Creative Commons, often known as CC, allows content creators to share their works with various licenses. The license at issue here is known as BY-NC-SA 4.0. Content under this license can be freely used by anybody for “noncommercial” purposes if the original source is credited. There are more than 1.1 billion works within the CC licensing umbrella, and 150 million licensed for noncommercial use.
However, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit educational stalwart called Great Minds (GM) tried to turn the CC noncommercial licensing scheme on its head. Great Minds develops K-12 curriculum for schools throughout the US and licenses its product under the CC noncommercial license. The nonprofit sued FedEx for profiting when school representatives used FedEx to duplicate the materials so they could be distributed in class. Great Minds demanded royalties from FedEx, which refused. Great Minds sued last year, claiming FedEx was infringing its content, which also enjoys US copyright protection.
How will libraries hold onto ebooks and other digital files like mp3s so that readers and scholars in the future can still read them? The current state of affairs relies on license agreements with publishers who in turn license to vendors, who in turn, license to libraries. Hardly sustainable when files can and do disappear when either the publisher or the vendor no longer offer them.
Libraries rely on the right of first sale to lend print books, and need an analogous right in the world of ebooks and digital music. To that end, the American Library Association, the Association of College and Research Libraries, the Association of Research Libraries and the Internet Archive filed a brief on Feb. 14, 2017 in support of Redigi, a company that sells used mp3 files to music customers. The brief argues that an evaluation of Fair Use should consider the rationale of the First Sale doctrine, and other specific exceptions. It argues that enabling the transfer of the right of possession should be favored under Fair Use.
But Oracle isn’t backing down. Late Friday, the company appealed the high-profile verdict to a federal appeals court.
This is the latest stage of a seemingly never-ending legal battle over intellectual property that began in 2010. The conflict has meandered through two federal trials, in addition to multiple trips to the appellate courts and to the Supreme Court.
But it seems that Great Minds can’t make up its mind on whether it truly wants its materials to be a part of free culture. Or, in the alternative, it’s reading the CC license a little too literally. That’s because it’s suing Federal Express, claiming the Texas-based delivery and copying company is reproducing its materials for teachers and schools without paying royalties to Great Minds. The educational company says that because FedEx is making a profit from reproducing the materials, it’s violating the CC license. That’s according to a federal lawsuit (PDF) the company has lodged against FedEx.
On Monday, November 21st, a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (S.D.N.Y.) issued a decision allowing a copyright case involving the well-known spiritual song and 20th century civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome” to go forward. At the center of this case is the question of whether or not “We Shall Overcome” is part of the public domain in the United States, and the recent decision by S.D.N.Y. Judge Denise Cote indicates that the song could in fact be public domain material. “Resolution of the issues of originality and ownership will require discovery and a more developed record,” Cote’s decision reads.