August 31, 2011

A Nice Comment on the MPAA from Pajiba [4:47 pm]

A rant from one of my favorite websites for movie reviews: Box Office Records and Whining Twatwaffles of the MPAA discussing this MPAA infographic/propoganda [local copy]:

So according to the MPAA, piracy cost them $58 billion last year, making movie piracy a bigger industry than the GDPs of 10 American states. To put it even starker perspective, look at it this way. The film industry gets about $10 billion from the box office, and about $30 billion from the after market of DVDs, streaming, etc. So they’re claiming that piracy costs them almost two-thirds of their business. At $10 per DVD, every household in the United States would be buying an additional 50 DVDs per year if they weren’t so busy downloading. The technical term for a statistic like that is “fictional.”

[...] There are a couple numbers on that infographic though that do matter, the figures about employment and jobs. Sure, they’re victim to hyperbole as well, seeming to count every one who ever sold a cup of coffee to an actor, but there’s a hint of truth in there. The film industry is one of the rock solid cornerstones of the American economy. 96% of tickets sold in America are for American films, and even more tickets are sold overseas. Industries have faded, factories have closed, but movies still get made here. That’s the angle the MPAA should take instead of this exhausting and alienating shame show. Play to the pride and patriotism of being the place that makes the world’s dreams.

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August 29, 2011

For Your Daily Dose of Irony…. [1:39 pm]

Kind of like discovering that Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech is not a part of the public domain; another piece of “owned” culture: Masked Anonymous Protesters Aid Time Warner’s Profits [pdf]

When members appear in public to protest censorship and what they view as corruption, they don a plastic mask of Guy Fawkes, the 17th-century Englishman who tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament.

Stark white, with blushed pink cheeks, a wide grin and a thin black mustache and goatee, the mask resonates with the hackers because it was worn by a rogue anarchist challenging an authoritarian government in “V for Vendetta,” the movie produced in 2006 by Warner Brothers.

What few people seem to know, though, is that Time Warner, one of the largest media companies in the world and parent of Warner Brothers, owns the rights to the image and is paid a licensing fee with the sale of each mask.

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More On Recording “Works for Hire” and Termination Rights [1:35 pm]

This is a strange one. Certainly, Rep. Conyers has been around long enough to know how difficult it is to legislate around copyright law (see Jessica Litman’s Digital Copyright) So you have to wonder what’s the real agenda here — is it really just about pre-empting judicial review and limiting the associated transactions costs for everyone?: Representative John Conyers Wants Copyright Law Revision [pdf]

Arguing that Congress has an obligation “to preserve fairness and justice for artists,” the senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee has called for a revision of United States copyright law to remove ambiguities in the current statute about who is eligible to reclaim ownership rights to songs and sound recordings.

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August 15, 2011

Termination Rights and Recordings [2:54 pm]

Springsteen and Others Soon Eligible to Recover Song Rights [pdf]

When copyright law was revised in the mid-1970s, musicians, like creators of other works of art, were granted “termination rights,” which allow them to regain control of their work after 35 years, so long as they apply at least two years in advance. Recordings from 1978 are the first to fall under the purview of the law, but in a matter of months, hits from 1979, like “The Long Run” by the Eagles and “Bad Girls” by Donna Summer, will be in the same situation — and then, as the calendar advances, every other master recording once it reaches the 35-year mark.

The provision also permits songwriters to reclaim ownership of qualifying songs. Bob Dylan has already filed to regain some of his compositions, as have other rock, pop and country performers like Tom Petty, Bryan Adams, Loretta Lynn, Kris Kristofferson, Tom Waits and Charlie Daniels, according to records on file at the United States Copyright Office.

[...] With the recording industry already reeling from plummeting sales, termination rights claims could be another serious financial blow. Sales plunged to about $6.3 billion from $14.6 billion over the decade ending in 2009, in large part because of unauthorized downloading of music on the Internet, especially of new releases, which has left record labels disproportionately dependent on sales of older recordings in their catalogs.

“This is a life-threatening change for them, the legal equivalent of Internet technology,” said Kenneth J. Abdo, a lawyer who leads a termination rights working group for the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and has filed claims for some of his clients, who include Kool and the Gang. As a result the four major record companies — Universal, Sony BMG, EMI and Warner — have made it clear that they will not relinquish recordings they consider their property without a fight.

“We believe the termination right doesn’t apply to most sound recordings,” said Steven Marks, general counsel for the Recording Industry Association of America, a lobbying group in Washington that represents the interests of record labels. As the record companies see it, the master recordings belong to them in perpetuity, rather than to the artists who wrote and recorded the songs, because, the labels argue, the records are “works for hire,” compilations created not by independent performers but by musicians who are, in essence, their employees.

Independent copyright experts, however, find that argument unconvincing. [....]

An update — one of the contenders for termination rights going to court soon, apparently: A Village Person Tests the Copyright Law [pdf]

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