I Know I Am, But What Am I? Two Music Stars in a Trademark Dispute

If anyone can accurately be called ubiquitous, it’s musician, producer, and fashionista Pharrell Williams. Whether it’s cavorting with Robin Thicke and dancers in “Blurred Lines” or on Daft Punk’s song of the summer of 2013, “Get Lucky,” the man is everywhere. Now he’s in federal court, too. He’s adverse to will.i.am, who also isn’t unskilled in the art of ubiquity in the worlds of music, fashion, and technology — both on his own and as a member of The Black Eyed Peas.

Pharrell Williams has been using the phrase “I AM OTHER” on a video-driven website established by Williams at www.iamother.com. His company is seeking to register that phrase as a trademark at the US Patent and Trademark Office. Will.i.am and his attorneys protested.

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Happy Birthday to You – Who Will Celebrate the Song’s Copyright?

The Guinness Book of World Records said that “Happy Birthday to You” is the most recognized English-language song. There’s no reason at all to doubt that claim. While “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” may be more beloved, there are fewer occasions to sing that song, and it’s a lot harder to sing it well.

In other words, the song “Happy Birthday to You” is part of everyday life. It would be surprising if friends and families celebrating a birthday didn’t sing it. It’s like the National Anthem before a ballgame, like saying “I love you” on Valentine’s Day, and like saying “good morning” in the morning.

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Who’s Afraid of Fair Use? Is Fair Use a Right and Not a Defense Any More?

There’s a point in evolution when you can say that over evolutionary time Something Big has happened — or even mutated into something dramatic. I believe this week is one such time.

Pretty much any copying, distribution, public performance, or derivation of a copyrighted work (a book, an photo, a motion picture, a song, a website, etc.) without authorization of the copyright holder is copyright infringement. (I say “pretty much,” because some copying is so trivial that’s it is de minimis and doesn’t need a fair use defense. There are also a few specific exemptions from absolute copyright protection with respect to certain photocopying by libraries and for other special situations.) Dominion over a copyright is what a copyright holder gets – a near monopoly over the right to copy. To say it another way, the word “copyright” means it just the way it sounds.

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Fifty Shades of Grey and Fan Fiction: Do You Own Your User-Generated Content?

The book series Fifty Shades of Grey and social media user “terms of service” might not seem to naturally intersect. After all, one is about being bound to obligations. The other is a website agreement. The wildly popular Fifty Shades of Grey series written by E L James has provoked many different reactions. One of the effects is a recent copyright and trademark infringement lawsuit.

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Patent Trolls Aren’t the Only IP Trolls in the Forest: Copyright Trolls

Patent trolls – “non-practicing entities,” which are companies that acquire patents with little or no intention of doing anything with the patents except to hunt down and sue patent infringers have received much criticism and little love. President Obama has gone so far as to say “They don’t actually produce anything themselves. They’re trying to essentially leverage and hijack someone else’s side and see if they can extort some money out of them.”

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The Copyright Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Is copyright a greater foe to Sherlock Holmes than Moriarity? The answer depends on what a court says – and whether you think that the duration of copyright protection in the United States is too lengthy.

In the United States the current duration of copyright protection is generally the life of the author plus 70 years (with some notable exceptions). Many older works, generally speaking those works published before January 1, 1923, are in the public domain, which means anyone can copy, publish, and modify them without restriction in the United States.

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Your Life in Photos: Privacy and a New Kind of Camera

What if you could capture your entire life in photos? The New York Times reported that a Swedish company Memoto has developed a wearable camera that accomplishes just that. http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/08/meet-memoto-the-lifelogging-camera/. This application goes way beyond Instagram.

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Don’t Mention My Name: Pitbull and Lindsay Lohan in Court

Did the lyric, “So, I’m tiptoein’ to keep flowin’/I got it locked up like Lindsay Lohan” in musician Pitbull’s song “Give Me Everything” violate the rights of actress Lindsay Lohan? Judge Denis Hurley in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York said “no” in a Memorandum and Order in February.

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A Copyright Alert about a Copyright Alert: Internet Service Providers Undertake a New Program

It’s good to be an Internet Service Provider. While content owners worry about piracy and erosion of copyright, and thus revenue, ISP’s (the companies that provide us with Internet access) do not have substantial copyright worries. They are considered, in effect, common carriers and as a result are generally no more liable for copyright infringement by its customers than the telephone company would be liable if you slander someone during a phone call. The concern is the copyright misbehavior of ISP customers, namely people like us.

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Whose Evil Empire Is It? Trademarks, Baseball, and the New York Yankees

The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (the “Board”) has answered the question of who is the true Evil Empire of baseball: “There is only one Evil Empire in baseball and it is the New York Yankees.” In addition to validating the feelings of Boston Red Sox fans, who have believed this point to have been true since Babe Ruth’s contract was sold to the Yankees in 1919, the Board’s administrative action points out that trademarks can originate from all over. [In full disclosure, I’m a long-time Red Sox season ticketholder.]

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