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Intellectual Property

All articles with the "Intellectual Property" tag.

Published: Sun, 23 Apr 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Sun, 23 Apr 2017 20:38:07 -0400


Lucasfilm Suing Lightsaber Academy, The New York Jedi for Star Wars Trademark Infringements

Tue, 18 Oct 2016 14:35:00 -0400

Lucasfilm, a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company and the creator and producer of the Star Wars film, has filed a federal lawsuit over intellectual property infringement against the proprietor of the Lightsaber Academy, which describes itself as "a consortium for academic, stage combat, and sport dueling lightsaber instructors" and the New York Jedi, "a community of Cosplayers, martial artists and teachers, who share practical Stage Combat techniques oriented toward Light Sabers." The lawsuit allege that the proprietor, Michael Brown, and the company that runs the two enterprises, Thrills and Skills Inc., are infringing on registered trademarks belonging to LucasFilm (namely, "lightsaber" and "Jedi") as well as engaging in unfair competition, diluting the Star Wars trademarks, and "cybersquatting" by having registered websites using the trademarked words. The lawsuit singles out the Lightsaber Academy's practice of selling instructor and director certificates which "purport to license others to offer additional 'Lightsaber' classes," as well as Brown's attempt to register a trademark for "Lightsaber Academy," which seems like a particularly provocative move from someone whose business relies on intellectual property restrictions not being enforced too strictly. In addition to the claims of misappropriation of the words lightsaber and Jedi, the lawsuit also claims the logo used by the Lightsaber Academy is an infringement of the Jedi logo created by Lucasfilm: Attorneys for Lucasfilm also argue in the lawsuit that because of sales and advertising by Lucasflim and the companies licensing the use of their intellectual property as well as "longstanding consumer recognitions," the trademarks themselves "are widely recognized as source-identifiers of, and for, authorized Lucasfilm products and services." The argument is specious—it's hard to imagine a reasonable person assuming a product or service was licensed by Lucasfilm because it has the word lightsaber or Jedi in it, both being words that have entered a cultural lexicon wider than the world of Star Wars. The near universal practice of explicitly identifying licensed merchandise as such would also suggest that most people do not assume merchandise is licensed simply because it is in some way related to a licensable franchise. Global retail sales of officially licensed merchandise rose 4.2 percent in the last year in part on the strength of the new Star Wars film, according to the Licensing Industry Merchandisers Association, as Variety reported when the industry group held their annual licensing expo this summer. The lawsuit also claims that Brown and the other defendants "repeatedly sought license or authority from Lucasfilm to engage" in their activities, and that they received multiple cease and desist letters from Lucasfilm. The websites for the Lightsaber Academy and the New York Jedi include disclaimers about not being affiliated with Lucasfilm, Star Wars, or Disney. "And while we are not specifically Star Wars-centric, we do rely heavily on many of the principles and training used by that of the Jedi Order," the "about" page of the New York Jedi website explains. "Mental focus, martial arts training, universal knowledge, and creating your own costume, err… robes." The lawsuit was filed Friday in a U.S. district court in San Francisco. The defendants have not yet commented publicly on the suit. Watch Reason TV's Star Wars Libertarian Special below: src="" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" frameborder="0" height="340" width="560">[...]

Hollywood Takes on Fan Fiction

Sun, 16 Oct 2016 06:00:00 -0400

(image) Since its launch in 1966, Star Trek has inspired creativity among its fans. Besides the soon-to-be six live-action television series and 13 feature films that make up the official canon, outsiders have invested time and treasure to produce myriad unofficial creations.

Early on it was mostly short stories, comic books, and art. But those outlets soon evolved into fan-made film and video productions. In 1974 a carpet layer from Michigan spent $2,000 to build a replica of the Starship Enterprise bridge and made Paragon's Paragon, one of the first serious Star Trek fan movies. In 1985, a fan convinced George Takei, who played Sulu on the original series, to reprise the role in Yorktown: A Time to Heal. In subsequent years, putting original cast members in fan productions became increasingly common, with Walter Koenig (Chekov) and Nichelle Nichols (Uhura) starring in the feature-length Star Trek: Of Gods and Men in 2007.

