What does Copyright Protect? (Great Question Eddie!) Reply

Asking what copyright protects is a great question!  Thanks, Eddie, for asking me Screen Shot 2017-09-26 at 12.35.17 PMyesterday in a blog comment. You have inspired this post.

Copyright is a form of intellectual property law that protects “original works of authorship” including literary, musical, artistic and dramatic works, such as photographs, articles, novels, sound recordings, sheet music, lyrics, jewelry designs, artwork, graffiti, poetry, screen plays, children’s books, user manuals, website content, movies, computer software, and architecture. [THE KEY is that the material (or work) is ORIGINAL].

Can I copyright a name, title, slogan, or short phrase? In most cases, No.  These things may be protected as trademarks. However, copyright protection may be available for logo artwork. In some circumstances, an artistic logo may also be protected as a trademark.

Can I copyright the name of my band? No. Names are not protected by copyright law. Some names may be protected under trademark law.

Can I copyright my domain name? No. Domain names are not protected by copyright law. Some domain protection may be available under trademark law.

Can I copyright my idea?  No.  Copyright does not protect ideas, concepts, systems, or methods of doing something. You may express your ideas in writing or drawings and claim copyright in your description (for example, a user manual), but be aware that copyright will not protect the idea itself as revealed in your written or artistic work.

Excerpt from the U.S Copyright Office at: www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-protect.html.

See also: “How to write a © Copyright Notice and Why to Use it” at http://wp.me/p10nNq-18; blog posts on trademarks and trademark registration at https://iplegalfreebies.wordpress.com/category/t-r-a-d-e-m-a-r-k; “Copyright Basics” at www.copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf ; “Copyright Protection Not Available for Names, Titles, or Short Phrases” at www.scireg.org/us_copyright_registration/circs/circ34.pdf ; @iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com

SELMA: Bravo for the Movie & Creative Script (mixing original text & public domain works) 1

Selma Hostoric Route sign

photo from wikipedia.org

Two enthusiastic thumbs up for the movie SELMA and the creative script that uses accent, aura, scripture, lyrics of gospel songs and original text instead of historic speeches.  Before seeing the movie, SELMA, I read that the speeches given by Dr. King in the film were written by [the talented writer, producer, director and distributor] Ms. DuVernay and were not the historical speeches given by Dr. King.

Dr. King’s heirs did not grant permission for his speeches to be quoted in “Selma,” and while this may be a blow to the film’s authenticity, Ms. DuVernay turns it into an advantage, a chance to see and hear him afresh. Mr. Oyelowo, a British actor of Nigerian background, has mastered the Southern inflections and preacherly cadences that have become part of the permanent soundtrack of our educational system, and the script offers credible paraphrases of his character’s unmatched eloquence.

[–BRAVO, Ms. DuVernay, for turning this into an advantage].

It is not uncommon for permission to use famous copyrighted works, like Dr. King’s famous speeches, to be unattainable or denied.  (Obtaining permission to use a famous copyrighted work is often cost prohibitive).  Whatever the reason that permission to use a famous work is unattainable or denied, creating an original work is a brilliant solution.  After seeing the movie SELMA this past weekend, I was impressed with the use of bible verses and gospel lyrics in Ms. DuVernay’s script.  Bible verses and gospel lyrics are often in the public domain and free to use.  Intermixing public domain material and original text in a movie script works.  For example, Ms. DuVernay’s script uses the lyrics of the “Battle Hymn of The Republic” in a final scene with Dr. King.  The lyrics of this old hymn (written in the 1860’s and now in the public domain) were a powerful, spoken finale.

“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord…”

BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.

vk@kasterlegal.com

See also: An earlier blog post on Copyright Law & Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech at http://wp.me/p10nNq-3R; Free tickets for 7th, 8th, and 9th grade students at http://selmastudenttickets.com; the SELMA website at www.selmamovie.com; www.paramount.com/movies/selma; www.avaduvernay.com/about; movie review by Kenny Miles at http://themovieblog.com/2015/ava-duvernays-masterful-selma-is-the-timely-movie-america-needs/; quote above is from the NY Times article titled, “A 50-Mile March, Nearly 50 Years Later. In ‘Selma,’ King Is Just One of Many Heros” by A.O. Scott on Dec. 24, 2014 available at www.nytimes.com; NY Times article titled, “The Man Who Would Be King.  David Oyelowo’s Pivotal Role in ‘Selma’ by Felicia R. Leedec on Dec. 18, 2014 available at www.nytimes.com; information on the Battle Hymn of the Republic at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Battle_Hymn_of_the_Republic; NY Times article titled, “An Unsettled Chapter in Martin Luther King’s Legacy” by Richard Fausset on Jan. 12, 2015 at http://mobile.nytimes.com; Wikipedia photo credit at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selma_to_Montgomery_marches; @iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.

