Wednesday 2 November 2016


And before any claims than an old(er) cat is stealing anyone's thunder (let alone credit!), this CopyKat come courtesy of our new intern and blogger, David Liao

Uptown Funk up? The band Collage are suing duo Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson for alleged copyright infringement, claiming ‘Uptown Funk’ is an “obvious, strikingly and/or substantially similar copy” of their 1983 single ‘Young Girls’. Amongst other things, the claim highlights the similarities between the “specifically noted and timed consistent guitar riffs” along with the bass notes, horns and synthesizers.  What is particularly worrying is the assertion that Mars and Ronson have copied the “main instrumental attributes and themes” of the 80s electro-funk tune. Readers will recall that the family of Marvin Gaye were awarded $5.3m in a controversial copyright ruling over ‘Blurred Lines’ last year where it was held the “vibe” of Gaye’s song ‘Got to Give It Up’ had been copied – a case that has been said to stifle creativity and limit artists’ abilities to draw inspiration from and pay tribute to past hits (covered here). 

This is not the first time ‘Uptown Funk’ has been subject to a claim of copyright infringement, with The Gap Band getting writing credits and a share of the royalties in 2015. However it remains to be seen whether this new claim will add further fuel to the fire in relation to sound-alike litigation  which focusses on the theme or feel of a song. 

CopyrightX: Applications to the Harvard networked course “CopyrightX” are now open until December 16th 2016. This free online course will run for 12 weeks and will be taught by a Harvard Teaching fellow, involving recorded lectures, reading from the section syllabus, and participating in special events.   Spaces are however limited – for more details see here

Kodi – stay tuned! Android/Kodi boxes are internet TV boxes with the Kodi app (previously XBMC) installed. While these boxes are legal (as any internet streaming box can install the Kodi app), the legality of selling them with the app pre-installed is currently uncertain as Kodi can allow users to stream content from the internet illegally. Two cases to keep an eye on: 

UK shop-owner Brain Thompson appeared in front of Teesside Crown Court on 27th October over the sale of Android and Kodi boxes. Thompson faces charges of selling boxes “adapted for the purpose of enabling or facilitating the circumvention of effective technological measures”. This case has been adjourned for now and will resume early next year. 

The CJEU has recently heard pleadings in relation to questions referred to it by the Dutch District Court of Lelystad, including whether the sale of Kodi boxes with add-ons containing hyperlinks to illegal websites constitutes a communication to the public falling within Art. 3(1) of the Copyright Directive (see here for further details). The Advocate General is expected to release his opinion in December this year. 

US Register of Copyright Register of Copyrights at the United States Copyright Office Maria Pallante was removed from her post on October 21st, leading to her resignation as she declined to take on her new role as senior adviser for digital strategy. There is some speculation that this was caused by the policy position taken by Pallante, with public advocacy group ‘Public Knowledge’ complaining that too many of the Copyright Office had close ties to the creative industries. However those who supported Pallante believed she struck the right balance between creators and copyright owners, as evidenced in her opposition to the “100 percent licensing rule” for example. Pallante had previously advocated transforming the Copyright Office into an executive agency and it is possible this factor played a part in her unprecedented removal. No doubt this will engender further discussion as to the future of the Copyright Office and whether it should in fact become independent or, as law professor Dennis Crouch suggests, possibly merged with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. 

And finally ..... a call for papers: The Winterthur Museum (in partnership with LARCA) are preparing for their project “Images, Copyright, and the Public Domain in the 19th Century“, which will seek to explore the cultural and legal consequences of the proliferation of images in the ‘long’ 19th century. At this initial stage, interested scholars are invited to propose papers for a conference to be held at Winterthur Museum in March 2018. More details, including potential lines of inquiry, can be found here

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