For decades these efforts were largely welcome. "It is now a source of great joy for me to see [fans'] view of Star Trek," wrote creator Gene Roddenberry in the foreword to Star Trek: The New Voyages, a compilation of fan-written stories. "I want to thank these writers, congratulate them on their efforts, and wish them good fortune on these and further of their voyages into other times and dimensions." Paramount and CBS, the Star Trek rights holders, took a hands-off approach so long as the fans' products didn't portray the franchise in a negative or obscene light.

That all changed with Prelude to Axanar, a professionally shot, produced, and acted short fan film that received almost 2.5 million views on YouTube. That success allowed writer/producer Alec Peters to raise more than $1 million through crowdfunding sites Kickstarter and Indiegogo to move forward with a feature film. He snagged Richard Hatch, who played Captain Apollo in the original Battlestar Galactica, to be his antagonist, and Takei plugged the project on social media.

Suddenly, Axanar looked less like fan fiction and more like competition. CBS and Paramount sprung into action, alleging copyright infringement and demanding an immediate stop to production.

Peters and his team claim that Axanar is covered by the fair use doctrine, which allows for incorporation of copyrighted work when that use is "transformative." But lawyer Dean Cheley—whose firm has made fair use claims against such powerful forces as Disney and Yoko Ono—says it's "unlikely" that fan films like Axanar fall within the doctrine's protections. Nonetheless, he adds that "while legally I believe that CBS may have a legitimate claim on its hands, I don't think it's in their best interests to pursue it. You don't want to police this sort of fanzine to such extent that you're disenfranchising your audience."

Battlestar Galactica veteran Hatch agrees. "Fan films can bring us stories that the studios aren't interested in doing, explore characters that the studios don't put a lot of energy on, and in a sense flesh out the world and build even more interest," he says. "So that when the movies from the studios come out, it actually generates more money, more fan interest, and the fan community is enlarged as a result of these really quality fan films."

With the lawsuit pending, production on Axanar has ground to a halt for now. But Peters and his team think technology and history are on their side. After all, in the wise words of Spock, "Change is the essential process of all existence."

Copyright Case Against 'Stairway to Heaven' Goes Down Like a Lead Zeppelin

Thu, 23 Jun 2016 14:55:00 -0400

Even Led Zeppelin is innocent sometimes. A jury just ruled that Jimmy Page and Robert Plant did not plagiarize the Spirit song "Taurus" when they composed the classic-rock warhorse "Stairway to Heaven."

There is no question in my mind that the jurors reached the right decision. I say that even though the two songs undeniably open with similar guitar riffs, as you can hear in this side-by-side comparison:

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There is a difference between being similar and identical, and there are some clear differences between the two guitar parts. That in itself might not have been enough to save Zeppelin in the wake of last year's "Blurred Lines" case, when Marvin Gaye's estate successfully sued Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke over a song that copied the "feel" but not the actual notes of Gaye's "Got to Give It Up." But in this case, riffs that sound vaguely like the start of "Stairway" have been around a lot longer than the Spirit record. Davy Graham's version of "Cry Me a River," recorded a decade before "Taurus," is a case in point:

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But why start in the '50s? Giovanni Battista Granata composed "Sonata di Chittarra, e Violino, con il suo Basso Continuo" three and a half centuries ago, and you can hear an obvious precursor to the "Stairway" opening about 35 seconds into the piece:

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If Led Zeppelin ripped off Spirit, then both bands ripped off Granata—and Granata's work is in the public domain, as are any other examples of this musical idea that precede him. So even under the far-too-restrictive set of rules that make up modern copyright law, everyone is free to do as they please with this age-old sequence of sounds. Led Zeppelin's members may be guilty of all kinds of criminal debauchery, depending on how much credence you put in that copy of Hammer of the Gods your pals were passing around in high school. Hell, there are genuine cases of them lifting from other artists' work. But in this instance, I think it's clear that there's no infringement.

Thankfully, the jury agreed. As Aram Sinnreich wrote earlier this month, "if the bar for [proving] copyright infringement gets lower, then the risk of getting sued gets higher—especially in the world of pop, where music tends to be both highly formulaic and highly profitable. Greater risk means higher cost, which means that only the companies with the deepest pockets and the best lawyers can afford to bring new music to market." A loss today would have been a loss for bands with far less cash and influence than Led Zeppelin.