Happy Birthday Shakespeare (Your prose… a public domain goldmine) 2

William Shakespeare turns 450 today.  His masterful use of language keeps his plays popular, relevant, in production and available to us all as literary treasures in the public domain.  Public Shakespeare's First Foliodomain works, like Shakespeare’s plays, are available for the public to use, copy, distribute, perform, quote, sample and make derivative works from… for free.  Shakespeare’s plays are in the public domain because they are nearly 400 years old.  (Here in the United States, works published before 1923 are in the public domain).

It’s important to note that newer productions, translations or works based on Shakespeare plays may still be covered by copyright protection… and may NOT be in the public domain.  For example, movies of Shakespeare plays are “new” enough to still be covered by copyright.  The length of time that a play or other creative work is protected by copyright, and the timeline for when works enter the public domain varies country by country.

Happy Birthday Shakespeare!  Thank you for your stellar intellectual property!  “…can one desire too much of a good thing?”

BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.

vk@kasterlegal.com

See also: earlier blog posts on the topic of “public domain,” https://iplegalfreebies.wordpress.com/category/public-domain/; other copyright and public domain resources, http://www.copyright.gov, http://copyright.cornell.edu/resources/publicdomain.cfm, http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/; ending quote from, As You Like It; @iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.

Copyright Status restored to foreign works – removing works from public domain 1

Last week, The US Supreme Court mandated copyright restoration for foreign works that are covered by copyright protection in their country of origin or the country where copyright protection is claimed. This renewed respect for foreign works, removes a bulk of works out of the public domain and vests them with copyright protection. This means that many foreign works will no longer be free to perform, record, copy or make derivative works of here in the US. For example, Prokofiev’s ‘Peter and the Wolf’ which has been free to use in the US since it has been in the public domain, has had its copyright restored and will require the same permissions and usage fees as Copland and Bernstein…. who are Prokofiev’s contemporaries and who still enjoy copyright protection of their music. (Now an orchestra could be expected to pay approximately $800 per performance of Peter and the Wolf). Evidently, J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings, Alfred Hitchcock’s films and Pablo Picasso’s paintings are also among the foreign works with newly restored copyright protection.

The reasoning behind this copyright restoration is largely based on international foreign policy. As the court points out in its holding… the US has taken a ‘minimalistic approach’ to complying with the Berne Convention for the past two decades… and this copyright restoration of foreign works is a significant step toward US compliance with the treaty. There are 164 counties signed onto the treaty and the one of the many terms of the Berne Convention is that member states offer reciprocal copyright protection. Interestingly, this could be a significant step towards an international copyright system.

If you are already using ‘Peter and the Wolf’ or other restored works, the court’s holding speaks to a grace period for parties who are currently using or exploiting the restored works and encourages negotiations to determine reasonable compensation.

(Tolkien’s heirs come to mind as the ‘Lord of the Rings’ movie extravaganza could lead to interesting negotiations if an agreement hasn’t already been made.)

BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.

vk@kasterlegal.com

More information: The US Supreme Court case is Golan v. Holder. The holding is also available at www.supremecourt.gov; The Berne Convention, Article 18 at http://www.wipo.int/treaties/en/ip/berne/; Other articles on the subject: http://www.nytimes.com; http://online.wsj.com; http://www.legalnewsline.com/news/234980-peter-and-the-wolf-must-be-paid; http://orchestralworks.blogspot.com/2008/09/prokofiev-peter-and-wolf.html; @iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.

Copyright Law: Using quotes from someone else (including Cajun keychain sayings) in your song, blog, book or website 2

Did you know that it’s possible to buy a “Cajun in your pocket” keychain? …that plays spoken Cajun phrases? GOOD NEWS – you can buy the keychain and use the sayings without violating copyright! cajun pocketEven though the toy manufacturers have copyrights that include the sayings on the keychain… there is no copyright violation for using the sayings in your own song, book, blog or website because, the phrases are not original.

