Happy Public Domain Day Everyone! This is a momentous occasion as this is the first year since the 1978 Copyright expansion that the US has actually had one of these. Today, the first works from 1923 will enter the public domain in the US and it is a bittersweet moment for everyone who cares about the progress of art and science. Sweet for the wonderful works that people will be able to distribute freely without risk of being sued or jailed for doing so. Bitter for all the works that have been lost because the owner of the copyright didn’t care about preservation or because the copyright owner cannot be found.Continue reading
It seems like it has been years since video games have been blamed for violence and tragedies. Since the 90s, video games had been under fire for causing youth violence. This swelling of outrage became a tumult after Columbine and continued to rise each time a major shooting involving a youth happened after that. Laws had been passed trying to ban the sale of violent games to minors and each of those laws had been struck down by the courts, ending with the US Supreme Court ruling that video games are protected speech and can’t be regulated in such a manner.
There were plenty of good things to come from all this commotion though. The ESRB rating system was a direct result of this outrage and has been used effectively for years by console manufacturers to give parents control over what games their children can play. It resulted in video game retailers denying the sale of M rated games to minors nearly 90% of the time, even while movie theaters and movie retailers retained a terrible track record for R rated movies.
After the Supreme Court weighed in on the issue, it had seemed that things were pretty settled. Only the very fringes of would blame games after a tragedy since then. That is until the Parkland, Florida shooting. It isn’t clear what made this particular tragedy different from those that came before it, but it sparked an outcry of blame against violent movies and games. Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin blames violence in movies and games for school shootings. Kentucky suffered its own school shooting in January. In Rhode Island, Representative Nardolillo plans to introduce a bill to tax M rated games an additional 10% to fund mental health programs in schools. Even President Donald Trump called out violence in games and movies calling for a “rating system for that.” Finally, NewsOK is reporting that Representatives Mullin and Russell have both put the blame on video games for the recent tragedies. There is a lot to unpack in this but let’s give it a try. Continue reading
January 1st of each year is what is colloquially referred to as Public Domain Day. It is the day that works enter the public domain after their copyright terms have expired. At least in most countries outside the US. The US has gone decades without anything entering the public domain, but thankfully, 2018 will be the last year this is so. Unless Congress succumbs to the whims of the Motion Picture Industry and extends copyright again.
Every year, the Duke Law School publishes a report about the state of the public domain on January 1st and this year is no exception. This is what Duke had to say about the US.
What is entering the public domain in the United States? Not a single published work. Once again, no published works are entering our public domain this year.2 (Happily, works published in 1923 will finally begin to enter our public domain next year.) The only works that are clearly in the US public domain now are those published before 1923. But what about works published after that date? Does that mean that they’re still under copyright? Well, maybe. Citizens of the United States have to live with a frustrating lack of clarity about what older works they can use. Did the author comply with registration or renewal requirements when those were mandatory?3 The records are fragmentary and confused, the copyright holders hard to find. Perhaps some post-1923 works by the authors above are in the public domain. Perhaps they are still copyrighted. We have to live in a fog of uncertainty, uncertainty that benefits no one. By contrast, in Canada and the EU, the public will know on January 1 that all works by these authors are in the public domain.
One of President Trump’s promises leading up to taking his oath of office was to put “America First”. By this, he means rewarding American companies that keep or bring back manufacturing to the US, by providing tax incentives and other benefits, and punishing non-compliant companies, by imposing heavy tariffs on imported goods. While most of his focus has been on auto manufacturers so far, that won’t be the end of his efforts.
One potential target of Trump’s wrath will be the video game industry. All three of the major console companies manufacture their consoles in Asia, predominantly China. The same is true for most computers and computer components, as well as mobile phones and tablets. Not even your TV and Blu-ray player is safe from these potential tariffs. Continue reading
For all of us in the United States, January 1st is just New Year’s day. The day the calendar ticks another year. But for people who live outside the US in Canada, Europe and elsewhere, January 1st means something else entirely. It means today is the day that new works enter the Public Domain. This is the day that more of our culture becomes free to distribute, free to build upon , and free to do whatever we want with. Yet, because of terrible copyright laws in the US, we miss out on all this.
