Students Sue TurnItIn.com

This story about high school students suing TurnItIn.com made the rounds on Friday: McLean Students Sue Anti-Cheating Service. I’ve not analyzed it closely but their claim–that TurnItIn.com violates copyrights in their papers and essays by copying them to its database–has some legal merit, and wise-ass ironic flavor to boot. The Volokh Conspiracy blogged about it here, succinctly summarizing the arguments on both sides and predicting TurnItIn.com has the better of the arguments. I agree that the transformative nature of TurnItIn.com’s service probably tips the scales in its favor.

An apology for the number of recent posts echoing stories from other sites. A number of things have caught my eye recently but between course prep, exams, and papers I have not been able to get much beyond the surface of anything.

S/he

Another headline that says it all: Judge: Ex still due alimony when she becomes he. My first thought is that of course the husband still owes alimony, which is (or should be) a support obligation arising during marriage that reflects the paying spouse’s status as primary earner during the marriage. His ex-wife is still his ex-wife. The operation is not retroactive.

Lucinda, Righteously

Saturday night we saw Lucinda Williams at the Orpheum Theatre. In her two-hour set she sang Rescue, Unsuffer Me, Come On, West and other cuts from West, her new release, plus Righteously, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, Joy, Those Three Days, and a number of older tunes. A snippet of pre-show conversation: “There’s so much heartache on her new album.” “Yeah, but she does heartache so well.” Her band was great, but for me it’s all about her lyrics and her sound. Each song is a story in which she can drawl, snarl, or plead in that low, raw voice. “Emmy Lou Harris mixed with Janis Joplin,” in the words of my friend.

iTunes Fix

Before my trip I wrote about problems I was having with iTunes on my Windows XP system. Helpful reader comments and suggestions put my on the path to a cure. I (a) uninstalled iTunes, (b) uninstalled Quicktime, (c) reinstalled iTunes and Quicktime (I found no stand-alone iTunes installer), (d) uninstalled Quicktime, and (e) reinstalled Quicktime using the stand-alone installer. (I can’t believe I did all of that without throwing the CPU out the window, but I did.) Then I left for a week. The trip had nothing to do with the fix, but I did forget about the problem. Upon returning I synced my iPod and, for the first time in a month, it synced properly. I was afraid to play iTunes for almost a week because I couldn’t face it hanging again, but yesterday, crazy risk taker that I am, I opened iTunes, pushed play, and . . . it played. No problems yet. Sincere thanks to those who helped.

NFL versus Wendy Seltzer

One way copyright holders have been trying to protect their rights is to exaggerate the scope of those rights. Rather than repeat here what is explained clearly and concisely elsewhere, check out this story on arstechnica.com: NFL fumbles DMCA takedown battle, could face sanctions. It recounts Brooklyn Law School professor and EFF counsel Wendy Seltzer’s battle with the National Football League over her posting a video of the NFL’s copyright notice–just the copyright notice–on YouTube. The NFL overstepped its rights under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in trying to quash Seltzer’s exercise of fair use rights. (Thanks to JH)

Globe Editorial: Censor YouTube

The YouTube video mashup of Apple’s famous “1984” Super Bowl Ad, with Hillary Clinton appearing as Big Brother, has generated considerable buzz–here’s a random sample:

The Boston Globe editorialized about the video today, concluding with this hand-wringing paragraph:

But suppose it was two or three days before a close election, and a scurrilous, deceitful, anonymous clip was posted on YouTube and the other sites that specialize in homemade videos. Candidates should, of course, monitor all these sites and flag the offending videos. But doesn’t YouTube have an obligation to make sure these ads are swept from its site before they can do harm? YouTube today doesn’t have a policy against attack ads late in the campaign, but it should.

“Doesn’t YouTube have an obligation to make sure these ads are swept from its site before they can do harm?” YouTube has no such legal obligation: Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act immunizes YouTube from legal liability for such a video. If the Globe is referring to an ethical obligation, the answer should also be no. The Globe characterizes the Clinton video as “clever, nasty, and relying on manipulated images.” “Nasty” because it criticizes Hillary? “Manipulated images” because it is not raw, unedited footage of a press conference? As my friend Doug said about the Globe editorial, “Oh, grow up!”

COPA Struck Down

The federal district court hearing the ACLU’s overbreadth challenge to the Child Online Protection Act (AFC posts here, here, and here) ruled yesterday that less restrictive measures such as software filters could effectively control minors’ access to “harmful” material and that COPA violates the First Amendment. The judge’s 84-page decision is here. Infothought, which has followed the trial more closely, posted a COPA links roundup after the decision’s release.