1709 Blog: for all the copyright community

Monday, 23 February 2015

The CopyKat - trolling tonight

Freeplay, the US-based library music company, which has been providing music for bedroom filmmakers for their YouTube videos, has filed litigation against four 'multi-channel networks', accusing the the firms of abusing licences they had designed for user-generated videos to circumvent having to pay for the music used in their commercial content. The companies being sued include some of the big guns in the growing MCN space: Disney's Maker Studios, DreamWorks Animation's Awesomeness, Big Frame and BroadbandTV Corp. Two more - Machinima and Collective Digital Studio - which launched pre-emptive strikes against Freeplay last week, are set to receive countersuits from the music rights owner in due course. Freeplay offers a licence to amateur video makers that allows them to use music from the Freeplay library free of charge, on the condition Freeplay is able to subsequently monetise that content on YouTube using Google's Content-ID system to collect ad revenues. But Freeplay charges commercial content producers $250 a year for a licence - and says that licence is designed for personal Youtube channels - NOT MCNS. Freeplay say they used the audio fingerprint technology TuneSat to locate their music on numerous MCN-operated channels all being used without the right licence. The lawsuits allege that Freeplay contacted the four MCNs about licensing the music, but that they were not willing to negotiate. The suits seek unspecified monetary damages and demand that the infringement cease. Machinima and Collective Digital Studio argue that Freeplay is deliberately confusing amatuer video makers into using the free sync music from Freeplay's libraries - only to be subsequently invoiced, or threatened with legal action when the usage is classified as commercial. The MCNs go as far call Freeplay's approach 'copyright trolling'. More on Variety here.

And more on alleged trolling - this tme its all about a Australian wine maker called Stephen Moignard who has designed an algorithm called Plfer to hunt down "substantially similar" text across multiple websites and serve demand letters to alleged copyright infringers. TechDirt is of the opinion that Plfer's detection algorithm bears many similarities to commercial plagiarism detection software, albeit with a few tweaks that allow it to bypass web formatting and other obstacles that might throw off comparisons. TechDirt also have some queries about Mr Moignard's maths and interpretation of the law - and all in all its a very interesting read, even for luddites like the CopyKat. The beta site for Plfer is here and the value of copyright infringements currently 'detected' is a whopping $1,413,463,665.

And finally on this: Two people targeted by one of Rightscorp's anti-piracy programmes in the U.S. say that the somewhat controversial company has violated America's Telephone Consumer Protection Act by sending them automated calls and text messages without permission. In a lawsuit filed with the federal court in Georgia, Melissa Brown and Ben Jenkins deny downloading any copyright infringing content, but say Rightscorp broke communication laws by following up an initial letter with calls and texts attempting to gain a settlement for alleged infringements.

The Daily Mail reports that a German historical society is set to publish an annotated edition of Hitler's controversial tome Mein Kampf after the book's copyright expires later this year. The Munich Institute for Contemporary History (IfZ) says it will publish a two-volume edition of the book in which the Nazi leader outlines his anti-Semitic beliefs and plans for world domination. The new volume will consist of a total of 2,000 pages. However just 780 of these will contain Hitler's original text - the rest will be comments from contributors and the work will also contain a new introduction and index. Copyright in the book is held by the State of Bavaria. In January 2012 the 1709 blog reported that the District Court of Munich I (LG München I) had issued a preliminary injunction on behalf of the Bavarian state government, prohibiting the planned publication of commented excerpts of Mein Kampf by British publisher Peter McGee because of the copyright. The injuction was subsequently upheld. Bavaria also indicated that Germany's anti-Nazi laws might be a bar publication - now more pertinent as copyright expires 70 years after Hitlers death in 1945.  In Decmnber 2013, reversing a pervious postion, The Bavarian governor's chief of staff, Christine Haderthauer, said the book amounted to incitement to hatred and the government would file criminal complaints if anyone tried to publish the book when the copyright expired.  In 2012 the then President of Germany's Central Council of Jews said he hoped that the reprints would ‘demystify" the book. "I'm an Internet junkie myself" he said. "Everyone can already find the book on the Web." However, an American Jewish group countered saying the publication plans could be morally offensive and last year Dieter Graumann, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said that he was strongly opposed to the book going on sale. 

