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On March 7, Camelot Distribution Group, an obscure film company in Los Angeles, unveiled its latest and potentially most profitable release: a federal lawsuit against BitTorrent users who allegedly downloaded the company's 2010 B-movie revenge flick Nude Nuns With Big Guns between January and March of this year. The single lawsuit targets 5,865 downloaders, making it theoretically worth as much as $879,750,000 more money than the U.S. box-office gross for Avatar.
Read the rest of the article here:
[Posted at 04/01/2011 11:10 AM by Justin Levine on IP in the News comments(0)]
That is law professor David Post's take on the continuing struggle between Viacom and Youtube which he writes about here:
[Posted at 04/01/2011 10:25 AM by Justin Levine on IP in the News comments(0)]
Among the fastest growing problems within the realm of malignant monopolies is the disturbing frequency of abuse that lawyers now use to try and keep court documents under seal and away from public scrutiny. This results in a monopoly of information that is often abused by corporate powers within the legal system.
It is gratifying to know that the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals has sanctioned at least one attorney for abusing that process in the course of a patent infringement lawsuit.
There are a few dense legal passages in the opinion, but its worth a read if you have the time.
The full opinion in PDF format can be found here:
[Posted at 03/29/2011 11:16 PM by Justin Levine on Against Monopoly comments(0)]
The latest issue of the American Bar Association Journal has a well written article explaining the most important patent case to reach the Supreme Court since the Bilski
There's a major legal issue: To what extent should patents be presumed valid? [Microsoft] has been trying for years to get the Supreme Court to rule on this issue, and it appears the company is on the brink of success.
"This is a very important case," says Los Angeles attorney Glenn W. Trost. "The Supreme Court, for the first time, is going to squarely address the quantum of proof needed to establish the invalidity of a patent in patent litigation."
Read the full article here:
It is especially funny to read the quotes from hard-core supporters of the current patent regime in this article, who all seem hell-bent on protecting their occupational turf (even if it means making it more difficult for genuine innovators to overturn weak or fraudulently granted patents).
However, the article does a good job at presenting both sides. Well worth the time to read.
[Posted at 03/29/2011 11:01 PM by Justin Levine on IP Law comments(0)]
John Diaz, editorial page editor at the San Francisco Chronicle weighs in on the censoring taking place from the overreach by copyright maximalists combined with fuzzy fair use guidelines.
His full editorial is well worth a read here:
The opening paragraphs...
"Slaying the Dragon: Reloaded," a compelling new documentary that critiques the portrayal of Asian women in U.S. visual media, has drawn protests from an unlikely quarter. It wasn't from Hollywood, which was deservedly scoured for its depiction of Asian women in films from "Rush Hour 2" to "Sex and the City." It wasn't from conservative commentators claiming political correctness run amok.
Instead, the objection to the documentary by Elaine Kim, a UC Berkeley professor of Asian American studies, emerged from six Asian American filmmakers just before its premiere last week at the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival. Their complaint: that she used clips of their work without seeking their permission.
Yet there are some who still insist that the current copyright regime doesn't pose a censorship problem (or minimize the importance of censorship if it doesn't involve grievances directed at the government). Presumably, these critics would consider documentarian Elaine Kim a free speech "opportunist" in her criticism of the current copyright regime.
[Posted at 03/27/2011 05:27 PM by Justin Levine on Fair Use comments(0)]
Via SCOTUSBlog: "Ignoring the federal government's plea to stay away from the issue, the Supreme Court agreed on Monday to rule on a core issue of copyright law: when, if ever, does Congress have the constitutional power to revive copyright protection once it has expired for a creative work?"
The is an issue of major importance that is worth keeping on top of.
More background here:
[Posted at 03/07/2011 10:30 PM by Justin Levine on IP Law comments(0)]
[Posted at 02/22/2011 11:33 AM by Justin Levine on IP Law comments(0)]
Via The Arizona Republic / Tucson Citizen (with selected bold emphasis added):
A Tucson portrait photographer whose image of 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green was shared with media outlets by her family after she was killed is seeking compensation from numerous media companies, including The Arizona Republic and TucsonCitizen.com, and has threatened to sue if he is not paid.
