Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Perpetual Copyright Via Digitisation Of Existing Images

In the wake of the court decision in America that remastering a song gave the remastered version a copyright of its own (hail, perpetual copyright!), a German court has decided to do something similar with images. Yes indeed, if a photo of a painting is taken, the photographer has a copyright interest in the image. So basically if you have a website in which you discuss the works of Leonardo Da Vinci, for example, get your wallet out, there's a monopoly rent to pay to the museum or art gallery housing these things. I can understand them needing money to fund their conservation, etc., but this is emphatically not the way to go about it.

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Tuesday, 14 June 2016

"Thanks" Owned By Citigroup

My parents taught me the importance of good manners, namely that it oils the wheels of social discourse. Now that Star Trek's Ferengi have apparently taken over the world, being polite is going to cost you.

Citigroup Inc (C.N) sued AT&T Inc (T.N) on Friday, saying the phone company's use of "thanks" and "AT&T thanks" in a new customer loyalty program infringed its trademark rights to the phrase "thankyou."

The aim of the lawsuit is to stop AT&T from using the words in its literature. That everyday words like "Thanks" or "Thankyou" can be trademarked at all is a cause for concern. It's bad enough to fence off music, books, or films, etc., but now they're turning words into rent-generating real estate. It's not on. If you want to follow the case, it's Citigroup Inc v. AT&T Inc et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 16-04333.

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Sunday, 12 June 2016

Wendy Carlos V Lewis Bond: Reinterpreting Fair Use

Synth music pioneer Wendy (né Walter) Carlos collaborated with Robert Moog, the inventor of the Moog synthesizer throughout the 1970s, helping to pave the way for modern pop and dance music as we know it today. We owe her a great debt for what she has brought to our culture, let's get that straight. However, she herself owes her oeuvre to classical music; many of her best known works are remixes of pieces from Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique and Purcell's Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary. It's the Purcell remix, which was used in Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange (the last two minutes or so) that has got vlogger Lewis Bond into trouble. An aspiring fimmaker, he makes video essays analyzing films. That should be straight up fair use, end of discussion, but apparently it's not.

Apparently a Torrent Freak reader contacted Carlos to ask for an explanation for this mess and received this terse reply:

“There is much bad advice on the internet about copyright and the use of music on YouTube, but some very good advice that should be followed is not to post other people’s copyrighted music on the internet ‘because you like it and want others to hear it’.”

One presumes that Carlos (or representative) thinks there's no hypocrisy here because the works utilised by Carlos for her works were in the public domain. If this doesn't prove that we need fair use to be ring-fenced, I don't know what does.

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Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Axl Rose DMCAs Photos Of Him That He Doesn't Own

I've blogged in On t'Internet about how some people who engage in unwise behaviours and regret it later on try to excise their peccadilloes from the search results by trying to get Google to de-index the links, which draws unwanted attention to the items they're trying to hide. Techdirt's Mike Masnick calls this the Streisand Effect.

This also applies to unflattering photos. Smart people try to get them down at source, but where celebrity photos are concerned, forget it. Once it's up there the best you can do is try not to talk about it too much and try to bury it with other pics. Beyoncé's publisher tried to get pictures deemed unflattering off Buzzfeed, which Streisanded them all over the internet and the media. If that wasn't bad enough, SB Nation has taken it upon itself to remind Queen Bey that "this is the internet" by annually celebrating the failure of her publicist to shift one pic.

In the case of Mr. Rose, then, one has to ask who the hell he's getting his advice off, since he is NOW trying to get unflattering images of himself (some of which have been made into cruel memes) removed from internet search results using the DMCA notice and takedown procedure. Oh wait, it's Web Sheriff. Never mind. Whatever Rose is smoking, he really needs to stop: Web Sheriff's bogus takedowns are aimed at photos taken by one Mr. Boris Minkevich of the Winnipeg Free Press; he owns the copyright, not Rose, because the minute he pushed the button the image was fixed in a tangible medium and copyright automatically assigned to the photograher, i.e. Minkevich. Basically, Web Sheriff doesn't have a leg to stand on but given their creative interpretation of copyright law (which boils down to, "Because I said so, stupid!"), they're not planning to stop.

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Should Tax-funded Works Be In The Public Domain?

If we pay for it, we own it, right? Wrong, if the California state government gets its way:

The public domain status of federal government works is enshrined in the Copyright Act. Until now California has followed the same core principle—documents, pamphlets, photos, videos, and datasets produced by the state are public domain. A.B. 2880, a bill quickly moving in the legislature, would overturn that idea, allowing governments—at the state, county, and local level—to exercise copyright restrictions on the materials they produce. This bill threatens government transparency and sets the stage for censorship and suppression of public information. - EFF: California: Public Records Should Be Public Domain

People who insist that copyright isn't widely used for censorship are the same ones who want to use it for control of the content and the terms of the distribution thereof. That's what censorship IS. In this case, as they pointed out, it's being used to subvert democracy by controlling access that people could use to make informed choices. If you are American, please get on board.

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Saturday, 4 June 2016

Trademark =/= Entirely Owning Words

If the purpose of trademarks is to enable consumers to distinguish between one legal entity and another, Caribou Coffee V Blue Caribou Cafe should have been thrown out of court on the grounds that there's no realistic chance of confusion.

