Monday, March 31, 2008

Archiving is Fair Use?

Rebecca Tushnet has an interesting blog post about a recent federal court decision. A group of students sued a company called iParadigm, L.L.C. over that company's archiving of their term papers in a database.

Apparently, iParadigm does this via a service called "Turnitin," so that they can authenticate the originality of a student's submitted paper.

The school districts these students attend have contracted with this company to provide this service.

From Tushnet's post:

Turnitin is a plagiarism-detection service. Schools using Turnitin require students to submit papers through Turnitin’s system, which compares their papers to Turnitin’s database and, if there’s a suspicious match, generates a report for the relevant teacher. Schools can also choose to allow their students’ papers to be added to the database to improve Turnitin’s ability to detect among-student cheating. Plaintiffs objected to Turnitin’s approach and sued for copyright infringement based on papers they’d been required to submit as a condition of receiving school credit.

The plaintiffs were, understandably, miffed at a company being able to use their works to generate a profit.

Well, the court found that the Plaintiffs' claims were without merit. Apparently, a contract of adhesion (I'm sorry, a "clickwrap license") is only a bad thing if you're not signing it at the insistence of a third party.

The court said that iParadigm's use of the papers is "fair use" under copyright law, mainly because they're not using the papers for anything but plagiarism detection...

So, for those of you out there who care...

That huge library of unlicensed songs you've got on your computer is no longer a "library." It's a "database of songs for use in determining if there's anything new under the sun."

Hope that helps.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Medellin Decision Handed Down

The Supreme Court has handed down its opinion in the case of Medellin v. Texas.

Here's a link to the opinion (89 page pdf).

I haven't read the entire opinion yet, but here's the holding from the syllabus:

"Held: Neither Avena nor the President’s Memorandum constitutes directly enforceable federal law that pre-empts state limitations on the filing of successive habeas petitions."

Johnathan Adler at Volokh writes:

"Chief Justice Roberts wrote the majority opinion, which held that neither a judgment of the International court of Justice nor the President's executive order directing state courts to follow the ICJ's judgment constituted federal law that pre-empts a state's pre-existing bar on the litigation of subsequent habeas petitions. Justice Stevens concurred in the judgment, while Justice Breyer wrote a dissent on behalf of himself and Justices Souter and Ginsburg."

There's some great links from that Volokh page, too.

Saturday, March 15, 2008