Wednesday 27 November 2013

In the deserts of Sudan and the Gardens of Japan, From MIlan, to Yucatan, the CopKat is in the can

A split panel of the Federal 9th Circuit Appeals Court has confirmed that DC Comics and its parent company Warner Brothers own the copyrights to Superman, with the court noting that it was ending "another chapter in the long-running saga regarding the ownership of copyrights in Superman - a story almost as old as the Man of Steel himself".  Heirs of Superman co-creator Joseph Shuster filed a copyright termination in 2003 in a move to reclaim rights Shuster had sold to DC Comics in 1938. U.S. District Judge Otis Wright in Los Angeles ruled for DC, finding that a 1992 agreement signed by Shuster's siblings, from which they received lifetime pensions from DC, had revoked a previous 1938 contract. Dissenting panel member Judge Sidney Thomas said that the record was "not sufficient to establish that Joe Shuster's siblings had the authority in 1992 to revoke and supersede his 1938 copyright grant" saying that copyright law in 1992 was such that "no one except the surviving spouse or child could exercise the right of termination"  and that it was not until 1998, "six years after the parties executed the agreement at the center of this appeal," that "Congress extended the termination right to authors' executors, administrators, personal representatives, and trustees".

More on DMCA takedown notices being used to stifle free speech.  Gordon Klingenschmitt, a former Navy chaplain running for office in Colorado had already used the YouTube's takedown system to kill the account of Right Wing Watch, a group that was critical of Klingenschmitt and his politics. TechDirt report that earlier this week, YouTube restored Right Wing Watch's account, after "realizing that he [Klingenschmitt] was clearly using their copyright takedown system to stifle criticism, not for any legitimate copyright purpose." Klingenschmitt then immediately filed yet another "bogus" copyright claim with YouTube, getting their account taken offline again. Moves are afoot to ask YouTube to revitalise it's systems to prevent serial takedown abusers taking accounts offline - and let's not forget those s512(f) actions under the DMCA for false takedowns which can result in damages and legal costs for the injured and non-infringing party - and we blogged about these here - certainly something for Right Wing Watch to consider if Mr Klingenschmitt is indeed materially misrepresenting infringement. Our earlier blog on copyright and free speech here.

The Beastie Boys are seemingly less than impressed with a 'parody' produced by a new toy company called Goldieblox - a video of three girls playing with a Rube Goldberg-type invention and singing alternative lyrics to the Beastie Boys song "Girls." Since the video went up online it has been viewed more than seven million times. Having received a letter alleging copyright infringement, Goldieblox are now seeking declaratory relief in the federal court in the United States District Court in the Northern District of California. It seems lawyers for the Beastie Boys claim that the GoldieBlox Girls parody video is a copyright infringement, is not a fair use and that GoldieBlox's unauthorised use of the Beastie Boys intellectual property is a 'big problem' that has a 'very significant impact.' It might be one to watch as clearly the 'parody' is to promote a commercial concern and sell toys - although it may well have also stoked up a debate on young girl's interest in science and scientific careers. In the original song, the Beasties sang: "Girls -- to do the dishes/ Girls -- to clean up my room/ Girls -- to do the laundry/ Girls -- and in the bathroom/ Girls, that's all I really want is girls." The video replaces those lyrics with: "Girls -- to build the spaceship/ Girls -- to code the new app/ Girls -- to grow up knowing/ That they can engineer that/ Girls. That's all we really need is girls." Despite the fact the video really is a very clever advert for 'toys for future engineers', GoldieBox say that they created the video with specific goals to make fun of the Beastie Boys song, and to further the company's goal to break down gender stereotypes and to encourage young girls to engage in activities that challenge their intellect, particularly in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. The GoldieBlox Girls Parody Video has gone viral on the Internet and has been recognized by the press and the public as a parody and criticism of the original song." Responding to that claim, Beastie Boys have now said that they simply contacted the company to discuss the matter, because while they agree with the sentiment of the commercial, they do not allow their music to be used in any adverts ever. In fact Adam Yauch who died recently felt so strongly about this that he had it written into his will.  In an open letter to the company, published in the New York Times, surviving members Mike D and Adam Horowitz said: "Like many of the millions of people who have seen your toy commercial 'GoldieBlox, Rube Goldberg & the Beastie Boys', we were very impressed by the creativity and the message behind your ad. We strongly support empowering young girls, breaking down gender stereotypes and igniting a passion for technology and engineering". However, they continued: "As creative as it is, make no mistake, your video is an advertisement that is designed to sell a product, and long ago, we made a conscious decision not to permit our music and/or name to be used in product ads. When we tried to simply ask how and why our song 'Girls' had been used in your ad without our permission, YOU sued US".

Two of the world's biggest news agencies, Getty Images and Agence France-Presse, have been ordered to to pay $1.2 million to a freelance photojournalist for their unauthorized use of photographs posted to Twitter. The jury found that AFP and  Getty wilfully violated the US Copyright Act when they commercially used photos Daniel Morel took in his native Haiti after the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 250,000 people and which had been made available to the public through social media. U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan had already found the two agencies liable for infringement and the trial was to set the level of damages - the jury set the maximum allowable despite the fact AFP had argued the the editor who took the pictures made an innocent mistake, and had thought the pictures were available for reuse. AFP argued that the Twitter user who posted Morel's photos without attribution bore responsibility for the error. 

Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick is by Ian Drury & The Blockheads

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