Legal Advocacy

  • OTW Legal Represents Fans at Roundtable

    By Kiri Van Santen on Monday, 18 August 2014 - 5:44pm
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    Banner by Erin of a spotlight on an OTW logo with the words 'Spotlight on Legal Issues'

    The OTW's Legal Committee has been representing fans in a series of discussions dubbed "The Green Paper Roundtable", which are part of the U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO)'s efforts to seek public comments on copyright policy issues.

    The OTW's earlier participation led to our team having a seat in these ongoing discussions to advise the NTIA/PTO on a legal framework for the creation of remixes.

    The USPTO has posted the video and transcript of its Los Angeles Green Paper roundtable which was held on July 29. Unfortunately, the transcript is not of the best quality though it may be helpful to some.

    The remix panel, which the OTW participated in, is the second panel of the morning (starting at about 1:56:00 of the morning video).

    Praise for the OTW and Fans' Participation

    Mitch Stoltz of the Electronic Frontier Foundation gave a shoutout to the OTW's Green Paper submission linked above:

    "I was moved by the passion of a lot of the advocates on this panel on all sides of this issue and I'm moved by art and creative work of all kinds. I want to ask everyone here and everyone watching online that if you too are moved by creative work and the passion of the people who create it is to take another look at the green paper comments submitted by the Organization for Transformative Works.

    This was pages and pages of incredibly moving personal stories about people, and these are, for the most part, marginalised people. These are women, these are people of colour, these are new Americans, these are LGBT, using fanwork, using video and writing and music and other media and using mainstream creative work to talk back to popular culture, to participate in popular culture, to enrich it and maybe to change it, and I was moved to tears by some of these stories. These are folks who, most of them will never be able to afford the hourly rates of Dina [LaPolt] or Jay [Cooper] or even lesser attorneys. Some of them will, some of them will probably become mainstream artists and in so doing change our culture for the better. Most won't, certainly they don't right now.

    I will encourage everyone, and I encourage the task force and the copyright office to take another look at those comments and once you have I think there is no way that anyone would be able to come back to the task force and say that these people are not creative, that they are not creators, that they don't contribute to our shared culture, that they don't deserve the same protection and the same freedom that our laws give to mainstream artists. Thank you."

    You can view his comment at 3:35:25 of the afternoon video.

    Standing Against Barriers to Speech

    Betsy Rosenblatt of the OTW also said:

    "I think we're looking at two very competing rights. One is the right to control what happens with your work. The other is the right of speech. And, as Jay pointed out, many people struggle for years to hone their crafts. Many of those people who are struggling for years to hone their crafts are doing so by playing cover songs, for example, or by making mash-ups through which they learn editing skills, video skills, that sort of thing. And licensing not only prices many of these struggling artists out of creation, but also breeds censorship, as I think the examples highlight. Naturally, Steven Tyler doesn't want people using his music, in that particular example, but that's exactly why we have fair use, to allow people to make commentary without getting his permission.

    Legal uncertainty permits over-reaching by copyright holders, and, particularly in concert with the digital millennium copyright act notice and takedown procedure, can be used to suppress commentary or criticism by playing on the risk aversion—the rational risk aversion—of intermediaries who don't want their safe harbour taken away. And uncertainty also disproportionately chills speech by the smallest and least privileged speakers. Our fair use regime generally favours transformative non-commercial speech, so generally would favour—and we hear this all the time, this isn't just the Organization for Transformative Works saying it—generally favours the sort of remix embodied in, the sort of mash-up embodied in fanworks and fan cultures, but when paired with the burden-shifting regime of the DMCA, ends up being very chilling because it moves the burden of proving non-infringement to the remix artists and away from proving infringement to the copyright owners.

    What that means is it harms those who already face financial or social barriers to speech, or having difficulty finding or paying for legal services. As an example, we at the OTW get e-mails and calls from men who say 'I got a takedown notice. I'm going to fight it. Help me.' We get calls and e-mails from women who say "'I'm afraid to post my 'My Little Pony' fiction because I'll get kicked off the internet.' Those are very different reactions to the same law based on the amount of privilege that they have going in. So I have some concrete suggestions for how to approach this. Remix creators need to know that they have a right to create without permission, and they don't just exist at the sufferance of copyright owners. And the law should expressly permit non-commercial remix through doctrines very much like what we have now—fair use, safe harbours. But—and these should be flexible—but not permit the sort of uncertainty we have now. For example, they shouldn't make remix illegal, as 1201 would, if not for the copyright office exemptions provided in 2010 and 2012. And we should seriously consider the possibility of a specific safe harbour for non-commercial remix as Canada has."

    You can view Betsy's statement at 2:24:10 of the morning video.

    OTW's Legal Committee works on behalf of fans and fandom to make sure our voices are represented in these important discussions, and we will continue to update you on these developments. As part of the Organization for Transformative Works, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, OTW Legal exists entirely on the generosity of our donors. If you appreciate their work, please consider donating today.

  • OTW files amicus brief in Capitol Records vs Vimeo

    By Janita Burgess on Thursday, 31 July 2014 - 5:11pm
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    OTW Spotlight on Legal

    Together with a number of allies, OTW's Legal Committee filed an amicus brief Wednesday in the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Capitol Records v. Vimeo. The case began when the record labels sued Vimeo, alleging that a number of fanworks hosted on Vimeo's site infringed the record companies' copyrights.

    At this stage of the case, the question before the court has to do with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)'s "safe harbor" provision, which protects content hosts like Vimeo (and the AO3) from copyright liability for material posted by their users. Specifically, the court is addressing what constitutes "red flag" knowledge of infringing material that would require the hosting service to remove the material even without receiving a takedown notice. In the brief, the OTW and its allies argue, among other things, that the standard set by the trial court would place unreasonably high demands on sites that host user generated content and would chill valuable speech protected by the fair use doctrine.

