Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Copyright Developments

The past few weeks have been busy in the world of copyright law. Because it’s not every week that copyright enters the public domain (a bad joke that copyright term extension has made a sobering reality), I thought I’d run through a few of the highlights for you.

First, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case, Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.,  involving the first sale doctrine and foreign works. Essentially, the question is whether U.S. copyright holders can prevent the importation of foreign-made products into the domestic marketplace. The answer will have widespread implications across the publishing world that could affect even libraries. You can follow the case at SCOTUSblog.

Next, the Register of Copyrights and the Librarian of Congress recently announced five new exemptions to § 1201 of the Copyright Act, which prohibits circumvention of Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies. The exemptions (explained at 77 Fed. Reg. 65260) include using software to “jailbreak” cell phones -- but not tablets -- under certain conditions, using audio reading software on ebooks for sight-impaired individuals, and breaking DRM for criticism of movies and other educational purposes.

Finally, litigation involving the HathiTrust, a partnership of libraries that has teamed with Google to create a searchable digital library of scanned books that are accessible to the blind, came to an end in the Southern District of New York. The court ruled in favor of HathiTrust, stating that the group’s use of the copyrighted works was fair. The copyright holders have already filed an appeal to the Second Circuit.

For more information on performing research in copyright law, check out the Law Library’s “Research in Copyright Law” guide.

As we near the Thanksgiving holiday, I’d like to give thanks for that copyright issues are getting some major publicity these days. This kind of exposure is always a fair use of news to me.

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