“If you say anything remotely critical about the Ecuadorian government, you may face a copyright takedown,” wrote Maira Sutton at EFF in May. A Spanish firm that represents the government of Ecuador, Ares Rights, has sent out many such takedown demands, related to media accounts of surveillance, corruption, and the country’s Lago Agrio legal dispute with Chevron. More recently, following growing scrutiny of its own activities, Ares Rights has aimed takedown demands citing supposed copyright infringement against its own critics, including Adam Steinbaugh. Details: Mike Masnick, TechDirt; Ken at Popehat. It has also represented the government of Argentina.
No, the monkey doesn’t own copyright in the picture it reportedly snapped of itself. But does anyone own it, or is it public domain from the time of the click? [David Post/Volokh, The Passive Voice with comments, GigaOm, BuzzFeed]
Ken at Popehat has the story on a court’s ruling for fees and costs in Ergun Caner v. Jonathan Autry, filed by a religious leader who had come under criticism for less-than-forthright descriptions of his own past. “The court ruled that Caner (1) pursued the case after Autry took the videos down, (2) demanded, as a condition of settlement, that Autry’s young children sign a non-disparagement agreement, (3) delayed the case, (4) failed to seek discovery, opposed the motion to dismiss on the grounds that he needed to take discovery, but could not articulate what discovery he needed, (5) contradicted himself, (6) made unreasonable legal arguments without any support (like the ‘you must be qualified to criticize’ argument), and most importantly (7) filed the case to silence criticism.” Under the prevailing “American Rule” on fees it’s extremely hard for the victim of a meritless suit to recover attorney’s costs, but this one was extreme enough to be an exception.
“…settle instead for $20 per song.” Rightscorp, a new for-profit copyright cop, “is now preparing technology that could flood the Internet with ‘hundreds of millions of notices’ to alleged copyright infringers.” [Joe Mullin, ArsTechnica]
Music rights organization BMI has sued a Cleveland bar seeking up to $1.5 million over one night’s performance by a cover band that allegedly performed ten well-known songs without paying license fees, including “Bad Moon Rising,” “You Really Got Me,” and “Some Kind of Wonderful” [OnStage]
Way back in 2000 we noted that copyright litigation over quilt designs had gotten to be a hot area and that it was even possible for lawyers to specialize in “quilt law.” If you thought the only targets were large retailers and home furnishing lines with IP lawyers on retainer, though, think again.
“A number of years ago, an Amish woman created a pattern for the quilt,” Ken Treadwell said. “A friend of hers got her to register it, but being Amish, she truly didn’t enforce the copyright.”
But [Treadwell's company] Almost Amish bought the copyright, and the owners intend to vigorously enforce the design rights.
“We have stopped numerous people from selling and making this quilt,” Treadwell said. “We have an attorney that has informed the Mennonite Central Committee that they can’t sell it anymore.”
Local fire company officials were the latest to get the notice.
WordPress is fighting back. [its blog via BoingBoing, Popehat] Will YouTube? [Popehat re: Colorado assembly hopeful]
“15 years ago this Sunday, President Clinton signed the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, which retroactively extended copyright protection. As a result, the great creative output of the 20th century, from Superman to ‘Gone With the Wind’ to Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue,’ were locked down for an extra 20 years.” Expect a push for yet another extension — but this time online critics will have plenty of time to mobilize on behalf of the broader creative interest in adaptive reuse. [Timothy Lee, Washington Post]
Estate shuts down Shel Silverstein biography: given the withholding of needed permissions, we may never live to read the full complicated story of the Beat/Bohemian Playboy contributor who lived to become a beloved children’s author and popular illustrator. “I heard back from a law firm whose name seemed to come straight out of a Shel Silverstein poem: Solheim, Billing, and Grimmer.” [Joseph Thomas, Slate]
If you pay an athlete or other celebrity for the right to depict them in a poster or videogame, do you have a right to show an accurate rendering of their tattoo without further seeking permission from the original tattoo artist? It’s widely agreed that tattoos enjoy some degree of copyright protection, most obviously so in the case where an infringer has swiped an original design for purposes of tattooing someone else. Damages, at least, would be available in such a case, though it might prove hard to persuade courts to exercise the power accorded them by 17 U.S.C. § 503 to order the “impounding and disposition of infringing articles.” [Ira Boudway, Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
Users have been known to complain that Tumblr, the immensely popular microblogging site, is not always as communicative as it might be about the periodic outages it has suffered. Zach Inglis put up a site called IsTumblrDown.com which gave users a clue whether an inability to connect was just them, or the whole system being down. There was little likelihood that it would be confused with an official site, especially since it took a bit of a mocking tone toward the platform giant (and had no revenue). Lawyers representing Tumblr nonetheless fired off a nastygram demanding the site’s removal.
The story has a rare happy ending, though. Tumblr sent a second letter saying that the cease and desist letter had been sent by mistake [Daily Dot]:
We deeply apologize for our mistake. Our legal department very recently started using a third party vendor to assist us in pursuing trademark infringers and, due to an error in our new process, your domain was mistakenly caught in the cross-fire.
To paraphrase Eric Turkewitz, when you outsource your trademark enforcement, you might just find yourself outsourcing a chunk of your customer goodwill at the same time.
“The speech, which won’t be in the public domain until 2038, can only be used if a commercial entity pays the King estate a hefty fee,” writes Mark Leiser at The Drum. Nick Gillespie at Reason: “[Martin Luther] King had not copyrighted the text before delivering several versions of it or before his assassination; his family secured the copyright after his death.”