    One of our partners, the EFF, has posted about the filing, stating "The safe harbors are critical to the Internet's success as a forum for innovative art, discussion, and expression of all kinds, forestalling crippling litigation that would force most websites to close their doors. Yet the district court created new liability, contrary to the law and the intent of Congress."

    Our joint brief highlights the value of fanworks and remix creativity, and explains how increasing liability for content hosts would chill creativity and undermine the objectives of the DMCA's safe harbor provisions, saying:

    "The burden would be especially significant for the many small and nonprofit platforms that host remix videos. Such videos often include music from a variety of sources, but the staff that run these sites won’t necessarily be music specialists able to determine when a given track was recorded. Indeed, many remix videos include multiple tracks, making the task still more challenging. The effect of this significantly increased cost and burden, combined with the accompanying uncertainty about potential liability for pre-1972 audio, would almost inevitably be to chill investment in or development of innovative services that might include such content. That chill, in turn, will inevitably stifle the creative works that depend on those services to reach an audience."

    We will keep fans informed on future developments in this case.

  • Legal Advocacy (Wsparcie Prawne)

    By Ania Kopertowska on Friday, 25 July 2014 - 6:55pm
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    OTW (Organizacja na rzecz Twórczości Przeobrażonej) wierzy, że prace fanowskie należą do kreatywnej twórczości przeobrażonej - co zalicza je do tworów typu fair use. Dlatego też aktywnie chronimy fanów przed komercyjnym wyzyskiem i zarzutami prawnymi. Pomagamy w tej sposób wszystkim, nie tylko tym bezpośrednio związanym z OTW.

    Nasze działania obejmują:

    Cindy Lee Garcia v. Google, Inc.,YouTubeLLC, et al., i Nakoula Basseley Nakoula

    • Opinia Prawna, Garcia vs Google (PDF); wydana 14 kwietnia 2014 r.
    • OTW nawiązała współpracę z Floor64 (obsługującym TechDirt), aby wydać opinię proszącą sąd o ponowne rozważenie decyzji w świetle faktu, że - pomimo iż decyzja ta może mieć pozytywne rezultaty - to w tym konkretnym przypadku tworzy ona fatalne prawo, które skrzywdzi swobodę ekspresji w Internecie. Sprawa ta dotyczy zakresu i zastosowania klauzuli safe harbor w DMCA i ustępu 230 Ustawy Communications Decency, które wspólnie chronią hostów treści — takich jak Youtube, Archive of Our Own – AO3 (Nasze Własne Archiwum) i wielu innych — przed ponoszeniem odpowiedzialności za to, co publikują ich użytkownicy.

    Wysyłanie komentarzy do Komisji Europejskiej

    • Komentarze nadesłane przez OTW (PDF)
    • W lutym 2014 roku Komisja Pomocy Prawnej OTW zarejestrowała organizację w Rejestrze służącym przejrzystości Unii Europejskiej i złożyła wniosek w odpowiedzi na wezwanie Komisji Europejskiej o komentarze w związku z potencjalnymi reformami odnośnie ochrony praw autorskich w Unii Europejskiej.

    Stephanie Lenz, vs. Universal Music Corp., Universal Music Publishing, Inc., i Universal Music Publishing Group

    • Opinia Prawna, Lenz vs Universal (PDF); wydana 13 grudnia 2013 roku.
    • OTW nawiązała współpracę z Public Knowledge i z International Documentary Association, reprezentowaną przez Stanford Fair Use Project, aby wydać opinię prawną. Wyjaśnia się w niej, że bezpodstawne zarzuty naruszania prawa autorskiego krzywdzą prawo fair use (dozwolony użytek) i wolność słowa poprzez dokumentowanie uporczywego nadużycia ostrzeżeń DMCA. Statut wymaga aby nadawca ostrzeżenia o zamknięciu potwierdził pod karą krzywoprzysięstwa, że użytek nie jest “zautoryzowany przez prawo;” przekłamania są karane. W rezultacie dowodziliśmy, że prawo wymaga odpowiednich podpór aby stworzyć przekonanie o dobrej wierze względem tego, czy użytek jest dozwolony, przed wydaniem osrzeżenia z tytuły DMCA - powinno równiez karać tych, którzy wykazują podejście “najpierw strzelaj a potem pytaj,” jak zrobił to Universal w stosunku do videa pani Lenez.

    Wysłanie komentarzy do PTO/NTIA

    • Komentarze nadesłane przez OTW (PDF)
    • W październiku 2013 r. U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) i U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) poszukiwały publicznych komentarzy na temat problemów z polityką prawa autorskiego wraz ze strukturą prawną dla tworzenia remiksów. Nasi adwokaci użyli historii nadesłanych przez fanów aby wyjaśnić placówkom, które prawdopodobnie przedstawią nowe ustawy dotyczące prawa autorskiego, dlaczego jego zmiana powinna faworyzować wolność w tworzeniu twórczości przeobrażonej.

      Pracownica OTW Legal (Pomocy Prawnej OTW), Rebecca Tushnet, pojawiła się również na panelu dotyczącym Struktury Prawnej dla Remiksów, którego członków zaproszono, aby złożyli zeznania wyżej wymienionym organizacjom w związku z procesem dotyczącym publicznych komentarzy 12 grudnia 2013 r. (Zaczyna mówić w 33 minucie).

