Tag Archives: copyright

Chilling piece on copyright legislation must read

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, Demand Progress and at least one academic are sounding the alarm about a copyright infringement bill that could cost some of us our free speech.

Dan Gillmor, author of We the Media and director of the Knight Center of Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University, wrote a chilling article about the “Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act” in Salon. Simply put, he calls it “yet another dishonest conflating of infringement and counterfeiting, but that’s standard for lawmakers.”

In essence, the law would allow sites that are deemed to be infringing on copyright to be blocked by Internet Service Providers. The problem is the legislation is currently written very broadly. Demand Progess, a Progressive campaigning site founded by Aaron Swartz, has an excellent fact sheet on the legislation here. That means that sites the courts have already deemed as not violating copyright could be blocked under the new legislation.

Gillmor argues that most of us haven’t heard of the bill because corporate media has a vested interest in its passage.

Quite frankly, the fact that Gillmor is concerned about the impact of this legislation is enough for me. I have great respect for him and his work. If he’s worried, I’m worried.

For more on the debate, see Gillmor’s piece. To look at the legislation, go here.


Media Law Musings

Here are a few gems related to media law that I’ve run into lately. These are the kind of finds I love to mention in media law classes because everyone has heard of the parties involved or because, quite frankly, of the “strange” factor.

  • Droid: Did you know that Lucasfilm Ltd. of Star Wars fame owns the trademark to the word Droid, the name of the Verizon Wireless phone you see advertised everywhere? I noticed at the end of one such ad a disclaimer that “Droid” was the trademark of Lucasfilm Ltd. Verizon Wireless licenses it. Wikipedia tells more.
  • The Naked Cowboy versus The Naked Cowgirl: The Naked Cowboy says he trademarked the Naked Cowboy brand and she is violating it. I don’t know what’s better: the fact the CNN anchor refers to Robert Burck, a.k.a. the Naked Cowboy, repeatedly as “Naked” as if that were his name or the fact the cowboy sings an answer. Trust me, it’s worth your time to watch.
  • “Barbie, Political Philosopher”: Tom W. Bell writes on The Technology Liberation Front blog about a great line the Barbie character in Toy Story 3 had. He put the quote on a T-shirt (pictured in his post) and carefully notes why he does not think he is violating any copyright or trademark. Good luck, Mr. Bell. I’d love one of those shirts, but I can’t see the companies not asking you to stop.

Photo on escort site leads to lawsuit

I love it when truth is stranger than fiction.

This little gem of a case comes out of the Sunshine State.

Self-proclaimed porn star Justin Krueger’s photos have shown up on a male escort site called men4rentnow.com, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

But the angry party in the lawsuit is not Krueger. It’s Liberty Media, which says it owns the copyright to the photos and the trademark to a name in the photos. Liberty filed suit in federal court in Orlando.

For more on the case, see the story.

Nudity, copyright and accusations, oh my!

It’s hard to resist choosing Tiger Woods’s British court injunction to stop publication of nude photos of him as the Media Law Case of the Week, but because of the proliferation of Tiger coverage, I will abstain.

I’m also tempted to focus on the interesting debate in the U.S. Senate’s Judiciary Committee about who is — and is not — a journalist.You can watch it for yourself here. (Start at 135 minutes in to get to this particular focus.)

But instead a copyright infringement case that comes on the heels of strangulation accusations is the Media Law Case of the Week.

Shawne Merriman, who plays for the San Diego Chargers, has accused MTV reality show star Tila Tequila of copyright and trademark infringement. The lawsuit claims that Tequila is using his image and the trademark of his company on her web site without his permission.

Last month, Tequila filed a lawsuit against Merriman, whom she claims imprisoned and tried to strangle her. (Merriman was never charged, reportedly due to lack of evidence.)

Tequila hosted a show called “A Shot At Love with Tila Tequila” in which MTV says “16 luscious lesbians and 16 sexy straight guys” compete to be with Tila, a bisexual. Yes, it’s as horrible as it sounds.

