Terry Teachout, WSJ (via About Last Night):
…In Europe, sound recordings enter the public domain 50 years after their initial release. Once that happens, anyone can reissue them, which makes it easy for Europeans to purchase classic records of the past. In America, by contrast, sound recordings are “protected” by a prohibitive snarl of federal and state legislation whose effect was summed up in a report issued in 2010 by the National Recording Preservation Board of the Library of Congress: “The effective term of copyright protection for even the oldest U.S. recordings, dating from the late 19th century, will not end until the year 2067 at the earliest.… Thus, a published U.S. sound recording created in 1890 will not enter the public domain until 177 years after its creation, constituting a term of rights protection 82 years longer than that of all other forms of audio visual works made for hire.”
Among countless other undesirable things, this means that American record companies that aren’t interested in reissuing old records can stop anyone else from doing so, and can also stop libraries from making those same records readily accessible to scholars who want to use them for noncommercial purposes. Even worse, it means that American libraries cannot legally copy records made before 1972 to digital formats for the purpose of preservation—not unless those records have already deteriorated to the point where they may soon become unplayable.
Dan Brillman at Reuters recalls the Milli Vanilli affair, which set the standard and led to some silly but lucrative class-action suits.
From the summary: “Judge throws out multibillion dollar suit arising from obscure CD-and-audiotape rental law, saying there’s no evidence anyone was actually harmed by Pandora’s integration with Facebook two years ago.”
The suit [by class action firm Edelson McGuire] claimed violations of an obscure pre-Internet era Michigan law, which says a company “renting or lending” sound recordings may not disclose details about customers’ transactions without their written permission. Because it specifies $5,000 penalty per violation, the possible damages could total in the tens of billions — far more than Pandora’s actual $1.8 billion market capitalization.
The judge, however, said the law did not create a right of action on behalf of unharmed consumers, and also was unpersuaded that the music-streaming service was “renting or lending” songs. [Declan McCullagh, CNet]
Update: That’s what we get for posting hastily on a holiday weekend. We — and a great many other sites from CBS News to Business Insider to The Onion — took the below report seriously, but per Mike Masnick at TechDirt, it’s both outdated — Judge Kimba Wood rebuked RIAA’s damage demand as excessive, and the LimeWire case settled for a far lower amount — and more broadly questionable (while the original demands might have reached trillions, and were justly subject to ridicule on that account, the jump to $72 trillion seems to be at best someone’s subjective extrapolation).
Masnick’s story is here. What follows is the original post.
“It’s no secret that LimeWire was once a hotbed of peer-to-peer music piracy, but the RIAA has now attempted to sue it for $72 trillion – more money than exists in the world today. LimeWire was shut down in October 2010, but litigation continues from music bodies around the world…” [Ultimate Guitar]
“…your heart will lift up, unless you are the noise nuisance officer of North Somerset….For the time being, the chimes of Wrington have been silenced,” owing to a noise complaint lodged by a weekending Londoner. [A.N. Wilson, The Independent]
Lawyer Emmanuel Ludot “is acting for around 100 fans who are members of an association that calls itself the ‘Michael Jackson Community.’ He said that while each fan could be awarded damages of up to 10,000 euros ($A12,400), they were seeking only a symbolic euro.” Jackson’s doctor was convicted of involuntary manslaughter following the singer’s death from an anesthetic overdose. [AFP]
Violin and cello strings made of animal intestine might transmit Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease, if you ate enough of them. [Telegraph via Tim Cavanaugh, Reason]
Lawyers for survivors of a calamitous stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair in August have sued a variety of defendants including country music duo Sugarland, producers, stagehands and others. [Hollywood Reporter]
In April the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), which runs the Grammy awards, dropped 31 categories of competition, including Latin jazz, zydeco, Hawaiian and Native American. Musicians remain free to enter their work into competition in overlapping related categories. Now four Latin jazz musicians have filed suit, arguing “that NARAS is in effect forcing Latin jazz artists to now compete in broader jazz categories against more mainstream artists, hurting their chance of winning an award.” [Jazz Times]
“Does the infamous ‘Happy Birthday to You’ copyright hold up to scrutiny?” [Paul Collins, Slate]
Many are lost in a copyright maze: “The American rules infuriate scholars, archivists, musicians and the conservationists who preserve fragile recordings. They fret that by the time the recordings become available, many will be beyond salvation.” [The Economist] “A Trove of Historic Jazz Recordings has Found a Home in Harlem, But You Can’t Hear Them” [Steven Seidenberg, ABA Journal]
The Senate Judiciary Committee has unanimously approved S. 978, a bill that would raise from a misdemeanor to a felony the unauthorized performance or streaming of a copyrighted work when the infringement takes place at least ten times and either reaps $2,500 or more in revenue, or avoids the payment of license fees whose fair market value would exceed $5,000. Mike Masnick at TechDirt thinks the bill could wind up authorizing the jailing of some persons who embed YouTube videos or post videos of themselves lip-synching hit tunes; CopyHype defends the bill and dismisses the concerns as overblown.