The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recently weighed in on a topic that has bedeviled courts for years: what parts of an article of clothing are copyrightable? Fashion designs are generally not eligible for copyright protection because they are “useful articles.” Even when the designer adds more decorative elements, this is usually not enough to move a dress into a work of art. This is why you see a dress in Sak’s Fifth Avenue one week and a few weeks later you see the same dress in Target. But fabric designs can be copyrighted. Can you separate one from the other? Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., takes a look at this and previous decisions to determine: can you give this cheerleader uniform a “©”?
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Following on heels of the successful lawsuit declaring Sherlock Holmes to be in the public domain, a lawsuit was filed last week seeking to do the same to Buck Rogers. This suit goes along with similar lawsuits involving the song “Happy Birthday” and the famous literary character “Zorro.” Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., takes a look at the litigation, the law, and the facts to see whether the rights holders have reason to cheer, or whether it’s time to say “bye, bye, bye” to these three iconic works.
Recent events cast a spotlight on the not-so-funny business of joke stealing. Actual lawsuits between comedians are so rare as to be unheard of. Yet, on July 22, 2015, an actual copyright infringement lawsuit over jokes was filed by Robert "Alex" Kaseberg, against Conan O’Brien and his production company. Kaseberg claims that on four different occasions after posting jokes on his personal blog and Twitter account, the nearly identical jokes were delivered by Conan O’Brien on his television show. Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., looks into whether a joke can be copyrighted at all, and why comedians treat joke theft as no laughing matter.
The days of whispering on the phone and the “no-tell motel” seem to be over. The internet has taken over the job of connecting people who wish to cheat on their spouses. But, as with all things secret, sometimes they get found out. On June 19, 2015, news broke that the online service for cheating spouses, Ashley Madison, had been hacked. What’s worse, the hackers threatened to expose the names and addresses of the reported 37 million users of the site. Ashley Madison sent out DMCA takedown notices to plug the leaks. But did Ashley Madison have the legal right to send them out? Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., takes a look at what the Supreme Court has said about claiming copyright in a collection of facts, and it doesn’t look good for the cheaters.
On June 30, 2015, Merry Saltzman, daughter of the late Bond film producer Harry Saltzman, announced that she was going to be staging a James Bond musical, either on Broadway or Las Vegas. Danjaq LLC, who controls Eon Productions and the Bond film franchise scoffed at the whole notion, stating that no James Bond stage show may be produced without their permission. Ms. Saltzman responded, “we are producing a parody, no permissive rights are required from Eon, Danjaq, MGM et al to produce our show; it will not infringe on their intellectual property. James Bond: The Musical will go on as planned.” Who’s right? Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., takes a look at the current state of the law regarding parody, including one previous case involving…James Bond.
Last month saw Courts in Canada, Germany and the USA all order web service companies to take affirmative steps to block access to pirated material. In at least two cases, the web services provided material assistance even after being served with injunctions and Court orders. Has the tide finally turned for the court system to get tough with those web services that actively assist copyright infringement? Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., provides an in depth guide to these decisions, and shows that those who cry wolf over such decisions are really just howling in the night.
Following on the heels of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in Garcia v. Google, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a major ruling clarifying one of the great mysteries of copyright law, namely: who amongst all the people that contribute, is the “author” of a motion picture? The Second Circuit’s opinion is particularly important because it governs the State of New York, home to many of the largest entertainment companies. Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., takes a look at the component parts of this important decision.
Flo and Eddies’ winning streak against Sirius XM ended on June 22, 2015 when a Florida District Court Judge ruled that “Florida common law does not provide Flo & Eddie with an exclusive right in public performance.” After wins in both New York and California, what does Flo and Eddies' loss in Florida do to the entire issue of performances of pre-1972 sound recordings? Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., analyzes the decision and peers into the future for what comes next.
If you are looking for pirated copies of the latest Hollywood blockbusters, look no further than Chilling Effects, a database operated by Harvard University and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. While claiming to be a “research database,” what it actually does is provide a handy tool for finding pirated material on the internet, complete with a search function that will provide the exact pirate URL that you can copy and paste into your browser. Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., shows you how Chilling Effects operates in brazen defiance of the copyright laws including their dubious claim to DMCA safe harbor.
On June 8, 2015, Apple announced the start of a new music streaming service: Apple Music, a service that will directly compete with more established brands like Spotify and Pandora. Apple did this in spite of the fact that Pandora lost an astonishing $48 million in the first quarter of 2015 alone. Is Apple nuts? Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., takes a look at the factors affecting the streaming business and concludes that Apple might have an ace or two up their sleeve that will help them succeed where others have failed.