"The person who has been impeding its arrival on the market is Ms. Burton, 56, the general counsel for and a senior vice president of the Hearst Corporation and the co-executor of Ms. Brown’s will... Though the papers are housed by Smith College, their copyright is controlled by Ms. Burton. “She was quite clear that for commercial exploitation, she wanted us to oversee it,” Ms. Burton said. (Ms. Brown did sanction a 2008 biography, “Bad Girls Go Everywhere,” by the Bowdoin professor Jennifer Scanlon, published by Oxford University Press.) Ms. Burton delegated the vetting of project proposals and archive permissions to another longtime friend of Ms. Brown’s: Kim St. Clair Bodden, the senior vice president and editorial director of Hearst Magazines International, of which Cosmo is the most prolific global asset. She is also an officer of the Pussycat (a third is Roger P. Paschke, the chief investment officer of Hearst; none takes an administrative fee)... When the time comes, Ms. Burton said she potentially would negotiate a usage fee for a large-scale project, with the money benefiting the Pussycat Foundation. However, because the officers of the foundation and trustees of the copyright all are Hearst executives, “there is a technical conflict,” said Mr. Zabel, the estate lawyer. “They might censor or approve an incomplete version of her life, which could result in more protection of the Cosmo brand but could deprive charitable beneficiaries of benefits.” (Legal-speak for a principle championed by Ms. Brown: sex sells.)"
Monday, August 31, 2015
Katherine Rosman, New York Times; Who Owns Helen Gurley Brown’s Legacy? :
Michael Addady, Fortune; This man found out the hard way that you can’t copyright a chicken sandwich:
"Norberto Colón Lorenzana recently filed a lawsuit against South American Restaurant Corporation (SARCO) claiming it stole his idea for a chicken sandwich recipe. He lost. Colón was working at SARCO, an operator of Church’s Chicken locations in Puerto Rico, when he developed a concept for a new chicken sandwich. The company then performed taste tests with this original idea in mind, and the result was a new menu item that Colón called the “Pechu Sandwich.” Years later, SARCO decided to protect themselves by trademarking the name... In explaining the court’s decision, Chief Judge Howard listed the eight categories of intellectual property that qualify for copyright protection: (1) literary works; (2) musical works, including any accompanying words; (3) dramatic works, including any accompanying music; (4) pantomimes and choreographic works; (5) pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works; (6) motion pictures and other audiovisual works; (7) sound recordings; and (8) architectural works. Not surprisingly, “chicken sandwich” does not fall under any of these categories. Howard said a recipe is simply a list of “functional directions to achieve a result,” and does not qualify for copyright protection. This particular recipe listed fried chicken, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and mayo."
Thursday, August 27, 2015
Eleanor Ross, Guardian; How open data can help save lives:
"The most interesting thing with providing raw data, says Shadbolt, is that you provide the information and the apps “think” about it when a situation arises. “The whole genius of the web is that you don’t even know how the data you put up will be used. For this reason it’s best to collect more information than you think you might ever need.” Emma Thwaites, a spokesperson for the Open Data Institute, explains that data layering is where open data can have the most impact. “That’s when you can really see where the black spots are. Overlay air pollution, crime stats, and fuse the data together, and you can see the likelihood of the most dangerous things. From this you can work out where to position your ambulances, or fire stations. Data helps you to find the epicentre.” As well as benefiting the local community, open data can also be used to help individuals."
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Barb Darrow, Fortune; Cheater, cheater, MOOC beater:
"Researchers at MIT and Harvard this week published a paper finding that students taking online edX coursework were able to game the system by logging on as one person to check out online tests, scout out the right answers, and then log in again as themselves to take the test. Needless to say, that takes a lot of angst (and studying) out of the process. This is not exactly good news for the burgeoning field of massive open online courses (aka MOOCs) popularized by the Kahn Academy but also increasingly embraced by traditional institutions. MIT and Harvard, with many other universities, for example have backed EdX, a MOOC platform, as a great way to provide low-cost education for lots of people and narrow the skills gap. EdX itself is a technology platform for packaging up and deploying online classes and is backed by MIT, Harvard, University of California at Berkeley, Dartmouth, and other schools. Students typically can use edX to earn certificates but not degrees at the affiliate schools. According to an MIT News report, the paper’s co-author Isaac Chuang, an MIT professor of electrical engineering and physics, said as they analyzed student data, they noticed that some users answered questions “faster than is humanly possible.”"
