20 July 2008

Mushy Links

Today, my brain is the sausage, after a migraine attack. There isn't a lot of variety in the links for today...

  • Tor Books, the leading publisher of speculative fiction in the US, now has a new, community-oriented website live. Hopefully, it will be kept better updated than the Tor Books "official" site. Special bonus: For the next week (until 26 July), all of the e-books and wallpapers that Tor has made available for "limited times" during the last few months are available. Free, and authorized by the copyright holders. And this includes some pretty good stuff, too.
  • Here's some shocking, late-breaking news: screenwriters believe that TV execs have too much control over shows. That's nearly as shocking as gambling in Rick's casino.

    What this complaint really reflects, though, is the distinction between creation and exploitation... and, in particular, the flip side of the long-tail theory. Or maybe it is just a necessary consequence of TV executives being, at their core, beancounters with inadequate education in the creative process. Whatever; there are certainly enough horror stories the other direction, of screenwriters and directors going so far out in an effort to be "new" that they destroyed both their creation and its commercial viability.

  • Speaking of bad writing and the excessive influence of executives, a screenwriter's lawsuit against Mel Gibson over The Passion of the Christ has been sent back for another polish. This time, though, it's bad legal writing being polished. Of course, it isn't very hard to find bad legal writing — open any primary law source and you'll be immersed in bad writing.
  • Europe now has an opportunity to adopt the reasoning of Feist... but won't do so. A case now before it questions whether a table of contents is a database protected by the Database Directive, Directive 96/9/EC (11 Mar 1996). This ill-considered pile of bird droppings purported to give sui generis (that is, "unique unto itself") protection to the content of databases. The real problem here is that it represents a return to "sweat of the brow" reasoning that is inconsistent with the trend in all other intellectual property law since the initial adoption of the Berne Convention in the nineteenth century. It's also just plain a bad idea from a policy perspective, but that shouldn't surprise anyone who knows much about how EC Directives get adopted... which makes the US legislative process, with its nearly overt domination by industry lobbyists, look positively pristine.
  • In a lawsuit that sounds like a segment from Robot Chicken, Mattel won a jury verdict over copyright in the Bratz dolls. What I find disturbing is not a copyright question as such, but an employment law question. It is not entirely clear from the article what Carter Bryant, then an employee of Mattel, was doing when he conceptualized the Bratz dolls. It is not clear whether he did so on company time; it is not clear whether there was an appropriate, enforceable employment agreement that would have reached to arguably related thoughts not on company time; it is not even clear that Carter Bryant's job was such that coming up with the Bratz dolls fell within his scope of employment. Perhaps all of this is clearer in the pleadings and in the evidence presented to the jury, but the article is annoyingly obtuse on important details.
  • Last for today, and farthest from copyright — but still well inside intellectual property — is this securities class action resulting from patent misconduct. Although it sounds ridiculous, it does make a valid point that is too often ignored: Intellectual property forms the basis for a great many businesses, and misconduct concerning intellectual property can also occur in the course of creating it.