Legal Eagles and a Church Steeple

May 10, 2019

The new Notre Dame Spire may be protected by copyright.

Though the spire’s exact design is yet to be determined, the Notre Dame cathedral will certainly be rebuilt. By the time it is, will posting selfies in front of the finished masterpiece be considered a copyright violation? Techdirt describes “Why Your Holiday Photos and Videos of the Restored Notre Dame Cathedral Could Be Blocked by the EU’s Upload Filters.” We’re told that EU copyright law lets countries decide whether to protect the copyrights on architecture, sculpture, and other artworks in public view, or to grant “freedom of panorama.” France chose the freedom, with one key exception—any images used commercially require permission. Reporter Glyn Moody writes:

“This is why pictures of the Eiffel Tower at night taken for commercial purposes require a license: although the copyright of the tower itself has expired, the copyright on the lights that were installed in 1989 has not. And it’s not just about the Eiffel Tower. As the credits at the end of this time-lapse video show (at 2 minutes 10 seconds) other famous Parisian landmarks that require copyright permission to film them include the Louvre’s Pyramid and the Grande Arche in the French capital’s business district. It is not clear whether taking photos or videos of these landmarks and then posting them online counts as commercial use. They may be for personal use, and thus exempt in themselves, but they are generally being posted to commercial Internet services like Facebook, which might require a license. That lack of clarity is just the sort of thing that is likely to cause the EU Copyright Directive’s upload filters to block images of modern buildings in France — including the re-built spire of Notre Dame cathedral, if it is a new design.”

Moody is very critical of the Copyright Directive, the legislation that harmonizes copyright law across the EU, as favoring corporate interests over citizens. He notes that full freedom of panorama across the union has been proposed, but that France resists the idea. Even so, unless and until personal social media posts come to be considered “commercial,” the threat of censored vacation photos remains academic.

Cynthia Murrell, May 10, 2019

Happy Holidays: Google News May Be Mortally Wounded

December 25, 2018

I read “Google Says EU Rules Will Force It to Cut News Services.” My first reaction was, “There goes traffic to the news Web sites.” Then I thought, “What traffic?”

The write up reports:

Google has claimed it will be forced to slash the range of news thrown up by its search engine if European rules to protect copyright owners come into force.

Those copyright rules were, in part, triggered by Google itself. The click loving newspapers took a middle of the road approach: Not good, not bad.

Now the EC has cranked out a copyright regulation with Article 11. The lingo refers to “neighboring rights.” The idea is that Google has surfed on hard working journalists’ work. I assume the fraudulent stories in Der Spiegel are not included. (Yikes, a back link. Trouble looms for the Beyond Search goose.)

If the GOOG sticks in a link, the GOOG has to pay the publisher. It gives me a headache to think about the “who”. Many newspapers are pastiches of content from a wide range of sources. The copyright sensitive Associated Press is not going to be happy if one of its syndicated stories is not handled in a way that makes the AP’s legal eagle happy.

To sum up: The Google News death watch has begun. Will the GOOG survive or will it succumb to the EC’s immune system?

Stephen E Arnold, December 25, 2018

Rapprochement: Russia, a Copyright Defender

September 25, 2018

I know there are “exciting” search announcements from Bing and Google. Sigh. I don’t have the energy to tilt at the relevance windmill today. However, I noted an interesting search development regarding copyright protection in Russia. Yep, Russia, home of fancy bears and other digital creatures.

Google, Yandex Discuss Creation of Anti-Piracy Database” explains the “real” news, which I assume is the truth:

Google, Yandex and other prominent Internet companies in Russia are discussing the creation of a database of infringing content including movies, TV shows, games, and software. The idea is that the companies will automatically query this database every five minutes with a view to removing such content from search results within six hours, no court order required.\

I learned:

Takedowns like this are common in the West, with Google removing billions of links upon request. In Russia, however, search engine Yandex found itself in hot water recently after refusing to remove links on the basis that the law does not require it to do so. This prompted the authorities to suggest that a compromise agreement needs to be made, backed up by possible changes in the law. It now appears that this event, which could’ ve led to Yandex being blocked by ISPs, has prompted both Internet companies and copyright holders to consider a voluntary agreement. Discussions currently underway suggest a unique and potentially ground-breaking plan.

