SCOTUS Grants Cert on Video Streaming of Broadcast TV by Aereo

By: John Hodnette *

antennaWebsites like Hulu, Netflix, and more recently Amazon have made video streaming the new popular way to watch your favorite shows. It’s easy to see just how popular this medium is one looks at the numbers. Hulu announced in 2013 that it had over 4 million paid subscribers and had streamed over a billion videos. Netflix finished 2013 with over 30 million paid subscribers and had over a billion dollars of revenue in the fourth quarter. This success was no doubt due in part to the popular original shows that Netflix has recently offered, including House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. Finally, Amazon has gotten into the streaming game, and boasts an estimated 10 million subscribers to its Prime program.

Though these Titans of the video streaming world are currently free from legal troubles, other video streamers are not so clearly legal. On the more dangerous side are sites like Project Free TV, which is an aggregation site whose mission is to find and post links to streaming videos of everyone’s favorite television programs. And then there are companies like Aereo. Continue reading »

Is Gawker A Safe Harbor for Prying Eyes?

By: Samantha Berner *

TarantinoIn a time when people are consumed with getting their hands on knowledge and gossip to which others do not have access, various media outlets are in constant competition with one another to provide this kind of material. One of the most popular of these outlets is Gawker, a website designed to capture the “gossip that journalists tell one another privately but won’t put into print.” Since its inception, Gawker has been the subject of much media controversy and many lawsuits filed against them by celebrities. Gawker has been known to release sex tapes, book proposals, and, most recently, movie scripts.

Gawker released a copy of Quentin Tarantino’s “Hateful Eight” script, and despite requests and demands for the script to be taken down, the site has yet to comply. The site has left the script up and available for anonymous download, “promoting itself to the public as the first source to read the entire Screenplay illegally.” Continue reading »

It’s Elementary: Federal Judge Confirms Sherlock Holmes Is Still Firmly Within the Public Domain

By: John Hodnette *

sherlock-holmesDespite it being more than 125 years since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle introduced Sherlock Holmes to the world, he is still as fascinating to the public in 2014 as he was back then. And, more to the point, he is as much of a money maker. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, the 2011 film starring Robert Downey Jr. grossed over $500 million. Doyle would be happy to know that Holmes is still so appealing so many years after being written.

Moreover, Holmes lovers currently have two television series running to satiate their love for the great detective. There is CBS’s Elementary, starring Jonny Lee Miller as a modern NYC Holmes and Lucy Liu as Joan Watson, the female analog to John Watson in the original story. Elementary is currently running its second season. And then there is also Sherlock, the BBC version of the modern Holmes, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the detective and Martin Freeman as Watson. This version is currently on its third season if you are watching in America on PBS. Continue reading »

Superhero Suits

By: Stephen DeGrow*

cameraMarvel’s The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, and The Amazing Spider-Man all finished in the top ten grossing movies for 2012. In 2013, not much has changed. Comic book heroes are still dominating weekend box office reports. In May, Iron Man 3 opened in the United States and grossed over $400,000,000 domestically; internationally, the film did even better, bringing in more $1 billion. Man of Steel came to theaters on June 14 and brought in over $600,000,000 worldwide. The Wolverine came out on July 26; it eventually hauled in more than $400,000,000. And so far things are shaping up great for the newest comic book movie, Thor: The Dark World. Released to international audiences on October 30, the Thor sequel earned more than $100,000,000 during its first weekend in theaters. Continue reading »

Copyright’s “Blurred Lines”

By: Samantha Berner *

Marvin_Gaye_(1973)While almost everyone fell in love with Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” a song that many music-lovers consider the ‘song of the summer,’ Marvin Gaye’s family has a different view. This October, Gaye’s family filed a copyright lawsuit against Thicke, Pharrell Williams, and Clifford Harris Jr. (also known as T.I.), accusing the “Blurred Lines” singers and songwriters of copying Gaye’s hit song, “Got to Give It Up.”

In August, Thicke, Williams, and Harris filed a preemptive strike, in preparation for the lawsuit to be asserted by Gaye’s family. In response to the preemptive strike, two of Gaye’s sons filed a counter-suit alleging not only copyright infringement based on Blurred Lines, but also on another one of Thicke’s songs, “Love After War,” which is allegedly based on Gaye’s “After the Dance.” Continue reading »

Statue of Limitations vs. Latches Doctrine: SCOTUS Agrees to Hear “Raging Bull” Copyright Case

By: John Hodnette *

film-background-1334067869u9dOn October 1st, the Supreme Court of the United States agreed to hear an appeal of a copyright dispute arising from the popular classic film “Raging Bull.” Patrella v. MGM concerns the claim by Paula Patrella that the 1980s film starring Robert De Niro was based on a book and two screenplays created by her father, Frank P. Patrella, and the boxer Jake LaMotta. The claim is more than legitimate, given that the fact that the film was inspired by Jake LaMotta’s life is common knowledge, even appearing in headlines. However, it is not the copyright claim itself that is being appealed to the Supreme Court, but rather an issue of Civil Procedure: whether to apply the latches doctrine or the relevant statute of limitations.

