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Are Silent Films Still Protected by Copyright?

Are Silent Films Still Protected by Copyright?

Posted by Stone Law, P.C. on Mar 25, 2014

Film enthusiasts may be familiar with the silent film Safety Last!  Starring Harold Lloyd, this film debuted in 1923.  Even those who are not familiar with the movie may recognize the iconic scene where Lloyd is dangling from the hands of a giant clock. Cupecoy Home Fashion Inc. produces a 12” metal clock with a man dangling from the minute hand.  This clock drew the ire of Harold Lloyd Entertainment, who filed a copyright infringement lawsuit on March 11, 2014. Harold Lloyd Entertainment alleged the clock was a direct appropriation of the iconic clock scene.  It also highlighted that it had previously licensed the rights to create a derivative version of the clock scene before.  The movie Back to the Future obtained permission to film the scene of Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) hanging from the clock tower towards the end of the movie.  Most recently, Harold Lloyd Entertainment granted a license to Martin Scorsese to create a similar scene in the movie Hugo.  In fact, posters for the movie featured this scene. It may seem like a movie 1923 is too old to still be protected by copyright.  However, it is the edge of copyright protection.  If it debuted in 1922, it would be in the public domain.  1923 is the first year where the 95 year term of copyright protection began as per the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  Therefore Safety Last! is protected until 2018. Even though Cupecoy makes clocks, copyright protection still applies.  Unlike patent law, copyright law does not protect physical objects but expressions.  Thus Harold Lloyd Entertainment can sue not only movies with other clock...

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DMCA Takedown Used to Quash Negative YouTube Review

Posted by Stone Law, P.C. on Jan 17, 2014

If you were to search YouTube for reviews of video games, you would hit countless results.  Some channels have been able to rise above the other in terms of subscribers and consequently can be targeted for their negative reviews.  This particular dispute involved a video game review uploaded by TotalBiscuit, The Cynical Brit, of the game Day One: Garry’s Incident, made by Wild Game Studios.  TotalBiscuit regularly reviews independent (indie) games, games which are developed outside of large studios and which typically have low budgets.  While major retail games are sold for $60 on video game consoles or computers, indie games typically are sold for $20 or less.  TotalBiscuit prefers to review indie games in order to inform consumers of games they should buy which they may never have heard of before.  He also wishes to warn gamers to stay away from games which he feels will be a waste of money.  In TotalBiscuit’s opinion, Day One: Garry’s Incident fell in the latter category. TotalBiscuit’s videos are monetized to receive advertising revenue.  Once a YouTube video is approved to receive advertising revenue, the uploader will receive 55% of the advertising revenue Google is paid by advertisers.  The types of advertising shown will change depending on many factors such as total video views, total subscribers to the YouTube channel, and the content of the video itself.  The most successful channels intake enough revenue for its owner(s) to work exclusively on uploading YouTube content.  Naturally, where there is potential to make this kind of money, legal battles will occur. On October 20th, 2013, TotalBiscuit received a DMCA takedown notice from YouTube...

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Football, Video Games & The Law

Football, Video Games & The Law

Posted by Stone Law, P.C. on Oct 22, 2013

Football video games have existed for over 25 years and have continued to grow in sophistication.  Player avatars have evolved from generic pixels to fully developed representations.  Electronic Arts (EA), the video games publisher with an exclusive license for NFL games, now records player information like height and weight to create as realistic an experience as possible.  Along with these technological advances have come concerns about the use of player likenesses in both professional and amateur football games.  The 9th Circuit recently decided a case regarding player likenesses in both the Madden NFL and NCAA video games.  The court ruled differently in each case and a quick look at the cases sheds light on how these claims will be handled in the future. Brown vs. Electronic Arts featured Cleveland Browns running back Jim Brown disputing the use of his likeness in EA’s Madden NFL series.  While Jim Brown stopped playing football in 1965, EA included him as part of the 1965 Cleveland Browns team in some versions of the Madden series.  His avatar did not include his name but was physically similar to him and simulated his style of play.  In later games EA changed the number of Brown’s avatar to make it a little more dissimilar to him. The other case was In re NCAA Student-Athlete Name & Likeness Licensing Litigation.  The plaintiff in this case was Samuel Keller. A quarterback from Arizona State University who transferred to the University of Nebraska.  His in-game avatar did not feature his name but did have the same “height, weight, skin tone, hair color, hair style, handedness, home state, play style...