I particularly enjoyed this explanation of the downside related to a failure to cooperate:

Talks appear to be fairly advanced, with agreements on the framework for the database potentially being reached by the middle of this week. If that’s the case, a lawsuit recently filed by Gazprom Media against Yandex could be settled amicably. It’s understood that Yandex wants all major Internet players to become involved, including social networks. With the carrot comes the possibility of the stick, of course. Gazprom Media indicates that if a voluntary agreement cannot be reached, it will seek amendments to copyright law that will achieve the same end results.

From my vantage point in bourbon saturated Harrod’s Creek, Kentucky, I blurrily perceive several implications:

  • Copyright compliance leadership appears to be centered in Russia. Yep, Russia. You know, the bear place.
  • Yandex seems to be taking the lead, possibly because its management understands the downsides of Putin pushback.
  • American companies are participating, but after decades of copyright hassles, I think I see a certain reluctance because an outfit like Google doesn’t want a reprise of its diplomatic performance with China. Ad dollars, perhaps?

Worth watching. Some queries on Yandex return some interesting copy protected content. If you have a moment, try this query at

yandex crack

(Sorry, but I can only show the Russian word for crack via screenshot without the text being corrupted when we disseminate this write up.) You can get the Russian version of crack using a translation service.)

Stephen E Arnold,

Google: Stomping Out Bad Music Types

September 20, 2018

Google has a lot of content to lord over. And with that responsibility comes the need to police that content when it is misused. Perhaps nowhere does this happen more often than YouTube. While they have clever tools for finding rule breakers, sometimes it fails. We learned more from a recent ARS Technica story, “Google: Sorry, Professor, Old Beethoven Recordings on YouTube Copyrighted.”

According to the story:

“ContentID is a system, developed by YouTube, which checks user-uploaded videos against databases of copyrighted content in order to curb copyright infringement. This system took millions of dollars to develop and is often pointed to as a working example of upload filters by rights holders and lawmakers who wish to make such technology mandatory for every website which hosts user content online.”

Despite following copyright laws, the author (also a music teacher) had several musical pieces removed from the platform, despite being public domain. Maybe the problem isn’t within the code of YouTube’s software, but rather its parent company’s loose attitude toward the topic. Take, for example, the time they recently tried to patent a public domain algorithm. We think that maybe the problem isn’t all digital, but the smash-and-grab mentality of Google.

Patrick Roland, September 20, 2018

Australia Considers Adding Fair Use Provisions to Copyright Laws

August 21, 2018

Australia’s existing copyright laws are too strict to allow for AI innovation, according to two of the most prominent companies in the field. Computerworld reports, “New Copyright Rules Needed for AI Era Argue Google, Microsoft.” The news comes as that nation prepares to reform those laws, which currently lack the sort of “fair use” provisions found in other countries. In March, the government issued a discussion paper asking for input on incorporating such provisions. Reporter Rohan Pearce tells us:

“The ‘extent to which AI will be able to be developed in Australia is in doubt’ because of the nation’s copyright regime, according to Google’s response to the discussion paper. AI depends ‘not only on having large sets of data and information to analyse, but also on making copies of those data sets as part of the process of training the algorithms,’ Google argued. ‘In many cases these data sets include material protected by copyright. This can pose significant barriers to the development of AI in countries like Australia which have only inflexible and prescriptive exceptions in their copyright laws.’ …

We noted:

“Microsoft in its submission argued that Australia should introduce an exception explicitly permitting text and data mining (TDM) of copyright works. The tech company said that it would support either an express exception for text and data mining or a broader fair use provision. ‘There is very little connection between copyright and TDM, just as copyright has never controlled how people read books and do research,’ Microsoft argued. ‘With TDM, it may be necessary to make copies of information to train the artificial intelligence and allow it to analyze this material to look for patterns, relationships, and insights. These copies are not read by humans, nor are they consumed or redistributed for their creative expression, so they don’t substitute for the original articles or subscriptions.’

