Tag Archives: Copyright Law

Death By Lawyer

Originally posted 2014-08-07 16:31:49. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

 

Originally, originally posted 2007-06-13 20:42:40. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

They make that sound like a bad thing. Now, I wouldn’t agree with each and every little thing Stan Schroeder, the author of this article on Mashable, says — such as this about MP3.com of blessed memory:

In 2000, the owners started a new service – My.MP3.com – which enabled users to register CDs they legally own and make online copies on MP3.com’s servers. Although this about as legit as you can get, the record industry managed to sue them (!) and win (!?), and MP3.com had to settle the lawsuit, paying 200 million dollars in damages, which turned out to be a blow from which they would never recover.

“About as legit as you can get”? Yes, well, that’s what Cooley Godward thought, too. Judge Jed Rakoff didn’t see it that way, and — in his inimitable matter — he didn’t suggest there was a lot of doubt about the right answer, either. We never got a second opinion (i.e., one that mattered from an appellate court), so just don’t come away from this article with the wrong impression.

Still and all, a good piece, and food for thought. Hat tip to Overlawyered.

Copyright law is hard

Originally posted 2010-01-28 17:52:49. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

But it’s hard to have sympathy for the MPAA about its being accused of infringement, since its insane shotgun appraoch to enforcement is so just plain bad. Now as Boing Boing says, the movies people are ripping off other folks’ shareware. As Cory Doctorow (via Insty) says:

Copyright law is hard. It used to only govern relations between giant industrial players. Copyright didn’t regulate reading an interesting tidbit from the newspaper for a friend. It didn’t regulate watching movies. But now, sharing a newspaper article with a friend (by blogging it) involves copying, and so triggers copyright. Now watching a movie (by downloading it) involves copying, so it triggers copyright. The rules that are supposed to be interpreted by lawyers at Fortune 100 companies now apply to every single kid working on a project for her class’s website.

This is like having to file with the SEC every time you loan a buddy $5 for lunch.

Even the MPAA and its member companies can’t avoid violating copyright. The MPAA’s own CEO personally ripped off Kirby Dick, pirating his film “This Film is Not Yet Rated” using the MPAA’s duplicating facilities. The studios regularly hose writers, painters, composers and performers, nicking their creative labor without compensation, and sneeringly invite them to sue if they don’t like it. Even the web-development departments get in on the act.

Is it any wonder that everyone with a computer is practically guaranteed to be a copyright criminal?

I can’t say I agree with this analysis — copyright has been relevant to the whole world for a long time, and there are many ways to make fair use of copyrighted material that do not infringe.  But is it virtually inevitable that almost all of us are at least copyright scofflaws, or worse, under the present regime?  Yes.  Something is going to have to give.

DMCA days

Originally posted 2008-07-21 21:27:12. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Mike Masnick on a key question:  Whether copyright fair use, no matter how obvious, may be ignored by a would-be copyright owner when sending a DMCA takedown notice that but for the fair use defense is “reasonable”:

The DMCA has provisions for a copyright holder to assert ownership, at which point the service provider needs to takedown the content. Whoever posted the content can protest that the content was legally posted — which is exactly what happened in this case. However, the DMCA also says that filing a false DMCA notice opens one up to damages from those whose content was taken down. This was in an effort to discourage false DMCA notices. This provision was used last year against Viacom for its false takedowns on satirical clips of the Colbert Report.

The question then, is whether or not filing a takedown notice on content that is used in a way consistent with “fair use” is a misuse or not. Universal Music’s claim is that it is not reasonable for the copyright holder to take fair use into consideration before sending a takedown notice. At a first pass, it sounds like the judge agrees.

As ridiculous as this whole situation is, the judge and Universal Music may be correct under the existing law.

A corrollary:  Is fair use grounds for a DMCA recipient to disregard a DMCA takedown notice?  Hat tip to aggregator Tech Verdict.

UPDATE from Carolyn Wright.