Monday, August 24, 2015
Oliver Herzfeld, Forbes; The Fat Jew, Plagiarism and Copyright Law:
"What are the differences between plagiarism and copyright infringement? First, plagiarism is a violation of ethics and industry norms that involves the failure to properly attribute the authorship of copied material, whereas copyright infringement is a violation of law that involves the copying of “original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression,” without a license or a so-called “fair use” exemption. So claims of plagiarism would apply to any joke even if it is only conveyed in a live performance that is not recorded, while copyright infringement would not apply to any such jokes that are never recorded or published in any way. Exposure to claims of copyright infringement would only apply to jokes that are written down, captured on film or memorialized in some other physical medium, whether paper, video or computer server. Second, plagiarism applies to the copying of both ideas and the expression of ideas, while copyright law only protects the expression of ideas but not the ideas themselves. The copyright law’s so-called “idea/expression dichotomy” can lead to a lot of thorny issues. For example, if a comedian changes the words of another’s joke and puts it into her own words, is that a copying of only the “idea” which would not constitute a copyright infringement or a “substantially similar” copying that would constitute a copyright infringement? This has led to an informal standard in the world of comedy, namely, claims of joke copying must be based on material that is highly original, not simply topical, obvious or based on common denominator topics such as mothers-in-law, bosses or airline food. In this case, however, Ostrovsky is accused of copying others’ works lock, stock and barrel. For example, in one instance, Ostrovsky copied another comedian’s image of a daily planner with time blocked off for “drugs and alcohol” and other humorous scheduled items. Ostrovsky deleted the name, social media handle and face of the author from the image but made no effort to recreate it, rephrase the wording or otherwise alter the expression of the original idea in any manner."
Friday, August 21, 2015
Jacob Gershman, Wall Street Journal Law Blog; Copyright Case Asks: What is a Cheerleading Uniform? :
"The question before the appellate court was whether cheerleading uniforms are eligible for federal copyright protection. Sixth Circuit Judge Karen Nelson Moore, who wrote the opinion, framed the case more enigmatically: “Are cheerleading uniforms truly cheerleading uniforms without the stripes, chevrons, zigzags, and color blocks?” The dispute — an infringement claim by a uniform designer accusing another company of ripping off its designs (pictured above) — is a good example of how tricky it can be for courts to decide what is copyrightable. Federal law says that for a work to be copyrightable it has to have some originality and be “fixed in a tangible medium of expression,” such as a canvas, film, a computer disc or even human skin. But things get extra complicated in cases involving three-dimensional objects. How to distinguish between the mechanical or utilitarian aspects of an object and its artistic features is an unsettled area in case law. Only the latter is copyrightable. So, in an example offered by the U.S. Copyright Office in its manuals, the design of a chair cannot be copyrighted but a carving on the back of a chair can be. A T-shirt isn’t copyrightable but artwork printed on it is. Courts have struggled to set guidelines for how to distinguish the useful qualities of a work from its expressive features."
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Helen L. Horowitz, Letter to Editor, New York Times; ‘Happy Birthday to You’ :
"In the 1890s, in Louisville, Ky., my grandmother Helen Solomon studied in what she called “kindergarten school” under Patty Hill. Helen revered her teacher and told me that Miss Hill and her sister Mildred created “Happy Birthday to You,” once “Good Morning to All,” because she believed that children needed a birthday song. Knowing my love of history, my grandmother gave me the page of music she had saved from that time. On the top of the official title is “Happy Birthday” written in pencil. I’m glad that neither my grandmother nor Patty Hill has knowledge of today’s ugly copyright squabble over a piece that was written by a generous woman for all."
