80 law experts from China's legal system, universities and research centres gathered in Beijing to discuss potential changes to the Internet Copyright Law. At a conference jointly held by Zhuoya Research Center, Tsinghua University and China Intellectual Property Society, experts agreed that China's Internet Copyright Law is in urgent need of revision to deal with increasing infringements and keep up with fast-changing technology. More here.
Talks of a new EU 'ACTA' have resurfaced after the Presidency of the EU Council (currently held by Italy) presented a "paper aimed at structuring the exchange of views on IPR enforcement". The paper notes that the European Commission carried out a consultation on copyright recently, and comments that "the current legislative framework is not necessarily fit for purpose in the digital environment." You can see the Presidency Paper Enforcement of intellectual property rights here.
A US judge has ruled in favour of director James Cameron, Twentieth Century Fox and Lightstorm Entertainment, finding that it could not be proven that they used copyrighted work for the 2009 blockbuster “Avatar” copied from the artist Roger Dean, a respected artist and designer who designed the iconic artwork for many Yes, Budgie, Uriah Heep and Asia albums, as well as albums for the London Symphony Orchestra and the London Philharmonic . We covered this story back in July 2013 in our blog Tales From Topical Oceans
Dean had argued that "the overall look and feel of [the Avatar world] Pandora substantially resembles a Roger Dean world in that Pandora's most striking and memorable features are those created by the Plaintiff" Now United States District Judge Jesse M. Furman, in the Southern District of New York, has dismissed the suit by Dean saying "The works are indisputably similar insofar as they present the natural world in a fantastical way by depicting airborne land masses. But Plaintiff does not have a monopoly on the idea of floating or airborne land, an idea that has been around since at least 1726, when Jonathan Swift published his classic Gulliver's Travels" and the judge also poitnted to Led Zepplin's album Led Zepplin IV and the track Stairway to Heaven, adding "Suspending a landmass is a predictable — if not common — way to make a vista more sweeping, breathtaking, and fantastical, and is plainly subject to both the principle that ideas are not protected and the doctrine of scènes à faire. Put simply, Plaintiff cannot copyright the idea of levitation, a trope often used to suggest a magical or fantastic realm, cf. Williams, 84 F.3d at 589 (“[P]lacing dinosaurs on a prehistoric island far from the mainland amounts to no more than a scene a faire in a dinosaur adventure story.”), and a common feature of films utilizing three-dimensional technology, such as Avatar. Led Zepplin's Stairway to Heaven is subject to a quite separate copyright claim brought by the estate of Randy California, formerly of the rock band Spirit and who wrote the track 'Taurus' which it is alleged forms the basis of the later Stairway to Heaven. Led Zepplin have moved to have the suit dismissed
|Bono (c) 2011 Glastonbury Festivals Ltd (Denis O'Regan)
|Iggy Pop (c) 2007 Glastonbury Festivals Ltd
the WhoSampled app is now available for Android-powered phones from the Google Play store, enabling Android phone users to track what music has influenced and informed current tracks. The app, already available for iPhones, "provides detailed information on songs, including what other songs have sampled them, what artists have covered music from other artists, and what remixes were then made for a track - WhoSampled allows users to explore the musical connections in their own music collection".
The U.S. Copyright Office is understaffed and could face additional strains in the future, according testimony by the head of the Office. Maria A. Pallante has brought up the staffing concerns to Congress before, and in prepared testimony for a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing she said that the office’s staff is “smaller than it should be to carry out the volume and complexity of work prescribed by Title 17.” The office has 360 full-time employees, she writes in her testimony. The most pressing concern, according to Pallante’s testimony, is the number of registration staff - she has forty-eight vacancies out of a staff of 180 experts - and about 25% of the registration specialists remaining are approaching
Grand Rapids lawyer John J. Bursch, who represents the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is hoping he can convince the U.S. Supreme Court to protect the copyright surrounding the author’s most famous character - Sherlock Holmes. Bursch, a partner with the Grand Rapids law firm of Warner Norcross & Judd, is leading a team of attorneys that hopes the Supreme Court will grant a hearing in the copyright dispute between the Doyle estate and Leslie Klinger, the author and lawyer, who wants to use the Sherlock Holmes character in a book he has written. Bursch opines “The estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle absolutely has the right to protect the copyrights of the Sherlock Holmes character,” arguing that Doyle’s stories are still protected under the 1919 copyright law that preserves an author’s copyright for 95 years. Doyle published his last of the 'in copyright' ten Sherlock Holmes (with Dr Watson) stories in 1927 so the Estate argues that the character of Sherlock Holmes and all related copyright elements remain protected until 2023, drawn from the date upon which the final story published by Sir Conan Doyle enters the public domain (The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes 1921-1927). Bursch said that conflicting rulings by several federal appeals courts made the case ripe for the Supreme Court’s consideration. The Doyle Estate is understandably keen to maintain it's licensing income from the characters and all of the famous detective in books still in copyright and any use in movies and television shows: on the other had Klinger has successfully argued he does not need to seek their permission prior to publication (unless he was actually using detail from the final ten books still in copyright). Bursch adds “This lawsuit affects so much more than 10 Sherlock Holmes stories,” Bursch told Michigan Live “Other affected characters include such treasures as A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat, Ian Fleming’s James Bond, DC Comics’ Superman and many others.” In June this year the US Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit issued its decision in Leslie Klinger v Conan Doyle Estate, in which upheld the decision of the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois - Eastern Division that Mr Klinger was free to use material in the 50 Sherlock Holmes stories and novels that are no longer protected by copyright. In that decision Judge Richard Posner recalled the decision in Silverman v CBS, in which the 2nd Circuit held that when a story falls into the public domain also its story elements - including its characters - do. Also in June, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kegan refused to issue a stay to prevent the Holmes stories from officially entering the public domain.
And finally, over on the IPKat Jeremy has a an update on Yoda - no, not the diminutive jedi knight from Star Wars but the newly proposed You Own Devices Act. Towards an Electronic Devices Flea Market in the Cloud? YODA says…YES! tells us that U.S. Representative Blake Farenthold (R-TX) announced last week that he has introduced a bill in Congress, the You Own Devices Act (YODA), which would amend Section 109 of the Copyright Act by providing that the first sale doctrine applies to any computer program enabling a machine or another product to operate. If YODA is enacted, owners of electronic devices would no longer be barred from selling them by the companies which manufactured the devices, as they claim that the software needed to operate the device was not sold, but licensed to the first buyer. Companies are doing so as they claim copyright ownership in the software. And more on Yoda (yes the software one) here.
Roger Dean v James Cameron: You decide!