A quick scan of the law regarding copyright and the public domain images

Originally posted 2010-03-17 18:26:32. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

startrek-tricorderThe story’s all over the Net, but here’s as good a take on it as any, from Mike Masnick at Techdirt:

Derrick Coetzee, a software developer and an administrator of Wikimedia Commons, the media repository for Wikipedia is being threatened by the National Portrait Gallery in London. Coetzee admits that he downloaded about 3,000 high-resolution images from the site, but notes that they are all of paintings that are in the public domain (nearly all are over 100 years old). Coetzee is in the US, where he notes Bridgeman v. Corel suggests that photographs of public domain paintings do not carry any copyright, since the photograph does not add any new expression. However, such issues are not settled in the UK, and the National Portrait Gallery is insisting that the photos are covered by copyright.

Mike is surprised that the National Portrait Gallery is acting so regressively:

Here was a chance to help educate the public and give people more reasons to go to the Gallery to see the actual photos, and they’re trying to stomp out that kind of education through abuse of copyright law. The people who run the Gallery should be ashamed of themselves. They ought to go back and read their own mission statement.

Yes, mission statements are all very nice, but the way they see it, they’ve spent millions on scanning stuff and it just galls them that someone is depriving them of the rent that should come their way by virtue of all that effort.

And what is the law?  Read More…

Copyright’s absolute liability?

Originally posted 2009-08-18 13:58:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Michael Ratoza of U.S. IP LAW reports (via @BeelJDPhD) on a case that issues a somewhat stunning ruling for those of us, such as LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION®, who have never really thought about the question of common-law indemnification for copyright infringement — or, worse, who have thought about it a little and assumed it must exist.

128298583190782500copycatIt doesn’t.  Maybe.

The story:  A builder was sued for copyright infringement for selling a house constructed on plans it had purchased from a third party but which, it turned out, had in fact been copied, without permission, from another set of plans which happened to have been protected by copyright owned by a competing developer.

In attempting to defend itself, the builder brought indemnification claims against the seller of the counterfeit plans. He argued that the seller committed fraud and misrepresentation in selling plans that the seller knew were wrongfully copied. The court dismissed the indemnification claims because there is no right of indemnity for copyright infringement.

The court pointed out that there is no indemnity right included in the Copyright Act, and that the Copyright Act preempts conflicting state law. As such, state indemnity law does not apply. In any event, it is federal common law, not state common law, that applies in a copyright proceeding. Federal common law is very limited and does not include the right of indemnity for violation of federal law.

Outside of the building context, this case raises anew the obvious problem faced by the buyer of goods that turn out to be counterfeit. How can the innocent buyer of counterfeit goods protect itself from liability when the seller fails to disclose that the sold goods were wrongfully copied?

And sellers usually will fail to disclose that sort of thing, after all.   Maybe.

I found this language a little odd:

The court pointed out that there is no indemnity right included in the Copyright Act, and that the Copyright Act preempts conflicting state law. As such, state indemnity law does not apply.

Well, wait.  If there is no indemnity right, there is nothing to preempt, is there, unless the Copyright Act explivity forbids indemnification (which it does not)?  It turns out, in fact, that I’m not the only one who sees it this way:

Unlike claims of contribution, courts have upheld state law claims for indemnification, arising out of state common law or statute. In Foley v. Luster,249 F.3d 1281 (11th Cir. 2001), the Eleventh Circuit upheld against a preemption argument, a state common law claim to indemnification. As with contribution claims in copyright cases, the right of indemnification was asserted as a cross-claim. After the plaintiffs settled , the cross-claim went forward, with a jury finding indemnification was required. A post-trial motion to dismiss on the ground of preemption was filed and denied. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the denial, holding that the extra element test for preemption did not apply, allegedly, because indemnification “does not concern the rights of a copyright holder. Rather, it concerns the allocation of responsibility between copyright infringers.”  But that is true of contribution too, the right to which has been held preempted. . . .

This does not mean, however, that the right to indemnification for paying infringement damages is preempted. It is my opinion, such a right is not preempted because the right or remedy is not equivalent to any granted under the Copyright Act and does not arise under the Copyright Act: once payment is made to the copyright owner, the federal interest in extinguished.

