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Pepper and Carrott and the curious case of Copyright infringement >meow<

January 19, 2016, 07:42:04 AM by kat
[update] 'faux' KickStarter is being disputed so its essentially disabled for now.

A few Blender related news outlets are reporting what seems to be a pretty egregious infringement of Copyright for a well known 'open' project called Pepper and Carrot. The 'perp' is alleged to have essentially created a 'fake' KickStarter campaign based around content freely provided by the author/team behind the Pepper and Carrot project, causing the author and community to raise questions and report said perp for infringement.

There's a problem doing this however. The Pepper and Carrot project is open source, and the CC License it's release under (Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)) allows for content to be exploited in anyway the individual thinks they can, with attribution and a changelog being the only 'cost' for doing so. In other words, its perfectly 'legal' for someone to monetise projects like this under these circumstances so long as they provide "reasonable" mention of source with changelog placed somewhere in their revised materials.

Whilst it truly is a kick in the starters for someone to do this, Creatives should always be wary using these types of 'open' licenses, especially when something is worth protecting (Pepper and Carrot is worth protecting) because doing so assumes everyone acts in good-faith with respect to honoring license terms, the authors Rights and/or their content; bad actors don't, never have and never will.

Whilst creators want others to be able to use their materials freely (usually in terms of "availability" or "access"), more thought should be given to the conditions under which that is granted to avoid misappropriations, or when they do occur, better provision is in place for legitimate recourse to remedy under current Governing law on Copyright (Creative Commons does not supersede or stand in, for, or as, a parallel system of license or enforcement above or comparable to current regional and International Copyright Law, many argue it is in fact "moot" because it does not confer any Rights the individual does not already have, has no way of obligating individuals to its precepts, nor does it provide a means or framework through which remedy can be had. It is, to use the phrase "worth nothing more than the paper upon which it isn't writ").

Additional Reading
- Selling Games made with Blender & GPL/GNU Licensing
- Fan Art and Copyright Infringement
- I got a DMCA 'take-down' Notice, what do I do?

A drone for Christmas

December 20, 2015, 04:13:22 PM by kat
For our US readers (but coming to the UK & EU soon).

Take that quadcopter you bought as a gift for little Timmy and/or Tina back to the store as you might have inadvertently broken new FAA regulations by the time the wrapping is torn from the box.

As of the 21st of December 2015, professionals and hobbyists alike are required to register[1] their toys or kit[2] with the Federal Aviation Authority. This includes drones, quadcopters, airplane (aircraft), helicopters or other type or style of unmanned or remote controller aircraft weighing more than 250 grams (this is 'flight-weight', the weight of the vehicle at take-off) and of a $100 nominal value - basically anything that can sit in the palm of the average adults hand. Failure to register is subject to civil penalty of up to $27,000, or criminal fines upwards of $250,000.

Q2. Does the FAA have the authority to require registration of UAS used by modelers and hobbyists?
A. Yes. By statute all aircraft are required to register. Congress has defined "aircraft" to include UAS, regardless of whether they are operated by modelers and hobbyists.


Q7. Who is required to register on the new online UAS registration website?
A. Only individual recreational or hobby users who meet U.S. citizenship requirements are able to register their unmanned aircraft using this new streamlined web-based process. This new, faster and easier system will be available for other UAS owners soon.


Q37. How do I prove I am registered?
A. A certificate of registration will be available to download and will be sent to your email address at the time of registration. When operating your UAS you must be able to present the certificate in either print or electronic format if asked for proof of registration.

1: registration does not grant the user a 'license', it's simply a declaration (registration) of ownership.
2: UIN's (Unique Identifiable Numbers) will be searchable. Any associated personal information may also be available.

Google to help defend Fair Use on YouTube

November 21, 2015, 07:20:44 AM by kat
Google announced a new initiative it hopes will help content authors navigate the complexities of Copyright and DMCA on YouTube. The drive hopes to establish a body of work Google/YouTube considers to be good examples of "Fair Use", material they are prepared to use/defend in Court (to the tune of $1 million if needed).

At face value the drive sounds like a good idea except that Fair Use isn't always that cut 'n dry, success is down to argument, not necessarily  'facts'; holding "X" aloft as a shining example of Fair use doesn't equate to "Y" also being good use no matter how similar the circumstance.

It's not wholly clear from the information available under what capacity Google would be operating; would it be on behalf of the accused as an 'Advocate' (opines about the merits of a given case), or as their legal 'Council' (argues the case to the Court), or some other capacity. The difference matters.

Of greater concern is the fact that Google thrives off the back of others content so with their getting involved would Court Findings then be used to further strengthen their own cause, pushing their own agenda(s) with respect to what the Corporation perceives as 'free(ish)' access to information serving their interests rather than those of the accused, content authors, or indeed even Copyright and free expression. Cui Bono as the saying goes.