That is an interesting point. Pearce notes that an overhaul is being proposed as a way to boost Australia’s digital economy, currently projected to be worth $139 billion by 2020. Both the country’s Productivity Commission and the Australian Law Reform Commission support the introduction of fair use provisions.

Cynthia Murrell, August 21, 2018

Google Becomes an Adviser to New Zealand about Copyright

August 16, 2018

We learned about a controversial meeting in New Zealand from an article at Stuff provocatively titled, “Google and Rights Holders Battle Over Copyright Reform.” Writer Tom Pullar-Strecker reports that in late June, Google lobbyist Kent Walker met with New Zealand Commerce Minister Kris Faafoi to discuss reform of that nation’s copyright laws. Apparently, Google was not sure search engines like theirs quite comply with existing law—so he offered suggestions on modifying the law. To be fair, that was an action already under consideration, but Google had to add its perspective to the mix. Naturally, Walker’s arguments must go beyond the well-being of his company, so the “more liberal” approach is being billed as key to New Zealand’s tech industry, particularly in AI. Others are not so certain; we learned:

Paula Browning, chief executive of interest group Copyright Licensing NZ, said one of the benefits of the existing law and the certainty it provided was “we don’t go to court every five minutes. The idea we would slip that on its head and be burdening the court in order to make law doesn’t sit very well with me,” she said. Browning also rejected the suggestion that copyright laws were holding back innovation. “There is an awful lot of business happening in New Zealand involving tech startups that suggest the law is not broken. We have got 28,000 tech companies under the Act we have got, so it doesn’t seem to be stopping us doing fabulous things.” There were only impediments to machine learning if people wanted to use other people’s information, she said. “If you are looking at companies that are doing AI, they are using data that is theirs. “If you want to have a ‘data grab of other people stuff’ to use for your business then, okay, maybe there are things in the way of you doing that.”

The official has a point. The article goes on to note Walker brought up Content ID (used by Google-owned YouTube), suggesting such a measure could be worked into the new law. (We’re told the EU is also considering the technology.) Notes on the meeting were taken and shared by New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE). Browning expressed concern about upcoming decisions made “behind closed doors,” but believes the MBIE is working to ensure all stakeholders, large and small, have a say in that country’s copyright reform process. Meanwhile, we’re told, Walker is now senior VP of global affairs at Google; quell surprise.

Cynthia Murrell, August 16, 2018

Creative Commons Eludes Copyright With Free Image Search

April 7, 2017

One scandal that plagues the Internet is improper usage and citation of digital images.  Photographs, art, memes, and GIFs are stolen on a daily basis and original owners are often denied compensation or credit.  Most of the time, usage is completely innocent; other times it is blatant theft.  If you need images for your Web site or project, but do not want to be sent a cease and desist letter or slammed with a lawsuit check out the Creative Commons, a community where users post photos, art, videos, and more free of copyright control as long as you give credit to the original purveyor.  Forbes wrote that, “Creative Commons’ New Search Engine Makes It Easy To Find Free-To-Use Images.”

The brand new Creative Commons search engine is something the Internet has waited for:

The Creative Commons search engine gives you access to over nine million images drawn from 500px, Flickr, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Public Library and the Rijksmuseum. You can search through all or any combination of these collections. You can also constrain your search to titles, creators, tags or any combination of the three. Finally, you can limit your search to images that you can modify, adapt or build upon as you see fit, or that are free to use for commercial purposes.

Creative Commons is a wonderful organization and copyright tool that allows people to share their work with others while receiving proper credit.  It is also a boon for others who need photos and video to augment their own work.   My only question is: why did it take so long for the Creative Commons to make this search engine?