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Copyright Issues – Oz, The Great & Powerful

Posted by Stone Law, P.C. on Aug 14, 2013

You can learn a great deal about copyright law by analyzing the different copyright issues in the creation of the recent Disney movie, Oz the Great and Powerful.  The new Oz movie is a derivative work based on L. Frank Baum’s children’s book, The Wizard of Oz.  Elements created in the book were available for Disney to use, but anything created for the 1939 movie was not. The book was written in 1900, so its copyright protection expired in 1956.  Baum had written thirteen sequels continuing the Oz story and they all entered the public domain between 1960 and 1986.  Meanwhile, Samuel Goldwyn purchased the film rights from Baum in 1933 then sold them to MGM in 1938.  MGM still retains the copyright to the movie it produced until 2034.  Disney received the film rights to the other thirteen books in 1954, but MGM did not sell their right to the first book.  In fact, MGM and Disney had a few legal battles over the movie content. In 2011, the 8th Circuit of Appeals ruled that while the characters in Baum’s novels are in the public domain, their depictions in the 1939 movie are still protected.  As a result Disney, and anyone else looking to utilize the Oz characters, can draw directly from the novels in the public domain but cannot use another similar to the 1939 movie which was original.  This is easier to understand with some examples. Munchkins were introduced in the book but the depiction of Munchkinland in the movie cannot be copied.  To avoid any trouble Disney did not show Munchkinland and did not even...

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Nintendo Claims Advertising for “Let’s Play” Videos on Youtube

Posted by Stone Law, P.C. on Jul 18, 2013

                Youtube users started reporting this week that Nintendo has started claiming revenue for advertisement on user-created Youtube videos which feature content from Nintendo games.  Nintendo confirmed this news stating they became a Youtube partner in February of 2013 and registered their copyright content in the Youtube database.  Unlike most infringement cases, Nintendo is not asking Youtube to take down potentially infringing videos.  Instead Nintendo is issuing content ID match claims to place its own advertising before, within, or at the end of the videos. Nintendo is targeted videos featuring Nintendo-owned images or audio of a certain length.  The most common videos affected are “Let’s Play” videos.  These videos are show gamers playing through video games and can vary from a few seconds of gameplay to entire playthroughs of a game.  People upload these videos for humor, to demonstrate how to clear a certain part of the game, or just to show off how good they are.  “Let’s Play” channels can boast over 100,000 subscribers and individual videos can reach over 1,000,000 views. As a copyright owner Nintendo has the exclusive right to reproduce their works and to create derivative works under Section 106 of the Copyright Code.  Even though Youtube videos are not copies of the software code of video games a video showing gameplay is still a reproduction.  Videos which reproduce clips of a game with commentary by a gamer would be considered a derivate work; even though the video may be original enough for its own copyright it is still based on Nintendo works. Prominent “Let’s Play”ers have already...

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Apple Found Guilty of E-Book Price Fixing

Posted by Stone Law, P.C. on Jul 10, 2013

On July 10, 2013 the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled Apple was guilty of anti-trust violations for its role in conspiring with book publishers to raise prices for electronic books.  The five publishers, Hachette Book Group, Inc., HarperCollins Publishers LLC, Holtzbrinck Publishers LLC d/b/a Macmillan, Penguin Group Inc., and Simon & Schuster Inc., had already settled with the Department of Justice.  Apple moved to trial because it claimed it was innocent.  The trial was conducted as a bench trial from June 3 to 20 to determine liability and injunctive relief. At its heart, the court’s ruling determined Apple played a central role in facilitating and executing the conspiracy to raise e-book prices.  In the court’s opinion, without Apple the conspiracy would not have been as successful.  Amazon was charging $9.99 for e-book versions of New York Times bestsellers and other newly released hardcover books.  Apple met with the five publishers in December of 2009 and January of 2010 and suggested prices of $12.99 to $14.99 for its planned iBookstore.  Apple promised to set those prices only if it could get agreements from the publishers allowing Apple to offer e-books simultaneously with their hardcover releases. At the iBookstore’s launch new release e-books were given price caps of $12.99 or $14.99.  Apple gave the publishers control of their prices within those caps and also set a 30% commission, similar to the App Store.  More importantly, Apple included in its agreements a price parity provision, also known as a Most-Favored-Nation clause, which would penalize a publisher if they did not force Amazon and other retailers...

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