Tag Archives: Copyright Law

No more free ride

Originally posted 2007-11-06 12:53:29. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Attributor is a new program that online publishers can and do use to trace their verbal content across the Internet and see who is using how much of their stuff without paying or attributing.

Reading the articles (this one sent to me by my brother, software engineeer Glenn Coleman) it seems clear that most media outlets are interested in getting credit, and links back to their sites, for typical use of their materials, i.e., use that is defensible as “fair use” under the Copyright Act:

CEO Jim Brock gave me a demo of Attributor last week in the lobby of the Waldorf Astoria. Attributor is already indexing 100 million Web pages a day (15 billion total so far), but it is not a keyword index. It looks for bigger blocks of content. Right now, it can handle only text. Images are in beta. And video matching will go into beta early next year. If you are a publisher that is a customer of Attributor, it ingests all your content and comes up with matches. Attributor splits up the world between sites that exhibit extensive copying (more than half of an article, for instance) and just some copying. It shows which sites have linked back to the original source and which have not. “Often, that’s all they want—a link,” says Brock.

That last sentence is key, and tracks the advice I give inquirers in my professional role (including my job as general counsel of the Media Bloggers Association): If you help generate traffic to the media site that produced content that you’ve excerpted, you far more often than not have inoculated yourself against an infringement claim, if only from a business (as opposed to legal) point of view.

Now Attributor is here to enforce that eminently reasonable deal. It would be eminently reasonable, if you’re a blogger or other Internet publisher utilizing other people’s content, to be very aware of it.

Death By Lawyer

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.

Online use of trademarks and copyrights by “unauthorized distributors”

Originally posted 2007-10-06 20:57:56. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION does not generally comment about active cases in which we are directly involved. But a very important and detailed (61 pages!) summary judgment decision came down in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York last week, in the case of S & L Vitamins, Inc. v. Australian Gold, Inc., 2:05-cv-1217 in which I represent the plaintiff. And while we will not comment on the decision, for obvious reasons, any reader of this blog involved in trademarks and the Internet will want to read it. So here it is. Credit to David Nieporent, co-author on the plaintiff’s brief!

UPDATE: Cogent commentary from Eric Goldman and Matthew Sag; now comes Rebecca Tushnet.

Sewage Treatment

Originally posted 2005-05-25 08:17:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

The issue of companies that technologically filter the sludge that oozes out of Hollywood in order to preserve a semblance of entertainment or enlightenment in that product line, while perserving other sensibilities, is bubbling up. We addressed it earlier; naturally, it’s now being litigated. This is a fascinating topic and one that is addressed very thoroughly in an article in the New York Law Journal (registration required).

Here’s the heart of the matter:

Making copies of a movie and offering them for sale or rent, of course, is a plain violation of copyright law. To avoid this problem, editing companies buy multiple legal copies of each movie they offer so that they always retain a one-to-one ratio of ‘cleaned-up’ copies to originals. Some editing companies package the original DVD along with the edited copy — sometimes in disabled form –so it is clear that each sanitized copy is backed up by a legitimately purchased original. Under this scheme, the editing companies argue that they cannot be doing harm to content owners. In fact, they assert that, by establishing a new audience for these movies, they are actually increasing revenues to the content owners. This argument ignores the fact that a copyright owner has the exclusive right to create and sell derivative works from its content. If a market exists for cleaned-up movies sold at a premium, the studios argue that it belongs to them, not the editors.

The other solution is the use of a hardware filter. Here, again, is a powerful excerpt on what’s at stake: Read More…

Dead hand of copyright limited in UK

Originally posted 2007-07-25 01:01:52. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Boing Boing reports that the English have done something impossible in our own country: Turned back an effort to extend copyright for, all practical purposes, ever — 95 years:

This is the first time that I know of, in the history of the world, that any country has given up on extended copyright terms. In the US, the Supreme Court found that 98 percent of the works in copyright were “orphans” with no visible owner and no way to clear them and bring them back into the world. Extending copyright dooms nearly every author’s life’s work to obscurity and disappearance, in order to make a few more pennies for the tiny minority of millionaire artists like Cliff Richards (and billionaires like Paul McCartney).

It gives one hope. (On the other hand… Cliff Richards?)

Other People’s Information Doesn’t Want to be Free

Originally posted 2005-03-12 00:00:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Last night Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James Kleinberg ruled in the Apple case that “reporters who published ‘stolen property’ weren’t entitled to protections. ”

B-b-b-b-b-b-but even if they’re reporters?!

Yes. Even if they’re reporters. This is not a First Amendment issue. Just ask The Nation.

1600 tweets, and whaddya get?

Originally posted 2010-04-27 13:36:08. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Fortune
Here’s what I’ve got the last couple of weeks, in terms of tweety things.  This is as good a way to focus on and round up topical developments as any, I say–short of Blawg Review, which, by the way, is hosted by the IP Kat this week and is a must-read.

But here’s my selection, lightly annotated, of my recent 140-character expression via @roncoleman:

That should be plenty for now.  Gotta fly.

Unilateral copyright law

Originally posted 2006-10-23 23:37:37. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Eugene Volokh joins the pile-on regarding a website that claims to exempt its contents from the liberating effects of the fair use doctrine.  The North Country Gazette, a publication whose editorial fare contains a remarkably high percentage of Terry Schiavo-oriented stories, takes the position that due to this fiat, we cannot excerpt the likes of:

An intoxicated Granville man has been charged with felony criminal mischief for throwing a portable urinal against the wall in a treatment room at the Glens Falls Hospital, destroying sterile equipment.

