Copyright Law and Rare Languages

The William Mitchell Law School’s Intellectual Property Clinic has undertaken a great project to help secure the rights to create translations of children’s books into Dakota and Ojibwe, two languages in danger of dying out. Hopefully, these translations will help to keep a big part of Native American and Minnesota culture alive.

One of the exclusive rights copyright law grants the authors is to have control over “derivative works” which includes translations into other languages. This can be a problem if you are working to preserve a language but must ask permission to translate. Publishers may not want to take the time to negotiate a translation if they don’t believe there will be a large market for those translations. As with many things in life, sometimes it just takes some dedicated people to keep pushing.

Here is a link to the story.


Three Strikes Law Moves Forward in UK

I saw this article on Slashdot which was a bit troubling even for an attorney who has been on the plaintiff’s side of copyright disputes. Basically, the proposed “three strikes” law in the UK as well as similar ones in France and elsewhere would kick people off the internet if they are accused of infringing copyrights three times. That’s right even when simply accused.

This of course is a serious free speech issue which I don’t doubt others have picked up on already. The French law may be unconstitutional, and if a similar law were proposed in the US it would no doubt face First Amendment challenges.

The problem with efforts like the “three strikes” laws for the copyright holders is that its bad for business. Whatever business model overtakes distribution of physical copies in the future, the internet will be a major part of it. What those models will be is still uncertain. But it makes no sense to remove your customer base from the channels of commerce. It will be difficult to sell subscription services to people who cant access them.


Copyright damages and a new William Patry blog

There have been several commentaries on various blogs already about the jury verdicts against Jammie Thomas here in Minnesota and against Joel Tennenbaum in Massachusetts. My two cents: both verdicts were correct in that they both were infringing copyrights, but the amount of damages may be excessive when applied to individuals. We’ll see if the amount of damages can be limited on appeal.

That said it is great to see that copyright expert William Patry has started blogging again and he and Ben Sheffner have several great posts on these two cases and the broader issue of what is fair payment for creative works and fair punishment for infringing those works. Patry’s new blog is Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars.