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movies film and videos

Jonathan Band, Disruptive Competition Project:

…the speeches performed by actor David Oyelowo in the film do not contain the actual words spoken by King. This is because the King estate would not license the copyright in the speeches to filmmaker Ava DuVernay. Thus, the King estate’s aggressive stance on copyright has literally forced the re-writing of history. … [Under existing precedent] DuVernay would have had a strong fair use defense had she used King’s actual words rather than just paraphrased them. Perhaps she (or her lawyers) decided that historical accuracy was not worth the risk of litigation with the King estate.

Earlier on the Martin Luther King Jr. estate here and here.

More: reader J.B. writes:

Note that even without the hard-to-defend serial legislative extensions of copyright term for existing works, copyrightable MLK stuff from 1965 would still not be in the public domain under the rules as they then existed (assuming, as seems plausible, that the estate had remembered to renew), although that wouldn’t be all that far off (2021, or maybe 1/1/2022).

Beyond that, here’s the thing: the exact boundaries of fair use are fuzzy because the doctrine as it has evolved is very fact-driven and context-specific. This means that aggressive rights-holders can, by a threat to litigate, probably chill some unauthorized uses that would be legitimate (and there must be some situations that go the other way, where the derivative user is well-funded and lawyered-up and the under-resourced rights-holder can’t afford to have the fight even though they might well be in the right). But it seems at least possible that any crisper/cleaner doctrine (where the boundary of what the rights-holder can forbid was so clear that no one would be chilled/intimidated by an over-the-top cease and desist letter) would end up being one that made a materially narrower scope of stuff qualify as fair use and thus non-infringing. Fuzzy rules are perhaps sometimes the worst legal regime possible except for the practically available alternatives.

My response:

Quite aside from which is the right legal rule, I also think that there’s a positive incentive effect to publicizing cases like this in which estates of notable persons either appear in a light of being unreasonably prickly themselves, or heedlessly sell rights to those who squeeze them with little regard for what the notable person stood for in life. The better known these cases are, the more likely it is that notable persons and their near families will think through how they might want to plan their bequests so that their estates will rest in the hands of those willing to cooperate with scholars, encourage derivative works, etc. King himself of course was cut down too young for us to expect this, but most major figures who leave a cultural legacy have more chance to plan, or their widows/widowers do.

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Free speech roundup

by Walter Olson on December 23, 2014

  • Long before North Korea “Interview” episode, Hollywood was caving repeatedly to power-wielders [Ron Maxwell, Deadline] Relevant: “A Tyranny of Silence,” new book by Danish-Muhammad-cartoons editor Flemming Rose published by Cato Institute [Kat Murti, earlier on the Danish cartoons, related Liberty and Law]
  • Score 1 for First Amendment, zero for Prof. Banzhaf as FCC rejects “Redskins” broadcast license attack [Volokh, earlier including the prof's comment on that post]
  • Court dismisses orthopedist’s defamation suit against legal blogger Eric Turkewitz [his blog]
  • “Hate speech” notions reach the Right? Author claims “justice” would mean incitement “charges” vs. liberal talkers [Ira Straus, National Review]
  • Wisconsin prosecutors said to have eyed using John Doe law to aim warrants, subpoenas at media figures Sean Hannity, Charlie Sykes [Watchdog] More: George Leef on California vs. Americans for Prosperity;
  • “British journalist sentenced for questioning death toll in Bangladeshi independence war” [Guardian] Pakistan sentences Bollywood actress Veena Malik to 26 years for acting in supposedly blasphemous TV wedding scene [The Independent] Erdogan regime in Turkey rounds up opposition media figures [Washington Post editorial]
  • “Is it a crime to say things that make someone ‘lack self-confidence in her relations with the opposite sex and about her body-build’?” [Volokh; Iowa Supreme Court, affirmed on other grounds]

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It’s being suggested, in the wake of widespread outrage over the yanking of the film under threat, but please: let’s not run the whole country like the state of Maryland.

Also on the Sony affair, from @conor64: “Failure to release The Interview is less a sign of corporate cowardice than overbroad liability laws that would let people sue after attack.”

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Who’d have guessed that movie studios would entrust populist Mississippi Attorney General and longtime Overlawyered favorite Jim Hood with a key role in pushing their rights as copyright owners against online services and search engines? Not I [Eli Lehrer, Weekly Standard] More from Mike Masnick at TechDirt: “it appears the MPAA and the major Hollywood studios directly funded various state Attorneys General in their efforts to attack and shame Google.” Related: The Verge.

Sequel: Google goes to court to block a sweeping subpoena from Hood [ArsTechnica, HuffPost (Hood: "salacious Hollywood tale")] “One of Hood’s letters critical of Google, published earlier this week by The New York Times, was ‘largely written by lawyers for the movie industry,’ the company points out.” More: Hood vs. Google, from our archives.

….it first had to outswim the Minow [Peter Suderman, Reason]

“Because a blind or visually impaired individual cannot discern the visual cues displayed on the kiosk controls, they cannot independently browse, select and pay for DVDs at kiosks, and instead must rely upon sighted companions or strangers to assist them,” states the complaint, filed in a Pittsburgh federal court by Robert Johoda. “Further, the blind or visually impaired consumer must divulge personal information, including their zip codes, to sighted companions or strangers in order to complete a transaction at the kiosks.” [Legal NewsLine]

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“A federal judge in Southern California on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit that John Wayne Enterprises filed against Duke University in North Carolina. …The university objected last year when Wayne’s heirs tried to register the name ‘Duke’ to market bourbon and other alcoholic beverages.” [AP, earlier]

“…a list of motifs Tanikumi claims were taken from her book like: two sisters, open doors or gates, and a moon setting….A Disney spokeswoman responded to her claim, saying, ‘This is beyond ridiculous, she needs to let it go.'” [WAFF]

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If done by anyone other than unionists, this would by now be a trending national story:

The Teamsters picketers were already mad. By the time Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi’s car pulled up to the Steel & Rye restaurant in the picturesque New England town of Milton just outside Boston, one of them ran up to her car and screamed, “We’re gonna bash that pretty face in, you f*cking wh*re!”