Star Wars: The Remix

Wed, 25 May 2016 12:25:00 -0400

(image) When Star Wars: The Force Awakens hit theaters late last year, the critics' most common complaint about the film held that it is a barely-remixed remake of the original Star Wars. This argument attracted the attention of filmmaker Kirby Ferguson, whose much-viewed 2010-11 web series Everything Is a Remix made the case that creativity has always involved sampling and repurposing the art that preceded you.

So this week Ferguson released a postscript of sorts to his series, titled Everything Is a Remix: The Force Awakens. It contrasts the ways J.J. Abrams remixed older material to make the new Star Wars movie with the ways George Lucas remixed older material to make the original; it offers an argument about what it takes for remixing to produce something satisfyingly original; and it includes a brief cameo by Reason's own Peter Suderman, or at least by Peter's byline.

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For yet more on Star Wars and remixes, read Amy Sturgis' Reason feature "Star Wars, Remixed." And for more from Ferguson, check out his current web series, This Is Not a Conspiracy Theory.

Paramount Objects to Klingon Language Amicus Brief by Language Creation Society

Thu, 05 May 2016 11:10:00 -0400

(image) Paramount Pictures, which is embroiled in an expansive copyright lawsuit against Axanar Productions over the latter's Star Trek fan film, has filed an objection to the Language Creation Society (LCS) filing an amicus brief regarding the copyrightability of the Klingon language.

Paramount argues (PDF) the LCS's brief came too late in the process, was too long, and "attempts to have the Court resolve factual issues on a motion to dismiss based on inadmissible hearsay." Hearsay, in this case, refers to the context provided by the LCS for how Klingon has become a "living language."

"It is undisputed that Klingons are copyrightable characters, and have been depicted in the Star Trek Copyrighted Works in a distinct and recognizable manner," Paramount argues in its formal opposition to the brief. Paramount insists that the fictional Klingon language "is part of the depiction" of copyrighted Klingon characters and that it's "the use of the Klingon language in this context that will be before the Court… not the copyrightability of languages in general."

Irrespective of that, Paramount adds, the issue of whether Klingon is copyrightable "is certainly not before the Court on the present motion to dismiss."

In their response (PDF), the LCS's attorneys, led by Marc Randazza, a First Amendment lawyer and friend of Reason who is representing the LCS pro bono, point out that the standard for the admissibility of an amicus is "simply whether it will assist the Court."

"The evidence and arguments provided by Amicus Language Creation Society's brief will assist the Court in determining the question of whether the Klingon language is entitled to copyright protection," LCS's reply argues. "It is not premature for the Court to make this determination at the motion to dismiss stage because this is a legal question; if a spoken language is not entitled to copyright protection as a matter of law, then Plaintiffs' claims are properly dismissed insofar as they are based on Defendants' use of the Klingon language."

The LCS's attorneys also dispute Paramount's assertion that they are seeking an advisory opinion.

"Plaintiffs steadfastly assert that they 'own' the Klingon language,and there is no need for a fact-intensive 'substantial similarity' analysis, as Plaintiffs insist, to determine whether Klingon can belong to anyone," the reply argues. "This issue is properly before the Court, and the Court may properly determine at this stage whether Klingon is copyrightable."

The LCS also points out that between all of Paramount and Axanar's motions, less than two pages focus on the issue of the copyright claim on the Klingon language. It argues that this makes the brief relevant to an issue before the court, and that even if the brief isn't used now, it should be held "for use during later stages in the proceeding," since the issue of Klingon's copyrightability "will need to be dealt with (unless Plaintiff drops their claim to won Klingon) at some point in this case."

