is “fixed” when its embodiment “. . . sufficiently permanent or stable to permit it to be . . . reproduced . . . for a period of more than transitory duration.”  The court concluded, based on this shortened version of the definition, that the “language plainly imposes two distinct but related requirements, i.e. an “embodiment requirement” and a “duration requirement.”

The Second Circuit’s error is grammatical in nature:  it misinterprets the language of the definition of “fixed” by assuming that the phrase “for a period of more than transitory duration” modifies the words “permanent or stable” when in fact it actually modifies the antecedent phrase “permit it to be perceived, reproduced or otherwise communicated.”  This is certainly the case with regard to the RS-DVR – it fixes the copies for in sufficiently permanent state in one buffer (i.e. the 1.2 seconds) to permit them to be reproduced in another buffer for a period of more than transitory duration.  Thus, the court got it wrong.

Without getting into too much detail, the court also incorrectly analyzes a 9th Circuit cases, MAI Systems and its progeny which correctly apply the definition of fixed to a copy of a work created in RAM memory for a period of minutes.  The effect of this misinterpretation is to put legal practitioners in the precarious position of trying to determine at what point between 1.2 seconds and 2 minutes does a reproduction arrive at a “more than transitory” state.

Ironically, the Second Circuit ignores the U.S. Copyright Office’s analysis of this precise issue in its 2001 report on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act which elaborated that a work was fixed “unless a reproduction manifests itself so fleetingly that it cannot be copied, perceived or communicated.”  This clarification is in line with my earlier interpretation that the phrase “more than transitory in duration” modifies the communication or perception, not the embodiment itself.  The Second Circuit stated that, in its mind, the U.S. Copyright Office’s interpretation “reads the ‘transitory duration’ language out of the statute.”  To the contrary, however, it is the correct interpretation in that it incorporates the transitory duration requirement into the appropriate section of the definition.

Finally, the Second Circuit completely ignores the last sentence of the definition, to wit:  A work . . . is “fixed” for purposes of this title if a fixation of the work is being made simultaneously with its transmission.”  In this instance, the court readily admitted that an unauthorized copy of the work was stored, i.e. “fixed” on Cablevision’s servers simultaneously with its transmission.

When is an infringer not an infringer?

In extending recent trends by some circuits to weaken the strict liability component of the Copyright Act, the Second Court refused to find that Cablevision was a direct infringer.  Instead, it rules that the customer is the direct infringer in this instance of digital recording, showing his or her intent to make a copy when he or she presses the record button on the remote.  The court reasons as follows:

In this case . . . the core of the dispute is over the authorship of the infringing conduct.  After an RS-DVR subscriber selects a program to record, and that program airs, a copy of the program–a copyrighted work–resides on
the hard disks of Cablevision’s Arroyo Server, its creation unauthorized by the copyright holder. The question is who made  this copy. If it is Cablevision, plaintiffs’ theory of direct infringement succeeds; if it is the customer, plaintiffs’ theory fails because Cablevision would then face, at most, secondary liability, a theory of liability expressly disavowed by plaintiffs.

Emphasis mine.  The first thing to note about the court’s conclusion is that it realizes, right off the bat, that the copy created on the servers of Cablevision is an infringement.  In its mind, however, the only question is who made the copy.  Now, that, of course, flies directly in the face of a host of copyright concepts which I will not address here, but suffice it to say that this is problematic.

But, for the moment, let’s just examine how the court ultimately determines who had the “volition” to infringe in this specific case:

There are only two instances of volitional conduct in this case: Cablevision’s conduct in designing, housing, and maintaining a system that exists only to produce a copy, and a customer’s conduct in ordering that system to produce a copy of a specific program. In the case of a VCR, it seems  clear–and we know of no case holding otherwise–that the operator of the VCR, the person who actually presses the button to make the recording, supplies the necessary element of volition, not the person who manufactures, maintains, or, if distinct from the operator, owns the machine. We do not believe that an RS-DVR customer is sufficiently distinguishable from a VCR user to impose liability as a direct infringer on a different party for copies that are made automatically upon that customer’s command.

