When Copyright Goes Bad

Consumers International produced a video called “When Copyright Goes Bad,” which discusses current issues arising from technology that allows for easy copying of copyrighted works and copyright laws.

Unintended Consequences: Twelve Years under the DMCA

Electronic Frontier Foundation:  “Since they were enacted in 1998, the ‘anti-circumvention’ provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (‘DMCA’), codified in section 1201 of the Copyright Act, have not been used as Congress envisioned. Congress meant to stop copyright infringers from defeating anti-piracy protections added to copyrighted works and to ban the ‘black box’ devices intended for that purpose. . . . As a result, the DMCA has developed into a serious threat to several important public policy priorities.”

Kermit the Frog’s Intellectual Property Rights

Do fictitious characters have intellectual property rights?  Yes argues Geoff Gerber of the Anchor Plate.  If you think you can profit from piggy-backing on the fame of Mickey Mouse, Luke Skywalker or Kermit the Frog, you may be asking for legal trouble.  For an interesting discussion of Kermit’s intellectual property rights, see “Character of the Week: Kermit the Frog,” where Mr. Gerber states:

Just as with any real-life celebrity, the fame associated with Kermit is a valuable, intangible property. Intellectual-property law protects that value in a number of ways.  The two main ways in which IP law protects characters are copyright and trademark.

  • Each of the works in which Kermit is depicted is protected by copyright. And, when a character is sufficiently defined, courts have recognized that copyright law may protect a character from unauthorized copying
  • A character may also be protected trademark. If a character is sufficiently distinct, it may serve as a symbol to designate the source or origin of goods or services. This happens most often, but not exclusively in the context of merchandising

Law Firm Sues Over Unauthorized Use of Web Site

Law.com:  “Highlights of a Palm Beach Gardens law firm’s Web site were bizarrely copied by someone posing as a British law firm while using the same text, design, logo and even photographs of the Florida attorneys.  Gordon & Doner, a personal injury firm, sued GoDaddy.com, the Web host for the copied site, and the unknown copier as John Doe after an attorney at the firm did a Google search for his own name and stumbled on maslinassociates.com, purportedly the site of a firm in Manchester, England.  Names were changed on the copy, and minor tweaks were inserted in the text to take out a home page reference to West Palm Beach and change dollars to pounds. But everything — from a list of Gordon & Doner’s courtroom victories to photos of staffers participating in a charity run — were copies of the Gordon & Doner site fortheinjured.com.”

Award Cut to $54K from $1.92M in Music File-Sharing Case

Information Week:  “A Minnesota woman fined nearly $2 million for illegally downloading music has seen the fine reduced from that ‘monstrous’ amount by a U.S. District Court judge who dropped the fine to $54,000.  Jammie Thomas-Rasset, a single mother with four children, said she is seeking a way to have the fine — leveled after she lost a case with the Recording Industry Association of America — reduced even further. . . . In his opinion, Judge Michael Davis said, ‘The need for deterrence cannot justify a $2 million verdict for stealing and illegally distributing 24 songs for the sole purpose of obtaining free music’.”

Gary Fung’s Torrent Sites Liable for Contributory Copyright Infringement

The Digital Media Lawyer Blog:  “The copyright infringement claims brought against Canadian Gary Fung and his .torrent sites have at last been resolved. On December 21, 2009, Judge Wilson of the Central District of California found Fung and several of his .torrent sites liable for inducement of copyright infringement.  Wilson’s decision was based largely the same grounds on which other operators of peer-to-peer filing sharing were found liable in Grokster, Napster and Usenet.  To be liable for inducing copyright infringement, a defendant must have knowledge of another’s infringement and undertake purposeful acts aimed at assisting and encouraging this infringement. . . . This means that the plaintiff must first show that there has been an act of direct infringement by third parties. . . . In the case of peer-to-peer filing sharing, infringement can occur both when a copyrighted work is uploaded (this violates the copyright holder’s distribution right) and when it is downloaded (this violates the copyright holder’s reproduction right).”

The YouTube Approach to Copyright Infringement

Digital Media Lawyer Blog:  “YouTube has been amassing an impressive list of music industry giants who have agreed to license their content for performance on its site. Recent additions to the fold include Warner Music and the UK Performing Rights Society.  These are simply two more examples of the recent warming trend in the music and video copyright holding community’s attitude toward YouTube.  I recently attended a meeting of the California Copyright Conference which featured a panel appearance by Zahava Levine, YouTube’s knowledgeable and enthusiastic Chief Counsel.”

Installation of Modified Apple Software on Cloned Computers Constituted Copyright Infringement

Digital Media Lawyer Blog:  “There has been a lot of recent press touting manufacturers of MAC clones. Clone manufacturers attempt to unlock the tie between Apple software and hardware by selling non-Apple hardware that include copies of Apple’s much-loved software.   However, because Apple does not sell copies of its software separately from MAC hardware, the only way for this business to work economically is for the cloner to copy the MAC software and then download the software onto the clone.  This is an action that necessarily would seem to violate Apple’s rights to control the copying of its software.  And so found a court in a recent decision in favor of Apple. See Apple, Inc. v. Psystar Corp.”

Copyright Battles to Begin in 2013

Law.com:  “Over the past six years, the record industry has successfully sued thousands of people in the United States for illegally downloading copyrighted songs.  . . Soon, though, the major labels are going to have a different copyright battle on their hands — one that will pit them not against those who want to listen to recordings, but those who created them in the first place.  . . The looming problem is the so-called termination rights Congress gave to creators of copyrighted material when it amended the U.S. copyright law in 1976.  The rights — which allow a copyright grant to be terminated after 35 years . . . [In 2013] holders of sound-recording copyrights can take advantage of this provision, which, in turn, makes recordings from 1978 potentially the first to be up for grabs.”