Category Archives: digital rights

DMCA: terror weapon

I just received “urgent” mail.  Not the usual spam (the word “urgent” in the subject line might easily upset my spam filter), but mail on a team list.  A colleague-of-a-colleague had been sent an aggressive notice clearly intended to intimidate:

Dear Sir/Madam,

I certify under penalty of perjury, that I am an agent authorized to act on behalf of the owner of the intellectual property rights and that the information contained in this notice is accurate.

I have a good faith belief that the page or material listed below is not authorized by law for use by the individual(s) associated with the identified page listed below or their agents and therefore infringes the copyright owner’s rights.

THE INFRINGING PAGE/MATERIAL IS INDEXED AND PRESENT IN YOUR SEARCH ENGINE AND I HEREBY DEMAND THAT YOU ACT EXPEDITIOUSLY TO REMOVE THE PAGE FROM YOUR INDEX.

This notice is sent pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the European Union’s Directive on the Harmonisation of Certain Aspects of Copyright and Related Rights in the Information Society (2001/29/EC), and/or other laws and regulations relevant in European Union member states or other jurisdictions.

OK, you’re a sysop in an eastern European country, one of the EU’s post-communist members.  You’re not a native English speaker, but you’ve heard of the DMCA, and you know that defying a takedown notice could mean serious trouble.  You’ve probably heard of claims for millions.  The ‘infringing’ page is in Italian, which you probably don’t speak at all.  What do you do?

The recipient of the above contacted my colleague, who in turn posted it to the team list.  Yours truly having absorbed a bit of Italian culture recognised the title “I promessi sposi” as a classic, so checked wikipedia and found an original publication date of 1827.  The ‘infringing’ page is offering a download of the 1840 edition, which wikipedia tells us was rewritten in the Florentine dialect that was emerging with the Risorgimento as a canonical language, now modern Italian.

Well, if that infringes, we’d better take Gutenberg down double-quick!

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Digital books with DRM?

My publisher wonders if I’d be interested in publishing “derivative short cuts”. Short cuts (here) are digital mini-books covering particular topics. The word “derivative” means using material from the book – hence less work to write.

Well, the basic idea works for me. There are two obvious topics from the book that could be used like this, and it could be even more usefully applied to topics that might have been covered in the book but aren’t.

These “short cuts” apparently ship as PDF with Adobe DRM. This is, apparently, not stupid-fascist DRM: it permits the owner to make copies and read the documents on a range of devices. To me, the crucial questions here are: is Adobe’s spec itself open, and what opensource PDF readers are happy with it? I think I can accept it provided it doesn’t require readers like me to jump through stupid hoops to read it.