Vivian Maier - self portrait
The epic battle over who owns the copyright in the photography of Chicago nanny Vivian Maier has had a couple of new skirmishes, Maier, who had a 'secert life' as a photographer, snapped over 150,000 images in and around Chigago from the 1950s onwards. Maier made no attempt herself to sell or exploit her intimate and often-gritty photography of everyday people, rich and poor, and often submitted the films she took for developing under false names. She never registered any copyrights in her images. A few years ago interest in her work exploded, and prints of her photographs from this bygone era have sold for thousands of dollars.John Maloof, a 33-year-old former Chicago real estate agent who features in and co-directs the Oscar nominated documentary Finding Vivian Maier and who has a large collection of her work, is facing a claim that might stop him exploitating the images and indeed the film. In 2007 Maloof bought a box full of Maier's negatives at auction for $380 from a repossessed storage locker and he now owns the vast majority of her work, more than 100,000 images that are mostly in negatives or undeveloped film. He traced Maier's whereabouts to the Chicago area in 2009, but too late - she had recently died at the age of 83. 1709 readers will know only to well that possession of the negatives and prints is not ownership of the copyright in those images.  the 1976 U.S. Copyright Act automatically gave federal copyright protection to works that were created but neither published nor registered before January 1, 1978 and that terj extends for 70 years after the death of the author. And Maloof seems to have found an heir who "assigned" him copyrights. Now enter Virginia-based David Deal, a longtime commercial photographer who read about Maier as he completed a law degree: he has sparked the legal fight by filing a notice in a Chicago probate court identifying a relative of Maier who lives in France, retired bureaucrat Francis Baille, a first cousin once removed who apararently had never heard of his increasingly famous relative. Maloof counters by saying  Maier's closest relative is one Sylvain Jaussaud, also described as a first cousin once removed. Jaussaud, who did know Maier and appears Maloof's film, apparently signed over the copyrights in Maier's work to Maloof. And now another party has joined into the tussle: Cook County, which represents Maier's estate (in the interim), woud seemingly hold all copyrights at the moment in the abscence of any assignment by Maier herself. It appears Cook County lawyers are speaking with Maloof and we can only hope that a sensble solution can be reached so this extraordinary body of work doesn't get locked away. More here and a September article on the IPKat by Marie-Andree Weiss here and on Art & Artifice here.

The Oscars are out so a couple of film updates to finish: Director Dan Gilroy, Bold Films, Open Road Films and NBC Universal Media have been accused of copyright infringement amid allegations that the plot of the Oscar-nominated movie 'Nightcrawler' was lifted from a film by a Utah filmmaker Richard Dutcher. Dutcher has filed a lawsuit in Salt Lake City's US District Court, claiming Nightcrawler bears striking similarities to his 2007 movie 'Falling', about a freelance news videographer who scans police radio channels and captures footage of a murder in progress (which on paper sounds remarkably similar to the excellent Nighcrawler). Dutcher's film, which was written in 1999, only received a limited release in Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, but he is convinced it gave Gilroy the idea for his 2014 crime thriller, which stars the creepy but magnifcent Jake Gyllenhaal in the lead role. We shall see. 
 And a woman who filed a lawsuit against Disney’s ‘Frozen’ in late 2014 over alleged copyright infringement of her life memoirs (no, seriously!) has perhaps unsurprisingly  had her case thrown out by a Judge. Isabella Tanikumi decided to take legal action against Disney because, in her view, the film’s story ripped off her real-life memoirs, titled ‘Yearnings of the Heart’, which revolved around her family’s lives in the mountainous areas of Peru.  U.S. District Judge William Martini disagreed stated that the themes appearing in Frozen and Yearnings of the Heart are expressed differently. All the themes that Tanikumi listed are general plot ideas and themes that are not protected by copyright law and the judge noted no substantial similarities between the two works. More here.

At the Oscars, Birdman picked up best picture, best cinematography, best original screenplay and best dirrector (Alejandro González Iñárritu); 
Eddie Redmayne picked up best actor for his role as Dr Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything and Julianne Moore collected best actress for Still Alice. J K Simmons won best supporting actor (in Whiplash) and Patricia Arquette won best supporting actress (in Boyhood). Whiplash also picked up Ocsars for best editing and best sound mix and The Grand Budapest Hotel won Oscars for best production design, best costume design, best make up and best original music score by Alexandre Desplat . The Imitation Game won best adapted screenplay and Interstellar the award for achievement in visual effects .Best Song gong went to John Legend and Common for 'Glory', the theme song from 'Selma'  More here.

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