Thursday, September 14, 2006

HR 5553 Section 115 Reform Act and fair use in copyright law


Electronic Frontier Foundation has been warning that there will be a vote soon in the House on a measure that could seriously affect the fair use concept in copyright law, as we know it, at least with respect to digital and video media. The law would include the legal rights of "distribution" to consider transmission over the Internet (to some extent this is legitimate, if one is talking about downloading movies for a fee the way they are now rented from Netflix or Blockbuster, or the way they are accessed from Cable companies). But the law would apparently require licenses to hold temporary copies of digital media in computer memory caches or temporary files.

EFF supplies a form letter to Congress at this link.

The EFF newsletter "Deep Links" has another discussion from June 4, 2006 at this link.

A related article concerns a lawsuit by Perfect 10 against a search engine company regarding caches. There are tricky concepts running around here. Remember the controversy over deep linking (further down on this web) Theoretically, Perfect 10 could be insisting that anyone who links to an infringing site (usually a search engine) is guilty of particpatory copyright infringement. That would end linking as we know it, despite favorable court rulings that links are essentially biblographic references if done right.

Search engine caches have gotten attention because they sometimes linger after the original material has been removed, exposing people to employers (the "myspace problem: below on this blog) or unfavorable action that they want to reverse. (Can you "undoredo" on the Internet?) There have been questions as to whether they are unauthorized copies, but search engine companies do remove them when requested.

Some sites seem to be blocking certain sites from linking to them. I have seen this in rare cases. They may be blocking all links with some mechanism to prevent bandwidth problems or DOS attacks. I am not sure how this works technically. (Someone may want to comment.) In these cases, the visitor can usually see the linked site by just typing the URL into the browser, or (for deep links with long url's) by going to the referenced site's home page and using the site's own search function the way the site owner intends. I can understand this practice if needed to present abuse but it could give the visitor the false impression that the site does not work.

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