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.
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.
Quickly followed by SOPA, which was a disaster.
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.
Jan 2008 — Ford Motor Co. blocks printing of a “Black Mustang Club” calendar, initially seeming to claim that any picture of any Ford car is property of Ford. In fact, they were worried about the use of the Ford logo, which seemed to imply company backing.
Music and moral rights
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:
“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.”