Archive for the 'Intellectual Property' CategoryPage 2 of 11

EU Seeks to Extend “Right to Be Forgotten”

It’s rare for legal decisions in European Courts to affect Americans. However, the fight over the “right to be forgotten” could be the exception. Last year, EU courts created a “right to be forgotten,” mandating that Google remove links at an individual’s request.

google eu internet privacyFor example, suppose that your home was foreclosed and you were arrested for punching the sheriff who posted the notice to your door. A decade later, you’ve paid off the mortgage and the assault charges have been cleared. However, Google still has your mug shot and your foreclosure record.

If you live in Europe, you could request that Google remove links to information about your arrest and foreclosure from European servers like or

The main server,, however, will still retain these links, despite your request. In fact, European privacy groups believe that Europeans are turning to now that Google’s European servers have been compromised. And that’s exactly why European privacy groups are targeting next.

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

The problem is that Europeans aren’t the only ones who use The .com server is the server that most Americans use. If European countries require that Google censor web links on its .com server, then that information would also be censored in the United States as well. The consequences are too vast to be predictable, but I can think of a few.

For instance, Darren Wilson, the Ferguson police officer who shot Michael Brown, could move to Europe and convincingly erase his name from Internet archives. Or what if an American opens a business with a European investor? It’s much harder to tell whether the investor has any shady dealings. Or what if you’re trying to sue a European citizen living in the United States? Although a competent attorney would not rely on the Internet during discovery, writing that claim might be harder if the defendant can magically hide his Internet presence.

What happens if the EU tries to force Google to restrict First, it’s debatable whether EU courts have jurisdiction over a foreign company such that the EU could affect how Google manages its website overseas. Second, if the EU did have that power, I am currently unaware of an American law that would compel Google to keep information up. Or Google could ignore EU courts and accept whatever consequences that might entail.

If is such a problem, why can’t European countries just restrict citizens to European servers? Actually, that is a solution that some countries have taken up. The most prominent country that has limited its citizen’s Internet access is China.

If you’re in China, is inaccessible and you have to use or In China, the purpose of blocking and restricting access to certain web pages is to keep the state, the Communist Party, and party leaders safe from political critique. Ironically, the EU will be enforcing a type of Internet censorship based on privacy rather than political oppression, but the outcome might still be the same.

Artists vs. Online Retailers: The reality of online copyright infringement

The term “sharing” has become a normal part of our 21st century lives, allowing us to engage with people around the world. By sharing, small time artists can promote their works on deviantART, Instagram, and Tumblr. Artists can even earn a living by selling their works on e-commerce sites like RedBubble, Etsy, Teefury, or Society6.

800px-UrbanOutfittersUnfortunately, being able to share your content with the world is a double-edged sword. As an artist you get to create, exhibit, and profit from your labor of love, but this also means your work can easily be stolen, reproduced, and sold without your knowledge.

Copyright protection laws give a copyright holder the right of reproduction and to create derivative works. A reproduction right means the copyright owner is the only one that can make copies of the original work. Derivative works are adaptations based on the original copyrighted work (e.g. a movie can be a derivative work of a book).

Independent online artists will often create an image, design, or comic and they usually reproduce their images on products like shirts, postcards, bags, phone cases, or other products. Derivative works, in this context, are usually merchandise created for other copyrightable works like web comic series.

The right of reproduction is the most infringed upon right for artists. Usually, an artist will upload an image and another person will take it and reprint that image on posters or tee shirts. This problem is common, even on sites like Etsy.

Although most online retail websites, including Etsy, have copyright infringement policies, enforcement and getting results can be difficult for artists. Common problems are:

  • The infringing party is in another country.
  • The websites themselves fail to take down the infringing products or images.

Besides having another person steal your work, some artists even fall victim to large retail stores like Urban Outfitters. Urban Outfitters has been accused, on multiple occasions, for copyright infringement and some artists accept this as part of the norm.

