In the aftermath of Prince’s death, lawyers representing the entertainer’s estate administrator have been pushing a posthumous right of publicity law in Minnesota. The proposed PRINCE Act (“Personal Rights In Names Can Endure”) would forbid the use of an individual’s name “in any medium in any manner” without consent, which critics say makes it a rare instance of a law that actually violates itself. [David Post/Volokh, Jacob Gershman/WSJ Law Blog]
As the most successful band in history, the Beatles generated not only a record number of music hits but probably more legal disputes than any other music group before or since. As the first international rock band brand in a still nascent music business – and guided by a neophyte personal manager – the Beatles became entangled in a distracting series of legal problems nearly from the start of their career.
— ABA Journal runs an excerpt from “Baby You’re a Rich Man: Suing the Beatles for Fun and Profit,” a new book by Stan Soocher.
“‘We Shall Overcome,’ a song that was the ‘unofficial anthem to the civil rights movement,’ was wrongly placed under copyright and should be put in the public domain, according to a lawsuit filed today in federal court. The complaint was filed by the same group of lawyers who succeeded at putting the world’s most famous song, Happy Birthday, into the public domain after years of litigation.” [Joe Mullin, ArsTechnica; earlier on “Happy Birthday”]
“Great news for those of you who have been paying royalties every time you sing ‘Happy Birthday’ – assuming the judge approves a proposed settlement, he will declare that the song is in the public domain, making it free for everyone.” Warner will make some refunds for royalties paid, and plaintiff’s lawyers will ask for $4.62 million — “an awful lot of money for freeing ‘Happy Birthday.'” [Lowering the Bar; earlier here, etc.]
- As an experienced lawyer Hillary Clinton surely knows better than to say the things she’s saying about gun lawsuits. [Charles Cooke, thanks for citing my work]
- While we’re at it, Ms. Clinton, there is so much wrong with your contemplated business exit tax [Ira Stoll, New York Sun]
- Metallica vs. cover band cease/desist spat gets patched up quickly [Rockfeed, followup]
- Alas, RICO suits harassing Colorado legal-pot business appear to be prospering [Jacob Sullum/Reason, my Cato take]
- Judge tosses $21.5 million award in that colorful Holland America case we’ve covered [Seattle Times, earlier]
- Labor-rights case from Colombia causing further difficulty for Terry Collingsworth, attorney known for Alien Tort suits [Daniel Fisher, earlier]
- “Harvard Law Review Freaks Out, Sends Christmas Eve Threat Level Over Public Domain Citation Guide” [Mike Masnick, TechDirt]
- “At least for the moment, Defendants have shaken off this lawsuit” — court dismisses handwritten challenge to originality of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” [Lowering the Bar]
- After nastygram from George Orwell estate, seller withdraws t-shirts bearing slogan “1984 is already here” [The Guardian] But see comment below from reader Gitarcarver (episode attributed more to CafePress over-reaction than to estate’s letter);
- “Anne Frank’s Diary Now Has Co-Author, Extended Copyright” [Christopher Klein, History.com]
- “What the history of Eskimo Pies tells us about software patents today” [Charles Duan, Slate]
- University of California, Santa Barbara, has put online a gold mine of 10,000 early recordings from the cylinder era, which ended in the 1920s [Hyperallergic] But could there be a copyright snag even on material this old? [Brian Frye, Prawfsblawg]
- Judge says company must pay $684K for pursuing “exceptionally weak” patent case [Joe Mullin, ArsTechnica]
- More: “That Irell & Manella would let itself get played by PETA for a stupid publicity stunt that serves no purpose other than to waste the court’s time…” [Mike Masnick, TechDirt; earlier on monkey-selfie case]
I somehow missed last year that Nashville’s Gibson Guitar, target of a notoriously militarized regulatory raid by the U.S. government (“When I got there, there were people in SWAT attire that evacuated our entire factory“) has not let the matter be forgotten among its customers. It has launched a product line called the Government Series II Les Paul, which “uses the wood that the Feds ultimately returned to Gibson after the resolution and the investigation was concluded.” (The raid was in service of the surprisingly cronyish and protectionist Lacey Act, which restricts import of various foreign woods.)
From the company’s announcement:
Government Series II Les Paul Great Gibson electric guitars have long been a means of fighting the establishment, so when the powers that be confiscated stocks of tonewoods from the Gibson factory in Nashville—only to return them once there was a resolution and the investigation ended—it was an event worth celebrating. Introducing the Government Series II Les Paul, a striking new guitar from Gibson USA for 2014 that suitably marks this infamous time in Gibson’s history.
Good going, Gibson.
The news that New York’s Gilbert & Sullivan Players have canceled a production of The Mikado because it was accused of purveying anti-Japanese stereotypes, and because there had been objections to Caucasian actors singing the parts, prompted me to write up a short piece in the new Weekly Standard on how the beloved operetta might be modernized for contemporary, social-justice-attuned ears:
So he decreed, in words succinct,
That all who flirted, leered, or winked,
Without consent-form double-inked,
Should forthwith be beheaded…
Correspondent Corey Bean contributed a verse:
My object all sublime
I shall erase the line —
aggressions and crime —
Between mere offense and crime;
The company for now is going to switch to a production of The Pirates of Penzance. “So now pirate-shaming is supposed to be okay?” Read the whole thing here.
“The world’s most popular English language song is potentially free from copyright after a federal judge ruled on Tuesday that filmmakers challenging Warner/Chappell Music’s hold on “Happy Birthday to You” should be granted summary judgment.” [Eriq Gardner, Hollywood Reporter/Billboard] We’ve covered the saga a number of times previously. More: Lowering the Bar.