Month: April 2012

Augmented reality: a next frontier in copyright?

It’s seeping into our lives through burgeoning phone and tablet computer apps, in products targeted to help those with physical challenges, via videogames and, yes, of course, in some movies, notably  porn productions. Unlike some other computer-based technologies, however, “augmented reality” or AR combines the virtual atop a real base (as visualized, left, in the Raygun Studio illustration), and, thus, may present some new and intriguing copyright infringment issues. Does the underlying creative material, which must copied and stored in the AR software  before augmentation, fall into the “derivative work” copyright category, meaning it generally requires a license to the original work before creative work may be done on it (unless the original work permissibly may be used because it is in public domain or the user enjoys a fair-use defense)? Copyright law, it appears, will play a big role in AR, as it does in other media, where the author of creative content licenses others to reproduce, distribute, alter, publicly display or publicly perform that content. AR users, however, hope to expand their technology even further into the commercial world by taking everyday images and and turning them into informative, interactive pieces, layering them with video, graphics and other content or information. While there are few case precedents for this technology now,  Sherwood 48 Associates v. Sony Corp of America, a 2002 case, offers some insight. The court in...

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In radio royalties rulings, Aussie, U.S. static

Matt Haddad, who recently completed the Web 2.0 and Entertainment Law miniterm, contributed to this post. Artists, labels and entertainment lawyers in Australia have expressed frustration over a recent court ruling Down Under on payments for music played on the radio, even as their Yankee counterparts still are scratching their heads and smarting over U.S. appellate actions earlier this year that may have resolved a possible legal donnybrook on broadcast royalties but arguably also took cash out of the pockets of those on the creative side. The Phonographic Performance Company of Australia most recently lost a High Court decision on the validity of the 1 percent royalty cap for radio broadcasters. The High Court last week declared constitutionally valid that cap, which the rights group denounced because it said it kept artists from receiving a fair price for use of sound recordings; the cap, effectively, allowed commercial radio stations to undervalue  content they provide. The cap was imposed in 1969 under the Copyright Act and limits sums that Australia’s commercial radio stations must pay to artists and labels to not more than 1 percent of broadcasters’ annual gross income. Dan Rosen, chief of the rights group, called for changing the cap and said he and others would appeal “to all members of Parliament to support artists and make the necessary change to the Copyright Act … because there is...

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A glum side to a Fox win in British suit

Twentieth Century Fox has won a victory in a trademark infringement lawsuit over “Glee” in Britain, a case that may prove a blow to individuals’ ability to protect intellectual property rights in the British system. The court’s ruling, observers say, could curtail remedies available to small entertainment firms seeking to shield their trademarks against larger companies in Britain’s Patent County Court rather than its High Court. The patent court is a special jurisdiction designed to allow small business to litigate IP rights quickly and in an affordable way.  It is similar to California’s system of limited civil actions, in which there is limited discovery.  More key, the British patent court imposes a hard 50,000-pound cap on attorneys’ fees and costs. This is crucial because losing parties under the British bear fees and costs of litigation.  This differs, of course, from the U.S. system, where, absent statutory or contractual language or a court decision, each party bears its own costs. The British suit was brought in patent court by a small firm (Claimant) that runs comedy and music operations known as “The Glee Club” and “The Glee Comedy Club.”  Claimant had its trademark in “Glee” since 1999. It asserted it learned about the Fox show in 2010 but decided against pursuing action against the TV production because it thought Glee would be a passing fad similar to the “High School...

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