Friday, September 16, 2005

The Song Happy Birthday to You is Copyrighted - A Copyright Case in Point

When we talk here at LawPundit about the law of the future and the problems that we are going to face and the cases that judges like John Roberts are going to have to decide, we are not merely theorizing.

A copyright case in point is one of the world's best known songs "Happy Birthday to You".

Did you know that this song is copyrighted and will continue to be so until the year 2030? Are you in doubt? Read Happy Birthday, We'll Sue.

In an ironic twist of fate, Prof. Lawrence Lessig, digital rights guru and founder of Creative Commons, was recently involved in a "Happy Birthday to You" case for the Free Culture Movement.

His account of the story points to the severe problems we still face in this legal field.
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Law and the Future in the case of Roberts

The August, 2005 Law@Stanford Newsletter for alumni and friends of Stanford Law School refers inter alia to an August 28, 2005 New York Times article by Jeffrey Rosen, Professor of Law at George Washington University, entitled "Roberts v. the Future".

Rosen perspicaciously raises numerous important questions about law and "the future", especially the technological future. As Rosen predicts in that article - and as has actually subsequently happened - the sometimes myopic Senate hearings on the Roberts nomination may be masking the real issues.

Rosen writes:

"[T]he Supreme Court will, in all likelihood, be asked to decide a fascinating array of divisive issues that are now only dimly on the horizon. To try to identify more concretely what those issues might be, I recently canvassed a number of technology experts, bioethicists and legal scholars.

The topics that they discussed amount to a Brave New World of constitutional disputes. As Congress and the states pass legislation to address a host of futuristic issues, from the genetic enhancement of children to the use of brain scanning to identify criminal suspects, the laws will inevitably be challenged in court, raising novel and surprising questions about how to interpret our constitutional rights to privacy, equality and free expression. Rather than focusing on Roberts's past, the senators questioning him might get a better sense of his future on the Supreme Court by imagining the issues of the next generation. The court's response to those issues, far more than its resolution of cases that will be decided next year, will define the role it will play in the first decades of the 21st century."


Rosen covers:

Brain Fingerprinting and the Future of Privacy Rights

Genetic Screening and the Future of Personal Autonomy

D.N.A. and the Future of Affirmative Action

Old Age and Drug Legalization

Property, Free Expression and the Right to Tinker

e.g. "[D]uring the next decade or two there may be other, less familiar legal debates over the scope of rights involving private property -- in particular, the ability of corporations and entrepreneurs, through the use of copyright and patent law, to control a broad spectrum of intellectual property, from digital entertainment to genetic sequences....The guru of digital activism is the Stanford law professor and cyberspace visionary Lawrence Lessig, whom I recently reached by telephone in Spain. ''As life moves increasingly onto the Net and the capacity to control every aspect of our cultural capital increases almost to perfection, the question will be whether there is an affirmative right of access, to use and remix,'' Lessig said."

Fascinating stuff.

The article also contains some poignant anecdotes about Judge Roberts, all of which, in our opinion, indicate that this man is very competent for the office to which he has been nominated and very fit for the "future" of law.
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Speaking of the Future - Patents and Other Things that Matter

Michael Kanellos at Future Tech writes about patents and other things that matter at Amazon (Bezos), Microsoft (Gates) and Google (Schmidt).
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Blog Search Launched at Google and Blogger

CaryGEE has called my attention to PC World's September 14, 2005 article, "Google Launches New Blog Search Tool" by Juan Carlos Perez of IDG News Service, where we find that Google has launched a beta blog search function at

Google Blog Search and at Blogger Blog Search Beta.

For an explanation of this feature, see Blogger's Blog Search FAQ or Google's Blog Search Help.

As written there:

"The goal of Blog Search is to include every blog that publishes a site feed (either RSS or Atom). It is not restricted to Blogger blogs, or blogs from any other service."

As a test, we tried searches for "internet law" (in quotation marks) and
"law of the future" (in quotation marks).

The latter led us to an "Edge" page quoting the Orwellian "law of the future" as providing that "any new technology that can be tried will be".

That certainly applies to "search".
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