Posted: February 15th, 2013
By: Stephen C. Pritchard *
Despite logistical and financial setbacks in recent years, Netflix has reiterated its commitment to remaining a key player in the online streaming entertainment business by inking a deal with Walt Disney Studios, set to take full effect in 2016. The deal includes exclusive rights to all Disney films starting in 2016, with some older movies, such as Alice in Wonderland and Pocahontas, becoming available on Netflix immediately. Included in the deal are Disney, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel Studios, and Disneynature films, as well as Disney’s recent acquisition, Lucasfilm. Netflix already has a similar deal with The Weinstein Company and a limited one with DreamWorks Animation, and is expected to bid heavily to replace Starz as Sony’s exclusive distributor as well.
This is a marked shift from the norm with major studios, which typically consists of partnering with the bigger names in “pay TV” such as Starz, HBO, and Showtime for non-theater and non-DVD distribution. Starz itself has the rights to Disney films through the end of 2015, but was outbid by Netflix for the future licensing rights, meaning that it will lose almost half of its current content. An exclusive licensing agreement like this one is the first where a major studio has chosen online streaming over traditional pay TV. The agreement does not seem to bode well for premium pay TV and could very well signal the beginning of a move towards streaming all major content, especially if Netflix continues its quest to obtain similar licensing contracts with major studios, such as Sony. Continue reading »
Posted: February 4th, 2013
By: Rebeca Echevarria *
“Yoga should be for everyone.” That’s what Yoga to the People’s founder, Greg Gumucio, believes and the federal courts seem to agree with him. As a student of Bikram Choudhury, Gumucio, the millionaire fonder of Bikram Yoga, regularly practiced a 26-pose hot yoga sequence that Choudhury had arranged. Hot yoga consists of doing yoga in a room heated to 105°. The poses themselves were all thousands of years old, yet Choudhury had his particular sequence copyrighted, arguing that the arrangement was his own intellectual property.
Bikram hot yoga classes cost approximately $25 per class and anyone wishing to open an Bikram Yoga studio must have Choudhury’s permission and take a $7,000 yoga course with him. In 2006, Gumucio left Bikram Yoga to open his own affordable hot yoga studio, Yoga to the People. Gumucio charges only $8 per hot yoga class and offers room temperature yoga classes charging only optional donations. Gumucio incorporated the same 26-pose sequence he practiced at Bikram Yoga, and Choudhury sued for copyright infringement. So is a yoga sequence a copyrightable expression of intellectual property? The Federal Circuit thinks not. Continue reading »
Posted: January 29th, 2013
By: Lindsey Chessum *
In simple terms, the two major international threats to intellectual property (IP) rights in the U.S. are free stuff and fake stuff. Free stuff is stuff that is taken for free when it costs money. This includes peer-sharing of movies, books, and music. Fake stuff covers knock-offs and counterfeits. These are products sold as name brand products when in fact they are made without the brand company’s approval or expertise.
The problem in the international context is that the U.S. cannot enforce its IP rights in other nations. As with any area of law, nations want to apply their own law in their own nation, not the law of another nation. IP law is no exception. When a knock-off is manufactured in another nation, the U.S. has no jurisdiction until it comes onto U.S. soil, usually through the import process (enforced by the USITC under Section 337). But this is not even equivalent to a slap on the hand. The perpetrators are miles away under the law of another nation. Knock-offs are still being manufactured, and the knock-offs are not always caught by import inspections. Continue reading »
Posted: November 29th, 2012
By: Lena Mualla *
RIAA and MPAA representatives have been eager to roll out its latest attempt at curtailing rampant (to say the least) illegal downloading on the internet. Since the plan has been in the works for at least one year and will be rolled out over the next two months, it remains an open question whether this will be the latest in a string of failures in the entertainment industry’s quest to stamp out illegal downloading over the last thirteen or so years. In fact, this new approach of progressive penalties is a noteworthy departure from the industry’s old strategy of filing attention-grabbing, big-ticket lawsuits against random downloaders, with the intention of frightening ordinary downloaders by example.
The new progressive penalty plan, dubbed the Copyright Alert System (CAS), was first announced in July 2011, by the Center for Copyright Information (CCI). In that initial announcement, NYT had reported that the CCI asserted that the plan might involve having internet service providers (ISPs) terminate a user’s access to the internet. However, CCI emphasizes that this is inaccurate; termination of service is not a part of the current plan. The plan entails the following, in CCI’s own words: Continue reading »
Posted: November 26th, 2012
By: Stephen C. Pritchard *
Joe Shuster (Shuster) and Jerry Siegel (Siegel) became friends in 1931 and began working together on science fiction and their concept of superheroes. Over the next seven years, they solidified the creation of Superman, and eventually sold the rights, including the new copyright, to DC Comics, owned by Warner Brothers, in 1938. Warner Brothers has since reaped over $500 million solely from films, not to mention revenues from other sources such as television, product licensing, and comic books. Since that sale, the two friends and their heirs have sought to reclaim their rights under § 304 of the Copyright Act of 1976, although Shuster died in 1992 and Siegel in 1996.