Paramount Copyright Claim on Klingon Language Challenged in Klingon Language

Thu, 28 Apr 2016 13:50:00 -0400

The Language Creation Society has filed an amicus brief challenging Paramount's claim of copyright over the Klingon language in its lawsuit against Axanar, a fan-produced film set in the Star Trek universe. Marc Randazza, a top notch first amendment attorney who has helped out Reason on copyright issues, and Alex Shepard filed the brief yesterday. Conlanging is the process of constructing a language, and Klingon is a popular conlang which originated with lines of dialogue and a dictionary written by Marc Okrand, the linguist who created Klingon for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and the two movies after that. The amicus brief is peppered with Klingon words and phrases, even quoting The Big Lebowski in Klingon, "not Qam ghu'vam" ("This will not stand, man") in response to the idea that anyone expressing anything in Klingon would be a copyright infringer if Paramount owned the actual language. The brief mentions Alec Speers, whose dad taught him Klingon at an early age. "To claim copyright in a language is to claim ownership over all possible thoughts and artistic expression that might employ that language," the attorneys argue in the amicus brief. "If not ownership, such a claim at least provides some support for the idea that the copyright owner could, at some point, simply pull the plug on any future development in the language." The Framers, the brief argues, would have an analogy—the Académie Française, which regulates the entirety of the French language. "In effect, significant parts of French are constructed," the attorneys argue. "The Framers would have been shocked to learn that they might be prohibited from writing and speaking in French were the Academy to register copyright in its constructions. However, that would be the eventual result, if this court commits the qaq of blessing Paramount's claim to the intellectual property inherent in a language." The attorneys point to previous case law, including on constructed programming languages. In Computer Assocs. Int'l v. Alta, the court found terms in programming languages that were required to accomplish tasks in an operating system were not copyright-protected. In Zalewski v. Cicero Builder, meanwhile, the, brief points out that  court found that "if an idea 'can only be expressed in a limited number of ways,' those means of expression 'cannot be protected, lest one author own the idea itself.'" "Copyright law protects the means of expressing ideas or concepts, but it does not give the copyright holder the right to exclude others from making use of the ideas or concepts themselves," the brief argues. "Neither is one permitted to register copyright in a word." The brief illustrates the importance of a decision in the Axanar lawsuit that addresses the specific yet broad copyright claims made by Paramount. "No court has squarely addressed the issue of whether a constructed spoken language is entitled to copyright protection," the brief argues. There was, however, a trademark case. A federal circuit court affirmed the cancellation of a trademark claim for "Loglan," the name of a constructed language tied to an institute that eventually splintered. "While individual Klingon words may be expressive, one cannot speak Klingon without using these words," the brief argues, rejecting comparisons to litigation between Oracle and Google over Java. "The idea of speaking Klingon thus merges with the expression of particular words, making Klingon as a language not entitled to copyright protection." The brief also pointed to precedent on "poker jargon" (Grosso v. Miramax), which was also found to be not copyright protected. The attorneys drew on the conclusions of the Supreme Court about copyright and basic information in the 1991 Feist Publications v. Rural Telephone Service case. "To this end, copyright assures authors the right to their original expression, but encourages others to build freely upon the ideas and information con[...]

How Copycat Cronuts Keep Chefs Sharp

Fri, 15 Apr 2016 16:20:00 -0400

You can watch a video of celebrity dessert chef Dominique Ansel's newest creation, a wild strawberry pavlova, today at It looks ridiculous and awesome (ridiculawsome?).

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But why should Ansel go to all the trouble of flying $70/lb wild strawberries in from Spain and fussing around with egg whites? After all, Ansel became a household name (well, in certain households anyway) in 2013 when he invented the cronut, a sphinx of a dessert that combines the glories of a croissant and a donut into a single pastry. New Yorkers (still!) line up around the block to get one of the limited edition treats each morning.

So why isn't this guy just chilling out and swimming around in his piles of cronut cash?

For starters, the U.S. Copyright Office does not recognize recipes as copyrightable. As The Washington Post reminds us today, you can trademark your brand name—no one else can call their ring of deep-fried croissant dough a Cronut—but that won't stop Dunkin Donuts started selling the Croissant Donut as soon as they can, even as others hustle out Doissants and Cruffins.

In fact, Ansel has published his recipe. There's no protectable trade secret, so anyone with a deep fryer and a death wish can try to make their very own authentic cronut.

But even as as folks queue up around Ansel's shop, still interested enough to pay a premium in time and money for the original brand's cache, Ansel is on to the next thing. He has to be in an industry where copying is a fact of life, and we're all better off for it.

As co-author of The Knockoff Economy Kal Raustiala told Reason TV: "Intellectual property law is not as important as we might think to innovation." He cites fashion, food, and football as industries that are constantly being driven to new heights by the fast pace of copying and remixing set by the lack of intellectual property.

(Of course, many industries with intense copyright protections are also hotbeds of innovation. The food and fashion industries merely suggest that treating intellectual property like real property not a necessary condition for entrepreneurship and new ideas.) 

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Klingon Language, Pointy Ears, 'Mood and Theme' of Star Trek All Copyrighted, Paramount Claims

Tue, 15 Mar 2016 13:48:00 -0400

(image) Paramount, the studio that owns the Star Trek franchise, is suing the producers of a crowdfunded Star Trek fan film, Axanar, over "thousands" of copyright violations.

