Aaron Swartz, Civil Disobedience, and Harvard Ethics – Republish of July 2011 Post


Sorry, Aaron, I did not speak long enough or hard enough.

[The July 14, 2011 United States criminal indictment of activist Aaron Swartz, inventor of RSS, for downloading mass quantities of academic journals, is Here.]

The relevant American newspapers have two different takes on the Swartz indictment.

Boston: “Aaron Swartz, a Cambridge web entrepreneur and political activist who has lobbied for the free flow of information on the Internet, was charged in federal court with hacking into a subscription-based archive system at MIT and stealing more than 4 million articles, including scientific and academic journals.

New York Times: “A respected Harvard researcher who also is an Internet folk hero has been arrested in Boston on charges related to computer hacking, which are based on allegations that he downloaded articles that he was entitled to get free.”

I suggest we view this indictment of a Harvard ethics fellow in the following context: “Civil disobedience is the active, professed refusal to obey certain laws, demands, and commands of a government, or of an occupying international power. Civil disobedience is commonly, though not always, defined as being nonviolent resistance. It is one form of civil resistance. In one view (in India, known as ahimsa or satyagraha) it could be said that it is compassion in the form of respectful disagreement.”

JSTOR, the academic archiving service from which the documents were downloaded, has published an ambiguous at best account of its position on this case:

“It is important to note that we support and encourage the legitimate use of large sets of content from JSTOR for research purposes. We regularly provide scholars with access to content for this purpose. Our Data for Research site (http://dfr.jstor.org) was established expressly to support text mining and other projects, and our Advanced Technologies Group is an eager collaborator with researchers in the academic community….Even as we work to increase access, usage, and the impact of scholarship, we must also be responsible stewards of this content. We monitor usage to guard against unauthorized use of the material in JSTOR, which is how we became aware of this particular incident.”

The JSTOR statement also implies that it has already settled with Swartz with respect to the nature of his use of the downloaded content.

I respectfully suggest that the solution here is for JSTOR to publish its complilation of 1,000 academic journals on a non-exclusive basis under a Creative Commons License.

I applaud Aaron Swartz for his efforts.

Copyright Freedom and Edward Snowden

From a op-ed today in the New York Times:

“”Did anyone in the White House or the N.S.A or the C.I.A. consider flying to Hong Kong and treating Mr. Snowden like a human being, offering him a chance to testify before Congress and a fair trial? Maybe he would have gone with President Vladimir V. Putin anyway, but at least he would have had another option.”

Information and knowledge will always seek its own distribution. That is how the machine works. All should consider reading again “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.”

Legal Crowdfunding of Equity Under State Blue Sky Laws

Thanks to the blog post of Equity CrowdFunder to Be WeFunder for the ins and outs of Blue Sky registrations for startups in New York, Massachusetts, and California.

For the full text of the not yet implemented by the Securities and Exhange Commission “Crowdfund Act of 2012,” click HERE

Personally, I am not thrilled with the legal machinations via attorneys that will be required under the Act. The risk nature of investing in startups themselves for me belies any need of public protection by the S.E.C., which really remains as the enforcer of arcane rules that fail to protect against insider trading and massive losses of value that the market dishes out.

I do promise, however, to be fully versed in all of this for the benefit of my clients.

EU Parliment Crushes ACTA ( Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement)

I refer all to the coverage of the vote at IPKat. The AP photo here is also worth a thousand words, and fun to hear from the new French Socialists now in charge:

“the European Parliament has buried once and for all the ACTA treaty … For the French Socialists, the vote marks the first and foremost a new inter-institutional balance of power, with the active participation of citizens in the European debate.”

Responsible intellectual property attorneys everywhere are confident that draconian measures are not necessary, that the large media companies can thrive and prosper in a digital age, and that the fundamental rights of our citizens must be preserved at all costs.

The vote was 478 opposed, 39 in favor, 165 abstained.

Google Drive Terms of Service Confuse and Cause Copyright Concerns

Cloud search firm Simplexo recently voiced concerns about who owns copyrights to documents stored in in Google Drive.

Here is the link to the Terms of Service for the Google Apps Free Agreement. I have no idea why it is drafted this way, but here is the awkward excerpt:

7. Intellectual Property Rights; Brand Features.
7.1 Intellectual Property Rights. Except as expressly set forth herein, this Agreement does not grant either party any rights, implied or otherwise, to the other’s content or any of the other’s intellectual property. As between the parties, Customer owns all Intellectual Property Rights in Customer Data, and Google owns all Intellectual Property Rights in the Services.

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3D Copying – The Next IP Frontier

Stand by for yet another adventure is the epic historical saga “The Copyright laws were never meant to handle this disruptive technology.”

From the only Canadian more interesting than Martin Brodeur, Clive Thompson writes last week in Wired as follows:

“Last winter, Thomas Valenty bought a MakerBot — an inexpensive 3-D printer that lets you quickly create plastic objects. His brother had some Imperial Guards from the tabletop game Warhammer, so Valenty decided to design a couple of his own Warhammer-style figurines: a two-legged war mecha and a tank.
He tweaked the designs for a week until he was happy. “I put a lot of work into them,” he says. Then he posted the files for free downloading on Thingiverse, a site that lets you share instructions for printing 3-D objects. Soon other fans were outputting their own copies.”

For those of you following along here for the past few years and not responding to my Facebook ads to engage my services, we know what happens next:

“Games Workshop, the UK-based firm that makes Warhammer, noticed Valenty’s work and sent Thingiverse a takedown notice, citing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Thingiverse removed the files, and Valenty suddenly became an unwilling combatant in the next digital war: the fight over copying physical objects.”

Can thousands of unemployed IP attorneys be organized to battle thousands of 3D copiers? Both share the same characterisitic, i.e. falling prices. Stay tuned.

Dish Declaratory Action – Consumers Who Activate Ad-Skipping Cannot Trigger Dish Copyright Infringement

Orrick Herrington filed its declaratory judgment relief complaint on behalf of Dish Network yesterday, May 24, 2012, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Dish Ad Hopper Complaint). The complaint seeks to head off the now filed lawsuits of the major networks attempting to hold Dish liable for copyright infringement and breach of its broadcast agreements for its offering to its customers of the advertisement skipping service Ad Hopper that comes bundles with its DVR.

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