So what is an artist to do when engaging with online retail stores? Refuse to use these sites? Ignore the problem altogether?

Artists and designers take copyright infringement seriously and end up policing their own communities. Often, they will notify each other about the infringing party or will take an active role and reverse search their own images.

Reverse searching an image allows artists to see where their copyrighted works are being used on the web. Popular search engines are:

This may not be the ideal for independent online artists, but it’s the most proactive approach when dealing with infringers. The best thing to do is to know the copyright policies on whatever website you use to promote your work, and actively reverse search your images to stop copyright infringers from profiting off your work.

Monkey Selfie Costs Photographer a Small Fortune

Monkey selfies are all fun and games until a photographer loses his paycheck for the year. In 2011, David Slater spent over 7,000 pounds (or $11,763) to travel to Indonesia to take pictures of crested black macaques. While on the scene, the monkeys stole his camera and took hundreds of pictures of themselves.

monkey selfie copyright issueOne of those pictures turned out very well, but ended up in the hands of Wikimedia Foundation, the free information websites. Slater demanded Wikimedia take down the monkey selfie, but Wikimedia argued that the photo was in the public domain, not copyrighted.

Wikimedia’s argument is simple. The monkeys created the picture, but the animals have no property rights, so the picture belongs in the public domain. Normally, if a human owns an animal, then the human owns any property created by the animal. However, macaques are wild animals not owned by anyone.

Slater’s claim to the picture is that he invested a significant amount of money, time, and labor into getting the pictures, so he should be the photo’s rightful owner. Unfortunately for him, copyright law regarding photographs is that the person taking the picture is the “author” of the photo. Slater didn’t do anything to make the photo. Aside from having his camera stolen, Slater wasn’t involved in making the picture.

Slater could substantially modify the picture and claim the changes to the photograph make the picture his own work, but the picture’s value is the unimpeded view of the macaque (and the fact that the monkey took the picture herself). Also, even if he did modify the picture, Slater would only own the modified photo and not the original work.

Copyright law is supposed to promote the creation of new inventions or ideas though, so it makes little sense that labor and expenditure shouldn’t at least be a factor in determining who holds the copyright. The danger is that the distinction between investor and artist would be eroded if Slater held the copyright in this case.

Tesla Motors Will Release Its Patents – Should Other Companies Do the Same?

Elon Musk, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Product Officer of electric car producer Tesla Motors, recently announced that Tesla will release its patented technology to the public. Accompanying the announcement, Musk had harsh words for the patent system:

“When I started out with my first company, Zip2, I thought patents were a good thing and worked hard to obtain them. And maybe they were good long ago, but too often these days they serve merely to stifle progress, entrench the positions of giant corporations and enrich those in the legal profession, rather than the actual inventors.”

tesla motors elon muskMusk further commented,

“After Zip2, when I realized that receiving a patent really just meant that you bought a lottery ticket to a lawsuit, I avoided them whenever possible.”

The patent system was created to encourage innovation by granting inventors the exclusive right to sell or practice a product, design, or process. But Tesla recognizes that certain companies can benefit from non-exclusivity. Musk said,

“We believe that Tesla, other companies making electric cars, and the world would all benefit from a common, rapidly-evolving technology platform.”

Tesla already enjoys a competitive advantage in the electric car space because of its pool of engineers and manufacturing facilities. Tesla needs a mainstream marketplace for its cars more than it needs exclusivity. Enter Ford, BMW, and Toyota. If the major car companies start mass-producing electric cars, Tesla will have more potential customers, and it will encourage companies to build charging stations and other infrastructure necessary for electric cars to flourish. If Tesla’s technology platform becomes the industry standard, Tesla can also sell its batteries and other components to other electric car manufacturers.

But while an open-source model may work for Tesla, inventors and start-ups trying to break into a market should continue to pursue patents for their innovations. Exclusivity can give a fledging company the competitive advantage its needs to grow, where it would otherwise be crushed by the entrenched heavyweights.

