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A Change to Google’s Search Algorithm: Another Copyright Issue

As of Monday, August 13, 2012, Google has made a change to its search algorithm downgrading websites that persistently breach copyright laws.  This means that the company will now adjust search results so that websites suspected of copyright infringement will appear further down the list of results links where they will likely receive less traffic.  Google announced the change in a blog post, written by Amit Singhal, Senior Vice President for Engineering. In it he said:

…”we will begin taking into account a new signal in our rankings: the number of valid copyright removal notices we receive for any given site. Sites with high numbers of removal notices may appear lower in our results.”

Singhal goes on to say:

Georgia State Prevails

On Friday, August 10, 2012, Judge Orinda Evans issued her order for declarative and injunctive relief in the Georgia State copyright infringement case. This order followed her May 11, 2012 opinion (See EDUCAUSE Policy Brief for background information.).  The ruling was on the remedy for the plaintiffs’ claims of infringement for the 5 out of 99 violations resulting from the library’s e-reserve policies.  The plaintiffs included Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, and SAGE Publishers.  The order denies the plaintiffs’ request.  She ordered the defendants to make sure that the University’s copyright policies are “not inconsistent” with her May opinion and to disseminate to faculty and relevant staff at Georgia State the essential points of both rulings.

The State of Federal Privacy and Data Security Law: Lagging Behind the Times?

On July 31, 2012, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held a hearing entitled, “The State of Federal Privacy and Data Security Law: Lagging Behind the Times?”  The hearing was held in conjunction with legislation introduced to update the Privacy Act of 1974.  “Despite dramatic technological changes over the last four decades, much of the Privacy Act remains stuck in the 1970s,” said Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI), chairman of the Homeland Security Oversight of Government Management Subcommittee, during his opening statement.

EDUCAUSE Joins Letter in Support of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act Amendment

While the Cybersecurity Act (S. 3414) was defeated on August 2, 2012, there was a specific privacy amendment filed by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) of interest to the EDUCAUSE community.  Senate Amendment 2580, cited as the “Electronic Communications Privacy Act,” would provide privacy protections for email and other electronic communications — including requiring that the government obtain a search warrant based on probable cause in order to obtain email content.  “In the information age, stronger privacy protections are also needed to safeguard Americans’ personal information and private communications in cyberspace,” Sen. Leahy said after filing the amendment.

World Intellectual Property Organization: Discussion on Possible Treaty That Would Affect Education

The 24th meeting of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) is taking place in Geneva from July 16 to July 25, 2012 to discuss three international treaties on copyright exceptions and limitations.  The SSCR is a subcommittee of WIPO whose mandate is to foster discussion surrounding the establishment of standards for exceptions and limitations on copyright.  WIPO, known for its pro-rights holder inclination, is devoting much of its current meeting to advance balanced international copyright law.

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What Facial Recognition Technology Means for Privacy and Civil Liberties: A Hearing

On Wednesday, July 18, 2012 the Senate Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing of the Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law entitled, “What Facial Recognition Technology Means for Privacy and Civil Liberties.”  Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) spoke about the need for tight rules on facial recognition software.  He said that the privacy and legal implications surrounding facial recognition technology remain murky.  The committee questioned privacy advocates, government officials, academics, industry and law enforcement, and Facebook about how the technology is being used and what privacy issues it raises.  The committee focused on potential problems with facial recognition technologies.

Intermediaries May Not Be Exempt in Copyright Infringement Cases

A recent New York Times article highlighted the case of the British student, Richard O’Dwyer, who is the subject of an extradition order to the U.S. on criminal copyright infringement charges for distributing pirated movies and television programs.  Our campuses should keep an eye on this case.

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NTIA Holds Its First Privacy Multistakeholder Meeting

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration's (NTIA) first multistakeholder meeting on mobile privacy was held in Washington, D.C. on July 12, 2012. The goal was to develop a code of conduct to provide transparency in how companies providing applications and interactive services for mobile devices handle personal data. Mobile devices pose distinct consumer privacy challenges, such as disclosing relevant information on a small display. In addition, many have noted that practices surrounding the disclosure of consumer data privacy practices do not appear to have kept pace with rapid developments in technology and business models. 

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First Sale and the Supreme Court: A Case to Watch

The Supreme Court will hear a case in the fall that has implications for higher education.  The question before the Court is -  How do Section 602(a)(1) of the Copyright Act, which prohibits the importation of a work without the authority of the copyright’s owner, and Section 109(a) of the Copyright Act, which allows the owner of a copy “lawfully made under this title” to sell or otherwise dispose of the copy without the copyright owner’s permission, apply to a copy that was made and legally acquired abroad and then imported into the United States?

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Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) Rejected by European Union

The European Parliament on Wednesday, July 4, 2012, voted overwhelmingly against a controversial trade agreement designed to combat online piracy.  The European Union's (EU) 27 member states rejected participation in the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) with 478 members voting against, 39 voting in favor, and 165 members abstaining. (See earlier blog for further background information.)

The controversial copyright- and trademark-related trade agreement previously provoked huge demonstrations across Europe.  The vote is another setback for entertainment and content companies that have been pushing governments around the world to combat copyright theft. That effort floundered in the U.S. earlier this year when Congress dropped the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) legislation.