Manga Publishers Fight Online Piracy
Thursday, June 10, 2010 4:35 pm | By Kelsey Zahourek

The battle continues to wage on between content creators and for-profit websites that host countless amounts of pirated music, movies, and books. A coalition of Japanese and American manga publishers have come together to fight what they see as rampant piracy of their comics over the internet. According to Publishers Weekly, the 36-member group came together in response to the transformation of what was once a fan based movement to swap the Japanese comics among friends to the growth of “heavily trafficked, for-profit Web sites that host thousands of pirated manga editions and offer them for free to readers.”

After years of declining revenue sales due to the growth of the scanlation sites, the comic publishers are finally taking steps to combat the illegal sites and they are well within their right to do so. Like many battles dealing with online infringement, this goes far beyond the notion of a comic fan simply sharing a copy of a comic to a friend who may not have access to it. These aggregator websites, visited by millions of people, operate with an entire business model based on advertisement revenue and membership dues, profiting off the creation of others without due compensation to those rights holders. This not only harms the creative industries economically but also the incentive to create the comics or music, or movies we have grown to value. When creators and innovators face the risk of having their property effectively expropriated, nobody wins.

This news comes on the heels of the Limewire decision, where U.S. District Judge Kimba Woods ruled that the website could be held liable for copyright infringement. As a result of that decision, Limewire could be held liable for hundreds of millions to a billion dollars in damages.

For further reading on the manga issue, Patrick Ross at the Copyright Alliance has a great blog post on the move by manga publishers, breaking down how this latest push by copyright holders is another swipe at the arguments of the “free culture” movement and specifically, Lawrence Lessig, who used in his book, “Free Culture,” the manga publishers previous lack of aggressive pursuit of copyright violators as an example of copyright theft being accepted.

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Property Owners Victorious in New York Eminent Domain Case
Friday, May 21, 2010 12:00 pm | By Robert Kramer

This Wednesday there was a celebration in Auburn, N.Y. when the Auburn Industrial Development Agency voted unanimously against the use of eminent domain on the part of Pioneer Companies, who wished to build a Hilton Garden Inn on a plot of land currently occupied by several private residences.

The project is a recent example of an attempt at using eminent domain for the benefit of a private party, rather than public use.  Mayor Michael Quill argued that the project would yield $160,000 in tax revenue for the city, at what he perceived is the relatively small cost of removing several families from their homes.  Community support for the soon-to-be displaced families grew as negotiations were drawn out between the two parties.  In the end, the public pressure proved too much, and the Auburn Industrial Development Agency ruled that eminent domain use was out of the question.

The victory should stand as a case of legal precedence to be followed for eminent domain use, one where its use is reserved for truly public projects and isn't subject to the political connections of private industry.  For now, the people of Auburn can sleep easy and carry on with the lives they've fought hard to preserve.

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Threat of Eminent Domain Abuse Prompts Calling for Supreme Court Decision
Thursday, May 20, 2010 10:31 am | By Robert Kramer

A recent case of eminent domain abuse has been brought to the nation's attention this week, when the Institute for Justice commented on the City of Milwaukee’s attempt to repossess a plot of land from the local Veterans of Foreign War post without paying just compensation. A ruling issued by the Wisconsin Supreme Court declared that the VFW stood to receive no compensation for the lease it has held since 1961.  The case is calling into question the responsibility of the government in its use of eminent domain; should it make payments equal to the value of the land itself, or equal to the value of all assets lost?  As Dana Berliner of IJ stated “It is completely impossible that just compensation for a 50-year or 60-year lease is zero.”

This abuse of eminent domain shines some light on an issue that has been consistently afflicting our nation in recent years.  Economic development is dependent on well-defined and secure private property rights.  When people are uncertain that they can safely occupy their home or run their business without fear of losing it to the government for an ambiguously defined "public" use, production stagnates as incentives to put more money into an establishment are lost.

The Institute for Justice and National Association of Home Builders want to bring the case before the Supreme Court.  If it agrees to hear the case, we can only hope that a ruling is given in favor of private establishments across the country, one where owners of repossessed land are given a just compensation for their lost assets, free from fear of being further abused by the government.

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