Boing Boing: German music publisher claims that nothing is public domain until its copyright runs out in every country
Michael Geist: Canadian Public Domain Told To Cease and Desist
Information Week: Does This Punishment Fit the Copyright Crime?
Scott Strader is also blogging the story.
The thrust of the Geist (and Boing Boing) posts is the one that should alarm us the most: that UE’s cease and desist was built upon the assumption that works published on the web should be subject not only to the copyright controls of the country of publication (in this case, Canada, where copyright in a musical work is life +50 years) but to the strictest controls encountered internationally (ie Europe, or life + 70 years). By this principle, the copyright laws of every country in the world (discussed, debated and decided upon as appropriate) can freely be tossed out of the window since we’ll all be subject to the law of whichever country is the strictest – be that the UK, the US, or Timbuktu. International copyright harmonisation is a hotly-debated topic at the moment, and remains contentious; it’s a pity to see it forcibly applied in a case such as this.
Update 2: ANABlog provides a level-headed summary of events, and a useful timeline:
August 13 – Dr. Isabella Hangel from Universal’s copyright department sends a letter with two requests: 1) that Guo remove protected works from his site. She sends a detailed list of 70 compositions by Bartok, Berg, Friedman, Janacek, Mahler, Marx, Respighi, Schoenberg, Strauss, Szymanowski, and Zemlinsky; 2) that Guo sign a cease and desist agreement which provides for a 3,000 Euro penalty for each future infraction.
August 23 – Guo politely declines Hangel’s request via letter, citing his belief that Universal is employing an unproved interpretation of international copyright law.
October 5 – Ken Clark, a lawyer retained by Universal, sends Guo a letter that ups the ante by repeating Hangel’s original request for the removal of all protected material and includes a new request for an IP filtering system that disallows any non-Canadian from downloading scores. Clark sets a deadline of October 19 for compliance and warns that failure to comply will result in further action.
Keep watching this space.