A federal court in Louisiana held that the phrases at issue (see below) were common Cajun phrases and therefore, when the rap artist Mystikal included the exact word arrangements in his hit “Shake Ya As*” he did not infringe the toy maker’s copyright. (One of the necessary elements of a copyright infringement claim is that the parts of a copyrighted work that are copied without authorization must be original.)

  • “We gon pass a good time, yeah, cher”
  • “You gotta suck da head on dem der crawfish”

Another aspect of evaluating whether copyright protected works were copied without authorization is proof of access to the copyrighted work and similarity of the works. Interestingly in this case, it was proven that Mystikal’s nephew had a “Cajun in your pocket” toy… which was how the artist had access to the copyrighted work prior to the creation of his song. (By the way, it was estimated that the rap song had sold over six million units worldwide by the fall of 2000 and had also appeared in several movies and numerous CD compilations.)

When quotes from copyright protected works can be used in songs, books, blogs or websites without permission of the copyright owner… is a grey area and the facts and circumstances are fundamental to the case by case evaluation of copyright infringement.

Let the good times roll and stay clear of copyright infringement. “Laissez les bons temps rouler”!! (the “Cajun in your pocket” toy says this too.)

BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.

vk@kasterlegal.com

See also: http://www.emanation.com/products/cajun-in-your-pocket and Emanation Inc. v. Zomba Recording, Inc., 72 Fed. Appx. 187 (5th Cir. La. 2003). Emanation Inc. v. Zomba Recording, Inc., 72 Fed. Appx. 187 (5th Cir. La. 2003).

When does Copyright start? Copyright protection starts automatically 2

When does copyright protection start?  It starts automatically, as soon as you create an original work.  It’s like having a baby (ie your creative, brain child)… as soon as it’s in this world it’s yours and it’s covered by copyright protection.   You don’t have to DO anything… other than create it and put it in a fixed and tangible form.

What does this mean?  As soon as you have written a song down; typed out a manuscript; applied pen or paint to paper… copyright protection starts automatically.

Using the copyright symbol © and registering your copyright with the US Copyright Office are two extra steps that give you more rights in your copyrighted work if and when you want to sell it, transfer it or protect it from being abused, misused or copied by other folks.

There is 99.999% chance that you have created original works that are already covered by copyright protection… even if you didn’t know it.

For more info SEE:

–>    How and why to use the © copyright symbol?: http://t.co/iBjePPU

–>    Copyright registration only costs $35: http://t.co/ykPmZ3T

 

BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.

vk@kasterlegal.com

Copyright Law: Using quotes from someone else in your book, blog or website (part 2) 4

When quotes from copyright protected works can be used in other books, blogs or websites without permission of the copyright owner… is a popular topic… lets explore it further.

As I’ve mentioned before that this is a gray area.  Unfortunately, there are no set rules about how much or what percentage of a copyrighted work can be used for free (ie without permission of the copyright owner); however, here is a tip to keep in mind.  The HEART of a work is heavily protected by copyright law.  What does this mean?  This could be a famous and popular refrain that embodies the HEART of a famous speech; This could be 300 words out of an unpublished memoir that reveals the key (or HEART) of the story; This could be an original and unique part of a song or lyrics (ie the HEART of the work).

Courts use a sophisticated, multi-part test to evaluate when a portion of a copyrighted work can be used without permission.  For the rest of us… using common sense is a good place to start.  If you are copying the HEART of someone else’s work to use in your blog, book or website… permission is probably needed.

For more info on this topic see these other two posts:  http://t.co/2rhWznM and http://wp.me/p10nNq-fd AND for more info on PUBLIC DOMAIN works that are FREE to use and quote from —> http://wp.me/p10nNq-ft  and http://wp.me/p10nNq-gn); @iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.

BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.