    Fox Broadcasting Company, Inc., Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., i Fox Television Holdings vs. Dish Network L.L.C. and Dish Network Corporation

    • Opinia Prawna, Dish v. ABC (PDF); wydana 24 stycznia 2014 r.
    • Opinia Prawna, Fox vs. DISH (PDF); wydana 24 stycznia 2013 r.
    • OTW, wspólnie z Electronic Frontier Foundation i Public Knowledge, nadesłała opinię prawną dowodzącą, że "Prawo autorskie nie zapewnia jego posiadaczowi, jak np. Fox, całkowitej kontroli nad użytkowaniem jego prac. Sąd Okręgowy postępował według jasnego precedensu i zasadnej polityki, kiedy dowiedział się, że użytkownicy Ad Hopper Disha nie naruszają praw na wyłączność Foxa; że Dish najprawdopodobniej nie poniesie odpowiedzialności za działanie swoich klientów; oraz, że Fox nie doznał żadnej nieodwracalnej szkody. Sąd ten powinien podtrzymać polecenie sądu okręgowego, ale również wyjaśnić, że pośrednie kopiowanie Dish jest dozwolonym użytkiem".

    Petycja do Copyright Office aby odnowić wyjątek od DMCA dla twórców niekomercyjnych remiksów, 2011 - 2012

    • Komentarz Electronic Frontier Foundation (PDF), przesłany 2 grudnia 2011 r. Członkowie OTW Rebecca Tushnet, Rachael Vaughn i Francesca Coppa pracowali razem z EFF, aby przesłać propozycję wznowienia i rozszerzenia wyjątku od DMCA dla Niekomercyjych Remiksów.
    • Komentarz Zwrotny w imieniu OTW (PDF), wspierający wystosowaną przez EFF propozycję wyjątku od DMCA dla viderów i innych autorów remiksów; przesłany 2 marca 2012 r. Pracownicy Pomocy Prawnej OTW Rachael Vaughn i Rebecca Tushnet współpracowały z członkami Pomocy Prawnej i viddingu, aby stworzyć Odpowiedź wspierającą propozycję EFF; EFF wysłało również własny Komentarz zwrotny (PDF) w celu wsparcia różnych wyjątków, włączając w to wyjątek dla niekomercyjnych remiksów.
    • Poprawiony Test Suite of Fair Use Video (Zestaw Testów dla Dozwolonego Użytku Video) zawiera porównanie między materiałem filmowym zebranym dzięki ripom z DVD a screen capture.
    • Francesca Coppa, Rebecca Tushnet i Tisha Turk zeznają przed Biblioteką Kongresu Stanów Zjednoczonych, 4 Czerwca 2012; Tisha Turk przedstawia dowody rzeczowe w naszej pierwszej Image Gallery (Galerii Obrazów) demonstrujące różnicę w jakości pomiądzy źródłami DVD-ripped i screen captured.
    • Odpowiedź na dowody rzeczowe DVD CCA wspierające screencapture, wysłana 2 sierpnia 2012 r.; zobacz posiadany przez OTW drugi zestaw dowodów rzeczowych w naszej drugiej Galerii Obrazów.

    Ryan Hart vs. Electronic Arts, Inc.

    • Opinia Prawna, Ryan Hart vs. Electronic Arts, Inc.; wydana 23 maja 2012 r.
    • OTW wysłała opinię prawną razem z Digital Media Law Project, International Documentary Association i dziesięcioma profesorami prawa, dowodzącą, że użycie przez EA danych/opisów graczy footballu amerykańskiego, będących studentami, w grach jest objęte Pierwszą Poprawką. EA i społeczeństwo są bardzo zainteresowani Pierwszą Poprawką jeśli chodzi o możliwość zawierania faktycznych informacji - takich, jak wzrost graczy, ich waga, numer koszulki oraz drużyna - w pracach twórczych.

    Salinger vs. Colting

    Petycja do Copyright Office w kwestii wyjątku od DMCA dla twórców niekomercyjnych remiksów, 2008- 2009

    EFF złożyła podanie o wyjątek od DMCA do Biblioteki Kongresu Stanów Zjednoczonych. Wyjątek ten pozwalałby na traktowanie użycia klipów z DVD w niekomercyjnych remiksach video, takich jak fanvids, jako dozwolonego użytkowania. OTW (oraz wielu vidderów) brało udział w przygotowaniu podania.

    OTW przesłała komentarz zwrotny wspierający wyjątek od DMCA zaproponowany przez EFF dotyczący vidderów i innych twórców remiksów.

    22 czerwca Copyright Office zażadało dodatkowych informacji od OTW oraz innych grup, które zeznawały podczas Przesłuchań DMCA mających zapobiec obejściu prawa, odbywających się 6-8 maja. (Przesłuchania te miały na celu rozważyć zeznanie na rzecz i przeciw wyjątkom od DMCA dla wychowawców z pominięciem profesorów filmoznawstwa (wliczając w to nauczycieli K-12), twórców filmów dokumentalnych oraz vidderów i innych niekomercyjnych twórców remiksów.) Pytania uzupełniające dotyczyły oprogramowania potrzebnego do DVD i screen capture.

    The Copyright Office rozesłało 22 sierpnia 2009 r. drugi zestaw pytań uzupełniających. OTW, we współpracy z Electronic Frontier Foundation, szeregiem stowarzyszeń (ALA, AALL, ARL, ACRL), profesorami mediów i filmoznawstwa oraz twórcami filmów dokumentalnych i ich organizacjami, stworzyło wspólną odpowedź. Byliśmy również, razem z EFF, współautorami osobnej odpowiedzi, by zadresować w szczególności potrzeby vidderów i innych twórców remiksów; wgląd poniżej.

  • OTW Legal at San Diego Comic-Con

    By Claudia Rebaza on Saturday, 19 July 2014 - 4:16pm
    Message type:

    Banner by Erin of a spotlight on an OTW logo with the words 'Spotlight on Legal Issues'

    San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) the world-famous, multi-fandom convention is about to kick off and the OTW will be there!