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
Laura Sydell, NPR, All Tech Considered; DIY Tractor Repair Runs Afoul Of Copyright Law:
"You may wonder why Alford doesn't just break that digital lock and get into the software and fix the problems himself. He could, but he'd be breaking the law. It's called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, or DMCA. It was written because movie studios were worried that people would break the digital locks on DVDs, make copies and pirate them. "And now we have this situation where there's digital locks on all kinds of things," says Kyle Wiens, co-founder of iFixit, which helps people repair their own technology. "There's digital locks on your garage door opener and if you want to circumvent that, if you want to use an aftermarket garage door opener that wasn't made by your garage door manufacturer, you might be violating copyright law." And you can add to this list. It is illegal to break the digital locks on medical devices, such as a pacemaker, as well as game consoles and cars — pretty much anything you purchase that runs with software. If you break the digital lock you can face five years in prison and/or a half a million dollars in fines. Though we haven't heard of that happening to a farmer. The law provides that every three years the Library of Congress' copyright office can review the law and make exemptions. Farm groups, mechanics, security researchers, consumer advocates are all in the midst of fighting for several exceptions. Automakers, John Deere and other makers of construction equipment are opposed."
Monday, August 17, 2015
David Gonzalez, New York Times; A South Bronx Graffiti Walkabout:
"When asked what was the difference between graffiti and street art, Crash replied that traditionalists see graffiti as strictly aerosol art that placed an emphasis on letters and color, while street artists might employ different types of paint, stencils or subjects and surfaces. Some have suggested that real graffiti artists should still be outlaws, but some of the most dedicated — and respected — graffiti artists in the Bronx are tired of that unrealistic expectation. Graffiti is not just a way of life for them, it is also how they have been able to make a living doing commissioned pieces or exhibiting and selling at galleries (or defending their copyright when used without permission by designers and ad agencies)."
Thursday, August 13, 2015
Artist Outraged at 'Plagiarism' of His Sculpture in China; Associated Press via New York Times, 8/12/15
Associated Press via New York Times; Artist Outraged at 'Plagiarism' of His Sculpture in China:
"Renowned artist Anish Kapoor has expressed outrage about the appearance of a sculpture in China that appears identical to his "Cloud Gate" in Chicago. Representatives of the British-Indian sculptor said Wednesday he was shocked at the "blatant plagiarism" of his sculpture, a giant, mirrored piece displayed in Chicago's Millennium Park that reflects the city's skyline... "It seems that in China today it is permissible to steal the creativity of others," he said. "I hope that the Mayor of Chicago will join me in this action. The Chinese authorities must act to stop this kind of infringement and allow the full enforcement of copyright.""
Sunday, August 9, 2015
The twisted history of the Happy Birthday song—and the copyright shenanigans that keep it profitable; BoingBoing.net, 8/7/15
Glenn Fleishman, BoingBoing.net; The twisted history of the Happy Birthday song—and the copyright shenanigans that keep it profitable:
"The final determination about when "Happy Birthday" lost its copyright protection will be made by the judge in the case, who, after some back and forth filings and possibly an in-court hearing in the next week, will probably issue his opinion between the end of August and the end of September, says Rifkin. It would be nice to close the book on "Happy Birthday," but it doesn't close the book on copyright absurdity. An abundance of material from 1923 is poised to enter the public domain in 2019 unless a further taking of the public interest occurs, as the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act did in 1998, adding an unnecessary 20 years to the existing 50 years' protection past an authors' death. Rather than sing "Happy Birthday" on January 1, 2019, we should sing another variation of the song: "Good-bye to you.""
