“No published works have entered our public domain since 1998.” Why the drought? “Works from 1923 were set to go into the public domain in 1999, after a 75-year copyright term. But in 1998 Congress hit a two-decade pause button and extended their copyright term for 20 years, giving works published between 1923 and 1977 an expanded term of 95 years.” Works from 1923 that became publicly available this week include (silent) films Safety Last, The Ten Commandments, and Our Hospitality, various novels by P.G. Wodehouse, Agatha Christie, Aldous Huxley, and Virginia Woolf, musical compositions Who’s Sorry Now, Charleston, and Yes, We Have No Bananas, and Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping By Woods On a Snowy Evening.” [Center for the Study of the Public Domain, Duke Law] “And assuming Congress doesn’t interfere, more works will fall into the public domain each January from now on.” Among those in the next few years: Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. [Timothy Lee, ArsTechnica; link fixed now] Earlier here, here, and here; given shifts in public opinion, trade associations for rights holders did not attempt to pass another extension this time.
The bikini entrepreneur used lawsuits vigorously in defense of what she said was her intellectual property. But was the garment design her invention? A story of a bikini, three lawsuits, and a cover-up [Katherine Rosman, New York Times]
From this summer: Playwright Matthew Lombardo’s comedy “Who’s Holiday!,” a raunchy tale set in the world of the Grinch years after the original story, wins a Second Circuit ruling as protected parody against the copyright claims of the Dr. Seuss estate [Greg Evans, Deadline Hollywood]
“A federal judge in Washington brought the hammer down on uber-litigious Fox Rothschild client Strike 3 Holdings, calling it a copyright troll that ‘treats this court not as a citadel of justice, but as an ATM.’… ‘Armed with hundreds of cut-and-pasted complaints and boilerplate discovery motions, Strike 3 floods this courthouse (and others around the country) with lawsuits smacking of extortion. It treats this Court not as a citadel of justice, but as an ATM.” Lamberth goes on to say his court declines “to oversee a high-tech shakedown,” and adds much colorful detail about the plaintiffs’ methods. Los Angeles-based Fox Rothschild partner Lincoln Bandlow, who is said to coordinate the Strike 3 Holdings campaign, said that an appeals court would “correct this anomalous decision.” [Roy Strom, American Lawyer] Earlier on the Prenda Law saga.
- Georgia woman jailed for three months after field drug test misidentifies contents of plastic bag in her car, which she had told disbelieving officers contained blue cotton candy [WMAZ] Related: Georgia “Drug Recognition Expert” officers sometimes arrest drivers who are sober [Brendan Keefe and Michael King, WMAZ in January]
- “What I call the four forces of the regulatory state — regulation by administration, prosecution, and litigation; and progressive anti-federalism—operate mostly independently of Congress, notwithstanding the legislative branch’s constitutional power to ‘regulate Commerce … among the several States.'” [Jim Copland, City Journal]
- Rights of associational privacy: Bradley Smith of the Institute for Free Speech comments on the ongoing relevance on the 60th anniversary of NAACP v. Alabama [Cato Daily Podcast with Brad Smith and Caleb Brown]
- “If you’ve flown on a major airline within the past 7 years, you might be cashing in” although the settlement website admits it’s “possible that ticket buyers will never get any money from the lawsuit” owing to fees and expenses [KMBC]
- To argue for freedom, sometimes it makes sense to argue for things other than freedom [Jonathan Rauch on same-sex marriage and medical marijuana controversies, quotes me; David Henderson/EconLib]
- “The Eleventh Circuit takes a tour through the history of copyright and the nature of authorship in exploring whether the state of Georgia can assert copyright in its annotated state laws and thereby prevent a nonprofit from making them available for free online. (It can’t.)” [John Kenneth Ross, IJ “Short Circuit,” on Code Revision Commission v. Public.Resource.Org]
“Sony Music Entertainment has been forced to abandon its claim that it owned 47 seconds of video of musician James Rhodes using his own piano to play music written by Johann Sebastian Bach.” After Rhodes posted the video to Facebook, Sony sent a takedown notice saying that the performance “matches 47 seconds of audio” owned by Sony. Match-detecting algorithms have become commonplace in the copyright takedown field; in this case, Sony backed down after Rhodes’s tweet about the situation got considerable attention. [Timothy Lee, ArsTechnica]
Sony does own the rights to the performances of important Bach interpreters such as Glenn Gould, so it is possible that a performance influenced by Gould’s would be especially likely to trip a similarity algorithm. But it gets worse. Last year an Australian music teacher named Sebastian Tomczak “posted on YouTube a 10-hour recording of white noise as an experiment” (in sound perception, not copyright practice) and “within days, the upload had five different copyright claims filed against it. All five would allow continued use of the material, the notices explained, if Tomczak allowed the upload to be “monetized,” meaning accompanied by advertisements from which the claimants would get a share.” [Joseph Bottum, Free Beacon]
And finally, from my own recent experience: a comment from a local performance group’s Facebook page about how a recording of a sing-through of Gilbert & Sullivan Utopia, Ltd. triggered a takedown based on supposed copying of an entirely different work, Rossini’s William Tell. The passage that showed too much similarity? The audience applause!
- “Heisman Trophy People Sue HeismanWatch For Using Images Of The Trophy And Stating Its Name” [Timothy Geigner, TechDirt]
- At elite law schools, the days when a centrist liberal like Elena Kagan could offer a welcome to Federalist Society types are fast drawing to a close, writes Reihan Salam [The Atlantic]
- Being able to link to federal court cases and legal materials would be huge: legislation from Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) “would require that the courts make PACER documents available for download free of charge” [Timothy Lee, ArsTechnica]
- “UPDATE: Judge Rules Province Has No Duty to Recognize Bigfoot” [Kevin Underhill, Lowering the Bar, earlier]
- First state with such a law: “California governor signs bill banning sale of animal-tested cosmetics” [John Bowden, The Hill]
- North Carolina bar says lawyer “defrauded, deceived and embezzled funds from two mentally disabled clients who were declared innocent after spending 31 years in prison” [Joseph Neff, Marshall Project]
The Senate has now unanimously passed its own version of the Music Modernization Act, a bill intended to enable clearinghouse payment by those streaming, performing, or otherwise using older musical works. Under a House-passed bill more favorable toward owners of very old material, “a song recorded in 1927 would effectively get 140 years of protection, vastly longer than the 95 years current law gives to books, movies, and other works published around the same time.” [Timothy Lee, ArsTechnica]
Creators of art displayed in parks and other public spaces have been using assertions of copyright to demand cash from, or play favorites among, private persons and groups seeking to carry on video or photography in those spaces. Aaron Renn: “Any city installing public art should ensure that the agreement with the artist provides for unconditional royalty free pictures and videos, or the art shouldn’t be installed.”