    The Organization for Transformative Works, together with deviantART, will be hosting a panel titled “Comic-Con How-To: Fans, Love, and the Law” on Saturday, 26 July. The speakers will be Betsy Rosenblatt and Heidi Tandy from OTW Legal, and Josh Wattles from deviantART. They’ll be discussing the legal issues surrounding fanworks, so bring your questions about fair use, cease and desist letters, and any other legal issues that have come up in your fannish activities.

    The panel will take place in Room 2 from 3:30-4:30.

    For those interested in the Comic-Con schedule description:

    "Fan art, fanfic, and fan video are delightful passions and like all such things, if they go too far, someone might get angry. DeviantART and the Organization for Transformative Works, together holding the largest collection of fanworks in the universe based on any intellectual property within any media, will bring out their lawyers to explain how you can go to sleep at night, dream the dream of fans, and never have to hide under the bed. “Lawyer Up” with Betsy Rosenblatt and Heidi Tandy from OTW Legal and Josh Wattles from deviantART."

    For fans not at SDCC this year, the OTW Legal Committee is always open to your questions, so feel free to contact them.

  • The censorship problems faced by anime and manga fans

    By Claudia Rebaza on Friday, 11 July 2014 - 4:09pm
    Message type:

    Banner by Erin of a spotlight on an OTW logo with the words 'Spotlight on Legal Issues'

    The following post was written by Fanhackers chair Nele Noppe.

    For fans of manga, anime, and other Japanese media, pointing and laughing at inaccurate mass media portrayals of Japanese pop culture has been something of a sport for decades. A few weeks ago, however, things took a slightly more serious turn.

    The ball got rolling when early in June, the Japanese House of Representatives approved a long-overdue law banning the possession of child pornography. Up to now, creating and distributing child pornography was as forbidden in Japan as anywhere else, but “simple possession” had not yet been criminalized. The new law applies only to “real” child pornography and leaves alone completely fictional depictions of underage characters in sexual situations in manga, anime and other media. This exception came about after vocal protests from manga publishers, creators, fans and free speech rights activists. The story was widely reported in non-Japanese media. However, most of these reports focused on handwringing about Japan's “failure” to clamp down on sexually explicit manga. Most shared was a CNN article filled with outrage about how the new law supposedly permits Japanese bookstores to fill their shelves with shocking cartoon porn about children.

    As the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) pointed out in a scathing reaction post, CNN’s report was highly misleading and uninformed, misrepresenting manga in general as pornographic and painting the “freedom of speech" arguments against the new law as no more than the lobbying of a large industry bent on making profit from icky virtual child pornography. The comments section of the CNN article quickly filled with anime and manga fans fact-checking the text and refuting its arguments.

    Their support, and that of the CBLDF, was of some small comfort to Japanese creators and activists who were aghast at their portrayal in Western media. Simple complaining about "Japanese cartoon porn" is, by now, no more than sadly familiar. Sensation-hungry Western news outlets have been creating miniature moral panics out of that ever since they realized that in Japan, comics and animation are media that are used to express not just "kiddy stuff" but every kind of content, including pornography.

    This uproar went further in the sense that it represented manga creators and free speech activists as money-grubbing child pornographers. CNN and other news sources seemed unaware that in Japan, unlike in the United States, laws that restrict depictions of sexuality in media actually are a very serious freedom of speech issue, and have been so since immediately after WWII. Japanese creators and publishers of sexually explicit material who yell about free speech rights are not just demanding the right to do whatever they like; they are continuing half a century of protests against arbitrary and outdated censorship laws.

    A look at Japanese legal history

    Japanese authorities have used and continue to use laws against “obscenity” to attempt to control what gets published in the country. Before and during WWII, such laws were among several used to suppress any speech that did not support Japanese militarism. After the war, freedom of speech was guaranteed in Japan’s new constitution, but still restricted by only one remaining bit of pre-war legislation: Article 175 of the Criminal Code of Japan, which prohibits the sale or distribution of materials that contain “obscenity” (waisetsu).

    Other countries at the time also attempted to legally curtail “obscene” media, of course, but Japan’s anti-obscenity law turned out to have bigger teeth than many others. For instance, in the 1950s and 1960s, the US, Britain, and Japan all held separate trials about obscenity contained in the D.H. Lawrence novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover. In the US and Britain, the trials ended in acquittals, greatly reducing the subsequent relevancy of obscenity laws for media in those countries. In Japan, however, Lady Chatterly was judged obscene. The victory of the prosecution in this first postwar Japanese “obscenity” trial was an important precedent, because it confirmed that obscenity laws were a stick that authorities could beat publishers and authors with whenever they were displeased with the direction Japan’s creative sector was going in. Lady Chatterley was the first in a series of protracted and much-publicized “obscenity” trials that covered many different media, from books to film to photographs to manga. (See Cather for in-depth analysis of censorship in Japan.)

    Far from being discouraged, the Japanese media industry made dodging of the censors into an art form. Manga creators, for instance, got very creative in figuring out ways to depict naked bodies and sex without showing pubic hair (long a no-no) or genitalia. Article 175 and related laws and local ordinances were applied so rarely and so inconsistently that the creators and publishers who did end up getting charged were usually very surprised to be singled out. Still, many of the obscenity trials turned into platforms for broad swathes of Japan’s literary world and media industry to try and wrestle back their right to publish freely from the state. Many feel that bureaucrats and police have no business deciding what people are allowed to read in order to protect a vague and constantly-shifting idea of "public morality".

