Getty Images Upsets Photographers by Making Millions of Images Available for Free

By: Caitlin S. Hale*

I’m sure you have heard the saying, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” That’s exactly the philosophy Getty Images has decided to take with 35 million of its photos.

Such images will now be available for free to online publishers, in part because Getty acknowledges that many of its images are already being copied anyway.

Getty Images | President Kennedy in 1961, surrounded by his father, mother, and wife Jacqueline.

Getty Images | President Kennedy in 1961, surrounded by his father, mother, and wife Jacqueline.

Getty is trying to establish “an alternative for people who otherwise would just copy and paste photos,” said Joshua Benton, director of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University.

However, there is a catch: Getty will only allow “noncommercial” users, such as bloggers and Twitter users, to use its images for free. Furthermore, the image will still retain a Getty photo credit which will be linked to Getty’s website. There, viewers of the image can license the photo if they choose.

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A BRAVE NEW WORLD: Second Circuit Expansion of the Parody Defense

By: Rebeca Echevarria *

At left, “Yes Rasta” by Patrick Cariou; at right, “Canal Zone” by Richard Prince.

At left, “Yes Rasta” by Patrick Cariou; at right, “Canal Zone” by Richard Prince.

Copyrights protect original creations from theft, but a recent Second Circuit opinion has raised new questions about what can fall under the § 107 fair use exception of the United States Copyright Act. Richard Prince is an artist well known for using famous photographs as the subject matter for his pieces. By altering portions of the photographs, Prince attempts to alter the context of the original images, and in 2008, Prince’s art sales of reworked photographs totaled over $10 million. When photographer, Patrick Cariou, discovered that Prince had used over thirty of his photographs as subjects for his works, including the cover photo for his book of a Jamaican Rastafarian, Cariou sued Prince for copyright infringement.

Copyrights grant their owners the exclusive right to use their works and make derivative works, which are creations that recast, transform or adapt the original. If Prince’s work is derivative of the original photographs, then he is required to get permission for that creation from the copyright owner, which he did not do. The fundamental question then turns on whether Prince’s work falls under the fair use exception, or more specifically, parody. Continue reading »

SILENT to BLACK & WHITE to COLOR: The Progression of Films into the Public Domain

By: Lindsey Chessum*

Library of CongressOne of the earliest films made is “A Trip to the Moon” by Georges Méliès. It is a silent film lasting only 12 minutes, cost 10,000 francs, and today, would be considered primitive. But upon its released in 1902, it was truly a marvel. Unfortunately, not long after its release in France, pirated copies appeared in the United States where no copyright existed.

Today, the film is freely available online to be replicated, duplicated, and sold without any prior approval from the filmmaker. It is in the public domain. This may not be too much of a surprise because the film is over a century old. What is a surprise is that the film has been in the public domain since its first appearance in the United States. Continue reading »

Flappy Bird Taken Down

By: Samantha Berner *

FlappyBirdOn Sunday, February 9, the new hit game for iPhone and android users, Flappy Bird, was removed from the app stores. While ordinarily apps are taken out of commission for compelling reasons, such as legal issues, here, the developer Dong Nguyen appeared to do it voluntarily. Nguyen tweeted on Saturday, February 8, “I am sorry ‘Flappy Bird’ users, 22 hours from now, I will take ‘Flappy Bird’ down. I cannot take this anymore.” Although the game is still available for use for the 50 million users who downloaded the game prior to its removal, those who are just learning of the game and all of its hype are disappointed they no longer have the opportunity to experience it for themselves.

There has been much speculation as to what lead to the uncommon decision of removing the top-ranked game from the app stores, one that achieved similar levels of popularity compared to the infamous Candy Crush and Angry Birds games. Nguyen has since been pretty tight-lipped about his decision, but in an interview with Forbes, explained that while Flappy Bird started as a fun activity, it became an “addictive product,” which he believed became a problem. To solve the problem, he believed the best decision was to remove the game, a game he says is “gone forever.” Speculators also have trouble accepting this decision since it is estimated that he was receiving $50,000 a day from in-app advertising, and while Nguyen did not confirm that figure, he did admit he was receiving a lot of money through advertising. Continue reading »

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 »