The initiative doesn't specifically clarify Googles position with respect to their own contentious Content ID system (DMCA was in force prior); how is Google able to act on behalf of an individual they (Google) has potentially marked down as having violated YouTubes Terms of Service (ToS violations/strikes usually proceeding DMCA take-downs) - uploading a video to YouTube requires the person agree to a perpetual sub-license to the platform and User-base permitting derivative use[1] (contextually this relates to the freedom to express NOT freedom to monetise), so how does their going to Court on others behalf affect the individuals standing with respect to Google itself striking the person before escalation to DMCA.

There are other points of contention, all of which translate to acquiring an air of caution whenever big corporations step in to the affairs of the little people, it's never just about helping those individuals, rather strengthening the case, cause or agenda for whatever interests they have[2] (cf. recent concerns Google has voiced over hyperlinks being brought potentially under the auspices of Copyright in the EU).

Further Reading
A Step Toward Protecting Fair Use on YouTube - http://googlepublicpolicy.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/a-step-toward-protecting-fair-use-on.html
What is fair use? - https://youtube.com/yt/copyright/fair-use.html#yt-copyright-protection

[1] Extracts from YouTubes Terms of Service users agree with when uploading content to the service. The establish the relationship the User has with their Content and both the Individuals and Content relationship to YouTube and the Service, i.e. the User, upon upload, grants unlimited royalty free licence to YouTube and it's Users to use uploaded content in any form (see emphasis below);

7 Content
 - 7.2 You retain all of your ownership rights in your Content, but you are required to grant limited licence rights to YouTube and other users of the Service. These are described in paragraph 8 of these Terms (Rights you licence).
 - 7.4 You represent and warrant that you have [...] all necessary licenses, rights, consents, and permissions which are required to enable YouTube to use your Content for the purposes of the provision of the Service by YouTube, and otherwise to use your Content in the manner contemplated by the Service and these Terms.
 - 7.7 You agree that Content you submit to the Service will not contain any third party copyright material, or material that is subject to other third party proprietary rights (including rights of privacy or rights of publicity), unless you have a formal licence or permission from the rightful owner, or are otherwise legally entitled, to post the material in question and to grant YouTube the licence referred to in paragraph 8.1 below.

8. Rights you licence
 - 8.1 When you upload or post Content to YouTube, you grant:
 - - to YouTube, a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable licence (with right to sub-licence) to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform that Content in connection with the provision of the Service and otherwise in connection with the provision of the Service and YouTube's business, including without limitation for promoting and redistributing part or all of the Service (and derivative works thereof) in any media formats and through any media channels;
 - - to each user of the Service, a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free licence to access your Content through the Service, and to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display and perform such Content to the extent permitted by the functionality of the Service and under these Terms.
 - 8.2 The above licenses granted by you in Content terminate when you remove or delete your Content from the Website. The above licenses granted by you in textual comments you submit as Content are perpetual and irrevocable, but are otherwise without prejudice to your ownerships rights, which are retained by you as set out in paragraph 7.2 above.
[2] Trivia. It should be of interest to those following the #gamergate hashtag that several examples of 'good' "Fair Use" presented by Google in the above linked information are authored by Jonathan McIntosh, whom as part of Feminist Frequency, Google has advocated support.

EU considers hyperlink Copyright

November 11, 2015, 07:22:25 AM by kat
In an leaked document from the European Parliament it appears they are wanting to update and unify Copyright law across Europe so Rights holders receive "fair treatment" with respect to their intellectual properties(cf. Sec. 4 [1]). In particular EU law-makers are wanting to address some issues surrounding a class of 'ancillary rights', essentially indirect copyright, that have the potential to pull hyperlinks (URL links) under the protection of Copyright [2].

Essentially the idea behind the push for change is for content publishers, individuals and entities that author and publish content, want fair compensation under established Copyright law for the commercial exploitation of their material and/or properties by third-parties, i.e. search engines, news portals and other entities that aggregate the content of others rather than authoring or publishing their own [3].

The underlying concerns present something of a genuine paradox however because, although 'links' in of themselves are not deemed to be an infringement by European Court rulings [4], an author or publishers 'property' is still being commercially exploited to generate income by a third-party, whether or not the actual content or property is used or consumed, an article being read for example.

At its core the issue is not about denying end users access to content, or negatively affecting the individuals freedom to speak [5], rather figuring out a better mechanism through which content authors and publishers can be remunerated for the commercial exploitation of their material without undermining income or revenue generating efforts for all concerned that might otherwise be available under traditional, but dated, Copyright principles.