At first, Paramount did not specify these, so the producers being sued argued the suit should be dismissed because Paramount failed to list the specific copyright violations. Paramount returned with an amended lawsuit that listed their specific claims, ranging from the use of "phasers" to the appearance of various Star Trek aliens like Vulcans.

Paramount's claim to own a copyright on the Klingon language, a fictional language invented for the Star Trek franchise, has gotten the most attention. That's because Klingon has come up as an analogy in a different kind of copyright case, involving tech companies Oracle and Google.

In 2012 Oracle sued Google over the use of certain programming code Oracle claimed it had copyrighted. Legal observers compared Oracle's move to an attempt to copyright Klingon.  A district court judge ruled that Oracle's Java API was not copyrightable, but that was later reversed in part by an appeals court. Google appealed to the Supreme Court, but was denied certiorari last summer.

Paramount also insisted one of the infringing elements of the Axanar film was the science fiction action adventure "mood and theme" of Star Trek. "The mood and theme of Star Trek as a science fiction action adventure first appeared in The Orginal Series episode 'The Cage' (Reg. No. PA 313-430)," Paramount notes in its amended suit, "and appeared in all subsequent episodes of The Original Series and other derivative Star Trek Copyrighted Works."

The amended lawsuit lists 54 such infringing elements, ranging from the mood and theme to specific logos, alien appearances, and fictional technologies, like the teleporting transporter and the process of being "beamed up."

Beam me up, Scotty.

Pray That The New York Times Loses This Stupid Copyright Case

Thu, 11 Feb 2016 14:58:00 -0500

The New York Times isn't just the most presitigious paper on the planet; it's one of the most bullying, too. That's the conclusion I think most of us would draw from a great column written by former Reason Editor Virginia Postrel. The background: War Is Beautiful is a book by David Shields that argues the Times systematically glamorizes war by the way that it depicts armed conflicts and their aftermath. Shields licensed several dozen images and does close readings of them. But he also included thumbnail versions of the images too. The Times claims that the tiny reproductions violate its copyrights. But Shields has a good case that they constitute "fair use," the legal exception that allows creators of new works to use bits of old ones without violating copyrights.  The idea is simple. If every blogger, book reviewer, scholar, and nonfiction author who quoted a paragraph or two from another work had to fear a copyright suit, the cultural conversation would atrophy. Rather than encouraging the production of new works, copyright protections would deter them. Arguments would go unanswered, works uncritiqued, theories undeveloped. Instead of reporting what people actually said, writers would have to paraphrase—and readers would have to trust them. When it comes to images, though, there's a lot less to go on in terms of fair use. Postrel explains: The newspaper’s suit seems like a loser. In a 2006 case called Bill Graham Archives v. Dorling Kindersley Ltd., the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, whose precedents would apply to the Times suit, ruled that publishing thumbnail images of Grateful Dead concert posters in a coffee table book on the band constituted fair use. The court deemed the new use "transformatively different" from the original and noted that their small size strengthened that critical element of its analysis, since the publisher "used the minimal image size necessary to accomplish its transformative purpose." The Times thumbnails are even tinier — so small that the headlines are barely legible. No wonder Georgetown University law professor Rebecca Tushnet opined that the paper "has, quite unwisely, sued over this textbook (coffee-table book?) fair use." Full column here. Postrel is hopeful that the lawsuit will actually backfire on the Times and end up laying out clearer and broader rules for fair use when it comes to images. Here's hoping. The lack of clear and loose legal standing makes it harder to have conversations worth having. I'd argue that most laws limiting reproduction of most works (whether words, music, or images) rarely are in the interest of the copyright holder. In a footnote, she throws in a link to a Pinterest board she compiled while working on her excellent 2013 book, The Power of Glamour: Longing and the Art of Visual Persuasion. It consists of a series of images for which she couldn't secure the rights (most commonly because the copyright owner either couldn't or wouldn't follow through on requests). How whacked is it that she can post the images online but not in a book? Pretty damn whacked, I'd say. For a discussion of libertarian views on copyright and intellectual property, go here. Note: Added link to Postrel column around 4:15 P.M. Reason TV talked with Postrel about The Power of Glamour when it came out. Check that out below. frameborder="0" src="" height="340" width="560">[...]

