The WayBack Machine as legal evidence

For those who haven’t heard of it, the WayBack Machine is an excellent service (offered by the Internet Archive) which lets you see exactly what a website looked like at a particular point in the past.

Have a play around, it’s free to use and offers around 487 billion saved webpages.

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So what could this massive archive be used for? Historical analysis perhaps, cultural interpretations… Yes, but also – it’s been held as useful and accurate evidence in a US Court of Law.

So, for example, if a company states something misleading on their website (which you rely on to some detriment) and then they delete it and try to claim they never said such a thing – you can show the court an old version of the website which as been neatly stored away for you on the WayBack Machine! It’s also useful in areas of intellectual property and copyright law.

A great analysis of the case, and how it fits within the Australian context, has been written by Adrian Chang on the Allen’s IP blog.

As a law librarian, I love seeing archives and records being used in a legal context. As technology keeps advancing the law will rely more and more on resources like this I’m sure. The internet is so fluid and easily changeable, and inherently unreliable, as well as unfathomably vast, that having the ability to  look back into webpages like this is incredibly useful.

Google Books & Copyright

An interesting U.S. court decision recently; where authors sued Google for scanning their books and making ‘snippets’ of them available online through Google Books.

Read the Reuters article here.

The court found that “the project provides a public service without violating intellectual property law.”

Because:

“Google’s division of the page into tiny snippets is designed to show the searcher just enough context surrounding the searched term to help her evaluate whether the book falls within the scope of her interest (without revealing so much as to threaten the author’s copyright interests),” Circuit Judge Pierre Leval.

I’ve always found Google Books to be useful for research, however have noticed I can sometimes find enough information from the snippets to avoid sourcing the entire book. Usually though, I would have borrowed it from a library rather than purchase it anyway, so I suppose that doesn’t amount to any extra loss for the authors!

What do you think? Is it a great initiative in enhanced access to and sharing of knowledge, or is it a breach of authors rights? Are existing rules of copyright irrelevant in the new information environment? “How can we foster innovation and access to content while ensuring respect for those who have created it?” (IFLA Insights from the Trend Report)

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The Happy Birthday Song & Copyright

If you all haven’t heard, a really interesting decision on copyright has recently been made in the USA!

If you ever wondered why you got sung some weird version of ‘Happy Birthday’ at TGI Fridays, or why movies and advertisements rarely contained the commonplace and beloved song – it was because of the exorbitant royalties companies charged for its use. But now – “[n]one of the companies that have collected royalties on the “Happy Birthday” song for the past 80 years held a valid copyright claim to one of the most popular songs in history, a federal judge in Los Angeles ruled on Tuesday.” The song is now considered a public work and is free for everyone to use! Hooray! 🙂

You can read the full story from the Los Angeles Times here.

It will be interesting to see how many people now try and claim their money back!

Keep an ear out and see if you notice the use of the song more widely now. I think its a spectacular move forward – freedom of song all the way!

Many happy returns,

Michelle De Aizpurua

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