Literary legend William Faulkner was known for spectacular writing. His sentences were often very long indeed. So, perhaps it’s ironic that a brief Faulkner quotation – a single line — from his work Requiem for a Nun was at the center of a federal copyright lawsuit, namely, “The past is not dead. Actually it’s not even past.”
In Woody Allen’s motion picture, Midnight in Paris, several literary lights of the 1920s appeared as characters including Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Faulkner.
Continue reading Good Deeds and Minimal Unauthorized Copying of Copyrighted Works
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.
Continue reading Happy Birthday to You – Who Will Celebrate the Song’s Copyright?
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.
Continue reading Who’s Afraid of Fair Use? Is Fair Use a Right and Not a Defense Any More?
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.
Continue reading Fifty Shades of Grey and Fan Fiction: Do You Own Your User-Generated Content?
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.”
Continue reading Patent Trolls Aren’t the Only IP Trolls in the Forest: Copyright Trolls