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State of Copyright Union

January 30, 2018

First off, complements to Plagiarism Today which reminded everyone to renew the DMCA registration which expired end of December. (  They also had an annual summary of notable activities which I am taking a liberty to summarize and comment by Jonathan Bailey.

  1. 2017 was a constant stream of plagiarism stories, mostly accusations of plagiarism against prominent figures. They included Neil Gorsuch, David Clarke, Marine Le Pen, Rev. Bill Shillady and the Trump administration. What they all had in common is they were allegations from political opponents attempting to discredit their foes. Some of the allegations had weight, most did not.
  2. PETA attempting (and failing) to convince a court a monkey can hold a copyright. Despite some great litigation taking place, copyright litigation news was, on the whole, cringe-worthy in 2017.
  3. Despite the cries of “alt facts” and “fake news” most mainstream publications, large and small, strive every day to report accurately and fairly. The New York Times (and many other publications) eliminated the public editor position due to financial pressure. Once the representative for the public in the newsroom and the defender of ethics, the position is waning at a time where journalism’s credibility is under attack.
  4. Piracy has never been a static thing and 2017 highlighted streaming services have been slowly taking the spotlight. Shift in piracy means methods for fighting infringement have to change as well.
  5. Essay mills, sites creating school assignments for pay, were in the forefront. The essay mills have also worked hard to make themselves known, turning to Twitter bot armies to peddle their wares and the war between school and essay mill has ramped up. However, studies show the majority of students who pay for a written paper don’t do so through a website, but through a friend or classmate.

So, while 2018 promises to be another wild ride, there are a few things that we can probably expect to happen.

  1. AI has been a tech buzzword, finally starting to see the fruits. Bots already control much of what you see and do online and, soon, they may control much of how you create and how you plagiarize. This came into the spotlight some in 2017 due to a paper published on automated paraphrasing and an article about students using Wolfram Alpha to “cheat” in math class.
  2. Plagiarism hunters to be aggressively looking at nearly every candidate in hopes of finding something to make a story.

3.Ad Blocking has never really left the spotlight. 2017 was the year of the ad blocking DMCA debacle which saw an anti-ad blocking firm file a DMCA takedown notice against an ad blocking list. With visitors feeling further encroached and creators feeling their backs are to a wall, the stage is set for another round in this fight.

4.Legislative Uncertainty: Despite an early push to pass a bill allowing the President to appoint the Register of Copyrights, the bill has since stalled in the Senate. With 2018 being an election year and Congresspersons taking time away to campaign, we’re unlikely to see significant forward momentum on copyright issues. This is despite the fact there are key issues to consider, such as modernization of the copyright office and streamlining music licensing.

5.DMCA The U.S. Copyright Office is slated to take up two separate DMCA-related issues in 2018. The first being a much-anticipated report on the effectiveness of the DMCA safe harbor provisions and the second it’s triennial rulemaking on exemptions to the DMCA provisions against circumventing technological measures to control access to copyrighted works (DRM). Both are likely to spur heated debates about the DMCA. No matter what comes out of these processes they will be controversial and they will be deeply contested so expect a lot of discussion about the DMCA in 2018.

6. Fair Trade – NAFTA, TRANS PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP and others include copyright provisions in their dealings. As long as Congress is as deadlocked as it is, it’s unlikely that anything legislative will come from those conversations.

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