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April 25, 2006

Expanding DMCA

Various sources are reporting/commenting that the Justice Department has drafted legislation called the "Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2006," that will likely be introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) sometime in the near future. The legislation will expand the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to [from c|net]:

Make it illegal to "make, import, export, obtain control of, or possess" ... anticircumvention tools if they may be redistributed to someone else.

Permit wiretaps in investigations of copyright crimes, trade secret theft and economic espionage. It would establish a new copyright unit inside the FBI and budgets $20 million on topics including creating "advanced tools of forensic science to investigate" copyright crimes.

Amend existing law to permit criminal enforcement of copyright violations even if the work was not registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.

Boost criminal penalties for copyright infringement originally created by the No Electronic Theft Act of 1997 from five years to 10 years (and 10 years to 20 years for subsequent offenses). The NET Act targets noncommercial piracy including posting copyrighted photos, videos or news articles on a Web site if the value exceeds $1,000.

Create civil asset forfeiture penalties for anything used in copyright piracy. Computers or other equipment seized must be "destroyed" or otherwise disposed of, for instance at a government auction. Criminal asset forfeiture will be done following the rules established by federal drug laws.

Say copyright holders can impound "records documenting the manufacture, sale or receipt of items involved in" infringements.

April 13, 2006

Zine Librarian in NYT

A major shout-out to Jenna Freedman for being highlighted in the New York Times for her work as a 'zine librarian' at Barnard. Yay, Jenna!

Zine Librarian in NYT

A major shout-out to Jenna Freedman for being highlighted in the New York Times for her work as a 'zine librarian' at Barnard. Yay, Jenna!

April 04, 2006

SHO gets rights to Smithsonian film archive

Regular readers (if there's any left, and it's my fault if there isn't) know that one of my a/vocational loves is film archiving and preservation. So, the following intrigues me.

Last month, The Smithsonian Institute and the cable network Showtime announced a development deal that will launch a new programming service with Smithsonian content [PDF].

Public-private partnership. That's nothing new. No big deal.

But some filmmakers are making a big deal of it. According to the New York Times, the SHO-Smithsonian deal includes a right of first refusal for works "that rely heavily on Smithsonian collections or staff."

On March 9, Showtime and the Smithsonian announced the creation of Smithsonian Networks, a joint venture to develop television programming. Under the agreement, the joint venture has the right of first refusal to commercial documentaries that rely heavily on Smithsonian collections or staff. Those works would first have to be offered to Smithsonian on Demand, the cable channel that is expected to be the venture's first programming service.


The Showtime venture, under which the Smithsonian would earn payments from cable operators that offered the on-demand service to subscribers, comes as the Smithsonian has suffered financial problems. At a Congressional hearing on Wednesday, a Smithsonian official said some necessary repairs to Smithsonian buildings could not be made because of lack of financing. That led to a suggestion by Representative James P. Moran, Democrat of Virginia, to suggest that the institution should charge admission, a proposal that its board of regents has rejected repeatedly.

The Showtime agreement began attracting widespread attention this week as filmmakers said they had been told that some of their projects might fall under the agreement. Two Smithsonian curators, who were granted anonymity because they feared for their jobs if they spoke publicly about the Showtime venture, said in interviews yesterday that they could not be certain what kind of projects would be subject to the restrictions because details of the contract with Showtime had been shared with few employees below the executive level.

Edit: Boing Boing notes the potential for more controversy: the broadcast treaty currently proposed by the World Intellectual Property Organization has provisions that would give exclusive rights of transmission for all broadcast material to the broadcaster for 50 years, with no express exception for material already in the public domain.

EFF has an entire page about the broadcasting treaty. And the actual draft [HTML] can be found here. My mad law-readin' skillz do not yet extend to international treaty language, but the relevant articles appear to be Articles 6-12 (EFF has highlighted Art. 6 for criticism), with a provision for exceptions in Article 14.

Not being well-versed in the law, it seems that if the language is meant to protect transmissions, but not the original content that goes into transmission, then no worries. However, if the exclusivity passes from the transmission into the content (except for that which has been licensed for transmission by a rights-holder), then yes ... there seems to be reason for concern. Any Berne, TRIPS, WIPO, etc. specialists out there to clue me in?

April 03, 2006

LoC subject to sex discrimination suit

I just wrote my first "motion" having to do with Title VII and sexual discrimination for my legal research and writing class. So, the following caught my attention, naturally [thanks, Boing Boing]:

Federal Court Rules Transgender Discrimination Lawsuit Against Library of Congress Can Proceed

Finding that sex may not be "a cut-and-dried matter of chromosomes," the court ruled that federal protections against sex discrimination may also protect transgender people who are discriminated against based on their gender identity. In rejecting the government's argument that discrimination against transgender people is not sex discrimination, the court noted "the factual complexities that underlie human sexual identity. These complexities stem from real variations in how the different components of biological sexuality -- chromosomal, gonadal, hormonal, and neurological -- interact with each other, and in turn, with social, psychological, and legal conceptions of gender."


The ACLU filed the lawsuit against the Library of Congress on June 2, 2005. After retiring from the military, Schroer, who had been hand-picked to head up a classified national security operation while serving as an Airborne Ranger qualified Special Forces officer, applied for a position with the Library of Congress as the senior terrorism research analyst. Soon thereafter she was offered the job, which she accepted immediately. Prior to starting work, Schroer took her future boss to lunch to explain that she was in the process of transitioning and thought it would be easier for everyone if she simply started work presenting as female. The following day, Schroer received a call from her future boss rescinding the offer, telling her that she wasn't a "good fit" for the Library of Congress.