Tuesday 16 February 2016

The CopyKat - topical treats from the world of copyright

Music publisher Warner/Chappell has filed papers indicating the settlement terms in the 'Happy Birthday' case - and has agreed to pay $14m to  to a class of “thousands of people and entities” who had paid licensing fees to use the song since 1949 and to end the lawsuit that challenged its copyright to Happy Birthday To You – possibly the world’s most famous song. Readers will remember that back in September 2015, US district judge George H King ruled that Warner/Chappell did not own the lyrics to the song, just some of its musical arrangements. Next month, King must approve the settlement. The settlement would also grant $4.6 million in fees to the lawyers for the plaintiffs, a group of independent artists and filmmakers who filed separate suits in 2013 that were later combined. More on this case on CMU here.

Ricky Spicer, one third of The Ponderosa Twins Plus One (Spicer being the "One" after he joined up with the singing twins), has filed a law suit seeking class action status against and damages from a large cross-section of the digital music landscape that includes Spotify, Apple, Google, SoundCloud, iHeartMedia, Pandora and Sony Computer Entertainment - over royalties related to pre-1972 recordings. Spicer's action directly relates to several other ongoing cases, all related to the same complex issues of copyright ownership and music licensing - including the cases brougt by Flo and Eddie from the Turtles against Sirius XM. But interestingly the filing says the various defendants may have thought they had licensed his album - but they haven't: In the filing Spicer makes the allegation that a "phantom party... used back channels and private under-the-table dealings to transfer licenses that ultimately wound up in the hands of Defendants."

Two US publishers are having a spat over who has the right to publish the law - here the right to exclusively publish the Georgia Administrative Rules and Regulations. Legal publisher Fastcase wants a federal judge to fend off a cease-and-desist demand from rival Virginia-based Lawriter, which has been designated as the exclusive publisher of Georgia's compilation of the rules and regulations of its state agencies. Fastcase argue that the Georgia Regulations are public law published under statutory mandate and are in the public domain: "Defendant cannot claim any exclusive right in, to, or in connection with, the Georgia Regulations. Thus, Fastcase seeks declaratory judgment that Lawriter has no basis from which to prohibit Fastcase from publishing the Georgia Regulations in its subscription legal research service." The case is in the US District Court in the Atlanta Division of the Northern Division of Georgia. 

The New York Times has launched a legal action against  David Shields, the author of War Is Beautiful, a book that argues the Times systematically glamorises war by the way that it depicts armed conflicts and their aftermath. Shields licensed several dozen images for his book  - but he also included thumbnail versions of some images without clearance, and the Times claims that these reproductions violate its copyrights. One would think that Shields has a good case that the uses constitute "fair use" - not least from the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Bill Graham Archives v. Dorling Kindersley, Ltd., 448 F.3d 605 (2d Cir. 2006) which confrimed that the use of thumbnail images of Grateful Dead posters in a coffee table book about the band was indeed faor use - but we shall see. In all events its rather good publicity for Mr Shield's book.

Whilst the copyright status of the The Diary of Anne Frank remains a topic of debate in Europe, with the Foundation that controls the copyright arguing that an edit by Anne Frank's father and later translations mean it is still protected by copyright law,  the Diary has been withdrawn from Wikisource in the US because of the longer term of copyright protection in that jurisdiction. Anne Frank died in 1945 which means that the book moved into the public domain in the Netherlands and the rest of Europe on January 1, 2016, 70 years after her death - although the Anne Frank Fonds say that this term should run from the death of Otto Frank in 1980. But in the US, Wikisource, a digital library of free texts maintained by the Wikimedia Foundation, have withdrawn the text. Their legal counsel Jacob Rogers, said the removal was the result of an overreach of U.S. copyright law but believes that they have no other option than to comply saying “Today, in an unfortunate example of the overreach of the United States’ current copyright law, the Wikimedia Foundation removed the Dutch-language text of The Diary of a Young Girl” adding  “We took this action to comply with the United States’ Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), as we believe the Diary is still under US copyright protection under the law as it is currently written”.  Wikimedia's servers fall under the U.S. jurisdiction - and wikimedia had apparently been informed that the publication of the text would violate US copyright laws.  More on TorrentFreak here.

The IPO's China IP Newsletter tells us that the State Administration of Press & Publications, Radio, Film & Television (SAPPRFT) and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) have jointly announced new regulatory measures governing online content distribution. The Regulations cover the administration of Internet platforms and require platforms to register in order to publish content online. The platforms should keep records of all uploaded works for 60 days and will be subject to annual inspections. The Regulations also include a pre-approval mechanism for publication of online games. Meanwhile, the State Council Legislative Affairs Office (SCLAO) has launched a separate consultation on Regulations on the Administration of Publication of Digital Material. The deadline for comments on the Regulations is March 10. More here and here (in Chinese).

And finally - an article on ArtsTechnica that's well worth a read: "Embattled copyright lawyer uses DMCA to remove article about himself". Its all about attorney Marc Randazza's battles to delete an online article about a dispute between his former employer and himself and who told Wordpress that the unflattering story "is not fair use." 

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