Congress’ copyright office has its first chief economist — Tom Temin speaks with Brent Lutes, who was named as the first Chief Economist within the US Copyright Office. Lutes talks about his background and what the role entails. “There’s going to be an internal component and an external component. And the internal component will be understanding how policy decisions and operational decisions affect access to and benefits from our copyright system, then we’ll have an external component where a large part of my job will be establishing a research agenda, not just for myself, for the copyright office, but hopefully for the academic community to answer the questions that we really care about.”
‘Vape’ is the word: U.S. judge allows ‘Grease’ parody — “In a 22-page decision, [Judge] Swain said that by keeping the ‘Grease’ characters and plot arc while changing the script and lyrics, ‘Vape’ ‘comments on how misogynistic tendencies have both evolved since “Grease” was developed and remain the same.’ She distinguished the case from a March 2021 appeals court decision that Andy Warhol violated federal copyright law by drawing on a photograph of Prince for a series of images of the rock star, because the images were not transformative.”
Final Rule Released For Copyright Claims Board Proceedings — This week, the US Copyright Office has published a final rule governing the initiation and prosecution of claims in the new copyright small claims tribunal. This completes all the regulations needed for the tribunal, which is anticipated to begin operating in just a few weeks.
Paper’s take-off — Some interesting historical highlights tracing paper’s emergence as the material of choice for the written word.
EXCLUSIVE Google paying more than 300 EU publishers for news, more to come — Thanks to the EU’s Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, the search giant has come to the table and “signed deals to pay more than 300 publishers in Germany, France and four other EU countries for their news and will roll out a tool to make it easier for others to sign up too.”
Publishing and Library E-Lending: An Analysis of the Decade Before Covid-19 — From Publishing Research Quarterly: “What started as a search for the proper way to value ebooks and ensure their prosperity so all parties (including authors) could benefit, morphed into a widespread belief that all the Big publishers disliked libraries, only saw negatives in e-lending, and only begrudgingly started e-lending after they were coerced by the ALA. But a thorough assessment of the history shows that generalizing the Big publishers in this way was largely unfounded and inaccurate.”
Megaupload Pair Sign Deal to Avoid Extradition, Dotcom Vows to Fight On — Torrentfreak’s Andy Maxwell reports, “After 10 years of legal battles following the closure of Megaupload, Mathias Ortmann and Bram van der Kolk have reached a deal with the authorities that will see them avoid extradition and face charges in New Zealand instead. Kim Dotcom says he won’t accept ‘injustice’ and will keep fighting against extradition to the United States.”
Warhol Foundation v. Goldsmith at SCOTUS Part I: The Transformative Question — “Different meaning may be present, but if the secondary work does not contain at least some element of comment upon the original, there is no rationale keeping the first factor analysis from spilling over the levy quoted above in Campbell. . . . This is one reason why the ‘transformativeness’ concept has caused so much trouble: because it leads courts to find fair use solely on the basis of ‘some difference,’ and this implies a fair use doctrine without limits.”
Examining Copyright — Copyright scholar Zvi Rosen has published a draft of his long-awaited study on examination of copyright applications by the US Copyright Office. As Rosen writes, the article “presents a history of copyright examination, empirical data and findings on what has been rejected over the past sixty years, and a proposal based on these findings for improving the efficiency of the copyright registration system going forward.”
Movie, Music, Gaming & Publishing Groups Join ISPs in Deal to Block Piracy — Torrentfreak reports that rights groups in Sweden have teamed up with ISPs in the country “to operate a simplified and more efficient process to handle [site] blocking orders.” Furthermore, “The parties to the agreement have also agreed to jointly strive for new and clear legislation for administrative blocking in Sweden.”
U.S. Court Orders Pirate Site Blocking. Internet Should Break Any Day Now. — And in the US, after ruling against a group of pirate streaming entities in a copyright infringement lawsuit, a federal judge has ordered US ISPs to block access to the websites operated by the entities. David Newhoff observes in his piece here, “Ordering an unnamed third party in a complaint to cease facilitating harmful conduct is not groundbreaking law, which is one reason why all the shouting about that legislation ten years ago was so ridiculous.”
Can You Copyright a Dress? — “In the late 1920s, French haute-couture houses lost approximately the equivalent of a billion US dollars (based on 2011 numbers) due to piracy of designs. French designers, who considered their work a form of art, tried many times and methods to close down avenues of access to their original thinking, even going so far as to call the police on alleged copyists in the interwar period.”
