Jury duty is a civic responsibility, but many people see it as an inconvenience. Even a simple civil case may require a juror to take several days off from work to sit in a courtroom and listen to the details of some car accident. But every lawsuit is a serious matter, at least to the litigants, and it deserves each juror’s attention and respect. One of the cardinal rules of jury duty is to never discuss a pending case with outsiders.
According to the U.S. Copyright Office, “Copyright does not protect the mechanical or utilitarian aspects of works of craftsmanship.” Copyright therefore only applies to the artistic, rather than functional, aspects of a product’s design. The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently addressed this principle in a decision reinstating a copyright infringement lawsuit involving perhaps the most utilitarian of objects: a USB flash drive. Direct Technologies LLC, v. Electronic Arts, Inc.
Computer code is a work of authorship subject to U.S. and international copyright laws. This is easy to forget in the open source community where software is freely licensed and re-distributed. But “license” implies the existence of a valid copyright. And software authors who fail to properly establish their copyrights will have a hard time enforcing any purported licenses in court. Employee Assumes He Has Ownership of Code A recent decision by a federal judge in Alabama illustrates the problems that a software developer can face in enforcing copyright against their employer–or in this case, a former employer.
Many people in the libertarian and tech communities have sounded the red alert klaxon over the FBI’s recent demand for Apple’s assistance in rewriting its proprietary iOS software to disable certain security features. In some corners, Apple is portrayed as a champion of individual liberty against the growing police state. For example a former editor of mine, J.D. Tuccille, wrote yesterday at Reason.com: Apple’s battle isn’t against a one-off court order to crack an encrypted phone; it’s the latest skirmish in the government’s ongoing war against privacy protections—as well as an act of resistance against federal efforts to conscript the private sector into its crusade.