There's Just One Known Recording of the First Super Bowl Broadcast, and the NFL Wants to Keep a Man From Selling It

Thu, 04 Feb 2016 12:46:00 -0500

There is only one known recording of the original broadcast of Super Bowl I. It belongs to Troy Haupt, a middle-aged nurse in North Carolina who wasn't alive when the game was played. His dad taped it at work on a Quadruplex video machine, and eight years later, as the man was dying of cancer, he gave the reels to his ex-wife. "He said maybe they could help pay for the kids' education," she told The New York Times, which just ran a fascinating story about the tapes. The reels spent a few decades deteriorating in her attic before Haupt arranged for the Paley Center for Media to restore them. Meanwhile, the networks wiped their own recordings of the broadcast. (The first Super Bowl was televised by both CBS and NBC; the surviving recording comes from CBS.) The National Football League recently reconstructed the game from NFL Films' original footage, and that aired on cable last month. Haupt offered to sell the tapes to the league for $1 million. The NFL offered $30,000 instead, then decided that it didn't want to purchase them at all. That's fine: No one is obliged to buy an old recording of a football game, and this one isn't even a complete recording. (Halftime and a chunk of the third quarter are missing, as are some bits around the commercial breaks.) What's not so fine is that the NFL is trying to keep Haupt from selling his artifact to anyone else. I'm not convinced the league is on solid legal ground here, but the Times writer seems to think it is. Here's how he describes the situation: Haupt owns the recording but not its content, which belongs to the N.F.L. If the league refuses to buy it, he cannot sell the tapes to a third party, like CBS or a collector who would like to own a piece of sports history that was believed to be lost.... A letter from the league to [Haupt's attorney Steve] Harwood last year provided a sharp warning to Haupt. "Since you have already indicated that your client is exploring opportunities for exploitation of the N.F.L.'s Super Bowl I copyrighted footage with yet-unidentified third parties," Dolores DiBella, a league counsel, wrote, "please be aware that any resulting copyright infringement will be considered intentional, subjecting your client and those parties to injunctive relief and special damages, among other remedies." The law favors the league, said Jodi Balsam, a professor at Brooklyn Law School. "What the league technically has is a property right in the game information and they are the only ones who can profit from that," said Balsam, a former N.F.L. lawyer. As David Post points out at The Volokh Conspiracy, there are three problems here: 1. The NFL does not own the "game information." It owns the broadcast. Not a major point, but worth noting. 2. Under the first sale doctrine, "the owner of a particular copy lawfully made under [the 1976 Copyright Act], or any person authorized by such owner, is entitled, without the authority of the copyright owner, to sell or otherwise dispose of the possession of that copy." And in 1984, the Supreme Court ruled that private noncommercial video recordings are indeed lawfully made. Post acknowledges that "a 1984 case construing the 1976 Copyright Act has a somewhat uncertain application to events taking place in 1967." But he adds that he'd "much, much rather be arguing Haupt's side of that case than the NFL's, if it came to that." Needless to say, this does not mean that the law allows Haupt to make a bunch of copies of his recording and sell those. But it would mean he can sell the specific tapes he inherited, much as one can sell a paperback to a used bookstore or an LP to a music shop. 3. Either way, Haupt can't be held liable for copyright infringement that takes place after he sells the recording. (Yes, of course: If he went on to participate in some sort of infringement after the sale, he'd[...]

