On March 12, 2019, the Judge in the long-running dispute between the writers of a Dr. Seuss-Star Trek “mash-up” titled “Oh, the Places You’ll Boldly Go!” and Dr. Seuss Enterprises, ruled that Defendants alleged parody was “highly transformative” and fair use, and granted summary judgement to the Defendants. Yet, 20 years before, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in another claim to “parody” or “mash-up” where the facts of the O.J. Simpson murder trial were “re-told” in the style of Dr. Seuss , they ruled that this was not “transformative,” not fair use and infringing. How do we reconcile these two decisions? Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., takes a step by step, and sometimes picture by picture, comparison of the two cases, examining how they align, and how they differ.
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The Supreme Court Says “You’ll Have to Wait”
Consider this problem. You’ve just finished recording your latest batch of songs. The very same day they are released, you go online and register every song and sound recording with the U.S. Copyright Office. Two days later, a friend sends you an email showing that a dozen different pirate sites are offering up your songs for free. You call your lawyer, and insist that lawsuits be filed immediately. Except that your lawyer tells you that you can’t. You might have to wait as long as seven months before you can file any lawsuit. Meanwhile, the infringements will continue unabated. Why? Because this is what the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on March 4, 2019, in the case of Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp. v. Wall-Street.com LLC. Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., explains the Court’s ruling and how it will affect copyright litigation in the future.
Did Technology Kill Good Music?
According the website Metro.co.uk, “A study has found that golden oldies stick in millennials’ minds far more than the relatively bland, homogenous pop of today. A golden age of popular music lasted from the 1960s to the 1990s, academics claimed. Songs from this era proved to be much more memorable than tunes released in the 21st century.” Could this be true? Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., analyzes the reasons why this might, or might not be the case. In the end, the question becomes, does making recording music easier make it better, or worse?
Court Rules Stealing Personal Photos from Social Media Sites Is Not Fair Use
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.
Court of Appeals Rejects ReDigi
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.
Is Pornography Not Protected by Copyright?
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.
The Music Modernization Act: What’s In It, Why Is It In There, and Is It a Good Thing?
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.
Friday the 13th Writer Recaptures Screenplay Copyright: Jason Lives! Or Does He?
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?
Stairway to Nowhere: Court Reverses Verdict in Favor of Led Zeppelin
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.