And, yes, sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

Court stymies attempt to limit ringtones

Finally, common sense prevails.

The fact that others can hear copyrighted music when your cell phone rings does not make you a copyright violator. That’s what a federal judge ruled last week in the U.S. District Court (Southern Division of New York State).
Media Law Case of the Week Logo
The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) was suing Verizon and AT&T and argued that, in essence, when one’s cell phone rings, it creates a “public performance” of the copyrighted work, and THAT was copyright infringement.

Keep in mind that cell phone users already PAY royalty fees when they buy the ring tone.

The decision states, “ASCAP has not shown any infringement of its members’ rights by the playing of ringtones in public from Verizon’s customers’ telephones. The customers are not liable for copyright infringement, and neither is Verizon.”

For an article about the case and a link to the decision, see Wired’s piece here.

Media Law Case of the Week

Poor Annie Leibovitz.

Or perhaps I should say Lucky Annie Leibovitz

The world-famous photographer was in jeopardy of losing her right to the copyrights on some of her famous works because she had not paid off a $24 million loan by the deadline. But now, according to BBC News, she will be able to keep her copyright as long as she sticks to new loan terms.

That is lucky indeed.

Coming Wednesday: An interview with Amy Moritz,  president-elect of the Association for Women in Sports Media and Buffalo News reporter.

Media Law Case of the Week

The Media Law Case of the Week is the rock band Van Halen’s  copyright infringement suit against Nike.

No, the suit does not involve the use of a Van Halen song. This case is about sneakers. Really.

The band alleges that a new Nike shoe pattern infringes on a copyright it owns on a pattern/design used on guitars and licensed for a Van Halen line of sneakers. (Nike denies this.)

Somehow I don’t think Nike will be ready to “jump” at settling this case.

Woman found guilty in Media Law Case of Week

The federal jury ruled today in the case I featured Monday in the Media Law Case of the Week.

Unfortunately for the Minnesota woman accused of illegally sharing copyrighted music, the outcome was worse than the first trial. Instead of owing the record industry $220,000, she now owes $1.92 million.  Here’s what Jammie Thomas-Rasset told the Associated Press about the verdict:

“There’s no way they’re ever going to get that. I’m a mom, limited means, so I’m not going to worry about it now.”

Click here for the AP story on the verdict.

Media Law Case of the Week

Imagine being found guilty of copyright infringement for using a file sharing service like Kazaa and having a federal jury set damages that you must pay at $220,000.

That’s exactly what happened to Jammie Thomas, a Minnesota woman who is getting a second chance in court to fight the judgment after the  judge threw out the earlier decision because he said he made a mistake when instructing the jury.

Her story and what the new trial could mean are described in a wonderful piece by Alex Ebert that ran in the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Boston Herald.

Thomas now has two Harvard-trained lawyers who are taking on her case for free, according to the article.

The 30,000 lawsuits filed by the recording industry since 2003 have prompted copyright lawyers to start taking cases pro bono to fight what some call “extortion,” said Harvard law Prof. Charles Nesson.

The new lawyers are arguing the record industry does not own the copyrights, the artists do. Details of their argument are in the article. It’s an interesting piece about a case with national implications.

Media Law Case of the Week

I try find hidden nuggets of media law jewels for the Media Law Case of the Week. But this week I am going more mainstream because this tit-for-tat free speech case is so good.


Don Henley of Eagles fame is suing U.S. Senate candidate Charles DeVore for copyright infringement. Henley says use of his hit songs “All She Wants to Do is Dance” and “The Boys of Summer” in DeVore’s YouTube campaign videos violates his copyright.

DeVore, in turn, argues that ” aging liberal rockers” Henley and Mike Campbell, who filed suit with Henley,  are violating his “First Amendment right to political free speech.” DeVore says he wrote new lyrics and the use was obviously parody.

Who will decide? The case has been filed in U.S. District Court in California.  We’ll have to wait and see.

Even the BBC is watching.