Most Pirated Films of 2015 Show That Stealing is Great for Hollywood

Sun, 03 Jan 2016 10:26:00 -0500

Via Variety, here's a list from "piracy tracking firm Excipio" of the most illegally downloaded films in 2015, many of which were actually released in 2014. The big numbers are the download counts from various torrent sites. #1) 46,762,310 Interstellar (2014) #2) 44,794,877 Furious 7 (2015) #3) 41,594,159 Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) #4) 36,881,763 Jurassic World (2015) #5) 36,443,244 Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) #6) 33,953,737 American Sniper (2014) #7) 32,126,827 Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) #8) 31,574,872 The Hobbit: Battle Of The Five Armys (2014) #9) 31,001,480 Terminator: Genisys (2015) #10) 30,922,987 The Secret Service (2014) Variety's Andrew Wallenstein throws in four more from 2015 to give totals for films released only last year: #11) 26,792,863 Focus (2015) #12) 25,883,469 San Andreas (2015) #13) 23,495,140 The Minions (2015) #14) 22,734,070 Inside Out (2015) The list runs under the headline, "Top 10 Pirated Movies of 2015 See Alarming Increase In Downloads," and Wallenstein writes, Excipio didn’t change how it monitored piracy this year, and the tracking period is roughly the same. While the surging numbers clearly indicates piracy continues unabated worldwide, the growth of overseas markets like Brazil are key to fueling totals as well. More here. Movie piracy, like music piracy and to a lesser degree book piracy, is here to stay for the simple reason that it is technologically easy to do and virtually impossible to stop. More than two decades after the first mass panics about internet-enabled entertainment piracy, it should be clear to legacy companies that such a state of affairs is hardly a death sentence. Which isn't to say that media companies don't need to change not just the products they make but how they distribute and market them. This shift is already well underway, of course, as anyone with a Pandora app, Netflix streaming account, Tivo, or video-on-demand cable package can tell you. Make it easy to find and consume whatever culture your audience wants whenever they want it and you'll do just fine. If you're a music performer, tour more often. If you're an old-time movie star, you might think about doing original streaming programming. As Kim Dotcom is fond of noting, release movies with global audiences at the same time everywhere on the planet and you'll do just fine at the box office. After all, people like to see big-screen spectacles on big screens, right? The makers of the movies on this Top Ten list should take it as a sign of gratitude, not theft, when their flicks make such a list. Illegally downloaded movies, like illegally downloaded music, rarely if ever actually take money from the mouths of a big-shot producer or actor. Assume a world in which piracy tech doesn't exist. The most-likely reality is that given the choice between paying $20 or even $10 for a DVD version that comes out well after a movie's theatrical release or simply not watching a film, virtually all of today's pirates would choose the latter. As it is, pirates don't just steal stuff for free. They tend to be heavy consumers of legit product too. They help keep particular movies, stars, studios, directors, you name it, in public circulation long after the industry p.r. machine has shut down. They are unpaid advance men (and women) for Furious 23 and Avengers: Male Menopause. Hollywood: Your problems will only really begin when the number of illegal downloads starts dropping every year. Related: "How Should Libertarians Think About Intellectual Property?" frameborder="0" src="" height="340" width="560"> Or listen along on Soundcloud: width="100%" height="450" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="[...]

'What, What'? Missing South Park Already?

Sun, 20 Dec 2015 17:00:00 -0500

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Still bummed South Park's 19th season series is over?

It's tough—I know—rewatching Cartman's deflategate hallucination for the umpteenth time, sharing a laugh around the water cooler over Mr. Garrison's Trump-like hatred of illegal Canadian immigrants, wishing PC Principal's violent P.C. outbursts were real.

Okay, maybe not "wishing" that exactly.

While South Park's dark farce fits perfectly in its bright cartoon universe, the show's use of pop cultural references for its parodies has lead to real world consequences—particulary when it comes to copyright. 

Electronic Frontier Foundation's Parker Higgins recently sat down with Reason TV to explain how scene of Butters dancing in his own homoerotic version of 'What, What (in the Butt)' wound up in the most widely cited lawsuit in courtrooms of the last five years and inadvertently expanded free speech for everyone.

In 2010, EFF became unlikely allies with media giant Viacom—the owner of South Park—who was sued by Brownmark Films after a 2008 episode called "Canada on Strike" parodied a popular viral video by musician Samwell.

The case eventually made its way to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals where the judges ruled in favor of South Park and Viacom. The ruling has become an important one in entertainment law because it says that a fair use lawsuit can be stopped before going to trial—which can help content creators avoid the huge costs of litigation brought on by frivolous copyright lawsuits.

"Under the Supreme Court this is the highest precedent that you can have—that this Butters video is fair use," Higgins says. "The thing that’s a little less fun is the fact it can stop lawsuits early."

So why wait for the next season of South Park to start? Under fair use, you (and a very close friend) can star in own homoerotic homage to Tweek x Craig. How kawaii!

'The Court Has Listened to Hip Hop for Decades'

Thu, 19 Nov 2015 08:00:00 -0500

(image) Typically when hip-hop lyrics come to court, it's for no-good and free-speech-infringing reasons (see here, here, and here). So let's highlight a positive marriage of law and hip-hop while we have the chance, no?

