Friday, April 03, 2009

Is the Loaded ipod Obama gave to the Queen Illegal?

"President and First Lady Obama gave Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II a video iPod with inscription, songs uploaded and accessories, plus a rare musical songbook signed by Richard Rodgers."

Those 'songs uploaded' were mostly old show tunes. The question is did the President own those songs outright or merely the license for personal use sans transfer or duplication rights?

Granted, the chance of some improvident investigation into this exchange between the President and the Queen is as likely as our Dear Leader embracing the philosophy of Ronald Magnus, so the question is simply academic. But, it brings into light the labyrinth of law known as the The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), and its sister monstrosity, the EU Copyright Directive (EUCD), made even more complicated by the required separate legislation from each of the Union's member states. (got it? good!)

Our good friends at the EFF shed a little light on the entanglement:

"So, how does President Obama fare in this? It's nearly impossible to figure out. If he'd simply purchased a "greatest hits" CD of show tunes and given it to the Queen, the first sale doctrine would have taken care of it. But because digital technology is involved here, suddenly it's a legal quagmire. (And, for the remainder of this discussion, I am going to set aside the Presidential immunity issues and the UK copyright law issues, which make it even more of a quagmire.)

First, let's imagine that the President (or his staff) bought the 40 show tunes from the iTunes music store. Do you "own" the music that you buy from iTunes? The nearly 9,000 words of legalese to which you agree before buying don't answer that question (an oversight? I doubt it). Copyright owners have consistently argued in court that many digital products (even physical "promo" CDs!) are "licensed," not "owned," and therefore you're not entitled to resell them or give them away. (And the Amazon MP3 Store terms of service are even worse for consumers than iTunes -- those terms specifically purport to strip you of "ownership" and forbid any "redistribution.")"

The second & third parts deal with copies, fair use and contracts.

Read it all, boys n girls, then behave just as honorably as a congressional committee chairman, and you, too, won't go to jail.


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