Month: February 2012

A decoding of piracy ‘take-down’ notices

With all the talk about take-down notices, SOPA, PIPA and piracy issues, search engines and social networks are bound to be found asking themselves, “Which companies are most aggressively pursuing pirates?” It may not be, as many assume, the big  studios like Warner Brothers, Universal, or Sony. According to an analysis of copyright complaints lodged with Twitter,  Magnolia Pictures, a New York film distributor is responsible for a third of the take-down requests to the popular social media operation. The movie firm even contract out this work to a third party outfit, Web Sheriff, which sends take-down notices to companies like Twitter, file-sharing sites, fan forums and other sites where pirated material may lurk. Surprised? There also may be more to take-down notices than meets first glance: As many companies know, there is a fine line between appearing too aggressive with take-downs and sound, business-like monitoring of pirated material.  Further, deleting all material from the web may not prove to be the best marketing strategy as the best way to advertise a product, especially in this internet era, may be by word of mouth, or should we say by means of electrons and the masses. So if a pirate or just a zealous fan posts a new favorite song as a YouTube link from a Twitter feed, should talent, counsel or companies aggressively seek to take that tune down?...

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Judge lets Batmobile copyright suit motor on

Holy, look-alike cars and copyright, Bat fans: a U.S. District Court in Pomona has in DC Comics v. Mark Towle batted away an attempt to derail a publisher’s lawsuit against the creator of replica kits for the Batmobile, the vehicle legend in comics, television shows and the movies. And there’s a twist in this not-so-comic case that a lawyer has blogged may raise some eyebrows among automakers and car fanciers. Although, as with many claims involving copyrights, the claims against the defendant largely revolve around money and damages, the opinion issued by U.S. District Judge Ronald S.W. Lew opens an interesting aspect of this area of law. Lew ruled that DC Comics’ claim against the defendant “alleged sufficient facts for a ‘reasonable inference’ that there may be nonfunctional artistic elements of the Batmobile that may possibly be separated form the utilitarian aspects of the automobile.'” His decision suggests the Batmobile’s design could be viewed as an independent aspect for protection, separate from the useful, utilitarian attributes of the car itself. Copyright law has long held that a work possessing functional, utilitarian, aspects is deemed to be a “useful article” and is precluded from Copyright law protection.  Exceptions though have been carved out specifically involving separately identifiable features that are capable of existing independently as a work of art.  Fabrica Inc. v. El Dorado Corp., 697 F.2d 890, 893 (9th Cir.1983). What might...

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Where next on net piracy laws?

This past week, the Paley Center for Media hosted an interesting panel discussion between NBCUniversal General Counsel Rick Cotton and Union Square Venture’s Fred Wilson, where the two discussed the future of copyright on the internet.  In the wake of the uproar among the technology and entertainment industries over the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Senate’s Protect IP Act (PIPA), the search for common ground and a way forward is more urgent than...

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Review sought on cross-ownership rules

This guest post comes from Shadi Sedighzadeh, who is taking the Entertianment Law and Web 2.0 miniterm course at Southwestern Law School: With the specter of media moguls controlling public discourse (including entertainment and other social diversions) via their commercial properties, legislators, justices and policy-makers long have sought to prevent the domination of broadcast markets across the country by the likes of William Randolph Hearst, Col. Robert McCormick or the legendary Chandler family of Los Angeles with cross-ownership laws and regulations. But with the rise of the Internet and the decline of the print medium, particularly newspapers, is it, even in the age of Rupert Murdoch, time to reconsider these measures, aimed at protecting access to the public resource of the airwaves? Three media-entertainment companies have thrust this question forward to the U.S. Supreme Court, which commentators have noted, has been on a First Amendment streak: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable throughout the U.S.  In 1978, in the case FCC v. National Citizen Committee for Broadcasting, the Supreme Court held that it was proper for the FCC, in 1975, to ban daily newspaper owners from also gaining broadcast ownership because of the need for diverse access to media and communications on the public airwaves.  The Supreme Court decided to hear this case because it was an issue of Constitutional importance that...

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21st Century music royalties tool: an app

This guest post comes from Matt Haddad, who is taking the Entertainment Law and Web 2.0 minterm course at Southwestern Law School: Musicians often are more adept at composing and performing tunes than calculating and computing royalties. Hollywood, for this reason, is filled with tales of young artists who are thrilled to win a contract and envision a future filled with riches, only to find later that they’re not earning enough money to pay their rent; they naïvely have relied on others’ word about the soundness of their contracts, disregarding the nitty-gritty details of production costs, agent and manager fees and touring and other costs that get tallied on their tab.  And while music accounting has been as complex as calculating rocket trajectories, there’s now, yes, a new app (and others) to assist: the Moses Avalon Royalty Calculator. Entertainment talent — and lawyers, too — might want to put away their scratch pads, slide rules and pencils and check this out: Moses Avalon is the pseudonymn of a music industry activist who worked for years as a record producer and recording engineer.  He is the author of Million Dollar Mistakes and Confessions of A Record Producer.  You can read his blog, Moses Supposes, here and check out his website, or join Confessions Workshop Online to see the wide-angled lens approach he takes to the entertainment business.  You also may download his free app to your iPhone here. For 99 cents, you may upgrade to an app without advertisements; for...

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