law

/Tag: law

Unlucky, Dracula.

The fact that, under US copyright law, gods can’t hold copyright but a human can hold copyright on a god’s behalf (i.e. by saying a work was “divinely inspired” rather than directly inscribed by the hand of God) sure is… a thing.

2018-11-26T15:55:30+10:008th April, 2019|Tags: copyright, law|

Unintended consequences.

I wrote the law that allows sites to be unfettered free speech marketplaces. I wrote that same law, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, to provide vital protections to sites that didn’t want to host the most unsavory forms of expression. The goal was to protect the unique ability of the internet to be the proverbial marketplace of ideas while ensuring that mainstream sites could reflect the ethics of society as a whole.

In general, this has been a success — with one glaring exception. I never expected that internet CEOs would fail to understand one simple principle: that an individual endorsing (or denying) the extermination of millions of people, or attacking the victims of horrific crimes or the parents of murdered children, is far more indecent than an individual posting pornography.

Ron Wyden (D-OR) on the horror he hath wrought.

More specifically, Section 230 is the portion of the Act that explicitly states social media platforms (among others) are not publishers and therefore not liable for content posted by users to their sites.

Wyden’s point is that the whole “lulz freeze peach!” crowd is fundamentally wrong; freedom of expression on social media platforms is protected not by the constitution (i.e. the First Amendment), but by legislature. Which, of course, can be changed, limited, or revoked at any time. Without Section 230, everyone who’s ever been the target of, say, a Twitter hate mob could sue Twitter for facilitating it and that, fundamentally, the aggregate of all these lawsuits would put the company out of business.

It’s worth pointing out that Wyden thinks this would be a bad thing. YMMV.

2019-02-19T07:17:34+10:0019th February, 2019|Tags: culture, law, social media, tech|

Own it.

To reiterate the point I and others have repeatedly made, if you don’t own your online presence you’re just [one] malprogrammed bot or one bogus DMCA notice away from being shut down. It doesn’t matter if your content is on WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, Flickr, Youtube, etc, if it is someone else’s platform then you’re still at risk.

Nate Hoffelder on platforms.

While I (obviously) do agree with this, I will note “owning your own platform” is not actually a panacea in the sense that, online, we’re always beholden to someone else, whether it’s our website host, datacenter operator, CDN provider, domain registrar, or whatever. These relationships are complex. I won’t host a website in the US any more, for example, after EA slapped my old videogame fan blog with a DMCA over Star Wars: The Old Republic screenshots. I could’ve counter-claimed, but doing so would’ve forced me to renounce any potential protection under Australian law (DMCA notices are deceptively vicious if you’re not American). It was such a trivial fucking thing, and I nearly lost my entire website because of it.

On the other hand, my old host did lose a customer. So… y’know. There’s that.

That being said: hosting all your content with a massive third-party aggregation company that considers you to be a product, not a customer? Yeah, nah. Not a great idea, huh.

2018-12-05T10:19:49+10:005th December, 2018|Tags: internet, law, tech|

It’s not cheating… it’s IP infringement!

Here’s a question for you: is cheating in games (specifically, using third-party cheat programs that alter the game in -memory) copyright infringement?

This is, I think, what one would call a “novel” approach to combating cheating in a online game. I’m also kind of reminded of the fandom C&D days (specifically, the Harry Potter wars) of the early 2000s.

And while it’s kinda lulz to watch some 1337 h4xx0r kid get, quite literally, served in Fortnight, if the legal argument holds up (i.e. that using trainers is copyright infringement), then places that deal in single player game cheats are also at risk and, shit. That basically means I will never play a video game ever again.1

  1. “You could just not cheat!” Yeah, and you could mind your own goddamn business. []
2018-05-14T14:56:57+10:006th November, 2018|Tags: copyright, gaming, law, video games|

Organized Pseudolegal Commercial Argument.

This is a Canadian civil law case which is “officially” a disagreement between a woman and her asshole ex, but is actually a ruling from a judge who got so fucking sick of bullshit vexatious “sovereign citizen” litigants that he wrote a near-two hundred page ruling dragging them.

Given that it is nearly two hundred pages, it’s probably not light-and-fun reading from end-to-end.1 But it’s nonetheless amusing to skim and watch all the nonsense arguments from these assholes being explained and then torn apart by a guy who is just so obviously done with having to deal with them in his courts.

  1. Unless you’re, like, a law student I guess. []
2018-04-06T12:31:59+10:0025th September, 2018|Tags: law|

Digital preserve.

