Tuesday 30 July 2013

A Collection of Copyright Carry Ons with the CopyKat

The House Judiciary Committee, which launched a “comprehensive review” of copyright law earlier this year - continues with it's epic task. The Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet has now had a hearing on the role of copyright in innovation although commentators noted that the line up before the Committee was a little 'one sided' with the Washington Post noting "innovators are almost entirely absent from the list. The witnesses include the executive directors of the Copyright Alliance and the American Society of Media Photographers, and the general counsel of Getty Images. These groups represent established copyright interests that are likely to resist any serious reforms to copyright law. Slightly more innovative: the co-founder of an independent music record and distribution company (Yep Roc Records and Redeye Distribution), and the president of Stereo D, a company that produces 3-D versions of 2-D films. One website pointed out that completely absent were: representatives from the information technology industry, whose innovations have transformed the market for copyrighted works over the last two decades, and who have repeatedly argued that overly-broad copyright law has stifled innovation" as well as actual creators - who often end up with very little from the copyright pie but in whose name much is argued. More here and here and here

Queensland Health Minister Lawrence Springborg has defended a letter from his Director-General threatening to sue the Nurses Union for breach of copyright if it failed to destroy anti-privatisation brochures which use an image of the Sunshine Coast University Hospital.

Youngsters from Downham Academy, in East Anglia, have had to call off their production of Flowers for Algernon due to a copyright wrangle between English and American companies. The 23 pupils were due to take to the stage to showcase the two months of hard work in rehearsal, and whilst the school had permission to perform the piece by the playwright – representatives of the original author of a short story on which it was based (Daniel Keyes) seemingly initially objected to the performances. Ironically, after calling off tour, which was due to take in Nordelph Village Hall, the Barn Theatre in Swaffham, and the Studio Theatre in Springwood before finishing at the Downham Academy, a text came through reversing that decision. But by then it was too late and only the final show could take place. Somewhat unsurprisingly the school said ““Next time, we will do a classic text, such as Shakespeare, which is out of copyright, to avoid these problems”. Hooray for copyright?

Copyright reform is back on the agenda in China with news that the Government will look at whether parodies should be exempt from legal liabilities, “as long as they do not make money or damage copyright owners' economic interest”. The South China Morning Post says “Unlike last year when both the government and legislature were due for a change, the current atmosphere is less politically charged. A three-month consultation can provide the platform for rational discussion” and looks to strike a balance between freedom of expression and copyright protection.

Here's something I didn't know but Bradford Brady and John Maron from On The Record did : Knowledgeable gentlemen! U2's live album  “Under a Blood Red Sky” was edited intentionally and some 27 seconds from the middle of “The Electric Co.” were removed: On the original vinyl album, as the band falls quiet, Bono sings to the crowd to the tune of Stephen Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns” from the musical “A Little Night Music.” When the vinyl album was first released, this use was without permission and it seems no royalty was paid: Sondheim asserted his rights, and the band had to pay over $50,000 and agreed to excise the clip from all future versions of the album.  

UK cyber commentators are buzzing with the news that David Cameron's voluntary agreement with the leading ISPs to block pornography might also be used to block copyright infringing sites as well, and customers might (at least) be able to turn off links to file sharing sites.

Medical news: Does this worry you - not as a lawyer - but as a possible patient? "Doctors and medical researchers are seemingly scrambling to adapt to the recent assertion of copyrights in a popular screening method that has been used for decades to measure cognitive impairment. Although the assertion of this particular set of rights is relatively new, doctors are increasingly facing copyright claims in a variety of tests, including those for depression and for pain" and "Doctors and researchers are quietly acquiescing to the demands of those asserting copyright in medical tests, for fear of becoming entwined in lengthy and expensive legal proceedings" : hmmmmm - very interesting - as is the clash of copyright law and patent law - and there much more on the IPWatchdog here

And turning to teeth - here's a salutary tale from ArtsTechnica of when legal agreements go horribly wrong: Dentist Dr. Stacy Makhnevich, the “Classical Singer Dentist of New York", reportedly made patient Robert Lee sign an agreement back in 2010 that included provisions that the patient would refrain from publishing any “commentary” online or elsewhere: The contract, created by a firm called Medical Justice,  also specified that Lee should “not denigrate, defame, disparage, or cast aspersions upon the Dentist.”  and if Lee did write such reviews, the copyright would be assigned to the Dentist. Of course you can guess what happened - Lee was a very unhappy customer and subsequently posted a Yelp review saying "Avoid at all cost!” and  alleging “Scamming their customers! Overcharged me by about $4000 for what should have been only a couple-hundred dollar procedure.” In September 2011, staff members acting on behalf of Dr. Makhnevich sent DMCA takedown notices to Yelp and another website called DoctorBase to have the messages removed:  In response in November 2011, Public Citizen, acting for Lee, filed a lawsuit seeking class action status (others had also complained about the Medical Justice 'Mutual Agreement to Maintain Privacy') arguing that Lee’s reviews were fair use and non-defamatory. The lawsuit also alleged that Makhnevich’s “don’t criticize me” contracts were violations of New York business laws and dental ethics rules. But somewhat quickly Medical Justice withdrew the Mutual Agreement from use, and Dr Makhnevich closed her practice and disappeared - it seems even her own lawyers don't know where she is, and US District Judge Paul Crotty has now held a case conference to decide if the dentist's lawyers should be allowed to withdraw from the case - although Lee is seemingly left nursing $3,000 in legal costs to date.

The Associated Press said Monday that it has settled a US copyright-infringement lawsuit against digital news distributor Meltwater and that the two companies will begin developing products together.  

Australia has reportedly  recommended changes to copyright law that would allow Australians cheaper access to IT hardware, software and digital downloads after a parliamentary inquiry found no good reason for prices to be so high Down Under - prices for computer products are often 50 percent higher in Australia than elsewhere. Adobe has claimed that its products cost more because of local packaging and transports costs, while Apple cited copyright fees. The report suggests a handful of potential moves to rectify the problem, such as removing restrictions on imports and changing the Copyright Act to "secure customers' rights to circumvent technological protection measures." There is also mention of creating a "right of resale" for digital goods.

Six-time Grammy Award winner Toni Braxton has been unsuccessful in her bid to buy back ownership of some of her most famous hits - including 'You're Making Me High,' 'How Many Ways,' and 'Always' - after making an agreement to resolve her bankruptcy issues. As part of the agreement, Braxton was given the opportunity to buy back some of her personal property by paying monthly instalments and enter an auction to purchase the copyright of 27 songs for $20,000 when they were put up for sale on July 15 - as long as as no one out-bid her. However, buyer Ross M. Klein doubled the offer made by the 45-year-old singer and gained ownership.

Literary agent Samuel Pinkus, who was accused of engaging  in a scheme to dupe Harper Lee, the author of To Kill A Mockingbird, out of the valuable copyright to her book, has indirectly answered criticisms in a defence filed in a separate action where he is being sued by literary agency of McIntosh & Otis, which is demanding almost $780,000 and asks to being appointed as a receiver of Pinkus' company's assets. According to a motion that was filed on behalf of Pinkus and his companies: "Ms. Lee's assignment of the Mockingbird copyright specifically retained to her 'all rights to any revenue, financial benefit, royalties, or any benefit whatsoever derived from the exploitation of the Property, now or in the future.' The inconvenient real facts make for a much less interesting story.

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