Items tagged "Copyright"


Parodies Aren’t Endorsements

November 26, 2013 Copyright , Fair Use

Over the past week, much has been written about GoldieBlox’s parody of the Beastie Boys song “Girls.” For those who haven’t heard, GoldieBlox, maker of toy building sets targeted at girls, made a video promoting their product, which went viral (as of this blog post, it has over 8 million views on YouTube). Beastie Boys found out, they cried copyright infringement, and GoldieBlox went to court to ask the court to declare that this use of “Girls” is fair use, and therefore not copyright infringement.

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If You Love Fair Use, Give It A Day Off Once In a While

November 21, 2013 Copyright , Fair Use

Everyone, but especially copyright reformers, should look to more than fair use to protect legitimate uses of copyrighted works. While fair use is a vital doctrine, it should not be, and never has been, the only way to protect users from spurious claims of infringement.

When there is a contested copyright issue, many legal observers–including copyright reformers–immediately jump to a fair use analysis without first considering whether a use is non-infringing for other reasons. As a friend of fair use, I want to give it the day off once in a while. There are other ways that some uses of copyrighted works are non-infringing besides fair use. This is particularly so in the case of sampling in music. 

Fair use, of course, is very important. Judges long ago realized that not every use of a copyrighted work required permission of the copyright owner, even when those uses fell within one of the “exclusive” rights the law gives copyright owners control over. Thus, the common law tradition gave rise to the fair use doctrine, which recognizes that while the rights of copyright owners to control certain uses are broad, they are not unlimited, and cannot be used to limit criticism or commentary, prevent education or transformative uses, and so on. (The test that courts apply is codified in 17 U.S.C. § 107, though the common law is still relevant.) Because of fair use, a user of a copyrighted work might be able to make a reproduction of all or some of it, without permission, even though the law grants copyright holders the right to control reproductions.

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On “Blurred Lines,” Copyright Infringement, and “Sample Trolls”

August 20, 2013 Copyright , Music , Music Licensing


Robin Thicke pushes back against copyright litigation threats.

Robin Thicke is apparently being accused of infringing copyrights in Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” and Funkadelic’s “Sexy Ways” in his single “Blurred Lines.” Apparently in response to demands that he pay licensing fees to the estate of Marvin Gaye and Bridgeport Music, Inc. (the company that has bought up the rights to Funkadelic’s songs), Thicke is asking a court to state conclusively that he’s not infringing copyrights.

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Convoluted Laws for Pre-1972 Music Can Restrict its Availability

August 19, 2013 Copyright , Music Licensing

Members of the band The Turtles, best known for their 1967 song “Happy Together,” have filed a class-action lawsuit against SiriusXM, saying that the satellite radio company is violating the rights they have in their sound recordings by playing their music to satellite radio subscribers without permission.

Sound Recording Copyrights are Recent, and More Limited

This might seem to be a strange oversight on the part of SiriusXM, except that normally, radio services don’t need to get permission to play music. This is because copyrights for recording artists are a relatively recent phenomenon. In fact, recording artists didn’t have *any* copyright rights in their works until 1972. Even after 1972, when Congress decided to expand copyrights to include recorded sound (copyrights in sheet music had been allowed since the 1830s), it did so in a limited manner. Recording artists could prevent others from reproducing, making derivative works of, or distributing copies of their works, but they couldn’t stop anyone from publicly performing them. 

That included broadcasters, who were free to play records over the air without permission or payment to the people who made the records. Even much later, when Congress decided to expand recording artists’ rights to include public performance “by means of a digital audio transmission,” it also included a statutory license for that right, meaning that satellite radio and webcasters, who make digital audio transmissions, don’t have to get permission from recordings artists—but they do have to pay for the use of their songs. (These statutory licenses in section 114, which are calculated differently depending upon the type of broadcaster, are the source of a lot of the conflict you might be hearing about internet radio rates.)

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Getty Shows What it Means to be a Modern Museum

August 15, 2013 3D Printing , Copyright

Making public domain works available in a public domain way respects copyright and spreads culture. 

Yesterday’s news from the Getty Museum that they were making high-resolution images of 4,600 works in their collection available for free download should be celebrated by anyone who cares about art and culture. And it should also be celebrated by anyone who cares about copyright and the public domain, and who is thinking about what it means to be a modern museum dedicated to bringing people into contact with art.

Let’s get the art and culture part out of the way first.  One of the great things about museums is that they allow people who are not, say, massively rich oil magnates to access culture. And one of the great things about the internet is that they allow people who are not physically near something to experience it themselves. Combining the two makes all sorts of sense.

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Broadcasters: For Fair Access to Content Before They Were Against It

June 20, 2013 Copyright , radio royalties

Opinions on the rights of content owners differ among broadcasters when they are the owners who can profit from new distribution methods.

Creators should be paid a fair price for their content. Or they shouldn’t be. Broadcasters are arguing both sides of the same issue when the content is television versus music on the radio.

At the hearing on the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act, Marci Burdick, speaking on behalf of the National Association of Broadcasters and Ben Pyne, president of global distribution at Disney Media Networks, both stressed the importance of retransmission consent to their business model.

The retransmission consent system gives broadcasters the right to control whether cable or satellite providers can carry their programming. Retransmission consent is one of the regulatory systems that grew up around cable, but now threatens emerging video providers.

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3D Printed Copyright Infringement is Still Copyright Infringement

June 19, 2013 3D Printing , Copyright

A Creative Commons license on a 3D printed sculpture does not mean that you can print it however you want.

The past few days have seen an increase in complaints by 3D printing designers about how companies that manufacture 3D printers use their designs.  It raises questions about how copyright works in the world of 3D printing, and what it means to release designs under a Creative Commons license.

Copyright Still Exists in 3D Printing

One of the things that makes 3D printing so interesting is that, especially when compared to the world of music and movies, lots of 3D printed objects are not protected by copyright (or any type of intellectual property right) at all.  However, the fact that many 3D printed things are not protected by copyright does not mean that all 3D printed things are not protected by copyright. 

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Treaty for the Blind in Jeopardy, Copyright Zealots to Blame

May 29, 2013 Copyright , Enforcement , Fair Use , International

In a few weeks, the nations of the world will gather in Morocco to finalize a treaty that could help the millions of blind and visually impaired have affordable access to books, but lobbyists from Hollywood and the publishing industry are making a last minute push to fatally weaken the Treaty – despite getting all their previous demands.

In a few weeks, the 186 governments that are members of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) will gather in Morocco with the goal of crafting a Treaty For The Blind.  The agreement would facilitate global production and lending of audio books, Braille translations, and otherwise enable the visually impaired and those with certain learning disabilities to have affordable access to books. 

This will most benefit the millions of blind people in the developing world who live in poverty, by adopting many of the rights to translate works into braille or other forms accessible to the visually impaired that are already law in the United States.

But last minute lobbying by Hollywood and publishing interests in the U.S. and Europe have threatened to derail the Treaty for the Blind at the last minute.

We are asking everyone to please sign this We The People Petition telling the Obama Administration to side with the blind, not Hollywood.

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