Month: March 2011

A plea for a copyright fix to protect consumers

Yvette Joy Liebesman, a law professor of Saint Louis University, has written Downstream Copyright Infringers, an article that attempts to identify and propose a solution to a potentially significant online copyright infringement issue. While cyberspace has become a great venue for the recording industry, musicians, and songwriters to sell their works to the general public, this access potentially may turn digital music consumers into unintended copyright infringers. When consumers, for example, purchase a song and download a “copy” of the tune to their computer, this conduct may impinge upon a copyright owner’s reproduction right, which is protected by the Copyright Act. But didn’t the copyright owner authorize such reproduction, since the consumers paid for the downloadable version of the song? The simple answer is yes. But here’s the rub: If the song that the consumer downloaded itself infringes another copyrighted work, then the owner of that work could sue the consumer for unintentional infringement. Since copyright infringement, intentional or unintentional, is a strict liability tort, consumers most likely would be found liable in such litigation. Liebesman suggests that Congress should create an exception for “consumer downstream infringement,” which is a tort that Copyright Act never intended to punish. Sources: Entertainment Law Reporter Social Science Research...

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Is the end near for PBS’ federal funding?

On March 4, 2011, Jim DeMint (R.-S.C.) and Tom Coburn (R.-Okla.) introduced a bill S.492 that would prohibit Federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting after fiscal year 2013. The bill is striking because it would essentially represent the end of government supported public broadcasting, and because Senator justifies the bill by stating that “Our nation is on the edge of bankruptcy…” Arguments supporting the end of Federal funding include high executive salaries and the assertion that public broadcasting is self-sustaining. Bill O’Reilly stated that compensation for the heads of NPR and Sesame Street was in excess of $1 million in recent years. Senator DeMint also submitted that Sesame Street’s revenue stream alone can carry PBS, since it made more than $211 million from three years of product sales. On the other hand, convincing arguments exist for the continued federal funding of public broadcasting. One editorial argues that public broadcasting serves an important function because it provides educational and news programming – a “common cultural touchstone” for the people of America. At least one online petition exists, and takes the argument further by asserting that “in many rural and less affluent communities, broadcasters rely on federal funding to provide the only available high-quality news and public affairs programming.” Additional controversy surrounding NPR executives have hit the headlines in recent days. Among the controversy are hidden-camera videos of NPR fund-raiser Ron...

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Roller derby norms vs. IP law: A review of ‘Talk Derby to Me’ by Associate Professor Dave Fagundes

In contrast to the complex processes codified in today’s intellectual property laws, certain groups of passionate people develop their own methods to regulate distinctive trademark and brand names for themselves. One example is the women who compete in roller derby leagues. Don’t get it? We’ll tear your arm off… sort of. Just how Tara Armov of LA Derby Dolls arrived at her distinctive roller derby nickname– and the reasons why no other skater would dream to infringe upon it or any other name on the “Master Roster” — is what Southwestern Law School Associate Professor David Fagundes details in his recent paper, “Talk Derby to Me: Emergent Intellectual Property Norms Governing Roller Derby Pseudonyms.” Professor Fagundes’ paper discusses the roller derby world’s use of informal IP norms, rather than formal IP law, to regulate the uniqueness of the pseudonyms under which they perform. Roller derby skaters have created unique pseudonyms for themselves that fit with the sport’s punk-rock aesthetic.  The paper begins with an introduction to how informal industry norms have trumped formal law in a variety of settings, and focuses on the notion of an “IP negative space,” which Fagundes defines as an “area where intellectual property law cannot or does not reach, and where subcultures or professions create informal, norm-based property systems to regulate the intangible goods that law does not.” Fagundes goes on to discuss how...

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Axl Rose in a jungle rumble over Slash avatar

While a Los Angeles judge has allowed Axl Rose’s lawsuit to proceed against Activision Blizzard, the litigation — in which the rocker asserts the gaming firm improperly used the avatar of his group’s one-time guitarist Saul Hudson (aka Slash) — also is providing a window into frictions between members of  the one-time hit enesemble. Rose apparently is touchy about the association between Slash and Guns N’ Roses. Rose did not want the Guns N’ Roses brand connected to Slash in any manner. Rose’s complaint alleges that Activision Blizzard executives assured him Slash would not appear in conjunction with the Guns N’ Roses song “Welcome to the Jungle” or in any other manner within the video game. Rose stated that he agreed to the use of the song as long as Slash was not associated with song or Guns N’ Roses. Guitar Hero released with modes that allowed the player to earn Slash as an avatar or to battle against Slash while playing “Welcome to the Jungle.” Rose also alleges that Activision Blizzard promised him that Slash’s band Velvet Revolver would not appear in the game. Lastly, Rose alleges that Activision Blizzard used another song, “Sweet Child O’ Mine” without a license in an Internet promotion. Rose is seeking $20 million-plus in damages, which he claims are the profits Activision Blizzard received from sales of Guitar Hero. Activision Blizzard is...

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Supreme Court to tackle thorny rights revivals

Taking on what will be a key copyright case, Golan v. Hoder, the U.S. Supreme Court will answer the question: Can Congress restore foreign works previously in the public domain? In Golan, orchestra conductors, educators, performers, publishers, film archivists and motion picture distributors who have relied on the public domain for a living, assert that Section 514 of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA) (1) exceeds Congress’ authority under the copyright clause of the Constitution,  Article 1 § 8 cl. 8, and (2) violates the First Amendment. Section 514 of URAA has restored copyright protection for foreign works that were in the public domain, prohibiting plaintiffs from continuing to use them, or requiring licensing fees for continued use that are often too expensive for plaintiffs.  They claim that the U.S. government has deprived them of the free expression they would have had in what were public domain works. Congress enacted section 514 of URAA to comply with trade agreements in the  Uruguay Trade General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in 1994.  The agreements required the U.S. to comply with Article 18 of the Berne convention, subsequently reflected in section 514 of URAA. It provides for restoration of “copyrights in foreign works that were formerly in the public domain in the United States for one of three specified reasons: failure to comply with formalities, lack of subject matter protection, or...

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Entertainment Law Blogs

The Biederman Blog is now ranked NUMBER ONE on Feedspot's Top 20 Entertainment Law blogs (May 2018). It is very exciting to top this list. We are extra proud of number six - Entertainment Law Offices of Gordon P. Firemark. Mr. Firemark graduated from Southwestern in 1992, and is a top entertainment blogger and webinar presenter in addition to being a world class entertainment attorney!

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