7.1 Recent copyright controversy

Fair use and public domain 

Oct 2013 —  Is copyright duration too long?  Shouldn’t Mario be public domain by now?

Oct 2013 — The isoHunt search engine deserved to die says a Washington Post columnist.  An appeals court’s decision  in March, 2013 reinforced  the Grokster “inducement” approach to infringement.    An article raising questions about the overall trend in law was published in the WSJ on Oct. 1, 2013:  Sony or Grokster? Which model will prevail in new cases involving remote storage of video programming?

Oct 2013 – An American movie producer  is going after Canadian downloaders. Globe & Mail, Oct. 21, 2013.

August 2013 — On the 50th anniversary of the Martin Luther King “I Have a Dream” speech, most people could not hear the speech itself because it is copyrighted by the King foundation.  Some YouTube versions were up on the actual 50th anniversary but probably won’t be much longer.

June, 2012 –South Park’s WWITB video is a fair use parody of Samwell’s video under copyright law. This is a case that demonstrates how courts apply Acuff-Rose. It’s not a pathbreaking original case. * (Caution: Offensive material. WWITB stands for “what what in the butt,” a not very subtle reference to a sex act.)

March, 2011 — Federal court invalidates agreement between Google and two academic publishing associations. The agreement was the outcome of a lawsuit initially filed in 2005 asking Google to stop scanning books. Settlement discussions are continuing. See Google print, books and library.

Dec, 2009 — US and international parody web sites are being subject to inappropriate takedown orders, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. In one case, Peabody Coal objected to a climate change parody. In another, Environment Canada objected to a Danish web site hosting an American parody, and the site was taken down without due process.

SOPA etc

Feb. 2011 — Protect IP Act – Designed to protect US sites from offshore IPs, the overbreadth of enforcement powers worries many in the digital free speech community.  This proposal was quickly followed by the Stop Online Piracy Act. Proponents said it would bolster enforcement of copyright laws, especially against foreign-owned and operated websites. According to a Wikipedia article on SOPA, opponents said it would have threatened free speech and innovation, allowing law enforcement to block  entire internet domains if they found infringing content posted on a single blog or webpage. This would have bypassed the “safe harbor” provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.      Massive internet protests took place in January of 2012. The act was not passed.

Music sharing

May, 2012 — Sony v Tenenbaum (wikipedia)  — Former  student Joel Tennenbaum admitted illegally downloading 3o songs. The jury awarded Sony and the other music companies $675,000, or $22,500 per song.  The first appeals court reduced the amount, but  in May of 2012, a high level federal appeals court upheld the entire amount.   The US Supreme Court denied cert.

Sept, 2012 — Capital Records  v. Thomas (wikipedia) An original award of $222,000 for downloading 24 songs was upheld after many twists and turns and appeals and counter-appeals.   Following Thomas’ original conviction, The Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog had a few choice comments:  “I believe the RIAA has surpassed the IRS and TSA as the most hated organization – at least in some circles. Quite a distinction for a non-government entity.”

Despite these two cases, the RIAA did slow down in prosecution of other cases in the 2009 – 2012 period and came up with a “six strikes” plan that would work in concert with ISPs.   This is RIAA’s attempt to be a little more reasonable, we would hope, although some objected.    And  in October of 2012 it seemed  that the ISPs were reluctant to take that step.

Also new are the  “copyright trolls” who are making a living through mass lawsuits and demands for settlements.  The EFF has information about that.

Music and the moral rights of artists 

April, 2008 — Yoko Ono sues producers of a film released in the USin April, 2008 – “Expelled”– for alleged copyright violations. Read the AP article here and the press release from Expelled here. Also, a collection of discussions about Expelled.  Also here is the legal brief (or complaint) in the suit.

Oct 2008 — The 70s rock group Heart objects to the use of Barracuda Heart’s songwriters, Ann and Nancy Wilson, released a statement saying that “Sarah Palin’s views and values in no way represent us as American women” and insisted that the McCain-Palin campaign not play their song.

Christopher Sprigman and Siva Vaidhyanathan  (U.Va. profs) said in a 2008 Washington Post op-ed:

“While copyrights should be respected, artists who abuse copyright to attempt to muzzle politicians’ speech are sacrificing the broader interest for their own feelings and agendas. This kind of conduct is not what copyright is about; copyright law exists to help artists get paid, and politicians who pay for a blanket license to use a song in a campaign are doing exactly what the copyright law says they should. Artists’ copyrights are important, but the vibrancy of our political discourse is absolutely central. If John McCain wants to tell voters that Sarah Palin is a barracuda, and the most effective way to do so is via Heart’s song, then by all means let it play. And if the Wilson sisters want to mock Republican misuse of a feminist anthem, then let them sing from the mountaintops. But let’s keep the courts out of it.”