1709 Blog: for all the copyright community

Saturday, 14 November 2015

The CopyKat

A US charity called the Association for Childhood Education International has filed a motion to intervene in the 'Happy Birthday' case as music publisher Warner/Chappell ponder their next move(s) after federal judge George H King ruled that Warner/Chappell’s copyright claim was invalid as they seemingly did not control the rights to the lyrics to the song. ACEI’s lawyers claim that the organisation had been receiving one-third of all revenues generated from Happy Birthday for over 20 years – and is largely reliant on this money to continue operating. ACEI argue that the song’s original author, Patty Hill, and her sister, Jessica Hill, had directly assigned rights to Summy Co – which would make Warner/Chappell the song’s rightful controller. Patty Hill, says the motion, was both a founding member and ‘active participant’ in ACEI “As the beneficiaries of Jessica Hill’s estate [which benefited from Patti's estate] both ACEI and the Hill Foundation have a very real and present interest in this litigation" - because if Warner/Chappell don't hold the rights to the lyrics - they do as heirs! More on MBW here and on TechDirt here.

That leaked document that revealed the EU Commission's plans for copyright in 2016 has sparked a lot of comment in cyber space - most name checking the IPKat!  In addition to tackling the issue of content portability in the spring, the draft suggests the Commission will explore a "follow-the-money" approach to enforcement, clarify rules for identifying infringers, and examine the crosss-border application of injunctions. The EU Commission is currently working on proposals for the modernization of copyright with the aim of providing a framework more suited to the digital age. The EU’s plan was set to go public exactly a month from today but last week the purrrrrfectly wonderful  IPKat said it had obtained a leaked copy of the draft communication from a ‘Brussels insider’. The main worry seems to be about linking - and the SEM Post opines that the plan "shows a very scary route the EU wants to take with links on the web, one that would hold a site owner liable if they link to any content that infringes on someone’s copyright.  Yes, a site owner could be liable if someone else they happen to link to has stolen content on that page, even if they had no idea if was stolen.This means that publishers – or anyone who publishes anything online, whether it be for business or a personal blog – could also need to consult a lawyer for every link they make, to know it is “safe” to link to". Julia Reda, the Pirate Party member of the European Parliament representing Germany, wrote on her site about the leaked draft on copyright reform and it could have a profound affect on the entire internet.

U.S. House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) is right in the middle “listening tour” as part of an ongoing review of U.S. copyright law, and now he’s holding a hearing at UCLA that is aimed in part at Hollywood. Goodlatte has held 20 hearings on copyright law since announcing his review in 2013, with the focus on “determining whether our copyright laws are still working in the digital age.” More recently, he’s been travelling on a “listening tour” that takes him closer to key industries. Having started in Nashville,  Variety says he was recently at Santa Clara University in Northern California  to get a Silicon Valley perspective. The EFF says the main points raised by the technology companies were: (1) Statutory damages are far too high, and bringing them into rational territory could help solve other problems. (2)The Digital Millennium Copyright Act's DRM provisions urgently need reform. (3) Fair use has to do a lot of work, so it's a good thing judges have enabled it to do so and (4)  It's not just copyright—End User License Agreements have diminished our ownership rights. The line-up of experts and panellists in Santa Clara was diverse and impressive, and included people like Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle, Ted Ullyot, who works for the technology investment firm of Andreessen Horowitz, musician Zoe Keating, iFixit CEO and DMCA activist Kyle Wiens, and of course EFF's own staff attorney Kit Walsh.

U.S. District Court Judge Gail Standish has dismissed a copyright lawsuit against Taylor Swift by using some lyrical terminology. Musician and songwriter Jessie Braham has accused Swift of stealing “Shake It Off” lyrics from his song “Haters Gonna Hate,” and attested that he had the song copyrighted back in February. Braham was suing Swift for $42 million in damages and a writing credit on her hit song. Standish wrote, “At present, the Court is not saying that Braham can never, ever, ever get his case back in court. But, for now, we have got problems, and the Court is not sure Braham can solve them.”

City Of London Police's IP Crime Unit (PIPCU) has arrested two people in Manchester on suspicion of being involved in the unlicensed distribution of music software online. PIPCU began investigating the arrested couple after being made aware of their online operation by record industry trade group the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). The accused allegedly ran a piracy operation that sold musical software - including digital products like backing tracks and pre-recorded instrumentals - at substantially reduced prices, without the permission of the owners of the works they are distributing.

And finally: readers are no doubt aware that on January 1st 2016, Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, will enter the public domain in Europe, where the term of protection ends 70 years after the death of a work’s author, despite concerns.  Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels' diaries will similarly enter the public domain. But what about the writings of one of the Nazis’ most famous victims, Anne Frank, who died the same year as Hitler – 1945? It may surprise readers that the Swiss-based foundation that is the heir to the Frank family says the copyrights for the various versions of her work won’t expire for decades. The Anne Frank Fonds, a non-profit organization located in the Swiss city of Basel, was set up in 1963 by Anne’s father, Otto. The Fonds administers the rights to all writings by Anne Frank and says that copyright is crucial to protect her work from unchecked commercial exploitation. It seems that the 'Diary' we all know  (see illustration) was an edited compilation of two earlier works by Anne Frank, and that edited version was put together by her father, Otto, and first published in 1947. And the Foundation say Otto is a 'co-author' because of his role of editing, merging and trimming entries from her diary and notebooks and reshaping them into “kind of a collage” meriting its own copyright. As Otto didn't die until 1980, the Foundation say this work is still protected by copyright and will be until 2050. The two original versions by Frank, and various later translations,  were not published until 1986, so again the Trust says these remain in copyright, as do the versions edited by the German writer Mirjam Pressler, who is still alive (and is credited as a co-author with Otto of the 'definitive edition'). The diary was first translated in English in 1952 by Barbara Mooyaart, who is now 96. In the United States, the diary’s copyright will still end in 2047, 95 years after the first publication of the book in 1952. More here and here.

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