Prior to 1978, copyrights lasted only 28 years, with the option to renew them a single time for an additional 28 years. Then in 1978, Congress, under the guidance of companies such as Disney, extended copyrights to last the life of the author plus 50 years. That is what the rest of the world has today. But in 1998, Congress once again, at the bidding of companies like Disney, extend copyrights to last life plus 70 years for human authors and 95 years for corporate owned copyrights. This pushed the US out of line with much of the world and works in the US won’t start entering the Public Domain until 2019. Continue reading
Originally published on GamePolitics.
On January 1st of every year under US Copyright Law, creative and scientific works that have reached the end of their copyright terms go into the public domain. These works are then open for use and distribution by the public without restriction. Sadly, the 1976 copyright term extension passed by Congress have pushed pretty much all copyrighted works out of the public domain. Continue reading
Since when is fair use something we must beg for on a triennial basis? I guess the answer is since 1998 when the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was signed into law. This law not only extended copyright terms by an additional 20 years, it created a section of law that basically told the public that we do not own the media and computing devices we buy. No, the companies that produced that media and those computing devices own it as long as those companies put DRM on the products to lock out uses they don’t approve of. Continue reading
Representative Steve Russell is back with his third Waste Watch report, which now looks to be coming out on a quarterly basis. In this report, Rep. Russell takes aim at a National Endowment for the Humanities study on toxicity in online video game communities and a NEH grant to continue funding a game based on Thoreau’s book Walden, a game that Senator Coburn panned in his 2012 Wastebook report. Continue reading
For a number of years, Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn had published an annual Waste Book, highlighting what he considered wasteful spending by the federal government. In almost every edition of that report, Senator Coburn highlighted at least one government agency or government program that was spending money on something video game related. Whether the money was spent on game related research or on funding game development, he would comment on how he felt it was not something on which the government should be spending money. Last year, Senator Coburn retired from the US Senate. With that, he published his last Waste Book report.
Taking up the mantle of highlighting wasteful federal spending, Freshman US Representative Steve Russell of Oklahoma has published his first Waste Watch report. While not nearly as extensive as Coburn’s reports had been, he does point at one spending program that relates to games.
Russell points to a National Science Foundation program that has spent nearly $700,000 on helping people make better machinima.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) spent nearly $700,000 researching ways to help amateur moviemakers produce “cinematic movies created by manipulating avatars in 3D computer game worlds.”
The researchers believe this form of amateur filmmaking, which they call “machinima,” has a high threshold of entry due to the technical skills required. The goal of their project was to find ways to reduce this threshold by designing digital media production software to help improve video game movies by “suggesting, autonomously creating, and critiquing” film content.
In the report, Russell states that this spending is not needed as the machinima community has done quite well using current tools and methods.
Software of this type may very well have a future. However, the world of online gamers, YouTube shows, and digital art is notoriously free-wheeling. Innovations in this area will come through the organic, ingenious efforts of millions of independent artists, gamers, and programmers—not a $700,000 grant administered by a federal agency. The findings of this study are not likely to contribute to the development of software that will gain popularity among this vibrant, proudly independent online community. Moreover, at a time of restricted budgets, projects of this kind are not a priority.
In an aside to this section, Russell highlights the popular machinima video series Red vs Blue as an example of the machinima community at work without government funding. Another example not listed here would include Valve’s own Source Filmmaker which the company has spent significant time and money developing and has gained increasing popularity with the online gaming community.
It is not clear how often Rep. Russell will publish this report, but we can likely expect an annual report from him. It will be interesting to see what video game related areas of federal spending he will highlight in the future.
E. Zachary Knight is a Game Politics Contributor reporting out of Oklahoma.
Originally published on Game Politics.
Civil Asset Forfeiture is the process by which law enforcement can seize private property of citizens without ever needing to charge those citizens of committing a crime. Laws governing civil forfeiture vary from state to state but most states allow officers to seize any amount of money or property and keep the proceeds for department use.
This procedure is highly controversial and has many proponents as well as critics. Most critics equate civil forfeiture with highway robbery, while the proponents consider it another tool to fight crime and pay for law enforcement.
One critic of these laws is the Institute for Justice, a Libertarian law firm that fights civil forfeiture and other laws. As part of their continued efforts to fight these laws and inform the public of their impact, IJ has released the results of a behavioral study (PDF) they performed that seeks to answer the question of whether these laws benefit or harm the public. Continue reading