YouTube music terms for aspiring artists

For aspiring music artists, posting songs to YouTube, iTunes, and other online music services is important. But according to this Daily Mail (UK) article, YouTube is about to launch a subscription music service requiring many independent musicians to agree to its terms, or be left behind. The article mentions that many big well known artists haven’t yet agreed to YouTube’s new terms. Have you, or your band, agreed to YouTube’s terms? Forbes has this article with more.

My law firm, Johnson Law KC LLC, has experience working with aspiring artists, songwriters, musicians, and authors in Kansas City. If my firm can help you navigate YouTube’s new music terms, give me a call (913-707-9220) or email me (steve@johnsonlawkc.com) for a free, convenient consultation.

(c) 2014, Stephen M. Johnson, Esq.

 

The Public Domain: “It’s Elementary, My Dear Watson…”

Yesterday, 16 June 2014, a unanimous (3-0) panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals (based in Chicago), handed down this decision by Judge Richard Posner in Klinger v. Conan Doyle Estate, Ltd. (Judge Posner was joined by Judges Joel Flaum and Daniel Manion.) The Court decided against the Conan Doyle Estate in its copyright appeal. As UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh aptly observes, most of the Sherlock Holmes canon is now in the public domain (e.g. it can be freely used or remixed for derivative works).

Mr Leslie Klinger had co-authored a successful Sherlock Holmes anthology, so he and his co-author naturally wrote a sequel, and found a publisher. The Estate of Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) sued and tried to prevent the book’s publication, or alternatively, to get a licensing fee (a seemingly small $5,000 fee). It turns out that while most of the Sherlock Holmes stories are in the public domain (having been published from 1887 to 1927), 10 stories remain under copyright protection until 2018-2022. And don’t forget the successful movies (Warner Brothers’ Sherlock Holmes (2009) and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)) and TV shows in the U.S. (CBS’ “Elementary,” 2012-present) and the U.K. (the BBC’s “Sherlock,” 2010-present) that derive from Sir Arthur’s ingenious characters or plots. The Court found that since all but 10 of the original stories are in the public domain, a new derivative work (like an anthology or TV show) can be done without paying a licensing fee or infringing the Sherlock Holmes copyright, as long as the new derivative work uses only public domain material, not material that would “round” out the characters from the later (still copyrighted) stories. Judge Posner reminds us of character development in Shakespeare’s plays (a la Sir John Falstaff and Henry) and Star Wars Episodes I-VI, though the same analogy also works for British novelist Agatha Christie’s Hercules Poirot oeuvre, the Lord of the Rings, the Chronicles of Narnia, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan character, or any author who develops his or her characters over time across works.

Note that Judge Posner’s opinion only covers the American copyright in the Sherlock Holmes oeuvre, not the British copyright. American copyright law terms are governed by the Copyright Extension Act (1998), as read through the lens of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (1998), and is copyright protection is triggered by listing “(c), 201_” and the author’s name, often along with “all rights reserved.” To enforce an American copyright, it must be registered with the Library of Congress, even though copyright exists in any creative expression set down in tangible form at the moment of creation. British copyright law, by contrast, is governed by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988, and is triggered by listing “the right of [the author] to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him/her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.”

If my law firm, Johnson Law KC LLC, can serve you, your company, or your nonprofit organization with copyright needs, please call (913.707.9220) or email me (steve@johnsonlawkc.com) to schedule a convenient free consultation.

(c) 2014, Stephen M. Johnson, Esq.

The Public Domain: “Elementary, My Dear Watson”

#FreeSherlock, indeed. From CNBC and the NY Times‘ Arts blog comes news that some Sherlock Holmes story elements are now in the public domain for American audiences and authors to remix and use royalty-free, thanks to a ruling from an Illinois federal court. Under America’s copyright law, a work (whether literary, musical, or artistic) enters the public domain once copyright protection expires. Copyright terms can be complicated, depending on when the work was first published, so be sure to consult with an IP attorney before using something you think is in the public domain or before publishing your work to ensure your work’s well protected.

If my firm can help you with your copyright, trademark, or other IP needs, call me (913-707-9220) or email me (steve@johnsonlawkc.com) for a convenient, free consultation.

(c) 2013, Stephen M. Johnson, Esq.

Opening the Song Vault

Drumroll please … The BBC has this story (a version of which I heard on KC’s local NPR affiliate, KCUR, Tuesday morning) about the iTunes release of 59 Beatles tracks from 1963. While a song’s “official release” doesn’t matter under U.S. copyright law (and the Kansas and Missouri corollaries) for length of copyright protection, European law does. (U.S. copyright law is driven by “publication.”) EU copyright law protects songs for 70 years if they’re officially released, but only for 50 years if they’re not officially released. So while the 59 Beatles tracks would be protected under U.S. law, they’d go into that royalty-free zone we call the public domain in the European Union if they weren’t officially released. Voila! Songs officially released and copyright lapse problem solved. The new release is called The 50th Anniversary Collection and ironically (yet honestly) subtitled The Copyright Extension Collection. On the bright side, at least in Europe, artists (or their estates) release material to obtain copyright protection; in America, Congress often just tweaks the copyright law term, the most recent example being the Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA) (1998), which allowed Mickey Mouse, Gone with the Wind, and other landmark works to remain in copyright and not become public domain IP to be remixed or enjoyed gratis.