Photographer Jon Wolf owns the photo's copyright and told the Green family that he intended to donate a portion of his earnings to a charity that helps grieving children and their families. However, Tucson charity Tu Nidito has since declined any funds he might receive. The Greens say they are infuriated by Wolf's actions. A public Facebook movement to boycott Wolf's business is circulating.
Gannett Co., Inc., parent corporation of The Arizona Republic and more than 140 other media entities including 12 News and USA Today, "respects intellectual property" and is willing to pay a standard licensing fee, said Barbara Wall, Gannett's vice president/senior counsel, but the sum will be far shy of the $125,000 Wolf has specified.
Wolf's request included a release form signed by both of Christina-Taylor's parents during the three-day period after their daughter's death, acknowledging Wolf as the copyright holder and freeing him to pursue damages.
A representative for John and Roxanna Green has said that, at the time, the Greens didn't fully comprehend Wolf's intentions.
"It's not right," John Green said. "People are angry at him, and they should be."
Read further details of this sordid tale here:
See the Facebook boycott page continue to grow here:
[Posted at 02/18/2011 05:07 PM by Justin Levine on IP Outrages comments(0)]
Madonna's music manager brother Chris Ciccone has blasted Lady Gaga's sound-alike new single Born This Way.
He told RadarOnline.com: "All I can say is 'What the F**K!...It sounds just like Express Yourself - I can't believe it to tell you the truth."
Read the full story here:
You can compare samples from the two songs here:
After hearing the comparison myself, I can draw a personal conclusion that Lady Gaga was heavily influenced by Madonna and is far less talented and original than people give her credit for.
But could she be liable for copyright infringement? In a sane world, the answer should be "no", since the works can still be distinguished. Gaga clearly took the broad structure of Madonna's song (the "spine" of the melody, if you will), but then put a personal gloss over it to make it her own, new work. The fact that it clearly grew out of Madonna's previous creation should not make it an actual "copy" in the eyes of the law.
However, this is not a sane world as far as the realm of copyright law is concerned. New musical works can still be considered "copies" or unlawful "derivative works" if they even build upon more abstract aesthetic elements such as melodic motifs and musical timings in such a way that a listener can recognize it as being influenced by a previous work.
A famous example in legal circles is when George Harrison was found liable for copyright infringement when his song "My Sweet Lord" was deemed too similar to the Chiffons' hit "He's So Fine".
Read the court ruling and hear samples from both works here:
If Harrison can be found liable, it isn't too much of a stretch to suggest that Gaga could be liable for infringement as well if Madonna decided to go after her. One could always argue that Gaga's song has more original production "frills" than the similarities found between Harrison and the Chiffons' song. But you would be splitting some awfully thin hairs at that point, and end up turning what should be objective law into a legal decree based on personal aesthetic judgments. In my book, that's a sad criteria to enforce the law with. But that is what the current copyright regime has wrought.
It should be enough to brand Lady Gaga as a coat-tailing poseur. There is no need for a legal system which could dole out punishment to her for "copying" in this instance.
[Posted at 02/15/2011 01:21 AM by Justin Levine on Ease of Imitation comments(0)]
Jay McInerney in the NY Times reminds us
why there will never be a biographical account of J.D. Salinger that is as accurate and insightful as it could be, all thanks to a bit of stifling censorship from the current copyright regime:
...Hamilton tracked down a great deal of unpublished correspondence and quoted extensively from Salinger's letters and books. When a galley of the book reached Salinger, he called in the lawyers and demanded that Random House remove quotations of unpublished letters from the text. The initial district court ruling in favor of Random House and Hamilton was overturned on appeal with major repercussions for American copyright law and with the immediate result that Hamilton was forced to paraphrase the letters he'd relied so heavily on. Slawenski is muzzled by that 1987 ruling and also by his fastidious interpretation of fair-use copyright law in regard to quoting from the fiction, limiting himself pretty much to short phrases. The bulk of the book was written when the litigious Salinger was still alive, but I can't help wondering if his heirs might have proved a little more relaxed about quotation. Margaret Salinger's memoir, "Dream Catcher" (2000), to which Slawenski is heavily indebted, quotes great swatches of the prose, but she may have presumed that even J. D. Salinger was loath to sue his own daughter.
Full review/article here:
[Posted at 02/14/2011 05:15 PM by Justin Levine on IP as Censorship comments(0)]
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