Measuring Fair Use’s Market Effect — An intriguing forthcoming paper from a pair of researchers that “find[s] evidence that negative perceptions about an earlier work are created when sampled in a new work that itself is a failure.” This result, say the authors, has implications for fair use determinations, since it “points to a negative spillover effect that may harm perceptions of the underlying copyrighted work.”
Podcast: Copyright & Culture with Terrica Carrington — Illusion of More’s David Newhoff talks with Copyright Alliance’s Terrica Carrington about her work in public policy and artist advocacy, touching upon topics like #blacktiktokstrike and engaging young creators in copyright.
USTR Suspends Review of Ukraine, Remains Concerned with China in Latest Special 301 Report — IPWatchdog reports on the release this week of the US Trade Representative’s annual Special 301 Report, which examines the “adequacy and effectiveness of U.S. trading partners’ protection and enforcement of intellectual property (IP) rights”—including patent, trademark, copyright, and trade secret. Among the highlights not included in the headline, the Report raises concerns over the EU’s promotion of Geographical Indicators (GIs), which are source indicators for items from a certain geographical area possessing certain characteristics or reputation, like feta cheese, champagne, and Kalamata olives.
Making the Case: The Economic Rationale for Intellectual Property Rights — The US Chamber this week released a statistical annex to its International IP Index, which “examines 29 different correlations to illustrate the economic benefits of improving IP protection.” Among the findings: “economies with effective IP systems have . . . 2X the access to new music through legitimate platforms . . . [and] 46% more likely to attract venture capital and private equity.”
MPA Wins Piracy Battle, US Court Orders PrimeWire to Shut Down — Torrentfreak reports, “Several Hollywood studios and Netflix have prevailed in their battle to shut down pirate streaming site PrimeWire. Despite PrimeWire recently removing all links to pirated movies and TV shows and losing more than 60% of its traffic in a month, a US court found the streaming site liable for copyright infringement. PrimeWire’s domains will now be seized.”
Photography Copyright Cases Photographers Should Know — From decisions establishing that photographs are copyrightable to when communicating photos online implicates the exclusive right of public display, the Copyright Alliance reviews the major cases involving photos and copyright law.
Piracy Numbers Drop After Indonesia Blocks Over 3,500 Pirate Sites — Torrentfreak reports, “The Government of Indonesia continues to crack down on piracy. The country’s list of blocked sites and services has grown to more than 3,500 domain names. According to the Coalition Against Piracy, these actions resulted in a 75% decrease in pirate site traffic, while the use of legal alternatives has tripled.”
How to Support Your Local Library — Paul Sweeting writes about the demise in court of a Maryland law effectively creating a compulsory license of ebooks to libraries for digital lending. Taking a look at data regarding library expenditures, he suggests the aim of the bill was misplaced. “Indeed, insofar as public libraries face growing financial challenges, those challenges are not coming from the cost of material in their collections; it is coming from higher operating and administrative costs. . . . If state legislators genuinely want to help public libraries, they would get more bang for the buck by increasing funding for operating and administrative costs, not by trying to rewrite federal copyright law for e-books.”
Goold & Simon on Luck & the Labor Theory of Intellectual Property — Via Lawrence Solum: “A person naturally owns the fruits of their intellectual labour; so goes the labour argument for intellectual property. But what should happen when a creator gets ‘lucky’ – such as the photographer who is in the right place at the right time or the scientist who accidentally discovers a new drug?” The authors of the paper argue that the presence of luck does not undermine the labor theory of IP law.
Brent Lutes Named First Chief Economist of the U.S. Copyright Office — “Register of Copyrights Shira Perlmutter has announced the appointment of Dr. Brent Lutes as the first Chief Economist of the U.S. Copyright Office, effective April 10, 2022. As Chief Economist, Lutes will evaluate the economic impacts of programs and policies relating to the U.S. and international copyright systems. He will advise the Register and other senior officials on how these impacts affect the Office, copyright stakeholders, and the general public.”
National Association Of Realtors Is Fighting A Copyright Ruling On Floor Plans — Forbes’ Brenda Richardson reports, “The National Association of Realtors is fighting a court ruling that says homeowners who post floor plans of their homes on Zillow, Redfin, Realtor.com and other websites could be open to copyright lawsuits. . . At the center of the issue is NAR’s claim that the ruling misrepresents federal law and would invalidate decades of legal precedent by allowing copyright infringement lawsuits to be filed against homeowners who make or display floor plans of their own homes.”
