Daniel Nazer's blog

Stupid Patent of the Month: Elsevier Patents Online Peer Review

On August 30, 2016, the Patent Office issued U.S. Patent No. 9,430,468, titled; “Online peer review and method.” The owner of this patent is none other than Elsevier, the giant academic publisher. When it first applied for the patent, Elsevier sought very broad claims that could have covered a wide range of online peer review. Fortunately, by the time the patent actually issued, its claims had been narrowed significantly. So, as a practical matter, the patent will be difficult to enforce. Read more about Stupid Patent of the Month: Elsevier Patents Online Peer Review

Trolls and Tribulations

Patent trolls — companies that assert patents as a business model instead of creating products — have been in the news lately. This is hardly surprising, given that troll lawsuits now make up the majority of new patent cases. And the litigation is only the tip of the iceberg: patent trolls send out hundreds of demand letters for each suit filed in court. At the Electronic Frontier Foundation, we have been following this issue closely and are working hard to bring reform to fix the patent mess. Read more about Trolls and Tribulations

Fair Use Prospers on Campus

Last week's decision in Authors Guild v. HathiTrust -- upholding the Mass Digitization Project (MPD) -- was a big victory for fair use. The MDP is a project where university libraries and Google have together digitized over 10 million books to allow for full-text searches, preservation, and access for people with print disabilities. When the Authors Guild sued for copyright infringement, HathiTrust defended the suit by arguing that the MDP is fair use.

Judge Baer upheld the MDP. His decision recognizes that the project is a massive public good: it is a tool for scholarship, prevents the loss of our cultural heritage, and provides unparalleled access for the visually impaired. Significantly, he found that these educational purposes are "transformational" in a way that supports fair use. Read more about Fair Use Prospers on Campus

Australia Moves To Massively Expand Internet Surveillance

The Australian government has proposed sweeping changes to its surveillance and national security laws. The government’s wish list includes mandatory data retention, surveillance of social networks, criminalization of encryption, and lower thresholds for warrants. As it seeks to expand its surveillance powers, the government also wants to dilute oversight by jettisoning record-keeping requirements. This week I submitted detailed comments opposing the changes to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security. Read more about Australia Moves To Massively Expand Internet Surveillance

Seventh Circuit Upholds First Amendment Right to Film Police

With cell phone cameras everywhere, it has become common for members of the public to film encounters with the police. Whether the police are behaving professionally or engaged in an unprovoked assault, citizen video provides oversight and potential evidence. But some officers are unhappy with this form of public accountability and have responded by arresting people who try to film them. In an important decision this week, the Seventh Circuit ruled in ACLU v. Alvarez that the public has a First Amendment right to film police. Read more about Seventh Circuit Upholds First Amendment Right to Film Police

A Glance Inside The Clearance Culture

The clearance culture is the set of norms and practices within the entertainment industry that mandates—whether or not the law actually requires it—that every scrap of copyrighted or trademarked material be cleared with the original rights-holder. While copyrighted material often does need to be licensed (e.g. soundtrack music), the clearance culture imposes burdens well beyond the law and has become a self-perpetuating and self-serving system of self-censorship. Read more about A Glance Inside The Clearance Culture

Could Microsoft Own Crowdsourcing?

The patent application has a simple title: Crowdsourcing.

Filed on May 18, 2009, the application is assigned to Microsoft and claims a “computer-implemented” crowdsourcing method. If construed broadly, the claims could cover a lot of networked crowdsourcing. Folks have noticed that Facebook has a pending application for crowdsourced translations. But Microsoft's application has, at least so far, slipped under the radar. Read more about Could Microsoft Own Crowdsourcing?

Blurring the Situation

Abercrombie & Fitch has offered to pay Jersey Shore cast member Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino not to wear its clothing. I hesitate to give this publicity stunt more publicity. But the coverage from the New York Times includes a garbled account of fair use law. The article spreads the damaging myth of the clearance culture: the false view that artists need approval for every single item of trademarked or copyrighted material appearing in a work. Read more about Blurring the Situation

An Open Reply to PZ on Copyright

Louis Zukofsky (LZ) is the author of the very long, sometimes difficult, yet always amazing “A”. LZ died in 1978 and his son, Paul Zukofsky (PZ), owns the copyright in all of his father’s works.

Anyone interested in LZ’s poetry will likely stumble upon PZ’s open letter to the poetry community concerning copyright. In this letter, PZ asserts that any and all quotation from LZ requires express permission from PZ as the copyright holder. But the law does not support PZ’s position. I hope that this post will help prevent PZ from further chilling legitimate scholarship and commentary. Read more about An Open Reply to PZ on Copyright

A Tale of Two Lawsuits

Thanks to sites like Yelp, online citizen reviews are often the first thing people read about local businesses. So it's not surprising that business owners are trying to police online criticism. In a typical case, the merchant brings a defamation suit against the author of a bad review. Should courts protect the reviewer's free speech or protect the merchant from unfair criticism? What are the bounds of online criticism?

Courts around the globe are grappling with these questions. Two cases from last week illustrate the divergent approaches they can take--with dramatically different consequences for online freedom. Read more about A Tale of Two Lawsuits

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