Video games are both an artform and a cultural artifact, which means there are various libraries out there that preserve them. So, yes. It really is someone’s job out there to collect every single game for the Fairchild Channel F and ensure they stay playable. So far so good.

Except… fast forward twenty-plus years, to the advent of online gaming. Of the sort that runs on proprietary tech held on private servers run by the game publisher. Who then shuts them down. And in this world of overreaching copyright (cough DMCA cough)… how do you preserve that? And, more importantly, as a third party, should you have a right to?

2018-03-14T07:34:03+10:0021st August, 2018|Tags: gaming, law, pop culture, tech, video games|

The little things.

A fascinating look into how police use the tiniest of clues, from bland commercial paintings to specific fabrics sold to specific hotel chains, to locate and rescue exploited children.

General content warning for the subject matter, though the article is non-explicit and deals mostly with the investigative procedure rather than the details of the case.

2017-08-22T10:47:20+10:0029th December, 2017|Tags: cw: child abuse, law|

Australian Copyright Council releases statement on copyright.

It’s a PDF, because of course it is, available for download here. Key point (bold added):

A piece of fanfiction is more likely to infringe copyright where it uses a “substantial part” of the original work, without permission from the copyright owner, and no exception applies (see Copyright exceptions and fanfiction below). Courts have held that a “substantial part” is a distinct, important, or essential part of a copyright work. In the context of fanfiction, this would include key characters and key plot elements, all things which fanfiction by its very nature explicitly uses and reproduces. Although the extent may vary between types and pieces of fanfiction, in many cases it will be arguable that fanfiction does use enough of a pre-existing original copyright work to be a considered a substantial part for the purposes of copyright infringement

And then, a bit further down (again, bold added):

For fanfiction authors who write parody fanfiction, or fanfiction that satirises the original story or story tropes, this would easily come under the fair dealing for the purposes of parody or satire. Similarly, fanfiction authors who write fanfiction which examine and critique the original material, either the original story itself or its themes and ideas, could arguably come under the fair dealing purpose of criticism and review. Other types of fanfiction, however, such as alternate universes or romance, do not easily fit into these purposes, and thus would not be covered by a fair dealing exception.

I’m kind of surprised about that “alternate universes” line, because to me that would seem to be exactly the type of fanfic that doesn’t use the “key plot elements” or–arguably, if it’s ATG‘y enough–“key characters”. Though I guess the latter in particular would rely on you making the argument that your fanfic isn’t copyright infringing because it’s, yanno. Too poorly written.

I’m also side-eyeing that whole “parody and criticism is okay but romance is by definition not parody or criticism” concept so hard, you’d better believe it. But the whole paper suffers from that “when men write it, it’s fine, but when women write it… ew!” thing, as seen in the direct quote:

[F]anfiction has become increasingly mainstream with the internet and “remix” novels such as Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, and 50 Shades of Grey with (in)famously began as Twilight fanfiction.

“(In)famously”? Fuck you, buddy. It’s probably not a surprising to learn that I’m of the opinion that romance–or romantic elements–can absolutely be used for the purpose of criticism, particularly in the “queering” context used in a lot of fanfic. This is the premise of Liesmith and Stormbringer, after all, which are Norse mythology fanfic under the lens of, “Yeah but how would you interpret the eddas if you weren’t a straight white dude?”

But I’m oldskool fandom, so maybe that’s just my bias showing.

That being said, don’t take it to mean I think the Copyright Council’s interpretation of the law is factually wrong; I’m assuming it’s not. It’s the cultural assumptions underneath the law that I have a problem with…

2017-07-17T11:47:51+10:0022nd December, 2016|Tags: copyright, fandom, fanfic, law|

Your argument is bad and you should feel bad.

If permitting trans women to use women’s restrooms creates opportunities for cisgender predator men to pose as trans women, the “bathroom laws,” by requiring transgender men to use the restroom corresponding to their sex assigned at birth, i.e., the women’s room, create opportunities for cisgender men to pose as trans men to gain access to women’s rooms[.]

Michael C. Dorf uses logic.

This is the most brutally logical deconstruction of anti-trans bathroom bills I’ve seen. Which, yanno. From the Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law at Cornell University. Go figure.

To be clear, Dorf’s not arguing that this would happen; he’s pointing out that insisting trans people use the bathroom of the birth-assigned sex for the “safety” of cis women is irrational, because it doesn’t actually prevent the issue it’s purporting to (predatory cis men in women’s bathrooms).

2018-07-27T14:22:28+10:008th October, 2016|Tags: culture, law|