For personalized legal services you are welcome to contact me at vk@kasterlegal.com

ORIGINALITY is Key To Copyright Reply

Originality is key to securing copyright protection over a work.  This is true for literary works, sculptures, paintings, music and all varieties of creative output.  While this may seem obvious, in truth it’s a gray area.  Here are a few examples:

  • TELEPHONE DIRECTORY, WHITE PAGES:  not original; therefore, no copyright protection.
  • PHOTOGRAPH OF AN ARMFUL OF PUPPIES: is original; therefore, making a sculpture that is a deliberate copy of the photograph is a copyright violation.
  • A PAINTING: is original; however, making an engraving of the painting is not a copyright violation because of the engravers artistic use of light, shade, lines and dots.

MARDI GRAS INDIAN COSTUMES: possibly original works of sculpture.  At present the Mardi Gras Indians are seeking copyright projection for their elaborate costumes as works of sculpture.

What does this mean?  For the Mardi Gras Indians it will mean that photo releases, licenses and fees will need to be paid to the Indian sculptors before others copy, reproduce and sell their images as photographs, fine art, in calendars or on t-shirts.

BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.

vk@kasterlegal.com

for info on copyright registration –> http://t.co/ynaHCbX; @iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.

Copyright Law: Using quotes from someone else in your book, blog or website 3

Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s speech ‘I Have a Dream’ is one of the most recognizable speeches in US history and it is covered by copyright protection.  Dr. King registered the speech for copyright protection in 1963.   This leads to the question, when can quotes from his famous speech or other copyright protected works be used in other books, blogs or websites without permission?

The answer to this question is vague, ambiguous and needs to be analyzed on a case by case basis.  Generally speaking, it is possible to use limited portions of a copyright protected work for news reporting, commentary, criticism and scholarly reports under the fair use doctrine of the US copyright law.  However, there are no legal rules permitting ‘free use’ of a certain  number of words or percentage of a copyrighted work.  Additionally, there are several factors that weigh heavily into the analysis: 1) the purpose and character of the use, 2) how much money will be made from the use, 3) the nature of the work, 4) the amount and substantiality of the portion used, and 5) the effect of the use on the potential market and value of the copyrighted work.

Unfortunately, there is not a clear rule regarding when and how much of a copyright protected work can be used without permission.  Dr. King’s heirs have the legal right under copyright law to monetize the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech that they inherited and to treat it as commercial property.   (The safest bet when quoting from copyright protected work is to seek, pay for, and get permission to use the material.)

Note, that crediting the source does not substitute getting permission to use or quote from the material.

Note 2, any work published in the US before 1923 is likely in the public domain and is FREE to use and quote from. (Copyright protection of these older works has likely expired).

For more information on Copyright and Dr. King’s speeches see this post –> http://wp.me/p10nNq-FD; for more information on using quotes from someone else see these other two posts –> http://t.co/rLurDnX and http://wp.me/p10nNq-fd  AND for more information on PUBLIC DOMAIN works that are FREE to use and quote from —> http://copyright.cornell.edu/resources/publicdomain.cfm; http://wp.me/p10nNq-ft  and http://wp.me/p10nNq-gn; @iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.

BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.

vk@kasterlegal.com

“Use in all media” Contracts – what are you giving away? 1

Contracts come in all shapes and sizes.  Musicians, artists, photographers, graphic designers and all sorts of creative folk share their creative genius by taking paid gigs to make, create or share things that they have created with other (perhaps less creative) folks. Take a careful look at the nuts and bolts of the agreement that transfers the right to use your work to others, so that you are clear about what you are giving and getting out of the deal.

Are the use rights for ‘ALL MEDIA’ being given away? If yes, then you have an All Media contract, and it’s important to understand what ‘use rights for ALL MEDIA’ means.  All Media contracts are common (virtually standard in the Music Industry)… and their mission is to transfer the rights to use the song or other creative work in ALL types of MEDIA.  ‘All types of media’ sounds broad, and it is.  For example, transferring the rights to use a music jingle in ALL types of MEDIA includes having the right to use, reproduce and sell it on DVD’s, CD’s, ipad applications.. and possibly any future media outlet that is yet to be developed.

The opposite of an All Media clause within a contract, is a clause that lists the approved types of media where the song or other creative work can be used.  For example, contracts that were written to license music for TV sitcom broadcasts back in the 1970’s had to be renegotiated when the networks decided to re-release the sitcoms on DVD.  Since the use of the media on DVD wasn’t accounted for in the original contracts, a new crop of contracts were required to cover this type of use.

Be clear about you are giving and getting out of the deal when you share your creative work.