In a case that is sure to have wide ranging ramifications, a Federal District Judge has ruled that the unauthorized copying of a personal photo from a social media website, and republishing it on a news website, was copyright infringement and not fair use. The Defendant, the venerable media outlet, Hearst Communications, apparently contended that all photographs posted on social media were “fair game” for reposting without a license. Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., takes you through this latest skirmish in the “everything on the internet is free” battle.
On December 12, 2018, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals rejected all of the arguments put forth by “digital reseller” ReDigi. ReDigi had claimed that its “reselling” of “used” digital music files was protected by the Copyright Act’s “first sale doctrine” which allows the resale of copyrighted works, such as a used book or used Compact Disc. Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., looks at the Courts’ reasoning and discusses the impact on the resale of digital goods in the future.
On November 16, 2018, a Federal Judge dismissed a Federal Copyright infringement lawsuit based on the Court’s own sua sponte determination that the Plaintiff’s films were “pornography” and not “even run-of the mill porn” plus finding the content contained an “aberrantly salacious nature.” Further, the Court claims that “it is unsettled in many Circuits -including this one- whether pornography is in fact entitled to protection against copyright infringement.” Is the Judge right? Nova Southeastern University Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., examines the 30 years of cases that have examined the issue and finds that claims of the issue being “unsettled” are much like pornography: it depends on the eye of the beholder.
Jaco Pastorius was a larger than life personality, with a penchant for hyperbole. Early on in his career, he referred to himself as “The World’s Greatest Bass Player.” At the time, it might have seemed to some as an attention getting boast, used in the same vein as Muhamad Ali’s claim to be “The Greatest.” But many years later, it seems his self-applied sobriquet is pretty much spot on. Tragically, mental illness claimed him, ruining his career and ultimately taking his life. He died at just 35 years old, leaving a family of four, including twin boys who were just 5 years old. His legacy to his children, his copyrights, are something every creator should know about, and appreciate.
On October 11, 2018, the Music Modernization Act was signed into law. This 66 page law rewrites the Copyright Act’s provision regarding compulsory mechanical licensing, grants full Federal copyright protection for pre-1972 sound recordings and provides for that magical “music rights database” that all the streaming services have been clamoring for. How does it work? Will it work? What’s good about it? What’s not so good about it? Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., takes a deep dive into the legislation and shows how this law’s many moving parts affect the rights of songwriters and record companies.
On September 28, 2018, the District Court for the District of Connecticut issued a significant ruling on the rights of authors to terminate grants of copyright. It ruled that Victor Miller, the original and sole writer of the highly successful horror movie, Friday the 13th, had validly terminated his grant of rights in the screenplay, thus recapturing the copyright in the screenplay to his sole ownership. Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., explains the complex issues resolved by the Court and examines the question: is Jason about to live again?
On September 28, 2018, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the jury verdict in favor of Led Zeppelin on the controversy of whether the iconic song “Stairway to Heaven” was copied from the song “Taurus” by the band Spirit, and composed by Randy Wolfe. According to the Court, the District Court made a significant error in its jury instructions that “could have led the jury to believe that even if a series of three notes or a descending chromatic scale were used in combination with other elements in an original manner, it would not warrant copyright protection.” Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., examines the ruling and it’s probable impact on future cases, which probably will only serve to make “blurred lines” blurrier.
On August 20, 2018, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court ruling that basic digital remastering of pre-1972 sound recordings created a new sound recording copyright. The lower court ruling presented two problematic consequences, namely that by continually remastering a sound recording, the owner could in effect create a perpetual copyright and frustrate an artist’s right to terminate the work under the Copyright Act. Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., examines the new ruling, and discusses what creative aspects must be present in the updated sound recording, now that the “old wine in new bottles” approach has been rejected.
Streaming is the future of the music business. Everybody knows this. Except, it appears, the record companies. On Tuesday, August 7, 2018, in an earnings call with stock analysts, Warner Music Groups revealed that it had now sold all of its holdings of stock in Spotify, realizing $504 million. This is the culmination of a trend. Within one month after Spotify’s shares first traded publically in the United States, the labels immediately started dumping their shares. In fact, almost immediately after public trading, Independent Record Label Global Digital Rights Agency sold 100% of its shares in Spotify. What’s going on? Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., examines Spotify’s revenue and expenses, as well as its business model, and shows that it’s not all unicorns and rainbows at the streaming giant.
In a recent case from Oregon, a District Court refused to award attorney’s fees to a successful Bit Torrent Plaintiff. The Court justified the denial partly because the same attorney had filed over 300 copyright infringement cases, thus indicating an “overaggressive assertion of copyright claims.” The Ninth Circuit, in reversing, pointedly noted that the large amount of copyright cases was due in part to the District Court’s own case management order which limited Bit Torrent plaintiffs to suing one defendant at a time. Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., examines how Court rulings have made the mass filings of Bit Torrent lawsuits inevitable, and that the old adage of “be careful what you wish for” should guide future rulings in this area.