The Latches Doctrine is a legal common law defense in an equitable action that “bars recovery by the plaintiff because of the plaintiff’s undue delay in seeking relief.” This doctrine is based on the idea that the courts should not aid those who take an inordinate amount of time to raise their claims. Elements include “knowledge of a claim, unreasonable delay, [and] neglect, which taken together hurt the opponent” because after a certain amount of time, an opponent reasonably does not expect a claim to be brought against them. It does not matter if the claim is legitimate, the doctrine can bar a claim that is made too late. Continue reading »

Embracing Pirates

By: Rebeca Echevarria *

The_Pirate_Bay_logoOpponents of video piracy have long been fighting to stop illegal downloads of copyrighted content, but it seems some major players are bowing out of that fight. Netflix and HBO produce some of the most pirated television programs but seem to be embracing the piracy, rather than trying to put a stop to it.

Netflix viewers were captivated by the suburban woman who finds herself in prison in Orange is the New Black and raved about Kevin Spacey’s portrayal of a manipulative political genius in House of Cards. HBO viewers also have nothing but praise for the television adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series in HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones. But with Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, and Game of Thrones’ high ratings came a flurry of illegal sharing and downloading of the hit shows. For two years in a row, Game of Thrones has been the most pirated television show in the world. One would think that HBO and Netflix would be opposed to the proliferation of illegal file sharing of their main cash crops, but that does not appear to be the case. Continue reading »

Battle of the Royalties

By: Samantha Berner *

BAfter a big win for Victor Willis, the songwriter of the classic “YMCA” song, a Copyright Law amendment dating back to 1976 is finally showing its powerful effects. The Law allows songwriters to reassert their rights to royalties of songs they created, even if those rights were previously signed away, after thirty-five years has passed. The transfer of rights is automatic after the 35 years expires, requiring only that the songwriter apply for the transfer at least two years in advance. The amendment only applies to those songs created after January 1, 1978. As the thirty-five year term ends for the songs signed away around that time, heated debates are ensuing between the songwriters and record companies. Continue reading »


By: Lindsey Chessum*

The Book is a Success

MockingbirdNelle Harper Lee is known for the outstanding success of her one and only book, To Kill A Mockingbird. A friend gifted her a year away from work to write a book, and just four years later she had a bestseller. Her success measured in numbers comes in at $1,688,064.68 in royalties (over a six month period in 2009). As for the intangible worth…well, her book is required reading for the majority of high school students across the nation.

Her life story would appear to be a fairytale, and yet, so little of what we would associate with a modern fairytale can be associated with Lee’s life. After her first book’s success she hid herself from the world: refusing to take interviews and refusing to move from her small hometown of Monroeville, Alabama. She even refused to write another book. Today, she suffers from extremely poor vision, partial paralysis to her left side, and a failing short-term memory.

Oh, and she just settled a lawsuit against her literary agent, whom she accuses of tricking her into signing away her copyright for To Kill A Mockingbird. Continue reading »

Populism or Bad Policy? The fight to unlock cell phones

By: Benjamin Zich*

smartphoneFew things in modern life are more important than one’s mobile device. Without the ability to immediately communicate or access the Internet, many of us almost feel naked. In this context of an always-on, hyper-connected culture, it is understandable why control over the functionality of one’s cell phone or mobile device is of singular importance.

In recent months, there has been much written about the decision by the Library of Congress that consumers who attempt to “unlock” their cell phones will now be violating copyright law. But what exactly is cellphone “locking” and why does it matter? Cell phones are originally manufactured as unlocked phones, meaning that the cell phone will work with any service provider. However, cell phones are customarily locked when they are sold as part of a package deal where you buy the cell phone and also enter into a service provider contract. The phone is locked to a single service provider, and software within the phone prevents the user from switching the phone over to another service provider that might offer a more enticing deal. This seems like a perfectly reasonable restriction for the duration of the customer’s contract; however, the phone does not necessarily unlock when the service contract ends. Continue reading »