Thursday 13 March 2014

The CopyKat - The Bat is back

The Hollywood Reporter tells us that the Batmobile will roll into a federal appeals court  this summer - with James Bond, Godzilla and Freddy Krueger along for the ride. The 9th Circuit is poised to consider whether Batman's car is a "character" protectable under copyright law. Arguing against that idea is Mark Towle, a Temecula, Calif., mechanic who in 2011 was sued by Warner Bros.' DC Comics for selling replicas of Batmobiles from the 1960s TV show and 1989 film. Towle is appealing a February 2012 ruling that found him liable for infringement. He argues that the Batmobile is merely functional - a "useful article," a utilitarian rather than artistic object. If Warners win, it will be another useful tool to protect the $150 billion in annual worldwide merchandise sales alongside trade marks and passing off - similar to the successful argument used in the UK Courts in the 2011 Lucasfilm case concerning replica Stormtrooper helmets from the inconic Star Wars series of films.

The Ethiopian Intellectual Property Office has announced that 450 people have been arrested for violating copyright laws. Officials told media that the arrests were made based on the reports of various researchers. The clamp down reportedly covered several states of Ethiopia, including Addis Ababa. Reports indicate that 423 computers, 336 memory sticks and 35,000 CDs were recovered from the suspects. In Adama town, four large sized CD duplication machines and two sticker machines were reportedly recovered.

Aereo, the controversial Internet-based television service that was ordered shut down in Utah pending a court battle over copyright law, will be turning off its service in Utah and Denver next Saturday morning for an unknown length of time. In an email to Aereo customers, the company’s founder and CEO, Chet Kanojia, apologized and said the service will be shut off at 10.00 to comply with the order of U.S. District Court Judge Dale A. Kimball. An interesting debate on this on Bloomburg here.

In Hong Kong,  the debate about a new exception for parody moves forward:  A government spokesman said that parodies that include "altered works, playful or parodic in tone, and works that are unlikely to be a substitute for the original, regardless of whether they are more popular" would be considered for the exception but that the "public posting of performances of copyright works including singing with or without rewriting the lyrics and based on the original melodies may be in breach of the law."The spokesman said the subject of the critique may be the original or some other copyright work, or the creator himself. The critique may often be humorous, mocking, sarcastic, ironic or satirical and might include altered pictures, videos, posters, songs with lyrics rewritten on original melodies and kuso that intend to make a comment in response to current events, which are usually presented with a political context, will be exempted. "Posting of performances of copyright works including songs, or unauthorized posting of translation and adaptation works without any parodic, critique, comic or imitative effects, or not related to any current events, are not exempted as proposed."  The proposal will be discussed at the Legislative Council's commerce and industry panel meeting on Tuesday.

To draw attention to "broken" copyright law, the editor of a popular news site in Germany has turned the tables on a leading German political party. Sebastian Heiser,  news editor at popular site took a photograph of Manfred Stolpe, a politician from the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) back in 2005 and uploaded the shot under a creative commons licence. Finding the shot used without attribution by the SPD on two websites, he sent them a troll-style settlement demand - and received €,1800, which included legal fees of €1,104.

Now, before  I clock off .....

Time to face the music?
Danger - copyrighted ......
The iconic 1923 silent movie 'Safety Last!', which stars the late great Harold Lloyd in the romantic comedy, featuring one of the most iconic images from the era - Lloyd hanging perilously off a clock high above the broadwalk, is still in copyright - just - and a possible copy has now sparked a law suit - and some interesting information on how producers have protected the film:  Harold Lloyd Entertainment has now filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Cupecoy Home Fashion Inc., which allegedly has been selling a clock that is "a direct appropriation of the iconic clock scene." According to the Hollywood Reporter "Interestingly, the lawsuit says that the plaintiff has licensed rights to make derivatives of this famous scene to other filmmakers: "The 1985 blockbuster Back to the Future licensed the rights to create a derivative version of the clock scene when it obtained permission from HLE to feature a scene where star Christopher Lloyd dangled perilously from the hands of a giant clock says the lawsuit and goes on to say 'Martin Scorsese's critically acclaimed children's movie Hugo licensed the rights to create a derivative version of the clock scene when it obtained permission from HLE to feature a scene where star Asa Butterfield dangled perilously from the hands of a giant clock' ".  The suit says HLE would have preferred to have settled the matter, but could not engage with the defendants.  Copy or not? You decide!

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