Thursday, August 6, 2015
Farhad Manjoo, New York Times; ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ Online Could Spread:
"Proponents of the law also reacted skeptically to the claim that the right to be forgotten would be used by other countries to force content restrictions beyond those involving privacy. “That’s nonsense,” said Marc Rotenberg, the executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a privacy advocacy group. He argued there were ways to limit access to private information that would not conflict with free speech, and he noted that Google already had a process for global removal of some identifiable private information, like bank account numbers, social security numbers and sexually explicit images uploaded without the subject’s consent (known as “revenge porn.”). “A global implementation of the fundamental right to privacy on the Internet would be a spectacular achievement,” said Mr. Rotenberg. “For users, it would be a fantastic development.” Mr. Zittrain, of Harvard, pointed out that Google also removes content globally to abide by copyright law. When Google receives a takedown notice for linking to infringing content, it removes those links from all of its sites across the world. Couldn’t it do the same for private information? The trouble with comparing copyright law to privacy, though, is that the United States and Europe broadly agree on what constitutes copyrighted content, but private information is far more nebulous."
Tshepo Mokoena, Guardian; Katy Perry's Met Ball dress the subject of copyright infringement lawsuit:
"One artist is less than impressed with the dress that Katy Perry wore to this year’s Met Ball – and not for sartorial reasons. Brooklyn street artist Rime, born Joseph Tierney, has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against designer Jeremy Scott and design house Moschino, for making a dress that Tierney believes imitates a signature graffiti tag that he painted on a Detroit building."
Wednesday, August 5, 2015
Ben Sisario, New York Times; An Old Songbook Could Put ‘Happy Birthday’ in the Public Domain:
"Yet “Happy Birthday to You” has long been a prime target for critics of the laws that regulate copyright. Thanks to an extension made under the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 — which was lobbied for heavily by Hollywood — the song remains under protection through 2030. “The fact that ‘Happy Birthday to You’ is still under copyright is the most symbolic example of how copyright has expanded and overreached beyond its Constitutional purpose,” said Kembrew McLeod, a communications professor at the University of Iowa who has written about the song."
Tuesday, August 4, 2015
To Some, Beijing Olympics Song Is Suspiciously Similar to Ballad From Disney’s ‘Frozen’; New York Times, 8/3/15
Didi Kirsten Tatlow, New York Times; To Some, Beijing Olympics Song Is Suspiciously Similar to Ballad From Disney’s ‘Frozen’ :
"On the YouTube page for “The Snow and Ice Dance,” one of 10 official songs of the Games, many of the comments were in Chinese, although it was not clear how many of them came from the mainland, where an official ban on the site makes access difficult... Caijing Online, the website of a prominent Chinese business magazine, also noted the similarities, and offered a technical analysis that went beyond the melodic parallels. Among the main points: Both songs employ a piano as the major instrument, have similar prelude chords and an eight-beat introduction, and they run at almost exactly the same tempo... Accusations of plagiarism and other forms of intellectual property theft are not new in China, where the legal concepts of trademarks and copyrights are not rigorously enforced and remain a source of tension between China and the United States. Just last month a dispute erupted over a Chinese animated film, “The Autobots,” in which the characters look remarkably like those in “Cars,” produced by Disney’s Pixar Animation Studios. Viewers called “The Autobots” a shameless copy, but the film’s director said he had never even seen “Cars.”"
Saturday, August 1, 2015
Jonathan Weisman, New York Times; Talks for Pacific Trade Deal Stumble:
"Trade negotiators from the United States and 11 other Pacific nations failed to reach final agreement on Friday, with difficult talks on the largest regional trade agreement ever deadlocking over protections for drug companies and access to agriculture markets on both sides of the Pacific... In the end, a deal filled with 21st-century policies on Internet access, advanced pharmaceuticals and trade in clean energy foundered on issues that have bedeviled international trade for decades: access to dairy markets in Canada, sugar markets in the United States and rice markets in Japan... Australia, Chile and New Zealand also continue to resist the push by the United States to protect the intellectual property of major pharmaceutical companies for as long as 12 years, shielding them from generic competition as they recoup the cost of developing next-generation biologic medicines." Negotiators say they substantially narrowed the number of outstanding issues. They vowed to keep the momentum going. But, as one non-United States official said, if talks go into hiatus for long, it could be easier for many of the countries to say no than yes."