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22 Jan 2024

Do you need a license to look for spam? Email

Jay Fink had an interesting little business. If you lived in California, you could give him access to your email account, he'd look through the spam folder for spam that appeared to violate the state anti-spam law, and give you a spreadsheet and a file of PDFs. You could then sue the spammers, and if you won, you'd give Fink part of the money as his fee.

While the federal CAN SPAM law largely preempts state laws, it lets states add their own penalties for fraudulent or misleading spam. California is one of the few states with a usable law, and one of the few that lets spam recipients sue in small claims court. The spammers tend to pay to settle rather than going to court (because they are pretty sure they'd lose) so this was a way to make life more difficult for the spammers, paid for by the spammers.

Last July, the state of California shut him down, saying that the stuff he was doing needed a Private Investigator (PI) license. The license is quite expensive and requires 6,000 hours of training in a field like arson investigation or insurance adjustment. Fink thought this was ridiculous, since none of the training would have anything to do with looking for spam, and the requirements were grossly excessive for what he did. He sued the state, supported by the Institute for Justice, a libertarian public interest law firm.

Last week the parties filed the first substantive exchange, in which the state moved to dismiss the case, and Fink's lawyers said not so fast.

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  posted at: 17:56 :: permanent link to this entry :: 0 comments
Stable link is

08 Jan 2024

Three weak copyright suits against OpenAI and one stronger one Copyright Law
In the past few months there have been four similar suits filed in New York against OpenAI and Microsoft. All four look superficially similar, and all are likely to be heard by the same judge, but one of them is a lot stronger than the other three.

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  posted at: 21:53 :: permanent link to this entry :: 0 comments
Stable link is

18 Dec 2023

The Internet Archive defends Controlled Digital Lending again Copyright Law

The Internet Archive has a program they call Controlled Digital Lending (CDL). They have scanned a whole lot of physical books, put the books in storage, and then lend out the scans, ensuring that each scan is lent to one person at a time. Publishers don't like this, sued several years ago, and the Archive lost thoroughly in April. The judge ruled on a motion for summary judgment without a trial, which means the judge believed there was no significant dispute about the facts. He found that CDL was not fair use, the scans were a substitute for the paper books, and the Archive lost.

Unsurprisingly, the Archive has appealed the ruling. This looked to me to be a long shot. The appeal is to the Second Circuit which decided the Google Books case. Their decision said that Google's scanning is OK because they don't provide the full contents of the books, but do other stuff that makes it transformative. Since the Archive does provide the full contents of the books, they're out of luck.

The Archive appealed in September but until recently the only activity has been routine stuff like which lawyers will be representing whom On Friday they filed their brief laying out the legal theory of the appeal, and I have to say it's surprisingly strong.

They say that the judge misunderstood what CDL is, that he got all four prongs of the fair use analysis wrong, and that there are significant disagreements about facts that prevent summary judgment.

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  posted at: 15:09 :: permanent link to this entry :: 0 comments
Stable link is

14 Aug 2023

The Internet Archive hops out of the copyright frying pan into a new and different fire Copyright Law

In 2020 a group of book publishers sued the Internet Archive over their Controlled Digital Lending program, which made PDF scans of books and lent them out from the Archive's web site. For books still in copyright, the Archive usually limited the number of copies of a book lent to the number of physical copies of the book they had in storage. Several publishers sued with an argument that can be summarized as "that's not how it works". In late March the judge made a ruling that can be summarized as "of course that's not how it works." (More background here.)

After several months of quiet negotiations, on Friday the two parties filed a proposed consent agreement in which the Archive promised to stop it, and pay the plaintiffs an undisclosed but presumably not huge amount of money. The only disagreement was exactly what they promise to stop, with letters from each to the judge explaining their positions.

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  posted at: 00:02 :: permanent link to this entry :: 0 comments
Stable link is

07 May 2023

Can large language models use the contents of your web site? Copyright Law
Large Language Models (LLM) like GPT-4 and its front end ChatGPT work by ingesting gigantic amounts of text from the Internet to train the model, and then responding to prompts with text generated from those models. Depending on who you ask, this is either one step (or maybe no steps) from Artificial General Intelligence, or as Ted Chiang wrote in the New Yorker,
ChatGPT Is a Blurry JPEG of the Web. While I have my opinions about that, at this point I'm considering what the relationship is under copyright law between the input text and the output text. Keeping in mind that I am not a lawyer, and no court has yet decided a LLM case, let's take a look.

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  posted at: 13:17 :: permanent link to this entry :: 0 comments
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Other blogs

Spam trends update for Sep-Nov 2023
33 days ago

A keen grasp of the obvious
Italian Apple Cake
531 days ago

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