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Copyright

Should Copyright Live Forever?
March 25, 2015 | 2:25 pm

cpoyrightWe've probably all seen that little graph which was making the rounds last year, which showed that longer copyright terms---thought to protect authors and make them more money---can actually make authors LESS money by keeping legitimate works out of the marketplace. Techdirt has a fascinating case study up this week which illustrates how this happens. The short version is that a company called Night Dive has made a business out of sourcing obsolete computer games, cleaning them up for modern devices and then releasing them for sale in today's marketplace. This is not a shady operation, though---they do their legwork to...

Tales from the ‘Whacky Copyright Stories’ Crypt
March 11, 2015 | 10:25 am

copyrightOur friends at Techdirt have a great write-up about yet another bizarre little copyright story: musical group Hall & Oates is suing a health food company over their granola cereal, branded as 'Haulin' Oats.' The granola, a maple-flavoured cereal, is being challenged because it is 'obvious play upon Plaintiff’s well-known Hall & Oates mark, and was selected by defendant in an effort to trade off of the fame and notoriety associated with the artist’s and plaintiff’s well-known marks.' I have heard of stories like this before, and it's easy to chuckle and say, for instance, that nobody would confuse a dry-cleaner...

Grim and gritty Power Rangers fan film brings fanfic back into legal spotlight
February 25, 2015 | 7:27 am

power-rangers-video-124799A new legal battle over fanfic might be shaping up. In the last couple of days, music video director Joseph Kahn and producer Adi Shankar released a 15-minute short film reimagining Power Rangers as a grim and gritty dark future drama a la Pacific Rim. The film stars name actors, including James Van Der Beek, Katee Sackhoff, and Die Another Day’s Will Yun Lee. And it almost immediately ran into legal trouble. A “NSFW” version (violence, language, nudity) was up on Vimeo for a few hours before getting taken down by a DMCA infringement notice from Saban. A safe-for-work...

More Big Media behind-the-scenes bullying on view as Google takes regulatory payola to court
February 17, 2015 | 2:25 pm

Fresh evidence of Big Media tactics to push its IP agenda in private and through back  channels, including both lobbying and far more questionable practices, has been pushed into the spotlight by Google, which has taken Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood to court to forestall what it sees as improper attacks on it that far exceed his mandate. This follows the revelation via the Sony hack of Project Goliath, a coordinated move by Motion Picture Association of America members and their attorneys to put pressure on Google at the state level. Sony itself, as well as Universal, Fox, Paramount, Warner Bros., and...

Trans-Pacific Partnership still pushing to screw your rights in secret
February 16, 2015 | 2:25 pm

eff.gifChris Meadows reported almost a year ago to the day on the invidious attempts by US trade negotiators in hock to Big Media vested interests to impose onerous copyright, intellectual property, and public domain restrictions worldwide via the Trans-Pacific Partnership - in secret, without negotiation or public consultation. Sad to say, a year on very little has changed, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation has revealed courtesy of a leaked document on the TPP state of play. As the EFF says: The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) poses massive threats to users in a dizzying number of ways. It will force other TPP signatories to accept the United...

Harper Lee to publish sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird after 55 years
February 3, 2015 | 7:53 pm

For fifty-five years, To Kill a Mockingbird has been the only novel that Harper Lee published. It was successful enough that she simply didn’t need to publish another one. That one book, published 55 years ago, has kept her comfortable for the rest of her life. But it turns out that To Kill a Mockingbird was actually the second novel that Harper Lee wrote—and now HarperCollins is going to publish the first one, Go Set a Watchman. It is scheduled for release July 2015. Lee explains that when she first wrote Go Set a Watchman, her editor was intrigued...

Tess Gerritsen not letting Gravity pull her down in Warner Bros. court battle
February 3, 2015 | 10:25 am

"Internationally bestselling author" Tess Gerritsen has released the latest bulletin from the frontline in an ongoing court battle against Warner Bros., under the modest title "My GRAVITY lawsuit and how it affects every writer who sells to Hollywood." And while at other times I might be tempted to be snarky or suspicious, in this case I suspect there really is substance behind her words, and her case really is that significant. Tess Gerritsen's statement leads off as follows: Yesterday, the court granted Warner Bros’s motion to dismiss my lawsuit against them. While Warner Bros crows victory, the judge has in fact left...

Happy birthday J.R.R. Tolkien – but doesn’t ring in any public domain riches
January 5, 2015 | 12:25 pm

Tolkien bustJohn Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on January 3rd, 1892, and his long and richly productive life ended on September 2nd, 1973. That longevity, however, also means that enthusiasts are having to wait a very long time indeed for any of his great body of work to find its way into the public domain. As Everybody's Libraries noted back on Public Domain Day 2013, if the U.S.  had not passed its latest copyright extension act in 1988, "we would be seeing works published in 1937, such as the first edition of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, now entering the public domain. ...

The great European music copyright reboot
December 22, 2014 | 8:25 pm

bookstoreAs revisited in the New York Times, the music industry is going through one of its periodic reboots in order to refresh copyright on some legacy properties - like early recordings of Bob Dylan and the Beatles. All this thanks to the 2011 decision by the Council of the European Union to unilaterally raise EU music copyright from 50 to 70 years. This was not exactly an uncontroversial decision at the time, although at least we weren't lumbered with the legislators' (or media industry stooges/proxies') original target of 95 years. Even the EU's own inndependent experts objected to it. Professor P. Bernt...

Copyright Office posts DMCA exemption petitions
November 25, 2014 | 6:17 pm

A few weeks ago I discussed the need for a DMCA exemption for e-books, in light of the US Copyright Office requesting petitions for such exemptions. The Copyright Office has now posted all 44 petitions it received as PDFs. There are a number of interesting petitions there—not least of them my own. Now that I read my petition again, I see a few typos and other tweaks I wish I could go back and fix (and they miscategorized it under “Audiovisual Works – Multimedia E-Books,” rather than “Literature Distributed Electronically”), but on the whole I’m satisfied with it....

Why we need an e-book DRM DMCA exemption
October 30, 2014 | 8:54 pm

It’s that time again. Ars Technica reports that the Copyright Office is accepting petitions on activities to exempt from the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions, making it legal to crack DRM for certain restricted purposes. We’ve reported on this procedure a few times over the last few years. The way it goes is that various people or organizations make proposals and the copyright office considers whether to grant them for the next three years. The exemptions then have to be requested again at the next session if they are to continue. Public Knowledge will be submitting requests to legalize...

ALA welcomes Court of Appeals reinforcement of fair use in Georgia State University case
October 23, 2014 | 12:25 pm

gsu-logo.jpgThe American Library Association (ALA) has issued a positive response to the recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit handed in Cambridge University Press et al. v. Carl V. Patton et al., a case previously covered by Chris Meadows here. This is the latest round of proceedings following the suit bought by the Cambridge and Oxford University Presses, and SAGE Publishers against Georgia State University for copyright infringement in 2008. Courtney Young, president of the ALA, said: “The appellate court’s decision emphasizes what ALA and other library associations have always supported—thoughtful analysis of fair use and a rejection...