I heard about this story a few weeks back from friends in Michigan who can't believe our court systems are so rigged that the big guy corporations can beat up a mom and pop shop that isn't even within the geographic sphere of the corporation's locations. TripMN, comment on Caribou Coffee Learns That Even When You Win As A Trademark Bully, You Can Still Lose (Techdirt)

And if the point of getting a trademark is to keep that sweet, sweet goodwill all to yourself where the use of your name is concerned, it seems that, for Caribou Coffee, this is backfiring over their control freakery over the word "caribou." Oh dear. Another commenter suggested that Caribou Coffee rescue its reputation by asking the Blue Caribou Cafe to sell its coffee product, thereby demonstrating the difference between the two entities, but as he wrote, it's probably too late. In any case, why try to be reasonable when it's easier to bash?

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Who Owns Your Given Name?

In answer to the above question, the response, "You do" should be a no-brainer, but actually it's not. In football (soccer) club manager Jose Mourinho's case, his given name and signature have apparently been the rightful property of Chelsea Football Club via a European trademark since 2005, for the purposes of selling swag with his name on. Okay, but the purpose of trademarks is to prevent consumer confusion; if the trademark was invalidated as being ridiculous Chelsea would still be able to sell swag with Mourinho's name and signature on, they just wouldn't be able to be the only ones doing so. But this has nothing to do with consumer confusion prevention and everything to do with exerting control over individual via control over licencing to use their own names. No artist or creator ought to be obliged to register an ownership interest in the use of their own name, even if only to stop others from doing so.

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Thursday, 2 June 2016

Google V Oracle: The Aftermath

Should telling both sides of the story mean letting inaccuracies slide?

Oracle lost its battle with Google to own APIs in a way 9th Circuit judge Barry Silverman would approve of

Once the [item] is fixed, it is tangible property (emphasis is mine) belonging to the copyright holder, and no one else has the right to take even a little of it without permission."

which is just as well; APIs are the bridges that join programs together. They define the way that computer programs communicate with each other, and therefore should emphatically NOT be copyrighted. Try telling that to the Federal Circuit court, which bought into the argument that if it's fixed, it's tangible property, so get a licence or do not sample. Allowing that mentality to fester would make it impossible for me to function as a blogger reporting on IPR abuse: I'd have to contact each and every source publication and ask for permission to quote from and link to their stories. If the maximalists get their way that is exactly what will happen. The trouble with maximalists is that when they're not lying they're being economical with the truth; they spent much of the trial ignoring the open source, free-to-use status of Java that included the 37 APIs that Oracle went to court over. Since the copyrightability of APIs couldn't be discussed, the copyright status couldn't be discussed (as far as I know), so the only way to return a fair verdict was to declare Google's usage of the Java APIs to be fair use. It's a mess, but that's what happens when you treat copyright like property.

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I Name That Tune In 0.23 Seconds

Another blow for sampling was dealt against the maximalists today when Madonna and producer Shep Pettibone won their case in California's 9th Circuit court against VMG Salsoul for copyright infringement for a 0.23 second "horn hit" from "Love Break" in Madonna's song "Vogue."

In her opinion, judge Susan Graber states, "Even if one grants the dubious proposition that a listener recognized some similarities between the horn hits in the two songs, it is hard to imagine that he or she would conclude that sampling had occurred."

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Is "Oooh Oooh Oooh" Copyrightable?

Pop singer Justin Bieber is embroiled in a lawsuit brought by indie singer White Hinderland, who claims Bieber and his producer Skrillex ripped off a vocal sequence from "Ring the Bell" for the song "Sorry." Bieber claims that the highly-processed vocal work you can hear at the beginning of this song is actually his own voice modified by Skrillex. Hinderland claims that "the refrain" in Bieber's "Sorry" is the same as the one in Ring the Bell," and therefore is copyright infringement. Assume that's true: "Oooh Oooh Oooh" is copyrightable. Heaven only knows what will happen to "Ah" and variants thereof. Grunts might possibly yield royalties if they're distinctive enough, you never know.

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Kraftwerk Loses Copyright Case Over Two Second Sample

In 1997, music producer Moses Pelham used a sample that was two seconds long from Kraftwerk's Metall auf Metall (Metal on Metal - released in 1977) in the song Nur mir (Only Mine) performed by Sabrina Setlur. Kraftwerk's Ralf Huetter sued Pelham for copyright infringement and won in 2012. Pelham appealed and on Tuesday 31st May the German Supreme Court returned a verdict of fair use, i.e. that sampling should be permitted if it does not constitute direct competition to the sampled work, and does cause the rightsholders  any actual loss. That Kraftwerk felt the need to sue over two seconds' worth of music is insanity. Thankfully, the public interest in culture prevailed.

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Remastered versions of old songs get copyright

Arguments have raged back and forth along the lines of, "If someone else is making money off of my song, etc., I'm entitled to a share of that money." In California, a judge has decided that the act of remastering an original work is protected by copyright as a transformative work. In an era where everything must be owned, this is one more step towards perpetual IPR, despite the judge's protestations to the contrary.

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