That’s not just any opinion out there, disagreeing with the Eleventh Circuit’s rationale but agreeing with its holding — it’s Bill Patry‘s.

So, the case I first thought Michael was writing about was KBL Corp. v. Arnouts, 2009 WL 302060 (S.D.N.Y. 2009), from February of this year (opinion here).  Interestingly, the court there disagrees with Patry’s link between contribution and indemnifiction, citing Conrad v. Beck-Turek, Ltd., Inc., 891 F.Supp. 962, 966 (S.D.N.Y.1995), and after dispensing of the contribution argument analyzes the indemnifcation on its own merits.  But its rationale in denying indemnification is based on a peculiarity of New York indemnification law: Read More…

Follow the dancing baby

It is huge. Here’s the New York Times‘s coverage; here’s the Wall Street Journal; and here’s the actual 9th circuit opinion in Lenz v. Universal itself.  Everyone is explaining why the deal is so big, of course.  The key question was this:

Section 512(c)(3)(A)(v) requires a takedown notification to include a “statement that the complaining party has a good faith belief that the use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.” The parties dispute whether fair use is an authorization under the law as contemplated by the statute—which is so far as we know an issue of first impression in any circuit across the nation.

This is the offending video. 

Fair use or not?   And the answer to the question is this:

We agree with the district court and hold that the statute unambiguously contemplates fair use as a use authorized by the law. Fair use is not just excused by the law, it is wholly authorized by the law. . . . Although the traditional approach is to view “fair use” as an affirmative defense, . . . it is better viewed as a right granted by the Copyright Act of 1976. Originally, as a judicial doctrine without any statutory basis, fair use was an infringement that was excused—this is presumably why it was treated as a defense. As a statutory doctrine, however, fair use is not an infringement. Thus, since the passage of the 1976 Act, fair use should no longer be considered an infringement to be excused; instead, it is logical to view fair use as a right. Regardless of how fair use is viewed, it is clear that the burden of proving fair use is always on the putative infringer.

That sounds right to me.  Read More…

Where Were You When “Happy Birthday to You” Was Found to Be in the Public Domain?

You can wish MDB a HBD on 3/12. Every year.

FYI, You can wish MDB a HBD on 3/12. Every year.

Newly discovered evidence [according to a court filing] “proves conclusively that Happy Birthday has been in the public domain since no later than 1922.” At stake is the more than $5,000 per day—or $2 million per year—that singers, stage directors, filmmakers and advertisers currently shell out to use the [song]. – The Washington Post

My entire extended family and I—some six dozen of us, spanning four generations—were at a Joe’s Crab Shack celebrating Nana’s big 1-0-0. The wait staff was midway through a verse of the restaurant’s proprietary alternative ‘Joyful Anniversary of Your Being Born’ melody when one of the busboys—a second-year law student, I think I’d heard him mention—glanced at his phone. He must have gotten word of the court decision just then, because he signalled to the rest of the servers’ ensemble and as one they transitioned to the previously-verboten tune. It took a moment for the other relatives and me to catch on to what was happening, but when we did we joined in. More than one voice cracked—with emotion, for this was a truly momentous occasion. As it turned out, Nana herself entered the Great Public Domain in the Sky the following month—by which I mean she died—but she died with her faith in the American legal system restored, even if she never forgave Chester A. Arthur.”

– Randall W., Atlanta

“I was at home, swimming in an enormous pile of money—the royalties I’ve earned from selling eBooks of public domain works on Amazon.com. No wonder the Warner Music Group wanted to keep the most recognized song in the English language out of there. The public domain is a festering goldmine.”

– Molly M., Raleigh-Durham Read More…

No safe harbor for this shark.

Matthew David Brozik

One groovy shark.

Originally posted 2013-04-29 12:04:55. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Generally, one doesn’t expect to find copyright decisions of note in state courts, but every so often one will crop up. One really doesn’t expect to find interesting decisions on state-court motions to dismiss a party’s fourteenth affirmative defense… and yet here we are, reading with great interest the April 23, 2013, decision of the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department in UMG Recordings, Inc. v. Escape Media Group, Inc.