“She was scared,” said a Top Chef crewmember who witnessed the incident.

Bravo had incurred the wrath of Charlestown-based Teamsters Local 25 by using its own production assistants as drivers, reports the Boston Herald:

The picketers lobbed sexist, racist and homophobic slurs at the rest of the cast and crew for most of the day, the website reported, and when production wrapped, the “Top Chef” crew found that tires were slashed on 14 of their cars. Milton police confirmed that the union members were “threatening, heckling and harassing” but said no arrests were made.

The Herald quotes a spokeswoman for Local 25, Melissa Hurley, sounding completely unapologetic: “As far as we’re concerned, nothing happened.” Or to put it differently: Teamsters Will Be Teamsters.

More, including the violent history that makes this incident anything but “isolated,” from the Boston Globe. I’ve posted on the curious exemption of unions from the law of harassment, stalking, hostile environment, intimidation, etc. here, here (more on Philadelphia Quaker meetinghouse arson), and in various other posts, as well as in my book The Excuse Factory.

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Duking it out

by Walter Olson on July 10, 2014

Duke University and the heirs of the late actor John Wayne have been fighting in court for nearly a decade over trademark/licensing rights to the word “Duke” [Eriq Gardner, The Hollywood Reporter]

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The government-backed, lottery-funded British Film Institute, which backs a substantial portion of film production in Britain, “announced a ‘Three Ticks’ scheme to ensure diversity in films and behind the scenes as it set out new rules for funding. Under the system, to be implemented in September, films must ‘tick’ at least two of three criteria: on-screen diversity; off-screen diversity and ‘creating opportunities and social mobility’.” [Telegraph]

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The state legislature adjourned last week having abandoned a threat to seize the hit TV show “House of Cards” through the use of eminent domain, with negotiations over the extent of tax subsidies to the show still hanging in part. I’ve got an update at Cato, with specific attention to the use of eminent domain to confiscate moveable and intangible assets, as opposed to land; in earlier episodes, Maryland has gone after the Baltimore Colts football team (which escaped) and the Preakness horse race (which agreed to stay).

Kind of like Venezuela with Old Bay seasoning: “Responding to a threat that the “House of Cards” television series may leave Maryland if it doesn’t get more tax credits, the House of Delegates adopted budget language Thursday requiring the state to seize the production company’s property if it stops filming in the state. … Del. William Frick, a Montgomery County Democrat, proposed the provision, which orders the state to use the right of eminent domain to buy or condemn the property of any company that has claimed $10 million or more credits against the state income tax. The provision would appear to apply only to the Netflix series, which has gotten the bulk of the state credits.” [Baltimore Sun, Washington Post, earlier citing David Boaz]

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Medical roundup

by Walter Olson on March 14, 2014

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Megan McArdle at Cato

by Walter Olson on February 28, 2014


She talked about her new book The Up Side of Down, on failure, which has many policy implications (and quotes me on “blamestorming”); her examples included Hollywood production cost overruns, New Coke, L.A.’s healthy school lunch program, and (in the book) Avenue Q. Arnold Kling contributed very illuminating comments, and my Cato colleague Dalibor Rohac moderated. More here (including audio podcast version) and at Arnold Kling’s site.

Four U.S. Senators are hectoring the Golden Globe Awards over stars’ televised use of e-cigarettes. “We ask the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and NBC Universal to take actions to ensure that future broadcasts of the Golden Globes do not intentionally feature images of e-cigarettes,” wrote the humorless bossyboots in question, Sens. Dick Durbin (Ill.), Edward Markey (Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) and Sherrod Brown (Ohio), all Democrats. [Reuters] More: Sally Satel (“It didn’t seem as though it really proved to be a gateway to anything.”)

Speaking of glamor, don’t miss Virginia Postrel’s appearance at Cato next Wednesday to discuss her book The Power of Glamour: Persuasion, Longing, and Individual Aspiration. You can register here.

Free speech roundup

by Walter Olson on January 15, 2014

  • Setback for climate scientist Michael Mann in defamation suit against critics [Jonathan Adler, Mark Steyn, earlier here and here; update, Mann wins a round] Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has taken interest on defendants’ side [Steyn] “Blogger’s Incarceration Raises First Amendment Questions” [NYT on Shuler case in Alabama, on which earlier; more]
  • Religious liberty: “When thought is a crime, no other freedom can long survive.” [Doug Bandow]
  • Nigeria’s new jail-the-gays law is brutally repressive toward speech and association. Oil-rich country gets upwards of $500 million in US foreign aid a year [Reuters, AP and followup, Al-Jazeera]
  • Members of Ramapough tribe in New Jersey sue Hollywood over “Out of the Furnace” depiction [AP]
  • “California’s New Law Shows It’s Not Easy To Regulate Revenge Porn” [Eric Goldman]
  • Catching up on the Ampersand case, where the NLRB got slapped down trying to restrict newspaper owner’s First Amendment rights [Harry G. Hutchison]
  • Video interview with noted civil libertarian Harvey Silverglate [Cato]

“A federal judge in Mississippi today ruled Sony Pictures Classics had the right to use a nine-word quote from William Faulkner’s Requiem For A Nun in Woody Allen’s 2011 film.” [Deadline.com, earlier]

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