Taking a look at Google in this context for example [6], their primary product is not Google Search but the advertising sold within that space, the listing of others content being the primary mechanism through which this is achieved. Although Google claims 'fair use', the doctrine itself ('fair use') does not account for the situation presented by what Google is actually doing; the claim that individual listings display in search results in of themselves are not monetised, i.e. clicking a link, or a listing being placed on a page, does not in of itself generate income, whilst at the same time paradoxically claiming the page upon which links appear and surrounding area(s) are entirely Googles to monetise as they wish, without their necessarily being obligated to compensate content authors and/or publishers whose materials are used to generate and give that space meaning and value (worth it to advertisers). It's these types of complex and conflicting situations that create problems the EU is seeking to address.

With all this said however, the issue on what to do with hyperlinks in relation to Copyright opens up a minefield of litigation and frivolous, if not outright improper (incorrect), DMCA filings (something that's already a significant issue) as a result of parties not understanding the remit of 'fair use' doctrine, an abuse that cuts both ways. The status of links doesn't just affect the big players either, it's not a "stick it to the man" moment, even links to third-party content on sites like KatsBits potentially fall fowl of this issue. No-one would be immune from consequence should the amendments be too heavy-handed, especially were it to inadvertently facilitate what might essentially be a soft-coup over the Internet by entities with the reach and resources to actively protect their material leaving others in a quagmire squabbling over scraps.

Some Numbers
Putting some number on this type of situation might mean a typical click-through and ad-click rate of 1% with the latter generating $0.01p per click on advertising as applicable to Google Search. That might mean...

 - For a given website to gain 1000 click-through's from Google, Google might generate 100,000 search results pages (SERP) from which they may garner 1000 advert clicks (1% of 100,000), earning $10 (1000 x $0.01 cent = $10) [7].

 - On the other hand, of the 1000 click-through's gained from Google by the content hosts website, 10 might results in hosted advert clicks (1% or 1000 clicks on advertising displayed on the content hosts site), generating $0.10 cents of revenue (10 x $0.01 cent = $0.10 cents).

 - There might then also be 10 listings per search result page, each of which gain the same click-through rate and hosted advert clicks, i.e. all sites gain 1000 click-through's of which 10 subsequent clicks are on hosted adverts. That's $0.10 cents per 'host', per SERP page, totaling $1.00 (10 x $0.10 cents = $1.00).

Using these very basic numbers its possible to see the true extent of the issue and why there's a call for links to be reassessed in terms of their the commercial exploitation of intellectual property, however indirectly that might appear to be. Whilst there are points to be made for either side in terms of 'value' brought to the digital table (does Google search create value by using other people content vs would search exists without such content vs would content host sites exist), they are notwithstanding the fact that, at least in the primitive example above, for every $10 Google earns per results page $9 goes to Google, $1 to the author/publishers of the content used per page of Google Search [8], content that is (likely) not fully licensed in a traditional sense [9], thus not currently subject to remunerative compensation.


[2] European Courts rulings are not explicitly clear on the status of links, however, there is a general sentiment that they do not, in of themselves, constitute an infringement. However, context is important in relation to their use, which can be argued to fall under the auspices of 'fair use' doctrine where commercial exploitation is not a 'prima facie' reason for their being used.

[3] the format content is provided to the end user from their perspective should not be considered an issue as the primary concern is how content is used and exploited by commercial entities to generate income (intentional exploitation for commercial purposes). And in fact consider Google et al require that third-party use of their products be conditionally 'licensed' ('free' does not specifically mean 'free of *any* cost'), one cannot simply 'use' their products, agreements have to be made, even though their content may also be freely available. One of the problems seen with aggregation is that, compared to traditional news outlets like the Times, Washington Post etc., they do not explicitly have to license their content, aggregators by-and-large simply scrape content together using freely available resource (RSS feeds), and possibly against the spirit in which those resources were provided.

[4] to be explicitly clear on this point: the European Courts, in saying that "linking" is not an infringement, are referring solely to the act itself, i.e. the placement of a link on a third-party site that includes part or whole of an original articles title, or the use of a text citation from said, is not in of itself, an infringing activity because it can generally be thought of as 'excepted' under the concept or principle of "fair use" ("concept" or "principle" is used in place of "law" because few jurisdictions have an actual "Fair Use" clause akin to Title 17 of US Copyright Act, although most do have conditions that allow for similar usage). However, 'fair use' doctrine is usually only applicable in non-commercially exploitative circumstances.