No, that doesn’t sound right.

But couldn’t the website, if they’d phrased it differently — as a contractual agreement, i.e., a condition precedent to use of the website — theoretically make such a stipulation stick?  Maybe, possibly.  But this heavy-handed approach seems assured to do only one thing:  Generate links to the website.  Which it has.

A back seat for copyright

Originally posted 2008-09-26 12:43:33. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Let’s get apolitically political here (via Instapundit, Mr. Diversity himself):

An informal national coalition of Internet pioneers and users with widely divergent political views will issue a letter Friday morning calling on John McCain and Barack Obama to open the remaining debates completely to the public domain.

As Lawrence Lessig, a law professor and letter-signer put it, “Copyright, in my view, is essential and important, in some places. This isn’t one.”

Given how pre-programmed candidates are at debates, the issues won’t be as compelling as they are regarding other copyrighted works, but the principle at stake is still an important one.

How many points is INFRINGEMENT?

Originally posted 2008-07-27 16:19:12. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

We had been wondering who had the “Z.” Now the other tile drops, and probably right onto a triple word score — Hasbro, owner of the SCRABBLE trademark, has sued Scrabulous (complaint here; exhibits here):

The general manager for digital media and gaming at Hasbro said yesterday that the company had waited until there was a “legal” version of Scrabble on Facebook before it took action against the Scrabulous creators.

The lawsuit, filed in a US district court in New York, accused Rajat and Jayant Agarwalla – two software developers based in Calcutta – of violating Hasbro’s copyright and trademarks. Facebook was not named as a defendant.

Neither brother nor any representative from their web design company, RJ Softwares, could immediately be reached for comment today.

More here. The complaint is not online yet.* We’ll try to keep you posted.

UPDATE:  For what it’s worth — maybe, someday, my descendants will read this — I just remembered that my first-ever trademark research project as a paid legal professional was as a summer associate at Kaye, Scholer, where I was assigned to research a question involving some aspect of the Scrabble trademarks on behalf of client Selchow & Righter, which had then recently been purchased by Coleco and owned the rights to Scrabble before Hasbro bought them out of bankruptcy.  Of course the nature of the research I did is still confidential… even to me.  But I can say confidently that in the summer of 1987, it did not involve Scrabulous.

UPDATE:  The offending “app” is now gone from Facebook, while a thousand utterly idiotic — but non-infringing — ones live on!

UPDATE:  Victoria Pynchon does the heavy lifting:

If Player 1 opens with “fringe” (double word) for 24 points; Player 2 follows by slapping an “i” on the triple word score followed by an “n” for “infringe” and 33 points; and, Player 1 responds with “ment” for 19 points, the combined score for “infringement” is 75 points. Our readers can do the math and moves on “trademark” and copyright.”

UPDATE:  And… what ever did happen to Scrabulous, you ask?

* Even though, like all District Courts, the Southern District of New York, which describes itself as the Mother of District Courts, has mandatory electronic filing, you have to file the initial pleading or case-opening document in person, then go back, scan the file and mail it back to the clerk. If t They filed on Thursday the 24th;  the complaint should be was online some time Monday or Tuesday.

King Kong meets Godzilla

Originally posted 2007-03-05 19:25:23. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Via Drudge — FT.com unleases a whopper:

Microsoft on Tuesday launches a fierce attack on Google over its “cavalier” approach to copyright, accusing the internet company of exploiting books, music, films and television programmes without permission.Tom Rubin, associate general counsel for Microsoft, will say in a speech in New York that while authors and publishers find it hard to cover costs, “companies that create no content of their own, and make money solely on the back of other people’s content, are raking in billions through advertising and initial public offerings”.

Mr Rubin’s remarks, presaged in an article in Tuesday’s Financial Times, come as Google faces criticism and legal pressure from media companies over services allowing users to search online for books, films, television programmes and news. Viacom, the US media group, instructed YouTube, which Google owns, to remove 100,000 clips of copyright material.

Okay, so there’s a touch of irony here:

You see, Microsoft excels at marketing. They don’t excel at innovation. In fact, very little of what Microsoft has to offer is truly innovative. There is a tendency to come late to the game and snatch up an idea and build on it, perhaps years after the concept has hit the market, and call it their own. They market themselves as innovators and do a degree they are. Their innovation comes in the spit and polish and not in the technological breakthrough itself.

Examples of this go way back …

Arguably, Google has innovated more — with its search engine technology and the applications it has spun off them, and in the way it has changed the face of how people use their (and others’) computers — than Microsoft ever will. What commercial reality is motivating this attack, then? Read More…

This Isn’t One, Either. Heavens, No.

Originally posted 2005-02-17 00:04:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Bill Heinze’s I/P Updates blog reports about a trademark registration you can see at the erstwhile movie pirating website LokiTorrent.com. You get a message that says “There are websites that provide legal downloads. This is not one of them.” The site is the property of the good people at the MPAA.  And it ought to: Downloading someone else’s movie is just plain stealing. Even if the MPAA is against it.

Clients sometimes ask whether the infringing website they’re steaming about can ever fall like an overripe fruit into their hot little hands. Yep. It can.