    No matter how rarely used, laws against obscenity, and (especially since the 1990s) a mushrooming multitude of local ordinances against “harmful” media, do influence what can get published, what can be on library shelves, and what people can write and draw. The chilling effect of even potential legal troubles was - and still is - considerable for authors and publishers. Only weeks ago, a new manga by an assistant mangaka working on the popular series Attack on Titan was cancelled because its publisher feared that it might run afoul of a local ordinance in Tokyo aimed at curtailing the spread of “unhealthy publications”.

    The fandom effect

    Censors’ attention turned to manga and fan culture after 1989, when a serial killer turned out to possess large amounts of sexually explicit anime and be a participant in Comiket, Japan’s largest convention for fan manga (doujinshi). This led Japanese media to engage in what fans called "otaku bashing".

    Although stigmatization of fans as socially maladjusted and possibly dangerous loners has lessened much since then, its effects are still felt. The most recent high-profile “obscenity” trial, a five-year legal battle that ended in 2007 with a guilty verdict from the Supreme Court of Japan, was about a manga (more on that trial). Commentators and scholars argue that manga has become a target for censorship, at least in part, because anime, manga, and Japanese fan culture in general have been gaining much attention and acclaim overseas. The Japanese government has been trying to turn that attention into money with various “Cool Japan” campaigns aimed at promoting Japanese media products and tourism to Japan.

    Polemics in foreign media about the less photogenic parts of Japanese pop culture, like adult manga, are then unwelcome indeed. Some warn that with the Tokyo Olympics coming up in 2020, local and national authorities in Japan may get even more sensitive to foreign handwringing about “Japanese cartoon porn”. However valid that fear may or may not be, last month’s new flap about manga and anime highlights how uninformed many media outlets still are about Japan, and how little any articles about non-English fandoms in the mass media can be trusted. Shallow and alarmist reporting by major and (somewhat) respected news sources like the BBC and CNN reinforces orientalist stereotypes about Japan and its people being somehow lacking in sexual morals. Clearly, it also does great harm to the cause of activists who are fighting to keep bureaucrats and police from gaining tools to control what can be published by the Japanese media, professional and amateur.

    Last month’s incident also highlights the growing importance of free speech rights to fan communities. Laws against “obscenity” or so-called “virtual child pornography” are still low on the radar of many English-speaking fans, especially compared to copyright woes. However, the example of Japan shows that these laws can and do have a very direct impact on what fans can make and distribute.

    Past and recent cases

    In Japan, the extremely popular fan-made manga called doujinshi have to follow the law just as much as commercially published manga. Fans are free to draw what they like in private, but if they want to distribute their fanworks in any way, they have to apply censor bars or mosaics to anything that might possibly catch the attention of censors. Just like with professional manga, the law is applied only rarely and inconsistently, but anti-obscenity laws have still led to legal troubles for individual fans and disruptions of fan activities and fannish infrastructure.

    For instance, in the midst of a “harmful books” polemic that followed the arrest of the “otaku” serial killer in 1989, “police confiscated thousands of doujinshi from merchants in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward and arrested several shop owners” (Japan Times). In 1991, doujinshi convention Comiket was forced to move out of its convention site Makuhari Messe because police had received complaints about the fanworks being distributed there (Comiket welcomed over two hundred thousand visitors around that time and hosted 11,000 fanwork creators). Doujinshi conventions began to enforce anti-obscenity measures and check every fanwork on sale to make sure it followed guidelines about obscuring genitals and warning buyers of sexual content on the covers. Still, in 1994 and on several other occasions, further conventions had to be cancelled or moved because of complaints about possible "harmful material" being distributed.

    “Obscenity” issues were shown to be connected with copyright problems in 1999 when a a female creator of sexually explicit doujinshi for the popular children's game and anime series Pokemon was arrested for copyright infringement, apparently after someone complained about the explicit material to copyright holder Nintendo. In 2007, a doujinshi creator was arrested and eventually fined because his self-censorship of his works was not sufficient. This lead doujinshi conventions (and online doujinshi shop DLsite) to tighten enforcement of censorship regulations, and the Japan Doujinshi Printing Group to issue self-censorship guidelines for all fans who wanted to have their doujinshi printed by its member printing companies. Later in 2007, a building which had been used by several doujinshi conventions was closed to conventions that feature sexually explicit doujinshi. In 2009, the manager of a doujinshi shop shop was arrested on suspicion of distributing obscene material (NSFW link). Today, various links in the creation and distribution chain of doujinshi - doujinshi printers, conventions, and doujin shops - continue to impress upon fans the importance of “self-regulation" (jishu kisei, in practice “self-censorship") when distributing fanworks.

    Unsurprisingly, censorship issues are at least as important as copyright issues for Japanese fans. Around 2010, for instance, Japanese fan communities were actively involved in a battle to defeat a local ordinance in Tokyo that attempted to forbid the distribution of material containing sexual depictions of ill-defined “nonexistent youths” (more in this TWC article).

    Worldwide effects

    Japanese laws are not the only ones causing problems for fans. Outside Japan, several fans have gotten in serious trouble because the manga they love were considered “child pornography” by authorities. The CBLDF has been particularly active in chronicling these cases and sometimes providing legal support to fans. In 2010, for instance, a U.S. manga fan was sentenced to jail because manga in his collection contained “drawings of children being sexually abused". Also in 2010, another U.S. manga fan was arrested at the Canadian border for similar reasons, at least the second time this sort of arrest happened in Canada. Several more fans have reported online that they were questioned at the Canadian border because they were carrying manga. In 2012, there was a small victory as Swedish manga translator Simon Lundström was cleared of child pornography charges brought on by several manga on his computer.

