May 1, 2008

Copyright’s Byzantine Ways [9:07 am]

Ono in fight over copyright of rarely seen Lennon video (pdf)

They are rare, intimate images of John Lennon just before the breakup of the Beatles: He’s hunched over a piano writing songs, smoking pot, joking about putting LSD in President Nixon’s tea.

Almost four decades after the footage was shot at Lennon’s estate in England, his widow is in court, fighting to keep the images private.

World Wide Video LLC, a Lawrence, Mass.-based company, claims it owns the 10 hours of raw footage, but Yoko Ono claims she is the rightful owner. World Wide Video has filed a federal lawsuit against Ono, claiming Ono’s attempts to stop the company from publicly showing the footage is a copyright infringement.

[...] In court documents, Ono said she had a “clear and absolute” agreement with Cox when he shot the footage that it would never be “commercially exhibited, commercially exploited or released.”

And Ono said she purchased all rights to the videotapes for $300,000 in 2002 from a broker, Anthony Pagola.

But the principals of World Wide Video _ John Fallon and Robert Grenier _ say the sale to Ono was invalid, and that it owns the videos and copyright after buying them from Cox for $125,000 in 2000.

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A Look at the Gaming of CAPTCHAs [9:01 am]

I heard Jonathan talk about this last week: Digital Deception (pdf)

Are you a human or a computer?

Over the Internet, it’s getting harder and harder to tell.

[...] The attacks on Google’s Gmail service and on Microsoft’s Live Mail were reported in February. At the time however it was difficult to tell from the evidence whether the CAPTCHAs were being solved by computers or low-wage Russian workers — or both.

A Web page found on the computer appeared to offer, in Russian, small amounts of money for workers willing to crack the puzzles.

But the speed and repetition of the attack as well as the high error rate in solving the tests, suggested to some at Websense that computers not humans were at work.

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See a Problem? Name a Czar! [8:35 am]

House Bill To Create Anti-Piracy Czar Advances (pdf)

A House committee passed an anti-piracy bill yesterday that would stiffen penalties for illegally copying and distributing music and movies and would create an “intellectual property czar” at the White House level — a job that the Justice Department warned would “undermine” its independence.

The bill, introduced in December by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and 17 co-sponsors and known as the Pro IP Act, is championed by a broad base of intellectual-property holders, including entertainment companies, auto parts manufacturers, drugmakers and unions. It now heads to the House floor, and advocates hope it will pass this summer.

In addition to creating the position of IP czar, the bill would amend federal copyright law to add resources to the fight against piracy and raise the ceiling on damages that could be awarded by a civil court to a rights-holder whose work had been pirated.

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Catching Up on “Making Available” [8:28 am]

Some (relatively) recent things to ponder:

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There’s Winning, and There’s Winning [8:10 am]

For Blu-ray, the payoff has not yet materialized: Blu-ray gets no victory parade (pdf)

NPD analyst Ross Rubin has a different explanation for the drop in Blu-ray player sales.

“When Blu-ray was fighting HD DVD, that was a battle of passion,” Rubin said. “Now Blu-ray is fighting a battle of apathy in which most consumers are either unaware of Blu-ray or have yet to be convinced that it’s a better format” than standard DVDs.

Rubin said NPD surveyed consumers late last year, and “an overwhelming number of them said they weren’t investing in a new next-generation player because their old DVD player worked well.” He added that consumers also felt that “next-generation players were too expensive. It’s clear from retail sales that those consumer sentiments are still holding true.”

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AOL, RealNetworks and Yahoo! Music Licensing Fees Decision [8:07 am]

The ASCAP press release (Federal Court Decides License Fees to Be Paid to ASCAP by AOL, RealNetworks and Yahoo!) is pretty strident:

The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York today made public a decision in the proceeding to determine reasonable license fees to be paid to the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) by AOL (Time Warner Inc., NYSE: TWX), RealNetworks Inc. (Nasdaq: RNWK) and Yahoo! Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO) for their online performance of musical works.

The decision covers license fees for periods starting as far back as July 1, 2002, and continuing through December 31, 2009, for the performance of musical works in the ASCAP repertory by AOL, RealNetworks and Yahoo! Based on the formula established by the Court, the total payments to be made to ASCAP and its membership by these three services for that full period could reach $100 million. The Court’s comprehensive 153 page decision was based on extensive evidence presented by both sides in the case regarding the online performance of musical works by AOL, RealNetworks and Yahoo!

Of course, no such award is yet even in the offing. The decision is about process and, after 152 pages, one finds that instead of the ASCAP’s proposed 3% of revenues less adjustments, the court believes that 2.5% is a more appropriate basis. However, what’s really enlightening is this look at the process for resolving fee disputes when a state-sanctioned monopoly provider (ASCAP) is involved. A fascinating look.

Also note that this comes one year after ASCAP lost (to the same set of participants) what the LATimes’ blog referred to as its “double-dip” in digital downloads in this decision

Following extensive discovery, the parties cross-moved for partial summary judgment on the issue of whether the downloading of a digital music file embodying a particular song constitutes a “public performance” of that song within the meaning of the United States Copyright Act, 17 USC § 101 et seq. Having reviewed the materials submitted by the parties, as well as the numerous briefs of the amici curiae, we conclude it does not.

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