copyright

Paul McCartney Fights to Get Beatles Copyrights Back

by Adam Philipp on February 6, 2017

Paul McCartney seeks

Return of Beatles song rights —

long and winding road

image
By Eddie Janssens – Wikiportrait, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22094600

Paul McCartney is seeking to reclaim ownership of the copyrights to Beatles song.

The case is based on a little-known aspect of US Copyright law.

Under 17 U.S. Code § 304, there’s a “Termination of Transfers and Licenses” provision that reads:

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Listing agents for

copyright takedowns will be

easier, cheaper


By Original artist: Joseph Ferdinand Keppler (1838-1894) Restoration: Adam Cuerden – http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2011661385/ by way of http://adamcuerden.deviantart.com/gallery/#/d5onmxh, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23322831

As we discussed in this blog, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) is part of US copyright law that became effective in 1998.

Among other things, the DMCA creates a "safe harbor" for Internet Service Providers, website operators, and other internet-based businesses. This shields the businesses from liability for copyright infringement by their users as long as the providers follow the proper procedures.

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Can You Copyright a Language?

by Adam Philipp on May 3, 2016

1

Bruno Girin – originally posted to Flickr as Dangerous Klingon
CC BY-SA 2.0

Studio wants to
Copyright a language;
say that in Klingon

The idea that someone could copyright a language might seem absurd at first. And obviously no one could get a copyright on a long-existing language, such as English or Chinese. But what if someone invented a new language from scratch? Could that be copyrightable?

Paramount argues yes. In a complaint filed against Axanar Productions, creators of a crowdfunded Star Trek fan film, Paramount charges Axanar with unauthorized usage of the Klingon language (among other things). Read the full article →

WILL A “SMOKING GUN”

PUT “HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU”

IN PUBLIC DOMAIN?

birthday cake

A lawsuit pending in California has aspects of a legal thriller: an underdog against a giant corporation, millions of dollars at stake… and now a smoking gun.

Filmmaker Jennifer Nelson is making a documentary about the song “Happy Birthday to You.” She was told by Warner/Chappell, a subsidiary of Warner Music Group, that she’d have to pay $1,500 for the rights to use the song in her film.

Instead of paying, she sued, seeking a declaratory judgement that the copyright for the song had lapsed.

In the words of her class action complaint,

This is an action to declare invalid the copyright that defendant Warner/Chappell claims to own to the world’s most popular song, Happy Birthday to You, to declare that Happy Birthday to You is dedicated to public use and is in the public domain, and to return millions of dollars of unlawful licensing fees collected by defendant Warner/Chappell pursuant to its wrongful assertion of copyright ownership of the song.

Warner/Chappell earns about $2 million each year from licensing the song. Some filmmakers have paid up to six figures for the right to use it.

The tune for “Happy Birthday” was written in the late 1800s, by a pair of schoolteacher sisters, and first published in 1893. The original lyrics had nothing to do with birthdays.

Warner’s claim derives from a 1935 copyright registration, from a company that obtained the rights from the sisters, for a piano arrangement that included the familiar birthday lyrics.

The smoking gun in the case was discovered just as the judge was about to issue a ruling.

The lawyers for the filmmakers say that they found an 88-year-old book of children’s songs in the Warner/Chappell digital library. The book included the “Happy Birthday” lyrics.

With this clue, they found an even earlier edition of the same book, published in 1922, with no copyright notice for the song.

The filmmakers claim that this means the lyrics were in the public domain before the 1935 copyright registration.

Warner/Chappell responded that the fact that the book was published didn’t mean that the owners of the copyright knew of the book or authorized it.

The judge is expected to rule shortly.