    This string of worldwide incidents surrounding manga, and the uproar in Western media about Japan’s “refusal” to criminalize “virtual child pornography”, shines a light on how little attention most countries outside Japan have paid to the question of whether it makes sense to extend anti-child pornography laws to depictions of entirely fictional children. Some countries, like Australia and Canada, do extend their definitions of “child pornography” to media that contain absolutely no real children, only fictional characters. In the US, this cannot be prosecuted as child pornography, but it can be prosecuted under general obscenity laws if it meets the standard for obscenity (as judged by community standards, patently offensive sexually explicit depictions that lack literary, artistic, political, or scientific value).

    However, these laws mostly passed with very little public consultation or debate (see McLelland). There was often no serious inquiry into the question of whether “virtual child pornography” is actually harmful to anyone, and why it should be banned while fictional depictions of other crimes are fine and dandy. Objections about a lack of scientific evidence to link “virtual child pornography” to real harm, and objections about potential censorship, are easily brushed aside in the midst of moral panics about “protecting children”. According to Kotaro Ogino of the Japanese free speech organization Uguisu Ribbon Campaign, this problem is occurring in Japan as well, leading to the constant battles about potential criminalization of “virtual child pornography” that are taking place there today (personal communication).

    Also problematic is that, unlike in Japan, many citizens of these countries are not aware it may be illegal for them to make fictional depictions of sexual situations involving minors. Many fandoms such as Harry Potter or Attack on Titan have thriving shipping communities around underage characters. In theory, that puts some fan creators in the crosshairs of anti-child pornography laws. The fact that laws against “virtual child pornography” are rarely or inconsistently enforced does not mean they are harmless. The outcome of the constant fight that Japanese fans, mangaka, and publishers are waging against censorship laws may turn out to be very relevant for non-Japanese fans as well.

    For more information

    More news and information about censorship problems that impact Japanese and non-Japanese fans of anime and manga can be found on the CBLDF website, the blog of translator Dan Kanemitsu, Anime News Network, and in the articles tagged with “censorship” in the OTW’s fan studies bibliography.

  • Better Understanding Fair Use

    By Claudia Rebaza on Friday, 20 June 2014 - 3:59pm
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    Banner by Erin of a spotlight on an OTW logo with the words 'Spotlight on Legal Issues'

    Recently, PlagiarismToday attempted to explain “5 Copyright Terms” that are, they felt, being used incorrectly. One of those terms was “Fair Use” - but unfortunately, their attempted explanation fell far short of correct.

    They claim that Fair Use is “infringement of a work where the court has determined that the infringer is not liable”.

    That’s not true. Fair Use is a lawful use of copyright. (See Lenz v. Universal Music Corp, 572 F. Supp. 2d 1150 (N.D. Ca. 2008)). As the US Copyright Office says, Fair Use is a “limitation” on the rights of the owner of copyright, and thus others who have not been authorized by the owner can reproduce the work; courts have held that this reproduction right includes the right to create transformative works.

    While, as the Copyright Office says, the “distinction between what is fair use and what is infringement in a particular case will not always be clear or easily defined...” US courts have ruled in numerous cases on what those parameters are. The entire concept of precedent in US law means that “principles established in earlier cases” can be used to decide new cases with similar facts and issues. You don’t have to be the Supreme Court to see that Fair Use can apply in numerous situations.

    PlagiarismToday misleadingly suggests that instead of saying something is Fair Use, creators should avoid saying anything, or use the terms “attributed” or “noncommercial” - even though those don’t determine whether something is Fair Use. A work that’s attributed or noncommercial can still infringe on another’s copyright, and an unattributed and commercial use can be fair. The question isn't attribution - it's whether permission is required and if so, obtained. Fair Use exists where permission isn't necessary, so whether you ask for it or not is irrelevant. This isn't to say that creators shouldn't identify their works as attributed or noncommercial--only that those notes won't make a use fair, and skipping them won't make a use infringing.

    Noting that a work is, or even might be, Fair Use also doesn’t really have an impact on a court’s determining whether it is or isn’t. But that isn't the point, because a court isn't the only audience for a work. The internet isn’t a court of law; it is a court of public opinion. Including an author’s note or artist’s comment that a fic or painting or vid or film is Fair Use lets other people know what Fair Use is. As the US Copyright Office says, it can happen where “the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.”

    Sounds like fannish creativity, doesn’t it?

    As we say in the OTW FAQ: Fair use is the right to make some use of copyrighted material without getting permission or paying. It is a basic limit on copyright law that protects free expression. "Fair use" is an American phrase, although all copyright laws have some limits that keep copyright from being private censorship.

    Fair use favors uses that (1) are noncommercial and not sold for a profit; (2) are transformative, adding new meaning and messages to the original; (3) are limited, not copying the entirety of the original; and (4) do not substitute for the original work. None of these factors is absolutely necessary for fair use, but they all help, and we believe that fanworks like those available through the AO3 easily qualify as fair uses based on all these factors.

  • Sherlock Free after Appeal!

    By Claudia Rebaza on Wednesday, 18 June 2014 - 5:50pm
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    Banner by Erin of a spotlight on an OTW logo with the words 'Spotlight on Legal Issues'

    A few months ago, OTW's Legal Committee advised fans of some promising results in a case involving copyright on Sherlock Holmes stories: a U.S. Federal District Court had held that because copyright had expired on all but ten of the stories in Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes canon, all elements of the Holmes canon that were first introduced before 1923 -- including the characters of Holmes and Watson as they existed pre-1923 -- were in the public domain. After that post, The Conan Doyle Estate, Ltd. (or "CDE"), appealed the decision.