[5] all too often Copyright discussions devolve into expectations that content should be free, or the freedom to speak is being impinged in some way, when this may not actually be the issue at hand. Granted the consequence of most, if not all, Copyright legislation filters down to the consumer (albeit often indirectly), however as mentioned in the main article above, there is no implied requirement for content to be intentionally withheld from the consumer/end user for the status of links to be addressed. Rather there should be recognition that original content is being intentionally commercially appropriated and exploited in a way that the original content authors/publishers are not being recompensed (as would the case for other forms of commercial use/exploitation of third-party materials). This necessitates that linking in of itself is not the issue (which can be argued to fall under 'fair use' doctrine where they exist), rather the concern is linking when intentionally used as a means to generate revenue.

[6] "click-through rate" refers to traffic from a search engine to host site, "ad-click rate" refers to events accrued from advertising. To make a point from the example discussed both are fixed values, whereas in reality the random nature of search results and individual advert payout varies a great deal, in other words revenue generation isn't as easily quantifiable across different host sites (destinations after click-through from a search engine). Google is used here as an example to explain the principle behind the problem because they are the most notable, and not for any particular reason beyond that; the same principle applies to any third-party scraping, referencing, or otherwise connecting to content, from the Internet and regurgitating it in different formats for consumption though intentionally commercially exploitative channels.

[7] for sake of simplicity numbers do not account for various 'revenue share' programs, few of which are available for public scrutiny, or other variables that affect earnings, programs that are only available to content publishers when they subscribe a given advertising service - this equates to a share of advertising revenues and does not constitute any agreement beyond that.

[8] figures are not concerned with how much of a given value is profit or loss, they are simply treated at face value, 'income', for the same of simplicity and the argument being made - no-one knows the full extent of profit and loss figures for Multi-National Corporations like Google, Microsoft et al.

[9] originally for content to be listed on Google, web sites had to be manually submitted which meant site owners had to agree to their sites being listed. This was not a remunerative compensatory agreement. It was also one over which Google had complete control. As Search Engine technology has improved over the years, manual submission is no longer needed, inclusion is often implied as a result of simply having a presence on the Internet. In this instance, no agreement or compensation can be had unless site owners sign up to specific service offerings by Google (which are not retroactive), or deny site access through 'robots.txt' (which third-parties are NOT obligated to comply with).

DMCA and its Failings

September 28, 2015, 11:57:52 PM by kat
Contrary to the title, DMCA is a relatively robust set of rules. They fail generally through abuse and misuse. Or because people don't quite understand them. Or due to of corporate apathy. They fail because people (both individuals and Corporation) look to short cuts, using a "least effort possible" approach to dealing with complex issues arising from Copyright compliance.

The principle behind DMCA is pretty simple though; a person finds their work being misappropriated and files a "Take Down Notice". The content hosting company upon receipt of this notice removes the offending item whilst a back and forth between parties ensues, culminating, usually, in the item being removed permanently, or it being restored. Usually, either/or outcome is where it ends.

There's a flaw with this very simple process however (some might say one of many flaws), in that it necessitates the original author be able to physically inspect the potentially offending item to avoid inculcating themselves of the liabilities associated with filing Notices knowingly to be in error (filing 'false' DMCA's). In other words, if the item can be viewed, great. If not, because it may be hidden behind a paywall or simply as part of the way a given service offering is provided, it becomes a serious problem because DMCA makes no provision for such scenarios; service providers/hosts are not under any specific obligations where DMCA rules are concerned to allow access to hidden content for the purposes of confirming an infringement, which they would argue ostensibly prevents bad-faith actors 'fishing' for claims to make.

So whilst a service paying customer (member or subscriber of a paid for service) might notify the original author of a potential problem (for example contacting the original author of a character model seen on another site/service 'hidden' behind a paywall), if said author is not also a paying customer its then a challenging to say the least, to persuade the provider/host to allow access - after-all who might this supposed 'author' requesting access be in such situations except some sort of freeloader using DMCA to get something for nothing.

This is a position many a User Generated Content creators might otherwise find themselves in - being notified of a possible infringement they won't ordinarily able to verify, especially where games, products and services allow their users to upload content are concerned. Basically if something is 'stolen', uploaded and hidden (for whatever reason), the original author is essentially locked out from proper remedy of the situation... unless they're willing to risk filing false DMCA Notices (this may seem like a low risk action but its not - never, ever file a Notice knowing it to be false or inaccurate, DMCA Notices, being legal documents, are kept, which establishes a 'record of activity' based on filings and outcomes, information that can be inspected by anyone, and which might reveal a pattern of erroneous submissions that would subsequent undermine legitimate claims - notwithstanding it being Perjury to file falsely).

Whilst most company's take a reasonably pragmatic approach to hidden items, allowing access when enough identifying DMCA and user information is provided (data that would be used solely to verify who the requesting party was, and the items suspected, not to service an actual Notice request). Others don't. Needless to say it's these latter groups that gum up the DMCA works for everyone */me looks intently in IMVU's direction.
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