Whitney Grace, April 7, 2017


Google Battling Pirates More and More Each Year

February 10, 2017

So far, this has been a booming year for  DMCA takedown requests, we learn from TorrentFreak’s article, “Google Wipes Record Breaking Half Billion Pirate Links in 2016.” The number of wiped links has been growing rapidly over the last several years, but is that good or bad news for copyright holders? That depends on whom you ask. Writer Ernesto reveals the results of TorrentFreak’s most recent analysis:

Data analyzed by TorrentFreak reveals that Google recently received its 500 millionth takedown request of 2016. The counter currently [in mid-July] displays more than 523,000,000, which is yet another record. For comparison, last year it took almost the entire year to reach the same milestone. If the numbers continue to go up at the same rate throughout the year, Google will process a billion allegedly infringing links during the whole of 2016, a staggering number.

According to Google roughly 98% of the reported URLs are indeed removed. This means that half a billion links were stripped from search results this year alone. However, according to copyright holders, this is still not enough. Entertainment industry groups such as the RIAA, BPI and MPAA have pointed out repeatedly that many files simply reappear under new URLs.

Indeed; copyright holders continue to call for Google to take stronger measures. For its part, the company insists increased link removals is evidence that its process is working quite well. They issued out an update of their report, “How Google Fights Piracy.” The two sides remain deeply divided, and will likely be at odds for some time. Ernesto tells us some copyright holders are calling for the government to step in. That could be interesting.

Cynthia Murrell, February 10, 2017

Torrent Anonymously with AlphaReign

December 12, 2016

Peer-to-peer file sharing gets a boost with AlphaReign, a new torrent sharing site that enables registered users to share files anonymously using Distributed Hash Table.

TorrentFreak in an article titled Alphareign: DHT Search Engine Takes Public Torrents Private says: is a new site that allows users to find torrents gathered from BitTorrent’s ‘trackerless’ Distributed Hash Table, or DHT for short. While we have seen DHT search engines before, this one requires an account to gain access.

The biggest issue with most torrent sites is The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which prohibits the sites (if possible) and the search engines from displaying search results on the search engine result page. As content or torrent indexes on AlphaReign are accessible only to registered users, seeders and leechers are free to share files without risking themselves.

Though most files shared through torrents are copyrighted materials like movies, music, software and books, torrents are also used by people who want to share large files without being spied upon.

AlphaReign also manages to address a persistent issue faced by torrent sites:

AlphaReign with new software allows users to search the DHT network on their own devices, with help from peers. Such a system would remain online, even if the website itself goes down.

In the past, popular torrent search engines like YTS, KickAssTorrents, The Pirate Bay, Torrentz among many others have been shut down owing to pressure from law enforcement agencies. However, if AlphaReign manages to do what it claims to, torrent users are going to be the delighted.

Vishal Ingole, December  12, 2016

At Last an Academic Search, but How Much Does It Cost?

December 9, 2016

I love Google.  You love Google.  Everyone loves Google so much that it has become a verb in practically every language.  Google does present many problems, however, especially in the inclusion of paid ads in search results and Google searches are not academically credible.  Researchers love the ease of use with Google, but there a search engine does not exist that returns results that answer a simple question based on a few keywords, NLP, and citations (those are extremely important).

It is possible that a search engine designed for academia could exist, especially if it can be subject specific and allows full-text access to all results.  The biggest problem and barrier in the way of a complete academic search engine is that scholarly research is protected by copyright and most research is behind pay walls belonging to academic publishers, like Elsevier.

Elsevier is a notorious academic publisher because it provides great publication and it is also expensive to subscribe to it digitally.  The Mendeley Blog shares that Elsevier has answered the academic search engine cry: “Introducing Elsevier DataSearch.”  The Elsevier DataSearch promises to search through reputable information repositories and help researchers accelerate their work.

DataSearch is still in the infant stage and there is an open call for beta testers:

DataSearch offers a new and innovative approach.  Most search engines don’t actively involve their users in making them better; we invite you, the user, to join our User Panel and advise how we can improve the results.  We are looking for users in a variety of fields, no technical expertise is required (though welcomed).  In order to join us, visit and click on the button marked ‘Join Our User Panel’.”

This is the right step forward for any academic publisher!  There is one thing I am worried about and that is: how much is the DataSearch engine going to cost users?  I respect copyright and the need to make a profit, but I wish there was one all-encompassing academic database that was free or had a low-cost subscription plan.

Whitney Grace, December 9, 2016

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