    Now, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in the case, and the appeals result is, if anything, even more favorable than the earlier opinion by the District Court. (There is still a fairly remote possibility that the CDE will attempt to take the case to the Supreme Court, although it is unlikely that the Supreme Court would have any interest in taking the case.) The upshot is that, as a matter of copyright law, everything that originated in the first 50 stories and novels of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes Canon is entirely copyright-free. Only "original elements" from Conan Doyle's last 10 stories remain protected in the U.S. through 2022. (Everywhere else in the world, copyright has expired in those stories, as well.) This means that since nearly everything we know about the characters of Holmes and Watson was set forth in the first 50 stories, for practical purposes, Conan Doyle's Holmes and Watson are now "fair game" for creators.

    The court explicitly recognized that extended copyright protection would chill creativity. As the judgment states:

    "[E]xtending copyright protection is a two-edged sword from the standpoint of inducing creativity, as it would reduce the incentive of subsequent authors to create derivative works (such as new versions of popular fictional characters like Holmes and Watson) by shrinking the public domain...With the net effect on creativity of extending the copyright protection of literary characters to the extraordinary lengths urged by the estate so uncertain, and no legal grounds suggested for extending copyright protection beyond the limits fixed by Congress, the estate’s appeal borders on the quixotic.

    The spectre of perpetual, or at least nearly perpetual, copyright (perpetual copyright would violate the copyright clause of the Constitution, Art. I, § 8, cl. 8, which authorizes copyright protection only for “limited Times”) looms, once one realizes that the Doyle estate is seeking 135 years (1887–2022) of copyright protection for the character of Sherlock Holmes as depicted in the first Sherlock Holmes story."

    What does this ruling mean for fans? First, since it makes clear that the original-recipe Holmes and Watson are in the public domain, it means that fans of the original Conan Doyle Canon will seldom have to wonder whether their Doyle Canon fanworks are fair use. Fair use remains important for Holmes fans, however, since U.S. copyright still protects not only the last 10 Conan Doyle stories, but also the sources for many Holmes fandoms, such as the Warner Brothers Holmes, Elementary, and BBC Sherlock. For these fans, fair use principles still protect their right to create fanworks.

    The ruling will also make it more difficult for the CDE to restrict commercial adaptations of the canon, something that's good for all fans of Holmes and Watson.

    More importantly, however, this case represents a court's acknowledgement of something that the OTW has been saying for a long time: that the law should encourage creation of works that build on preexisting works.

    OTW Legal Chair Betsy Rosenblatt consulted on this case, and we extend our congratulations to her and to the legal team for the plaintiffs. As we stated after the initial judgment: "The case also has broader implications for U.S. copyright in serialized works. Many now-famous characters were introduced in series that started in the early 20th century, but continued for decades or more after then. This ruling establishes the principle that all of those characters have the public domain more quickly than some had originally thought." So it's possible that many more fandoms will be celebrating the public domain status of their canon in the future.

  • USPTO/NTIA multi-stakeholder forum on the DMCA

    By Claudia Rebaza on Friday, 23 May 2014 - 3:34pm
    Message type:

    Banner by Erin of a spotlight on an OTW logo with the words 'Spotlight on Legal Issues'

    OTW's Legal Committee made another appearance at a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office event, this one at a multistakeholder forum in Berkeley, California on May 8. Legal Chair Betsy Rosenblatt spoke about protecting transformative creators, whose voices might easily be lost or ignored in a discussion focusing on anti-piracy. Stating that small entities have unique concerns regarding standard processes, especially when they are volunteer-run such as the OTW, Betsy also mentioned the importance of pseudonymity. Her segment begins at 5:12 in the Part 2 video. (No transcript available). Other participants included copyright stalwarts like the RIAA, MPAA, and Copyright Alliance; internet freedom and free expression advocates like the EFF and New Media Rights; and content hosts ranging in size from Google on the large side to DeviantART on the small side.

    The meeting was designed to get participants’ views about benefits, drawbacks, and strategies for standardizing the DMCA notice-and-takedown procedure. The USPTO/NTIA representatives emphasized that this is not a lawmaking endeavor (nor could it be, since those bodies have no influence on copyright legislation), but rather an attempt to make current laws operate better than they currently do.

    The meeting resulted in the formation of a working group. The OTW has a seat on that working group, and will continue to voice the interests of transformative creators and small service providers throughout the process. It's not yet clear what the result of the process will be. Possibilities may include a set of “best practices”; a set of plug & play tools for rights-claimants and ISPs to use and adopt as they wish; or educational tools.

    Because the OTW will be an official part of the working group process, this is an opportunity for OTW members' voices to be heard. What would you like to see become a more standard part of the notice-and-takedown procedure? What would you want the procedure avoid? Let us know!

  • OTW Legal Files Amicus Brief in Garcia v. Google

    By Claudia Rebaza on Sunday, 20 April 2014 - 5:41pm
    Message type:

    Banner by Erin of a spotlight on an OTW logo with the words 'Spotlight on Legal Issues'

    In our continuing effort to protect against online censorship that would harm fans, last week, the OTW filed an amicus brief in the case of Garcia v. Google. The case involves the scope and application of the safe harbor provisions of the DMCA and section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which together prevent content hosts -- like YouTube, the AO3, and many others -- from being liable for what their users post.

    This case is partly a classic example of "bad facts make bad law," since the plaintiff -- an actress tricked into taking part in the film Innocence of Muslims -- has good reason to want the film taken down. But in response to her request, the court not only applied a tortured interpretation of copyright law (an issue addressed in many other briefs filed with the court at the same time), but also ignored important anti-censorship "safe harbor" laws.