That section of the Copyright Act applies to pre-1978 works and allows for heirs to terminate any copyright agreement, including written agreements, beginning at the end of 56 years after the initial assignment was made and for five years after. It also allows the same termination period beginning at the end of 75 years, within the following five years, allowing heirs to capture the final 20 years of copyright if they have not already done so. Notice of termination may be sent ten years before the beginning of either period, but not later than two years before the end of either period. Since “Superman” was officially copyrighted between 1923 and 1963, it is entitled to a total 95-year term of protection. As a result, the heirs’ termination periods are 1994-1998 and 2013-2018. Continue reading »
Posted: November 7th, 2012
By: Cory Howard *
Although traditionally printed books have not yet become obsolete, America and most of the developed world has begun its transition from printed materials to electronically available media. Recent studies have verified that e-reading is on the rise and as a result, e-book providers such as Google are under pressure to increase the amount of digital content that it offers through its electronic stores. However, the process by which print sources are scanned and converted to electronic form, called digitization, has been a consistent source of litigation for Google and has slowed the process of digitization considerably in markets throughout the world. Authors of out-of-print books that are still under copyright have opposed the unapproved (and uncompensated) digitization of their books by Google. Both the United States and France have seen publishing coalitions, such as the Authors Guild (U.S.) and the French Publishers Association and the Société des Gens de Lettres (France), bring suit against Google to stop the digitization of books in this category. Continue reading »
Posted: October 22nd, 2012
By: Stephen DeGrow *
Occupy Wall Street marked its one-year anniversary in September with events across the country. In the east, New Yorkers chanted, while Chicago residents walked through the Loop. Out West, Oregon protestors petitioned on behalf of fired employees, as silent marchers walked in Seattle. The protesters were diverse. But now, with the help of Tom Morrello and friends, everyone can play a common tune – “We Are The 99 Percent.”
“We Are The 99 Percent” is one of many ties between music and politics this fall. Randy Newman, a Grammy winning songwriter, also gave a free song to the public in September. His satirical work, “I’m Dreaming,” jokes about a man who wants a white president. (Although the song is available for free, Newman hopes listeners will donate to the United Negro College Fund.) Continue reading »
Posted: October 13th, 2012
By: Lindsey Chessum *
On January 11, 2012, The Velvet Underground brought a claim against the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the recipient of Warhol’s copyrights and trademarks upon his death. The complaint sought declaratory relief based on an alleged copyright infringement and a separate claim of trademark infringement.
The copyright issue has recently ripened to resolution as Judge Alison Nathan dismissed the Partnership’s claim without prejudice on September 7, 2012.
Andy Warhol, a mainstay of the pop art movement and creator of the Marilyn Diptych (1962) and the Campbell’s Soup Cans (1962), managed a band in the mid-1960s called The Velvet Underground. The Velvet Underground broke up only a few years after it produced its first album in 1967, but, despite its short life, in 2003 Rolling Stone declared their album to be one of the “greatest of all times”, not far behind the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and Bob Dylan. Arguably, of more significance today, is the album cover. Warhol himself created the cover which is now a distinguished image of a mundane object: a banana. Continue reading »
Posted: October 10th, 2012
By: Lena Mualla *
27-year-old Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, co-founder of The Pirate Bay along with fellow Swedes Fredrik Neij, Carl Lundstrom, and Peter Sunde, was arrested in Cambodia based on his 2009 conviction for copyright crimes. The Pirate Bay (TPB) is the most popular file-sharing site, with over 30 million users worldwide. The site allows users to download music, games, and movies. For example, the current top 100 downloads list on the site includes hit movies such as Ice Age 4, The Hunger Games, The Avengers, and Men In Black 3.
Since TPB is a P2P file-sharing site, only users themselves actually infringe on copyrighted content by sharing it with each other, while the site merely makes all uploaded content available. Actually, the site technically doesn’t host the content at all, but simply points users in the direction of the content using small files called torrents; in this way, the site simply acts as a search engine. Started in 2003, TPB served the same function as Napster and Limewire, popular file-sharing programs that came before it. Unlike those programs, TPB’s service operates on the BitTorrent protocol, which allows for large files to be shared. Continue reading »
Posted: September 26th, 2012
By: Stephen DeGrow *
A folk singer recently used images of a Canadian penny for his album titled, “No More Pennies.” Meant as a tribute to the dated coin, his album created controversy when Canadian officials claimed copyright infringement.
In Canada, the government owns copyrights to its works and requires permission to use reproductions when they are distributed for commercial purposes. Because an album is commercial, the government requested a $1,200 payment for 2,000 albums after waiving its fees for the first 2,000 already produced. In a cute protest, the singer planned to pay this charge with fan-donated pennies. But his efforts became unnecessary when the Canadian Mint got some sense and waived its fee. Officials even offered to review copyright policy.
The folk singer’s saga may worry aspiring idols in the United States. Fear not. The United States is different from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and other countries with Crown copyrights. The United States government’s works remain in the public domain. Coins can even be photographed or filmed; however, rules are stricter with dollar bills due to counterfeit concerns. Continue reading »