Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

DC CopyNight, July 24, 2007

By Dennis D. McDonald

We met again for CopyNight last night at a downtown DC bar, a group of policy analysts, bloggers, lawyers, activists, and geeks. I reported on last month's discussion here.

Last night's conversation covered several topics:

  • I raised the "walled garden" nature of Facebook and how this can result in an "information goes in but nothing comes out" situation. We then discussed what Facebook's terms of service say about Facebook's rights to what you post on Facebook. The rights are described as non-exclusive as follows:
    • By posting User Content to any part of the Site, you automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to the Company an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, publicly perform, publicly display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part) and distribute such User Content for any purpose on or in connection with the Site or the promotion thereof, to prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works, such User Content, and to grant and authorize sublicenses of the foregoing. You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content.
  • We chatted briefly about the upcoming FCC 700 MHz spectrum auction.
  • We had the obligatory Apple iPhone discussion.
  • There was a brief discussion of whether posting the decryption key for HD-DVD's encryption was legally and/or philosophically the same as posting another nonsense string of symbols on the web -- say, someone's Social Security number. This topic usually gets juices flowing but it seemed clear that the decryption key has DMCA implications and the Social Security number has privacy implications, which are two very different areas of law and policy.
  • Arlington based comic book artist Jason Rodriguez has published a book based on messages found on antique postcards.This sparked a discussion of Copyright term and whether such a work could be undertaken using postcards that had been sent more recently. (Speaking of copyright term, check this out.)
  • Someone mentioned that Virgin Mobil had used a Flickr user's photograph in a billboard advertisement and a stink resulted. The situation is described here and refers to a billboard seen in Australia, that well-known hotbed of social networking.
    • Editorial comment: I don't know whether the issue is Copyright or Creative Commons here but something tells me we're going to see more situations like this arise given the fluid nature of intellectual property that evolves/is developed in collaborative systems. Expect more legal seminars, higher attornys' fees, and definitely more complex "terms of service."
  • We reviewed what is and what is not happening with increased internet radio fees (up in the air) and  with the inconsistent treatment of distribution channels with respect to performance licenses. I don't follow all the legal stuff which has evolved since the early days of radio but I did innocently ask the question of whether the recent threatened increased internet radio license fees were based on any objective data analysis. The answer: "sort of."
    • Editorial comment: My interest in the question is not entirely academic. Back in the dim reaches of the 20th Century I was involved in a series of Federally funded studies that examined the volume and pattern of library photocopying of copyrighted works in the U.S. This was done as input to development of official guidelines defining "fair use" with respect to library photocopying of copyrighted works. I have naturally assumed that with the dawn of Internet based networking that collection and analysis of per title and per song usage patterns has been greatly simplified, correct?
  • Of course we also discussed the RIAA and its efforts to enlist college administrations in the distribution of threatening letters to students regarding unauthorized file sharing over university networks.

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