    The court forced Google to not only to take the film down, but also to ensure that it is never re-posted. In so ruling, the court ignored the provisions that protect content hosts from having to "police" what their users post. These safe harbors exist to prevent online censorship, and they are important to fans. Just about every site that hosts fan content depends on them. Just imagine if every allegedly infringing or defamatory fanwork led to a lawsuit, or if fan sites were required to monitor their archives to make sure no one ever posted objectionable material: many of the sites fans rely on wouldn't be able to afford to operate. That's the sort of thing these laws are designed to prevent.

    For that reason, the OTW, along with Floor64 (the operator of TechDirt), filed a brief asking the court to reconsider its decision with an eye to the fact that although the decision may create a good factual result in this particular case, it makes terrible law that will harm freedom of expression on the Internet. As Techdirt explained in its post about the brief, "There is a reason why Congress was so intent on providing safe harbors, recognizing the incentives for broad censorship when you blame service providers for the actions of their users. Judge Kozinski appears to have ignored nearly all of Congress' intent in his ruling, and we're hopeful that (among the many other reasons why his ruling should be reviewed), the rest of the 9th Circuit will recognize that the original ruling has serious First Amendment implications, beyond just the basic copyright questions."

    For those interested in reading more, you can find this latest brief on our Legal Advocacy page along with past filings.

  • حملة شهر أبريل للعضوية: إلقاء الضوء على اللجنة القانونية (Legal)

    By Priscilla Del Cima on Sunday, 6 April 2014 - 6:09pm
    Message type:


    المُرتكزات - حملة مُنظمة الأعمال التحويلية للعضوية - ٣-٩ أبريل

    إذا كُنت قد شعرت بالحزن جراء إشعار إزالة غير عادل، و تعرف أن مُلاك حقوق النشر و التأليف و حاملي العلامة التُجارية و غيرهم من أصحاب الحقوق لا يتعاملون بطريقة حسنة دائماً، أو يعترفون بشرعية و قيمة نشاط المُعجبين. لهذا السبب فإن فريق المرافعة القانونية لدي مُنظمة الأعمال التحويلية (OTW) مُستعد و مُتأهب للدفاع عن الفاندوم و أهمية قانون الإستعمال العادل و الأعمال التحويلية.

    في الوقت الغير مُستنفذ في مُساعدة المُعجبين في معاركهم ضد إنتحال و إستغلال الشركات، أوامر التوقف و الكف (Cease & Desist orders)، و الإزالات المزعجة، فإن الفريق القانوني يعمل في نطاق أوسع. عندما تنظر الحكومات في قضايا الإستعمال العادل و حقوق النشر و التأليف، فاللجنة القانونية لدي OTW متواجدة، مدافعةً عن حقوق المُعجبين و إبداعهم.

    هذا هو تسلسل زمني لعمل فريق المرافعة القانونية الأخير في الحجة لحماية الأعمال التحويلية (مثل أعمال المُعجبين!) وفقاً لقانون حقوق النشر و التأليف:

    • في عام ٢٠١٣، قامت اللجنة القانونية بتقديم مذكرات صديق المحكمة (amicus briefs) في Fox v. DISH و Dish v. ABC بحجة أن مُلاك حقوق النشر و التأليف لا يملكون السيطرة الكاملة على كيفية إستخدام أعمالهم، و هي مسألة مهمة لنا بالتأكيد كمُعجبين و كمُبدعين و مُستهلكين لأعمال المُعجبين.
    • في عام ٢٠١٣ أيضاً، قامت اللجنة القانونية بتقديم مذكرات صديق المحكمة في Lenz v. Universal وجود مزاعم لا أساس لها من الصحة عن إنتهاك حقوق النشر و التأليف تضر مبدأ الإستعمال العادل. هذه المسألة تُعتبر مهمة خاصةً في التعامُل مع إساءة إشعارات DMCA من قبل مُلاك حقوق النشر و التأليف.
    • في شهر ديسمبر ٢٠١٣، قامت ريبيكا توشنت العاملة OTW بالإدلاء بشهادتها أمام مكتب براءة الإختراع و العلامات التجارية الأمريكي و الإدارة الوطنية الأمريكية للإتصالات و المعلومات للدفاع عن حق الإستعمال العادل في الأعمال التحويلية.
    • في شهر فبراير ٢٠١٤، اللجنة القانونية قامت بتقديم تعليقات للمُفوضية الأوروبية بخصوص إمكانية إصلاح حقوق النشر و التأليف لدي الإتحاد الأوروبي، في محاولة لضمان أن النتيجة النهائية ستكون محترمة للأعمال التحويلية.

    بالإضافة إلى ذلك، المُحامون المشغولون للجنة المرافعة القانونية يتعقبون الأحداث الجارية المؤثرة على الفاندوم ككل — الحركات و قضايا التي من المُمكن أن تؤثر على حقوقك لإنشاء و الوصول لأعمال المُعجبين. لقد قاموا بكتابة مُشاركات عن القانون الكندي، مُحادثات الشراكة عبر المُحيط الهادئ، القانون الصيني حيث أنه يتعلق بالأعمال التحويلية، و غيرها، عاملةً على مُساعدتنا للبقاء على إطلاع على التطورات التي قد تؤثر على الفاندوم.

    يسعى فريق اللجنة القانونية في OTW، الذي يتكون بالكامل من المتطوعين، لمُساعدة الفاندوم لفهم القوانين المؤثرة علينا، و أيضاً لمُساعدة القانون في إحترام ما نقوم به. و بكل تأكيد، الفريق يلعب دور مُهم في الإستشارات القانونية لصالح OTW نفسها، مُساعدين كل لجاننا و مشاريعنا بتوفير النصيحة و العون: هم أساسيون للحفاظ على OTW قائمة و مُستمرة.

    من فضلك تبرع لتُساعدنا للحفاظ على إستمرار العمل الجيد للجنة القانونية!



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