Thursday 17 July 2014

The CopyKat - tantalising titbits of global copyright news

Holmes and Watson
A federal judge has refused to stay a Seventh Circuit decision affirming that most of the Sherlock Holmes stories have lapsed into the public domain as the estate of Arthur Conan Doyle appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court. An attorney for the Estate told Law360 the denial on Wednesday by U.S. Circuit Judge Richard A. Posner was “no surprise,” adding that “the real question” is whether the Supreme Court will grant the Estate’s motion. Last month the Seventh Circuit upheld a lower-court decision that the elements included in the 50 Sherlock Holmes stories published before Jan. 1, 1923, are in the public domain in the United States. It rejected the Doyle estate’s rather novel argument that the great detective is a “complex” character who was effectively incomplete until the author’s final story was published in this country, leaving the entire body of work protected by copyright.  Sherlock Holmes and the mystery of copyright HERE.

Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation Australia has used an inquiry by the nation's Senate into a proposed Australia/South Korea free trade agreement to suggest internet service providers become copyright enforcers. In it's submission to the inquiry, News Corp backs proposals in the treaty to criminalise 'net piracy, and the implementation of legal “incentives” for ISPs to “cooperate with copyright owners in deterring the unauthorised storage and transmission of copyrighted materials”. The move comes against the backdrop of the 2012 decision by Australia's High Court which confirmed that internet service providers are not liable for authorising copyright infringement by making their services available to people who do infringe copyright.  New Corp's view is that current legislation, the submission says, does not “provide rights holders with means to protect rights online”.

An update on SoundCloud: The online music sharing service is seemingly close to a deal with the largest record labels Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Warner Music Group. Bloomberg says the major labels will agree to licences so SoundCloud can continue play their songs - and avoid potential legal disputes.  It seems SoundCloud is offering the three major labels equity in the company, in exchange for both licensing deals and guarantees not to sue over any past copyright violations when the service shifts to a monetised model. According to Bloomberg, Universal, Sony and Warner are being offered between 3% and 5% of SoundCloud, along with a cut of future revenues.

The Pirate Bay is asking it's users to support the two original founders currently in custody - Gottfrid Svartholm and Peter Sunde with a banner on the website saying “Show your support by sending them some encouraging mail! Gottfrid is only allowed to receive letters while Peter gladly receives books, letters and vegan candy.” Sunde is now serving the sentence he received from the original trial in the District Court of Stockholm, Sweden on April 17, 2009. where the court sentenced the founders to one year in prison (which was reduced in appeal). He is being held in a high security prison in Västervik, although he recently requested a transfer to a lower safety class unit. Svartholm already serviced his TPB sentence, but he has been accused in Denmark of hacking into the mainframe computers of IT company CSC. His new trial starts in two months and he faces up to five years in prison. More on TorrentFreak

The U.S. Copyright Office is asking the public to comment on what the Supreme Court’s ruling on streaming TV service Aereo means for the future of copyright law. The office “is interested in commenters’ views regarding the Supreme Court’s opinion in Aereo and how that opinion may affect the scope of the rights of making available and communication to the public in the United States.” Specifically, the office asked how last month’s 6-3 decision affects “unauthorized filesharing,” the right to make content available and other aspects of copyright law. More here.
TechDirt has an interesting take on copyright reforms in the US in an article entitled "Copyright Lawyers Prime The Pump For The Return Of SOPA" which has  a fairly critical response to the American Bar Association's White Paper - which itself can be found here: A Call For Action For Online Piracy And Counterfeiting Legislation.  The House Judiciary Committee is in the process of reviewing various aspects of copyright law for reform - and is currently looking at "Moral Rights, Termination Rights, Resale Royalty, and Copyright Term" covering four very distinct areas of law and policy. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), the subcommittee’s top Democrat, pledged to use the session to advance his bill to grant royalties to visual artists when their work is resold by an auctioneer, collector or other third party. And with moral rights, Rick Carnes, head of the Songwriters Guild of America and penner of songs for musicians including Garth Brooks and Alabama, said that a creator’s right to control the use of their creation is “widely embraced by the American public.” More from the EFF here. And whilst we are on reforms in the US of A - there is a guest blog on Billboard entitled "Our Best Bet for Screwing Up Copyright Reform? More Government Intervention" - it's from David Israelite,  the President and CEO of the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA),  the trade association representing American music publishers and their songwriting partners so its hardly unbiased - but worth a read particularly if you are interested in new models of licensing and the role of collection societies in the future. 

The Recording Industry Association of America is taking another public bashing after ReelRadio, a site that streams an archive of often decades-old historical radio shows, was forced to take down much of its library after the RIAA complained that the site was operating outside the terms of its license. In existence since 1996, ReelRadio "still looks and feels like a site from the past" and content includes decades-old ‘aircheck’ demo recordings which were often used to showcase radio announcers before being placed in the archives - but these often contain music controlled by the RIAA's members. It does seem to be acknowledged by Reel that what the RIAA wants is to apply (strictly) the terms of it's licence to use recorded music and Reel President Richard Irwin explained“The RIAA has determined that our service fails to meet the requirements for ‘archived programs’, which must be at least five hours in duration and may not be made available for more than two weeks. The service must also display the Title, Artist and Album of each featured song, but only while the recording is being performed” and  “The RIAA insists that we obtain permission from the copyright owners of these old radio broadcasts. Many broadcasters understand the difficulty of this requirement, since nearly all radio stations have changed ownership, format, and call letters, many times over,” Irwin also explained, adding “Nevertheless, we are expected to provide the RIAA with an explanation of how we have permission from radio stations that no longer exist and copyright owners who have no interest in historic recordings of their property.”

With the Global Repertoire Database stalled,  the world's biggest music publisher Sony/ATV/EMI has announced that its entire songs catalogue can now be viewed and downloaded on its website by music services and other interested parties.  The second biggest global publisher, Universal Music Publishing, has also announced that it will put its database online, although this will begin with its US repertoire before making its global data available.

The author of the massively popular 'Jersey Boys' franchise which charts the rise of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons and has been made into a book, a Broadway play and now a major motion picture,  is facing an ongoing  legal challenge which began in the federal court in the Beaumont Division of the Eastern District of Texas. Donna Corbello, the widow of Beaumont attorney Rex Woodard filed a suit in late 2007 against Thomas  (Tommy) Gaetano DeVito, one of the original members of the Four Seasons. She claims DeVito wrote a book in 1991 that was identical to one written by Woodard - and that the book became the basis for the “Jersey Boys” musical. The case was transferred to Nevada federal court in July 2008, because  DeVito lives in Las Vegas. The case has been winding its way through the court and there is now a trial date for Feb. 17, 2015, in Las Vegas with Judge Robert C. Jones presiding. 

As the Southeast Texas Record reports, Woodard was a Beaumont attorney and a freelance music writer. He had been a big fan of the Four Seasons and wrote an article on the early days of the band, then decided he wanted to write a book about them. Woodard began interviewing band members and uncovered many new facts, including alleged criminal activities by some band members - and on this basis Woodward seemingly agreed terms on how a book would be written with DeVito - with DeVito getting “top billing” and Woodard’s name also appearing on the published work - and that Woodard would share in the royalties. DeVito has denied that he showed Woodard’s manuscript to anyone, and claimed he had only “told stories to the writers and director.” In a 2012 ruling, Judge Jones found that the agreement made DeVito and Woodard 50 percent joint owners of the work, although DeVito argued that he is the sole author because he had final creative control. The case is now only against DeVito - the court having agreed that the licence to other third parties (for the screenplay and musical) pre-dated the copyright claim and so was valid

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