Wednesday 21 August 2013


Outdoor movie nights in Hintonburg, Canada, have been cancelled indefinitely after the discovery that the local community association has been ignoring copyright for the past four years. Now the Hintonburg Community Association is facing a bill for just over $2,000 after not paying licensing fees for nine movies they’ve shown at outdoor public screenings since 2009. Audio Ciné Films, a company that represents the film rights of major movie studios in Canada, informed the HCA three weeks ago that their public screenings were infringing. “They caught wind that we were showing them,” said Jeff Leiper, president of the HCA. “And now that we’re on their radar we are going to have pay the licensing fee moving forward.”

Now to music publishing – Warner/Chappell say that the Hoklo (Taiwanese) version of the theme song from the movie adaptation of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables infringes their copyright. Wu Yi-cheng  and Wang Hsi-wen, who adapted the song by re-writing the lyrics and altering the music, said that they had tried to ask Warner/Chappell for the rights to use the song, but did not get a reply. The Hoklo version was used at a mass political rally in Taiwan attended by 200,000 people demanding that the military reveal the truth about the death of an army corporal who allegedly died from abuse while doing his military service – and then posted online. Having now removed the new song’s sheet music from the web, it seems that the authors may have a partial defence in Taiwanese law: According the Taiwan Intellectual Property Office, Articles 44 through to  65 of the Copyright Act provide that whilst the modification of music or lyrics must first be consented to by the original copyright owner,  if such consent cannot be obtained, then the modification should be judged by the standard of whether it was “usage within reason” with the opinion that  the fact the music was at a public rally meant  it could fall under Article 55 of the Act  - it was used in the public interest - and thus may well be  “usage within reason.” However any further uses would be judged on whether it was being used for commercial gain or in an attempt to profit from its distribution – and whether it had impacted on the rights of the copyright owner. Any Taiwanese layers out there who would care to add to this please do post a comment?

After the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) successfully took legal action against Brighton & Hove City Council, one of Britain's largest city councils, 20 more local authorities have signed up for a copyright licence. However, 140 out of 450 UK councils are still unlicensed. The CLA's legal director Martin Delaney said: "I am pleased to see that councils are recognising their legal requirement for a CLA licence" but added: "Our data [on licensed councils] shows that copying is widespread during the course of day-to-day activities. There is no reason to doubt that these practices occur in all of the remaining unlicensed local authorities as well." And in the USA, auditors have discovered that for 27 different pieces of commercial software reviewed by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, the Inland Revenue Service (IRS)  was only able to provide proper licenses for three of them. In its official response to the audit report the IRS agreed with the criticisms and accepted six recommendations for how to better manage and licence software use.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Robin Thicke (along with Pharrell Williams and T.I.) has filed a suit in federal court in California against both the family of Marvin Gaye and a publishing company that holds the rights to some of Funkadelic’s compositions. The reason? Both of those parties have claimed that “Blurred Lines” – THE party anthem of 2013 - borrows from their own work, and thus they should be entitled to royalties. The Gaye family’s claim is "especially absurd", as they claim that “Blurred Lines” feels and sounds the same as Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up” and that, according to the suit, “the Gaye defendants are claiming ownership of an entire genre, as opposed to a specific work.” Meanwhile, Bridgeport Music says that “Blurred Lines” sounds too much like Funkadelic’s “Sexy Ways.” Both parties have threatened litigation if they aren’t paid, which is why Thicke, Williams, and T.I. have filed suit - in order to get a prompt and clear decision - hopefully in their favour.

Thom Yorke's Atoms For Peace have already pulled their latest album from Spotify and other streaming services, and now musician Zoë Keating has revealed that she earned just $808 from 201,412 Spotify streams of tracks from two of her older releases in the first half of 2013. That's according to figures published by the cellist as a Google Doc. The Guardian newspaper has much more - and the spreadsheet was Keating's latest attempt to shed more light on the issue of streaming music payouts to artists, as part of the wider debate on whether Spotify and its rivals can generate a sustainable income for musicians. The Guardian's article is here.  Keating had previously revealed that nearly 97% of her income came from sales of her music on iTunes, Amazon and her own Bandcamp website. Keating's total streaming payments for the two releases were $3,454.28 in the first half of 2013. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Keating's last album, 2010's Into the Trees, is available to buy, but not to stream. Thanks to my good friend Arthur for alerting me to this article!

Helicon Books, an ebook technology and services company from Israel, has announces a new service for publishers,  Social DRM. It's for publishers who want to protect their ebooks and prevent copyright violation - and identifies the end costumer, “the buyer”, by stamping the book with the buyer's name. The visual information can appear in text or an image, according to the publisher's needs. The Social DRM is also hidden inside each chapter in the ebook. This hidden information can only be recognized by a bespoke software.

And finally - fan fiction - from Star Wars to Harry Potter tributes written by fans - but based on existing tomes - is a "uniquely creative and often surreal" phenomena on the Internet - where every year thousands if not millions of works of fiction  are written by fans of the worlds, characters, and plot lines created by other authors. "There is fan fiction out there set in the world of Pride and Prejudice, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, Twilight, The Lord of the Rings, Sookie Sackhouse (True Blood), Harry Dresden and nearly every other popular book series, movie, or TV show you can think of" - and Copyright Myths From the World of Fan Fiction is an excellent article about where these authors stand when it comes to copyright written by a non lawyer- and clearly explains what fans can do to legitimise their offerings: from disclaimers such as "I don't own them and I don't make any money off of them" to details of which publishers and authors live with fan fiction - which ones litigate - and which ones offer a mechanism for allowing fan be published - its was an educational read for this blogger.

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