Jun 282014

Cantech News explains an Alberta land-owner’s ingenious use of copyright law:

Alberta artist Peter van Tiesenhausen has provided an interesting legal precedent in his long-running battle with oil companies seeking to run a pipeline through his 800 acre territory. He has copyrighted his land as a work of art.

Typically, industry can negotiate a land acquisition agreement with a property owner and then claim right-of-way to run a pipeline across whatever properties stand in the way of getting its product to market. …

Realizing that mining companies can legitimately lay claim to any land underneath private property to a depth of six inches, van Tiesenhausen contacted a lawyer who drew up an intellectual property/copyright claim that said that if the oil company disturbed the top six inches in any way, it would be a copyright violation.

“The oil company wanted to come across with a pipeline,” said van Tiesenhausen. “And I said: No! And they said that I don’t have any choice because we own the top six inches and they own everything else underneath, the mineral rights, etc. That’s the way it works in Canada. And I said: you can put your pipeline as long as you don’t disturb the surface. Of course, it’s pretty much impossible or very expensive. But it’s not a field or just a forest, it is an artwork! And they realized that I have a case. So for last 15 years they have left me alone.”

Jun 272014

Portrait of Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin wrote his autobiography, “Enemies who do you one favor will want to do more.” He illustrated the maxim with a story:

A political adversary had been lambasting Franklin in public speeches. Franklin knew that this person was very proud of his large library, so he sent him a note requesting that he borrow a particularly rare book. The adversary sent the book over right away. Their next in-person meeting was very civil, and the two became friends, remaining so until the one-time adversary’s death.

Katie Liljenquist and Adam Galinsky confirm Franklin’s insight (although they don’t mention it) in a Harvard Business Review blog-post titled ‘Win Over an Opponent by Asking for Advice’:

We seek advice on a daily basis, on everything from who grills the best burger in town to how to handle a sticky situation with a coworker. However, many people don’t fully appreciate how powerful requesting guidance can be. Soliciting advice will arm you with information you didn’t have before, but there are other benefits you may not have considered:

 … Arthur Helps sagely observed, We all admire the wisdom of people who come to us for advice.” Being asked for advice is inherently flattering because it’s an implicit endorsement of our opinions, values, and expertise. Furthermore, it works equally well up and down the hierarchy — subordinates are delighted and empowered by requests for their insights, and superiors appreciate the deference to their authority and experience. James Pennebaker’s research shows that if you want your peers to like you, ask them questions and let them experience the “joy of talking.” This is especially important because research shows that increasing your likability will do more for your career than slightly increasing competence.

Jun 262014

This is good news, from my publisher’s point of view. From The Globe and Mail:

Canadian content producers are breathing a sigh of relief after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that online streaming service Aereo Inc. violates U.S. copyright laws, dealing a devastating blow to the two-year-old startup. …

The ruling is welcome news to an array of concerned Canadian groups that jointly opposed Aereo’s model in an amicus brief. Organizations including the Canadian Media Production Association, actors’ union ACTRA, and the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN), argued to the court that Aereo was exploiting a loophole in U.S. copyright law to avoid paying royalties.

“Aereo had tried to game the copyright system,” said Barry Sookman, a partner at McCarthy Tétrault LLP who helped draft the brief. “It tried to find a loophole and to basically engineer its way around the Copyright Act.”

The concern for Canadian film, TV and music creators was not that a company such as Aereo would move north: The groups behind the brief argued that Canada’s legal precedents would make an expansion here difficult since they spell out more clearly how to define new broadcasting platforms. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in a 2012 case that, where new technologies perform the same activity, “there is no justification for distinguishing between the two for copyright purposes.”