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Supreme Court to Hear Case on First Sale of Imported Textbooks

The Supreme Court agreed on April 16, 2012 to hear a case on whether an overseas purchaser of a copyrighted work may resell it in the U.S. without the copyright holder’s permission. The petitioner is Supap Kirtsaeng, who resold textbooks published by John Wiley & Sons that were purchased overseas to U.S.-based students without the publisher’s consent. The issue is that the law says that first sale applies to copyrights to products made "under this" law. And the argument is that a product made outside the US may have copyright, but it isn't made "under" US copyright law, and thus it doesn't qualify.

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Intellectual Property, Jobs, and the U.S. Economy

As yet another part of the Administration’s emphasis to reform the U.S. intellectual property system, on April 11, 2012 the Department of Commerce released the report, “Intellectual Property and the U.S. Economy: Industries in Focus,” which focuses on the connection between intellectual property intensive-industries and job creation and its relation to the U.S. economy. The report, which was prepared by the Economics and Statistics Administration and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, was initiated as part of the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator’s (IPEC) 2010 Joint Strategic Plan to create a comprehensive study to better understand the role of intellectual property (IP) in the economy and to inform policy decisions related to IP enforcement.

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Viacom v. YouTube: A Win for the Internet?

On Thursday, April 5, 2012, the Second Court of Appeals issued its decision in the Viacom v. YouTube lawsuit – a case that focuses on whether the safe harbor provisions under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) protects YouTube from liabilities for hosting unlicensed copyrighted material on its website.  Under the DMCA, online service providers are immune from monetary liability for copyright infringement as a result of certain activities —the one at issue in this case is the safe harbor provision for “Information Residing on Systems or Networks At Direction of Users” (17 USC 512(c)).  Both sides are claiming victory.  

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Center for Copyright Information Takes Further Steps Toward Implementation

The Center for Copyright Information (CCI) announced on April 2, 2012 the appointment of Jill Lesser as its Executive Director. In addition the group announced the members of its Advisory Board and an agreement with the American Arbitration Association (AAA) to implement an independent review process for consumers.

CCI was formed in September 2011 as part of a collaborative effort between U.S. content owners in the movie and music industries and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in order to develop a Copyright Alert System (CAS) and an educational framework intended to inform the public about and deter copyright infringement through peer-to-peer networks via direct communication with consumers.  (See blog post of July 15, 2011 for background information.)

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Annual Report on Intellectual Property Enforcement

On Friday, March 31, 2012, the White House issued its Annual Report on Intellectual Property Enforcement.  The 130-page document outlines the Administration’s achievements in and strategies for protecting intellectual property in 2011.  Released annually and bearing the seal of the Obama administration's Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, the report notes the steps taken to implement the Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement. (See earlier blog for background information.)

The Global Online Freedom Act

Today, March 27, 2012, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights recommended that the “Global Online Freedom Act” (H.R. 3605) be sent for a vote of the full House Foreign Affairs Committee.  Sponsor Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.), who is the chairman of the subcommittee, has been advocating for the legislation for several years but the issue has gained more attention and urgency following recent reports of the sale of U.S. censorship technology to regimes in Syria, Iran, China, and Egypt.

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The Federal Trade Commission Releases Its Final Report on Protecting Consumer Privacy

Today, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released its long awaited consumer privacy report entitled, “Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change.”  The report calls on companies to adopt best privacy practices.  Jon Leibowitz, Chairman of the FTC, and his staff held a press briefing to announce the release of the 112-page report and to answer questions.  "Your computer is your property and people shouldn't put things in it without your consent," Leibowitz said.

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in the 21st Century: Using Technology to Improve Transparency in Government

Today, March 21, 2012, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing on using technology to improve transparency in the federal government.  This hearing comes on the heels of the Committee’s Report Card on Federal Government Efforts to Track and Manage FOIA Requests, which was issued on March 15, 2012.  The findings of that report assigned the government a grade of C-.  The report stated that the Committee “assigned its grade of government-wide FOIA logs based on the average of the 17 Cabinet-level departments, which have the most components and receive the majority of requests. This grade was a C-, which is slightly below average, and it most accurately reflects the performance of the Federal government in this evaluation as related to the overwhelming majority of FOIA requests.”

The Proposed European Privacy Directive and What It Means for Internet Privacy: A Presentation by the Director General for Justice in the European Commission

Yesterday, March 19, 2012, Francoise Le Bail, Director General for Justice in the European Commission, spoke at a congressional privacy briefing sponsored by the Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee in conjunction with the European Internet Foundation.  Ms. Le Bail discussed the recently unveiled draft European Data Protection Regulation designed to supersede the 1995 European Union’s (EU) Data Protection Directive as a comprehensive reform measure to strengthen online privacy rights in light of global technology advancements.  She emphasized that this proposed directive will replace the current law's fragmentation and costly administrative burdens with a single set of rules on data protection valid across the EU.

Google and Apple and the Latest Privacy Concerns

In separate developments both Google and Apple are facing new privacy probes by the government.  In Google’s case, both the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and a European effort led by the French Commission Nationale de L’Informatique et des Libertes (CNIL) are investigating the company for bypassing users’ privacy settings on their Apple Safari browser.  The Wall Street Journal reported in February that Google was installing cookies on devices even if the person had set the device to block this type of tracking.  Once contacted by the newspaper, Google did report that it had stopped the practice. 

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