The court then continues its analysis by example, offering the examples of a retailer who owns a photocopier and rents it out to the public as reinforcement of its conclusion, finding that because the retailer would not be liable for infringement, neither should Cablevision.   Despite the fact that there is case law holding that such a retailer WOULD, in fact, be liable for infringement, the Second Circuit errs in failing to see the difference between a VCR in the analog world, a single, stand-alone device used express by the customer, and a process devised by a company which makes infringement as simple as pressing my record button on my remote.  The court does not find this a “sufficient” distinction.  The court’s error in logic is apparent in this prose when it examines a 6th Circuit case on the issue:

In determining who actually “makes” a copy, a significant difference
exists between making a request to a human employee, who then volitionally operates the copying system to make the copy, and issuing a command directly to a system, which automatically obeys commands and engages in no volitional conduct.

Is this 2001 Space Odyssey?  Did H.A.L. take over when I wasn’t looking?  Who programmed the system?

If this were not enough, the Second Circuit then performs a great deal of legal gymnastics to support its finding:  First, it examines the video on demand process to illustrate that Cablevision does not have control over the transmissions being recorded by thesubscribers in the RS-VCR system.  Are they for real?  Ever heard of apples and oranges.  The VOD system is a fully licensed process which is, dare we say it, nothing like the RS-VCR system.  Secondly, the Second Circuit uses the distinction between “active” and “passive” infringement under the Patent Act to jump to the almost humorous, if it weren’t so wrong, conclusion that:

If Congress had meant to assign direct liability to both the person who actually commits a copyright-infringing act and any person who actively induces that infringement, the Patent Act tells us that it knew how to draft a statute that would have this effect.

Every intellectual property attorney worth his or her salt knows that the Copyright Act and the Patent Act are very limited in their usefulness for purposes of using one to interpret the other.  That’s why it’s said that the Copyright Act is a strict liability statute, whereas, the Patent Act is not so much.

When is work “publicly performed”?

The final error committed by the court is in its analysis of whether the buffered copy delivered to individual customers was “publicly performed.” In this regard, the Second Circuit concluded:

under the transmit clause, we must examine the potential audience of a given transmission by an alleged infringer to determine whether that transmission is “to the public.” And because the RS-DVR system, as designed, only makes transmissions to one subscriber using a copy made by that subscriber, we believe that the universe of people capable of receiving an RS-DVR transmission is the single subscriber whose self-made copy is used to create that transmission.

Again, the Second Circuit has to do a hatchet job on the definition of “public performance” in order to arrive at this convoluted conclusion.  The definition of “public performance” in the Copyright Act is actually found in the “publication” definition of Section 101.  It states, in its entirety:

To perform or display a work “publicly” means —

(1) to perform or display it at a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered; or

(2) to transmit or otherwise communicate a performance or display of the work to a place specified by clause (1) or to the public, by means of any device or process, whether the members of the public capable of receiving the performance or display receive it in the same place or in separate places and at the same time or at different times.

Emphasis mine.  Whereas the Second Circuit zeroed in on the phrase “to the public” in making its determination, the definition clearly intends to define public performance as any process that allows the public, in general, the ability to receive the transmission, whether or not it is in the same place or the same time.  Its not very difficult to see the fallacy of the Second Circuit’s reasoning.   The Cablevision RS-DVR clearly does precisely what the definition anticipates, it creates multiple copies stored in the buffers for individual subscribers in multiple places, who then view the (buffered) transmissions at different times.

While this seems simple, the Second Circuit jumps through numerous irrational hoops to arrive at the idea that:

the transmit clause directs us to identify the potential audience of a given transmission, i.e., the persons “capable of receiving” it, to determine whether that transmission is made “to the public.”