Defendant Escape Media Group owns and runs an online music streaming service called Grooveshark, where users can upload audio files, usually songs, to an archive maintained on Escape’s servers; other users can search the servers and stream the files to computers and other devices. The setup is designed to be on the up-and-up, though; it isn’t 1999 Napster. Escape “has taken some measures to ensure that Grooveshark does not trample on the rights of those who own copyrights in the works stored on its servers,” reads the First Department decision. “For example, it is a party to license agreements with several large-scale owners and licensees of sound recordings. In addition, it requires each user, before he or she uploads a work to Grooveshark servers, to confirm ownership of the recording’s copyright or license, or some other authorization to share it.”

Alas! Read More…

Manchester Cathedral, you’re driving me crazy

Originally posted 2007-06-14 11:42:55. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Manchester Cathedral, Winchester Cathedral — same thing. We’ve written in the past — well, not us, there is only just me here; sorry — about the dubious concept of trademark rights in building exteriors. Now Bill Patry writes about a proposed copyright lawsuit by the Church of England, which does not object to violence against Jews, who have it coming to them, but gets the vapors over virtual gunfights being depicted in its magnificent hallowed (and hollow) halls:

Manchester Cathedral

Various UK sources ran stories yesterday about the Church of England’s pique over Sony’s Playstation 3 alleged replication of the interior of the Manchester Cathedral as a dropback in a gunfight in the game “Resistance: The Fall of Man. (HT to Bruce C. in the frozen north). Andrew Mills has a fantastic, very detailed piece on the story, here, including a YouTube link to the sequence in question.

The Church of England has threatened to sue Sony after the Japanese company used Manchester Cathedral as the backdrop to the gunfight in the PlayStation 3 game Resistance: The Fall of Man.

It could have a case, lawyers say.

In general, [however], the outside of a well-known building is not considered to be protected under the law, Tom Frederikse, an intellectual property specialist with Clintons, the law firm, said.

Patry points out that under Section 120(a) of the Copyright Act, U.S. law, which does protect copyright in archtectural works, nonetheless explicitly permits “the making, distributing, or public display of pictures, paintings, photographs, or other pictorial representations of the work, if the building in which the work is embodied is located in or ordinarily visible from a public place.” He notes that the question of whether the interior of a building could be “ordinary visible from a public space” is one he had not considered, and he’s considered a lot. Of course the building is publicly accessible, as he points out, but it seems a bit churlish to reward the building’s owner for making its space accessible by deeming that space itself “public” and thereby denuding him of rights he otherwise would have.

Well, that’s American law, anyway. Read More…

Goldman on Ticketmaster

Eric’s Technology & Marketing Law Blog asks whether “the public interest got screwed” in the recent big win for Ticketmaster down in Alabama against RMS, a company whose software outsmarted Ticketmaster’s sales system. Copyright infringement was a lynchpin of the holding.

Ticketmaster-LogoI was once consulted on a similar case and I was hoping that it was that same former client that lost this one — because the son of a gun stiffed me on my fee! But because of that experience and the analytical framework I ended up working through while considering similar issues, I’m sympathetic to the defendant there, and to Eric’s take on it, too:

It’s easy to point at RMS and its customers as the bad guys. After all, they are trying to get an unfair advantage in the first-come, first-served allocation of scarce tickets for their economic benefit, with the result that later comers have to pay more to get the same tickets.

But what about Ticketmaster’s role in this situation? They haven’t designed a technologically gaming-resistant allocation of tickets, so they need legal help to solve that deficiency. I also remain suspicious about Ticketmaster’s incentives here, both in setting prices and in policing against ticket allocation gaming. Their motives may not be nearly so consumer-friendly as they try to portray.

Well, no company is as consumer-friendly as it likes to portray itself. But Ticketmaster? Go ahead and Google it. It’s not pretty. On the other hand, is a company really obligated to “design[] a technologically gaming-resistant” business model before it can have recourse to the law to enforce its rights? I don’t think Eric means that, either. Read, as they say, the whole thing, though.