How Google and Amazon bankrolled a ‘grassroots’ activist group of small business owners to lobby against Big Tech oversight — Shenanigans! “Montgomery isn’t the only small business owner bewildered to find their names listed as a member of the Connected Commerce Council, which also goes by ‘3C.’ More than 20 other ‘members’ contacted by CNBC said they similarly had never heard of the council and did not know why they were on their membership list. The council, which pitches itself as a grassroots movement representing small business owners, is actually a well-financed advocacy group funded by tech heavy hitters Google and Amazon.”
Choreographer on Charlie Puth video reignites debate about dance copyright on Fortnite — “It’s by no means the first time Epic has faced a legal claim of this kind, with a flurry of lawsuits filed over Fortnite emotes a few years back when the gaming platform first became a global phenomenon. Though many of those legal claims stalled, partly because of complexities around registering the copyright in choreography in the US. However, lawyers working for LA-based choreographer Kyle Hanagami hope this case is stronger.”
New Copyright Challenges in the Publishing Industry — A bit of self-promotion here: this week I joined a panel with representatives from the Authors Guild and News Media Alliance to discuss “hot-button issues affecting the publishing industry today, including digital first sale, controlled digital lending, state compulsory licensing, and ancillary rights.” Video of the one-hour panel is available at the link.
A SMART New Approach to Combatting Piracy — Copyright Alliance CEO Keith Kupferschmid examines new copyright legislation introduced by Senators Tillis and Leahy, which would create a process for the Library of Congress to designate technological measures for identifying or protecting copyrighted works that must be implemented by online service providers.
WIPO’s Pirate Site Blocklist Expands to 4,042 Active Domain Names — Torrentfreak reports, “WIPO, which is part of the United Nations, was founded more than 50 years ago with the aim of protecting intellectual property. This includes combating online piracy, something it hopes to facilitate with its “WIPO Alert” blocklist. The goal of the project is simple; allow stakeholders from member states to report problematic sites and share the resulting list with advertisers, so they can block bad apples. This should result in less money going to pirate sites, making it harder for them to generate profit.”
Social Justice Meets IP at Howard Law Clinics Tackling Diversity — Bloomberg Law visits Howard University School of Law to take a close look at the schools patent and trademark clinics, which “tackle diversity issues in intellectual property in two ways: encouraging more people of color to enter the traditionally white, male intellectual property field and providing legal assistance to people who are underrepresented in inventorship and trademark registration applications.”
State Laws Forcing Publishers to License Ebooks to Libraries Are Unlawful [PDF] — A new white paper from Free State Foundation explains, “As the District Court in AAP v. Frosh recognized, under Section 106 of the Copyright Act, copyright owners possess exclusive rights to decide who can distribute or make available their copyrighted works and on what terms and conditions. State laws that force publishers to license copyrighted works to libraries clearly conflict with federal law.”
Europe Takes Aim at Big Tech With Digital Markets Act — “The new law, set to take effect next year, sets out a list of dos and don’ts that outlaw many of what are currently core business practices among major tech companies. Apple, for example, will have to allow alternatives to its App Store for downloading apps and allow payment methods for the App Store other than Apple’s own. (Apple charges a 30 percent commission on all Apple App Store payments.) Google and Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, will no longer be able to offer targeted ads across multiple platforms — using data gathered as users move between services owned by the same company, YouTube and Google Search, for example, without receiving explicit consent. Amazon will be barred from using data collected from outside sellers on its services to offer competing products, a practice already the subject of a separate EU antitrust investigation.”
Copyright Office Issues Final Rules for CASE Act Copyright Claims Board Proceedings — The Copyright Office is in the final stages of fleshing out the details of the copyright small claims tribunal that is set to launch this summer. IPWatchdog reports, “the rules establish procedures for designating service agents for receiving notices of initiated proceedings at the CCB, as well as opt-out procedures for libraries, archives and any claimants who are notified of class action litigation filed in U.S. district court covering their own copyright claim.”
Game Developers Go Quiet On NFTs As Trading Volume Plummets — “The backlash has also been accompanied by a wider downturn in the overall NFT market, which you can chalk up to crypto’s recent turmoil in the wake of global instability, or what I would argue is just a general fading away of interest in the concept of NFTs. OpenSea, the world’s largest NFT platform, has seen daily trading volume drop by 80% and the average price of NFTs fall 48% since its peak in November, right before all these game companies launched these project ideas.”