The case, out of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, involves a copyright infringement claim brought by Robert R. Prunty, who alleges that hip-hop artist Common ripped off Prunty's song "Keys to the Kingdom" in his 2014 hit "Kingdom." Prunty is suing French media company Vivendi SA and Universal Music Group.

In a September decision, District Judge Amit P. Mehta dismissed Prunty's claim, concluding that "other than the word 'Kingdom' appearing in both songs’ titles and the phrase 'keys to the kingdom' appearing in both songs’ lyrics, they bear little resemblance to one another and are not substantially similar."

Neither the song title nor the phrase "The Keys to the Kingdom" are copyrighttable material, noted the judge, since individual words and short phrases are not subject to copyright. 

As to Prunty's argument that expert testimony was needed to evaluate the similarities between his song and Common's? "This court is capable of concluding as a matter of law, without the assistance of expert testimony," that the two songs are not substantially similar, Mehta scoffs. 

In a footnote to this assertion, he adds that "this court does not consider itself an ordinary 'lay person' when it comes to hip-hop music and lyrics. The court has listened to hip hop for decades and considers among his favorite musical artists, perhaps as a sign of his age, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Drake, and Eminem." 

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On Soundcloud: How Should Libertarians Think About Intellectual Property?

Tue, 20 Oct 2015 20:30:00 -0400

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For video versions of this event, go here now.

Libertarians have long been divided on the subject of intellectual property such as patents and copyright. Does natural law extend to intellectual property rights, just like "real property" rights? Or is IP just another government-granted monopoly that limits freedom?

The Progress Clause of the U.S. Constitution grants Congress authority to "promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." During the Constitutional Convention, this provision was adopted by an overwhelming vote and with little debate. But IP was much more limited at the nation's founding than it is today.

In fact, copyright terms are now 580 percent longer than at the start of the 19th century and patents are now granted for software, designs, and business methods that don't look anything like the traditional definition of "inventions."

How should libertarians regard the current legal and regulatory framework and does it help or hinder progress in the digital age? And when considering reform, how can policymakers balance the interests of creators while limiting the potential for regulatory capture and industry-driven cronyism?

On October 8, 2015, R Street and Reason co-hosted a discussion on the pitfalls and merits of intellectual property at Reason's DC offices. Joining the panel was Brink Lindsey of the Cato Institute, Wayne Brough of FreedomWorks, Eli Dourado of the Mercatus Center, and Sasha Moss of R Street Institute. The discussion was moderated by Reason's Nick Gillespie.

Related: Check out Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch's take on IP during "What's Your Take on IP & Net Neutrality?" during Ask a Libertarian day.

Edited by Joshua Swain. Cameras by Swain and Todd Krainin.

About 26 minutes.

How Should Libertarians Think About Intellectual Property?

Tue, 20 Oct 2015 14:00:00 -0400

Libertarians have long been divided on the subject of intellectual property such as patents and copyright. Does natural law extend to intellectual property rights, just like "real property" rights? Or is IP just another government-granted monopoly that limits freedom?

The Progress Clause of the U.S. Constitution grants Congress authority to "promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." During the Constitutional Convention, this provision was adopted by an overwhelming vote and with little debate. But IP was much more limited at the nation's founding than it is today.

In fact, copyright terms are now 580 percent longer than at the start of the 19th century and patents are now granted for software, designs, and business methods that don't look anything like the traditional definition of "inventions."

How should libertarians regard the current legal and regulatory framework and does it help or hinder progress in the digital age? And when considering reform, how can policymakers balance the interests of creators while limiting the potential for regulatory capture and industry-driven cronyism?

On October 8, 2015, R Street and Reason co-hosted a discussion on the pitfalls and merits of intellectual property at Reason's DC offices. Joining the panel was Brink Lindsey of the Cato Institute, Wayne Brough of FreedomWorks, Eli Dourado of the Mercatus Center, and Sasha Moss of R Street Institute. The discussion was moderated by Reason's Nick Gillespie.

Related: Check out Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch's take on IP during "What's Your Take on IP & Net Neutrality?" during Ask a Libertarian day.

Edited by Joshua Swain. Cameras by Swain and Todd Krainin.

About 26 minutes.

Scroll below for downloadable versions. Subscribe to Reason TV's YouTube channel for daily content like this.

And listen to this on Soundcloud by clicking:

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