If my law firm can help you or your company protect your songs, photos, art, or other creative work, call (913-707-9220) or email me (steve@johnsonlawkc.com) for a convenient, free consultationMy firm is experienced helping clients navigate the IP law, while adding value to clients’ creative arts and IP, and provides friendly, affordable counsel for your legal needs.

(c) 2013, Stephen M. Johnson, Esq.

Photographer Wins Copyright Lawsuit

The NY Times Lens blog has this report of a Haitian photographer (Daniel Morel)’s victory in a copyright lawsuit for willful copyright infringement of 8 pictures Mr Morel took during the Haiti earthquake and published over social media. 4 years ago, Morel sued Agence France-Presse and Getty Images for copyright infringement. Mr Morel said he pursued his case “because someone had to fight for photographers.” Mickey Osterreicher, the National Press Photographers Association’s general counsel praised the jury verdict and damage award ($1.22 million) as a victory for “photographers’ rights in the era of social media.” “Like anything of value, people need to ask permission, give credit and pay fair compensation for those images,” he said. “And when they don’t, photographers need to be able to stand up for their rights.” And he added: “far too often we find that photographers don’t have the power to stand up to those that infringe with impunity. I hope that this sends a message, but in reality we need a cultural change so that once again photographs are valued.”

If my law firm, Johnson Law KC LLC, can help you or your company protect your photos, art, or other creative work, call (913-707-9220) or email me (steve@johnsonlawkc.com) for a convenient, free consultation. My firm is experienced at helping clients navigate the complex twists and turns of IP law, while adding value to clients’ creative arts and IP, and provides friendly, affordable counsel for your legal needs.

(c) 2013, Stephen M. Johnson, Esq.

Vintage digital photography

The LA Times has this roundup in its Framework section of new vintage-inspired entries in the digital photography market. As an amateur photographer, my main camera is a Canon EOS T3 DSLR. Some years ago, I inherited a Nikon F (circa 1960s) from my grandparents, including a separate electric flash and multiple lenses. It’s interesting how the vintage designs are re-emerging with digital flourishes. What’s your favorite vintage camera? How about digital photography?

If my law firm, Johnson Law KC LLC, can help you or your company protect your photos, art, or other creative work, call (913-707-9220) or email me (steve@johnsonlawkc.com) for a convenient, free consultation. My firm is experienced at helping clients navigate the complex twists and turns of IP law, while adding value to clients’ creative arts and IP, and provides friendly, affordable counsel for your legal needs.

(c) 2013, Stephen M. Johnson, Esq.

Judge Posner on Patent and IP Litigation

I’ve always had a fondness for patent and IP law, as my late grandfather, Don Johnson (1921-1992), was a patent attorney and partner for many years with a boutique IP law firm (now Hovey Williams LLP) in Kansas City. (While I read history instead of electrical engineering in college, I enjoyed pursuing my IP passion with numerous IP, copyright, music, and digital IP classes at KU Law.)

Judge Posner (7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago) recently gave this interview on patent and IP litigation, focusing on patent damage and remedy issues. While Judge Posner doesn’t have a technical background (he read English at Yale, graduating Phi Beta Kappa), he often has keen legal insights. Many areas of law have benefited or been clarified from the information tsunami flowing from his prodigious pen. Judge Posner’s interview showcases his formidable intellect, his common sense/pragmatic approach, and his seamless interweaving of real life examples and abstract legal ideas.

About the time my grandfather retired from his law firm, Congress authorized the Federal Circuit (sitting in Washington D.C.), to hear patent law appeals. Patents (and copyrights and trademarks) are governed primarily by federal law, with some state law counterparts for copyrights and trademarks, and international components in our increasingly globalized world. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office handles all trademark registrations and patent applications. When litigation arises, the case goes to federal court. Most federal cases go to a (regional) federal court of appeals – so Kansas cases go to the 10th Circuit (in Denver), while Missouri cases go to the 8th Circuit (in St. Louis) – but patent law often hinges on technical scientific and engineering issues (prior art adds a dimension of complexity to precedents) and is rapidly evolving as the state of the art advances, so Congress set up the Federal Circuit (made up exclusively of patent attorneys) to hear these complex appeals. Every year or two, a Federal Circuit case arrives at the U.S. Supreme Court for the Justices to analyze an IP issue with constitutional implications (e.g. can you patent a human gene?). Posner’s remarks touch on a wide range of questions running the gamut of the patent law process, from the early stages – R&D, what should be patentable, etc – and the later stages – patent appeals, enforcement and exploitation of patent portfolios, varying degrees of vigorousness in prosecuting infringement, etc.

If my law firm, Johnson Law KC LLC, can help you or your company with your IP needs – copyrights, trademarks, related litigation, or patent litigation, call (913-707-9220) or email me (steve@johnsonlawkc.com) for a convenient, free consultation. My firm is experienced at helping clients navigate the complex twists and turns of IP law, while adding value to clients’ creative arts and IP, and provides friendly, affordable counsel for your legal needs.

(c) 2013, Stephen M. Johnson, Esq.