Nothing in the statute dictates this conclusion, to the contrary, the legislators probably thought that the word “public” was generic enough to not need interpretation.

The effect of this ruling, at least for now, is that anyone can make digital copies of any copyrighted work on their servers for purposes of transmitting to an individual customer, so long as that individual customer makes a request for it, and there is no implication of the performance rights.

This is a fine example of a court “reasoning” the meaning completely out of a statute.


If it is not obvious by now, I think this is one of the most poorly reasoned and drafted opinions by a Circuit Court that I have read in a long time.  If there is a bright side, it is that the effect of this decision is primarily that it overturns the grant of a summary judgement by the lower court.  From a broader perspective, however, and the more unfortunate result is that, because of the concept of stare decisis, this reasoning can now be cited in other cases in other jurisdictions across the country as good law.  So, unfortunately, we entertainment attorneys will be dealing with the negative impact of this decision for some time to come, until perhaps some higher court, in this case the Supremes, decides to rectify it.

Posted with the permission of the author Matthew Williams, EsquireMatthew is an intellectual property attorney practicing with the firm of Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp.  All rights reserved.

Apple’s release of the iPhone in June 2007 was an unqualified business success – 1.4 million iPhones were sold in just a few months. However, as has become the norm when a business is successful, several legal problems have arisen for Apple and its telecommunications partner, AT&T. Many of these problems began shortly after the iPhone’s release, when a New Jersey teenager announced that he had circumvented the technological ‘lock’ that renders the iPhone inoperable with wireless telephone carriers other than AT&T. The hacking of the iPhone received almost as much press attention as its release and Apple estimates that as many as 250,000 iPhones have been unlockedapple_iphone

In response, Apple issued a press release which warned consumers that modifying iPhones in order to switch wireless carriers could damage the product and void Apple’s warranty. Apple also announced that future Apple software updates would likely render modified iPhones permanently inoperable. Shortly afterwards, an Apple software update did just that. Predictably, two class action lawsuits alleging unfair competition and antitrust claims were filed against Apple in October 2007: one, which also names AT&T as a defendant, in the US District Court for the Northern District of California,(1) and one in the California Superior Court in the County of Santa Clara.(2)

Among other things, the complaints allege that consumers may unlock iPhones legally on the basis of a November 2006 regulation promulgated by the librarian of Congress regarding exceptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s prohibition against circumventing technological protection measures. Furthermore, the complaints allege that the software update issued by Apple, rendering thousands of iPhones inoperable, was an illegal effort to prevent consumers from exercising this exception.

Whether the unlocking of iPhones fits within the librarian of Congress’s exception to the act depends on the answers to a number of difficult questions. It is far from clear that unlocking an iPhone is legal. The librarian crafted narrow language which limits the exception to circumstances in which “circumvention is accomplished for the sole purpose of lawfully connecting to a wireless telephone communication network”. 

At least one court(3) has ruled that unlocking a mobile phone for the purpose of reselling it to third parties violates the act and does not fall within the exception; fearing that many of the iPhone hackers purchased multiple iPhones for resale, Apple recently limited the number of iPhones that an individual may purchase and stopped accepting cash for iPhones. Determining whether the librarian’s exception applies to unlocking iPhones and, if so, how many of the class members involved in the cases fall within the scope of the exception are likely to be central issues. Copyright owners should follow these cases carefully, especially because the anti-circumvention provisions of the act are infrequently interpreted and are often critical to many business models.


(1) Holman v Apple, Inc.

(2) Smith v Apple, Inc.

(3) In TracFone Wireless, Inc v Dixon, 475 F Supp 2d 1236 (MD Fla 2007).

New York Times technology columnist and Emmy-award winning CBS news correspondent David Pogue is featured in this YouTube video singing a fun diddy about the digital wave of media on the Internet, ending with a humorous take on the RIAA and its wave of litigation against college students nationwide.  Enjoy