The Long Arm of the Law

by | Nov 15, 2017 | 0 comments


The Long Arm of the Law

Ruth Okediji, Bill Hannay, Ann Okerson (at mike)

This was the 8th annual occurrence of the very popular Long Arm of the Law session, and it was attended by an overflow crowd of people. As before, Anne Okerson, Advisor, Center for Research Libraries, moderated the session; speakers were Ruth Okediji, Jeremiah Smith, Jr. Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, and Bill Hannay, Partner, Shiff Hardin, LLP.

Ruth Okediji reviewed some recent developments in copyright law and showed this tag cloud of her presentation.Copyright Update

  1. On Glassdoor’s website, employees can anonymously post opinions of their employer. Glass Door was asked to unmask over 100 employees and declined because of First Amendment rights. The US Court ordered that they do it, which has many implications for free speech and privacy.
  2. The Small Copyright Claims Tribunal seeks to establish a centralized tribunal within the Copyright Office to facilitate enforcement of copyright disputes and litigation and adjudicate small claims. Concerns include its constitutionality (are copyrights public rights?, due process issues, grounds for appeal), jurisdiction, and potential for abuse. Librarians should become involved with some of these concerns; for a full discussion, click here.
  3. The Copyright Royalty Board will conduct hearings on mechanical rates for songs to be in effect from 2018 through 2022..
  4. The song “We Shall Overcome” has been called the most powerful song of the 20th century by the Library of Congress. In its first printed reference in 1909, it was entitled “We Will Overcome”. In the 1960s, the publisher Ludlow Music registered “We Shall Overcome” for copyright and quoted $100,000 for a license to Butler Films. In 2016, Butler sued Ludlow claiming that Ludlow did not have a copyright because it changed a word in the title. A judge ruled in Butler’s favor and ruled that the first verse of the song is in the public domain.
  5. Several considerations relating to the emergence of artificial intelligence are worthy of librarians’ consideration: hype vs. reality, statistics vs. reasoning, and substitutive vs. complementary. Terms used in AI include “big data”, “deep learning”, and “machine learning”.  How do we distinguish between hype and reality? Librarians need to think how they can enhance their collections and explain why machines cannot replace a person. Human thinking is logical, intuitive, has limited speed,  and shows empathy and understanding. Machines do not do this; they just analyze data. But AI is becoming ever more clever. Think how technological revolutions have remade the economy. For example, we still have farmers even though horse and buggy days are gone. We need to find things difficult to automate so that new technology can complement us, not replace us.

Bill Hannay reviewed several cases of litigation that could have an effect on libraries.

  • Should the right to be forgotten apply everywhere? The Canadian Supreme Court ruled that the right is universal, so it ordered Google to, upon request, remove information wherever they operate in the world. But a judge in California court blocked the Canadian order from operating in the US, ruling that it was in conflict with US federal law. Hannay wondered if war between Canada and the US is likely.
  • European competition officials have announced they will be fining Google 2.4 billion Euros ($2.7 billion) for unfairly favoring its own services over those of rivals in search results. Fines may go higher depending how Google responds.
  • Copyright issues: Libraries and the right to lend eBooks. European courts have approved lending a digital book to a user as long as only one copy is downloaded for a limited time and afterwards, it can no longer be read by that user.  As long as there has been a first sale, the owner has exhausted its right over the book.
  • The ReDigi (ReDigitizing) case involves a transfer to a new owner (in this case, it was a digital used-record store). It is not copying like the Napster service was; it is a transfer or migration to the purchaser’s computer. But Capitol Records sued for copyright infringement, asserting that, at some point, a transfer involves a copy being made (see the Wikipedia site about the case). The original judgement granted Capitol Records a summary judgement, but ReDigi appealed and was granted expedited argument of the case. The ALA, several other library organizations, and the Internet Archive spoke up as amicus curiae, saying that fair use enables libraries to apply the first sale right. It is likely that it will take many months for the appellate court to render a decision.

As he has done in the past, Hannay ended his presentation with a song for the enjoyment of the audience.

Hannay Song - 1

Hannay Song - 2

Hannay Song - 3



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