Patents have other benefits beyond exclusivity. A patent may be necessary if you intend to license your invention. If you are seeking investment, a patent may make your company more attractive to investors or venture capital firms. Patents can also be sold or used as collateral for loans or other financing. Musk admits that Tesla used its patents to obtain financing in the early days of Tesla.

Other innovative companies, like Apple, have aggressively defended their intellectual property, most notably through its recent high-profile lawsuits against Samsung over mobile phone technology. It remains to be seen whether other tech giants will follow Tesla’s lead. But for the majority of inventors and start-ups, a patent continues to be the tried and true way to bring new ideas to the market.

Print Your Own Guns and More! – Legal Aspects of 3-D Printers

When shopping online, I often think how convenient it would be if I could get my purchases instantly, rather than having to wait for days while the items are shipped. This is the unmistakably a trade off with commerce on the Internet.

3-D printer legal issuesWell, it may not be a trade off for much longer. These days, people are already creating or purchasing files to print working guitars, camera lenses, bikinis, working guns… The list goes on.

It may sound a bit unreal, but it is entirely true. 3-D printing, also known as “additive manufacturing,” has been around since the 80s. As technology has progressed, so has the capacity and availability of these printers.

3-D printing is a process by which the printer reads a file and then uses a filler to follow and build the design through a design of vertical and horizontal cross sections. These fillers can range from polymers to metals to paper and pretty much anything in between. This is definitely an over-simplification, but you get the picture – much like a common, household printer, a file tells the printer to follow a design. The primary difference is that the end result is not ink on a paper, but a strong filler formed into an object.

1. Intellectual Property

Intellectual property is going to be the biggest area of concern when 3-D printers become widespread. Remember when sites like Napster used to get sued, and then their users started getting sued? Well, imagine that, but potentially on a wider scale.

Copyright covers a physical manifestation of an expression, which gave rise to litigation over MP3s and music licensing. Likewise, 3-D printing certainly has the potential for copyright infringement. For example, if someone uses a 3-D printer to recreate a sculpture or a statue of an artist they love, and the time frame of protection is still in force, that individual may be liable for copyright infringement.

Similarly, some unique product designs that may be essentially replicated by these printers could trigger trademark law. A useful example would be Ray Bans or an easily recognizable type of gym weight that could basically be copied for nothing and dilute the images of those brands.

Finally, and I think most pressing, are patent issues. I think these will prove complicated because the time it takes to actually file a patent could likely far exceed the time it takes to replicate the invention. Moreover, the software used in these machines has been the real crux of the innovation, and perhaps ironically, may be what ties it up, once the patents start to and continue to roll in. Furthermore, because of the wide array of patentable material, combined with an invention that could ostensibly create it with a few keystrokes, these printers may essentially clog an already clogged PTO indefinitely. What’s more, the patents covering certain materials used in the printing process have recently expired, drastically reducing the costs of these materials and therefore increasing their availability.

2. Regulation

This is probably not everyone’s favorite word, but “who will regulate this stuff?” should at least be a passing thought when the idea of printable weapons comes to mind.

It certainly has been on the mind of the Department of Homeland Security, who has begun lobbying for federal and state legislation regarding efforts to at least try to control the dissemination of 3-D printing files for functioning guns. Some legislatures have suggested regulating printers themselves, completely eliminating the ability to print weapons. This would clearly invoke free speech rights and could have a disastrous effect on an otherwise profitable, legal enterprise.

Plus, with the availability of almost anything on the Internet through peer-to-peer sites, it is perhaps a pipedream to imagine such regulation could be feasible in the first place.

The prospect of printing a small boat or musical instrument from the comfort of home is a staggering one, and one that we will likely see in our lifetime. But if you ask me, watching how governments and society responds to this technology will be just as interesting as type of products these printers can create.