Month: June 2013

Ghost of a chance? Not now in this comic case

The Ghost Rider has been brought back to life by the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York City in a ruling that gives writer Gary Friedrich another shot to prove he didn’t relinquish his renewal rights in the comic. The appellate court found that a lower court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of Marvel Characters Inc., there holding that Friedrich had assigned all of his renewal rights to the Ghost Rider. Friedrich penned the first Ghost Rider comic for publication in the April, 1972, issue of Marvel Spotlight.  This case arose from a “work-for-hire agreement” that the publisher of Marvel comics required Friedrich and all of its free-lance artists to sign in 1978.  He claims the agreement covered only future work and that he retained rights in the main characters and original story. In 2004, after learning Sony Pictures planned to make a Ghost Rider movie, his attorney contacted Sony, asserting his rights to the comic; he later sued Marvel for copyright infringement. His assertion of rights is rooted in the Copyright Act of 1976, which grants an initial coverage term of twenty-eight years and then a sixty-seven-year renewal period.  In 2000, the Ghost Rider initial copyright term expired, meaning that beginning in 2001, the renewal would have vested in Friedrich, as original author. A U.S. District Court, however, granted summary judgment  in favor of Marvel, construing all...

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Mind those Ps & Qs for stylish music sales

Entertainment lawyers may need to park an additional reference work next to those well-thumbed copies of Strunk & White and The Bluebook: There’s a new style guide for the music industry, as reported in deft fashion in the Wall Street Journal. While the 24-page rulebook tackles concerns about ampersands, capitalization and orders of mention, the work, as its issuers detail, also “outlines a set of metadata guidelines that can be used by musicians, managers, and labels to improve data quality for artist, track, and album information through common naming conventions and data entry standards. This, in turn, will allow digital retailers to create a more efficient ingestion process for songs, albums, music videos, ringtones, and any other product that contains music metadata and make it easier for consumers to find what they are looking for, leading to increased sales.” Alas, here’s a fond sigh for the days of liner notes and know-it-all slacker clerks at record or CD shops. Want a copy? Go...

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A Sly parable about artists, reps, contracts

A court ruling has ended on a sour note for embattled musician Sly Stone, who has lost yet another fight to regain royalties that flow from his catalog of hit songs.  The Court of Appeals for the State of California handed down a ruling in favor of music giants Sony Music Entertainment, Warner/Chappell Music Inc. and Broadcast Music Inc., among others, deciding they did not have liability as a result of a lack of due diligence for royalty payments that allegedly were diverted from Stone. Sylvester Stewart, professionally known as Sly Stone, enjoyed great success in the late ’60s and ’70s as the charismatic front man of the band, “Sly and The Family Stone.”  Known for songs such as Dance to the Music, Everyday People and Family Affair, the band ushered in a genre of music fused with funk, soul and psychedelic rock. In the ensuing decades, however, Stewart has found himself battling drugs and financial woes, reportedly reduced to near destitution and living a nomadic life on the streets of Los Angeles in a camper. The appellate decision paints a painful picture of Stewart’s fall from a lavish life at a musical pinnacle, with his inattention and ignorance to his business and legal affairs extracting a huge toll. Since the 1970s, as litigation has spelled out, Stewart has transferred most of his music rights to various individuals and...

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For legal access to online music, uneven notes

While those who negotiate and make deals in the music industry may be doing a little dance about Apple’s reported official entry as early as today into broadcast streaming, the future appears to be dim for online hosting services such as Rapidshare, which are struggling to find the same success hosting legal versus unlicensed music and other materials. Recent judicial action to deter companies from facilitating illegal music downloads has caused Rapidshare to focus on preventing illicit use of its services.  A court order against Newzbin1, a hosting service, requiring internet service providers to block the site in Britain and the seizing and shutdown of MegaUpload hosting service sites may have been catalysts for Rapidshare’s change. But even as anti-piracy crackdowns continue, with litigation and regulatory enforcement, the music industry also is expanding its efforts to boost by every means the legal, licensed consumption of its creative product, particularly in the burgeoning area of internet radio and streaming broadcasts, where providers like Pandora and Spotify now will see the jolt of a market-mover like Apple enter the field. Rapidshare once was considered to be the world’s most popular one-click hosting service, ranked the 50th most popular website and reported to have hundreds of millions of visitors a month, as users flocked to the website as an alternative for music file sharing.  Now it has been forced to lay off 75...

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Court reconsiders harm in online infringement

A U.S. District Court in New York has done a double-take on its Agence France Presse v. Morel decision handed down in January. Granting a motion of reconsideration, the court clarified its previous ruling to reflect that photographer Daniel Morel (left, in a Karl Melander photograph) was entitled to receive only one award of statutory damages per work infringed jointly by defendants Agence France Presse and Getty Images. This has been a much-heralded case because analysts have said it provided a legal slap and warning even to large institutions that they may not go online, particularly to social media sites, to nab, then use for commercial purposes the copyrighted creative works of others without permission. Morel, a freelance photographer who was in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, during the devastating 2010 earthquake, sued AFP and Getty Images asserting they violated the Copyright Act of 1976, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the Lanham Act by distributing his images from that catastrophe without his approval, gaining access to them when he posted them online through Twitter. In its Jan. 14 order, the federal court found AFP and Getty had infringed Morel’s copyrights and were each liable for one statutory award per work infringed. That gave Morel two awards per work infringed.  The Copyright Act gives an owner the option to receive either statutory or actual damages, and pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 504(c)(2),...

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