DMCA takedown removes River City Random Underground from Steam

River City Ransom Underground was removed from Steam late last week, part of an unfolding legal drama surrounding a composer who has been directing DMCA copyright-infringement takedowns at games she says don’t have the rights to her music.

Conatus’ Andrew Russell, one of the developers of River City Ransom Underground, said in a short statement that “we are aware that RCRU is down on Steam. We have contacted Valve’s copyright department, and will let you know when access is restored.” But composer Alex Mauer confirmed to Destructoid that the removal was the result of a Digital Millenium Copyright Act request she made against the title.

“Conatus never got my written permission to use my music in the game,” Mauer told the site. “As far as I know, they have Disasterpeace’s [one of the game’s composers] signature and are trying to act like that alone is enough to have secured rights.”

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Animal rights? Monkey selfie case may undo evolution of the Internet

Going on two years now, an Indonesian macaque monkey named Naruto, represented by his self-appointed lawyers from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, has been trying to claim ownership of the selfies he took of himself with a camera he swiped from a British nature photographer in the jungle of the Tangkoko reserve.

This issue is no laughing matter, regardless of how bizarre it seems.

Let’s assume PETA is correct—that copyrights can be granted to animals. After all, US copyright law grants ownership of images to those who snapped them. So why can’t that owner be a monkey? That’s PETA’s position—one that has been generally down-voted so far in court and across a broad swath of the Internet as being bananas.

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It was 20 years ago today when the Supreme Court unshackled the Internet

Comedian George Carlin’s monologue, “Seven words you can never say on television,” opened the door for the American Civil Liberties Union to convince the US Supreme Court to nullify legislation outlawing “indecent” online speech.

Twenty years ago today the Supreme Court issued a landmark decision and unanimously overturned congressional legislation that made it unlawful to transmit “indecent” material on the Internet if that content could be viewed by minors. The justices ruled that the same censorship standards being applied to broadcast radio and television could not be applied to the Internet.

“The record demonstrates that the growth of the Internet has been and continues to be phenomenal,” the high court concluded. “As a matter of constitutional tradition, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, we presume that government regulation of the content of speech is more likely to interfere with the free exchange of ideas than to encourage it.”

The Supreme Court had decided a challenge brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, which argued that the section of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) at issue could criminalize too broad a swath of speech. The ACLU maintained that the CDA did not define what “indecent” meant and that the law would dumb-down the Internet in the same manner as the censorship requirements imposed on broadcasters that transmit over public spectrum. The ACLU won its case on June 26, 1997. The decision, in conjunction with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and other surviving parts of the CDA, has provided one of the strongest legal tools for crafting today’s Internet as we know it.

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DMCA “safe harbor” up in the air for online sites that use moderators

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s so-called “safe harbor” defense to infringement is under fire from a paparazzi photo agency. A new court ruling says the defense may not always be available to websites that host content submitted by third parties.

The safe harbor provision is what has given rise to sites like YouTube and various social media platforms. In essence, safe harbor was baked into the DMCA to allow websites to be free from legal liability for infringing content posted by their users—so long as the website timely removes that content at the request of the rights holder.

But a San Francisco-based federal appeals court is ruling that, if a website uses moderators to review content posted by third parties, the safe harbor privilege may not apply. That’s according to a Friday decision in a dispute brought by Mavrix Photographs against LiveJournal, which hosts the popular celebrity fan forum “Oh No they Didn’t.” The site hosted Mavrix-owned photos of Beyonce Knowles, Katy Perry, and other stars without authorization.

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RIP, “Six Strikes” Copyright Alert System

Four years ago, some of the nation’s leading ISPs worked in conjunction with the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, and the White House to roll out what they called the Copyright Alert System. It was deemed an “educational” approach to cut down on online copyright infringement, and it was responsible for sending millions of notices to consumers saying that they were discovered pilfering content online.

That system—which many originally feared would result in people having their Internet cut off—is now officially dead. The CAS, as it was known, didn’t have much teeth, and it didn’t really result in people losing their Internet access, either. Today, it’s no secret that online copyright infringement runs rampant.

The program primarily tried to combat infringement as follows: Internet subscribers could get two notices for “educational” purposes that their accounts had been used to commit infringement. Upon a third and fourth notice, the subscriber was required to respond and acknowledge it. On the fifth and sixth notices, consumers might have their Internet speeds throttled. The plan left it up to the rights holders if they wanted to sue copyright offenders.

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Pokémon ROM hack stopped by Nintendo four days before launch

Pokémon Prism trailer.

A fan-made Pokémon ROM hack in the works for eight years was set to launch this Sunday. But a letter sent by Nintendo’s Australian law firm on Wednesday has stopped those plans in their tracks.

According to Adam “Koolboyman” Vierra, developer of the fan-made Pokémon Prism project, Nintendo’s Australian law firm sent him a cease-and-desist letter, which he uploaded to Google Drive with identifying information redacted. (American representatives for Nintendo were not able to confirm the letter’s authenticity as of press time.) The request alleges that Koolboyman’s project, which alters the source ROM of the 1999 game Pokémon Gold to create an entirely new adventure, violates multiple Australian laws.

Even though Vierra’s public profile says he lives near San Francisco and Nintendo has headquarters and legal firms in America, Vierra clarified on his Twitter account that the game’s planned launch site, Rijon.com, is hosted in Australia. Nintendo’s Australian law firm, Addisons, has taken action against downloaders of commercial Nintendo products before, but the firm appears to have done little to nothing about makers of Nintendo-infringing software.

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US Copyright Office is taking comments about how well the DMCA is working

The 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act is the law that allows content owners to remove copyrighted material from the Internet, and it’s made just about no one happy. Content owners are bitter that their material tends to keep popping up, even when they’ve asked for it to be removed hundreds or even thousands of times. Internet platforms that host large amounts of user-generated content must cope with millions of infringement allegations, mass-produced by software. When those algorithms make mistakes, it’s often users who pay the price—told they’re copyright scofflaws because there was background music in their home video or they shared a photo of a toy they bought.

If you’re feeling down about the DMCA this winter—or feeling just skippy about it—there’s a government agency that wants to hear from you. On December 31, the US Copyright Office said it intends to take public comments about the effectiveness of the DMCA and its “safe harbor” provisions.

The comments will be part of a “public study to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of the safe harbor provisions” of the DMCA. Questions that the office wants to consider include:

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Bank of America gets Twitter to delete journalist’s joke, says he violated copyright

The founding editor of Business Insider UK, Jim Edwards, had a bank delete two of his tweets today. In an e-mail, Bank of America told Edwards that his tweets violated the bank’s copyright and that if he kept it up, they’d see to it that his Twitter account was deleted.

“Investment banks apparently have the power to censor journalists on Twitter, simply by asking,” Edwards wrote in a short post on Business Insider describing the situation. “That is depressing.”

Edwards had quoted a research document produced by analysts. He says the tweets were “probably trivial,” but can’t really be more specific—in part because the frequent Twitter user can’t even remember exactly what they were about.

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