Search for misappropriated photographs and artwork online with Google Images Reply

Tracking your copyright protected images and photographs on the internet is an important and often time consuming task.  Once a digital photo is posted to a website or distributed electronically it is possible for the photo to be misappropriated and used by other folks without your permission.  (It’s easy to do, it happens all the time, and often the offenders don’t even know that they have done any wrong.)

Keeping tabs on who is using your copyright protected images is important because, it helps you control your photos, preserve your licensing revenue streams and protects the copyright vested in your work.

One simple way to search for uses of your photographs online is by using Google Images.  Google Images allows a Google search to be run on an image, instead of a ‘text search term’.  It’s easy; you just drag an image into the search field and click ‘Search Images’.

Try it –> http://www.google.com/imghp

For example, I just ran a search on the cover photo of a book and the results that came up were websites using the image or a similar image.  Not all the results listed were infringing uses.  Some of the results are legitimate.  It’s easy to scroll through the Google Image results and identify infringing uses.  (The Google Images search works for artwork too.)

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

vk@kasterlegal.com

 

If your work is a SECRET, Copyright Registration may not be the best option for you. Reply

There are lots of benefits to Copyright Registration with the US Copyright Office; however, keeping your work a secret is generally not one of them.  Part of the process for registering a work for copyright protection is submitting a deposit copy of the work (newsletter, photo, document, manuscript) to the US Copyright Office.  These deposit copies are generally available to the public at the Library of Congress and can be copied with the assistance of staff members.

What does this mean?  If your work product contains secret information that you do not want to disclose, then do not register the work for copyright protection until you are ready to disclose it.  (An exception is made for computer programs… see below)  However, even if you do not register a work for copyright registration to protect secret information contained in the work… using a copyright registration notice on any copies of your work product that you distribute is smart.  [Remember that a copyright notice can be used even if you do not register your work with the US Copyright Office… and using a copyright notice gives you extra rights in your work if it is misappropriated.]  A sample copyright notice is: © 2011 Your Name.  All rights reserved.

One important exception to this deposit copy rule is made for computer programs.   When a computer program is registered for copyright protection only a small portion of the source code is submitted as a deposit copy and any trade secret material can be blocked out.

For more info on:

 

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

vk@kasterlegal.com

Tattoo Copyright FACE-off (Mike Tyson’s tattoo artist v. Hangover II movie) Reply

The hoopla surfacing over the unauthorized use of a copyrighted tattoo that is prominently featured in the Hangover II movie sets the stage for examining the elements of a strong copyright claim.  Elements of a strong copyright infringement claim are: 1) is the work original and vested with copyright protection; 2) was the work copied; and 3) was the work copied without authorization.

  • Is the tattoo an original work vested with copyright protection?  Copyright protection is automatically vested in an original work that has been fixed in a tangible form.  A tattoo is ‘fixed’ and if the design is original, then there isn’t any reason why it wouldn’t be covered by copyright protection.  In this instance, the tattoo artist claims that he created the design.  Hopefully he did.  However, one way that the movie studio may try to overcome this claim of originality is by researching ancient or historical tattoo patterns.  If for example, this tattoo was common among Maori-warriors, Samurai  or some other ancient sect, tribe or culture… then the artist’s claim of originality could be trumped depending on how unique and original his version is.
  • Was the tattoo copied?  You bet.  Rather blatantly… and from what I’ve read the exact copying of Mike Tyson’s tattoo is an element of the movie plot.  I just took a look at online photos of the movie character and Mike Tyson for comparison… and the tattoos are virtually identical.  (looks better on Tyson, though).
  • Was the tattoo copied without authorization?  The artist claims that he didn’t authorize the use.

As unexpected as it might seem, this has the makings of a strong copyright infringement claim.  I’m rooting for the tattoo artist… and I hope he negotiates a solid settlement.

The case is: Whitmill v. Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. –> see Warner Bros. response at http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/05/21/business/media/20110521tattoo-case-warner-brothers.html AND see also http://dockets.justia.com; @iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.

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

vk@kasterlegal.com

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) 6

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

Licensing a Cover Song: simple music copyright licensing Reply

Securing a license to include a song that you cover (ie a song written by someone else that you record) on your CD is simple and more affordable than you might guess.  For example, if you have recorded a Bruce Springsteen song that you want to include on your ‘soon to be released album’ then you need to secure a license to use the song.  Clearing cover songs has become simple with online licensing and royalty service providers like RightsFlow.

RightsFlow offers an easy online service for licensing cover songs for use on physical CD’s, ringtones, digital downloads and interactive streaming.  So back to the Bruce Springsteen example, the price for licensing a Bruce Springsteen song for use on 500 CD’s and 500 digital downloads is less than $150.00.  If you are selling your CD’s for $10 and giving the digital downloads away for free on your band website… you only have to sell 15 CD’s before you have recovered the licensing costs.  (this is peanuts compared with possible fines and litigation that can be brought on by illegitimate use of a Springsteen song.)

Check out RightsFlow for simple music copyright licensing  –>  http://rightsflow.com/

Note, that RightsFlow offers discounts to ASCAP members.

For more information: @iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.

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

vk@kasterlegal.com

Recapture your Copyright After Signing a Harsh Publishing or Recording Contract 1

Often, dynamite musicians and authors are lassoed into harsh and unfavorable publishing and recording contracts long before they become famous.   This usually means that they have no bargaining power to negotiate more favorable contract terms (since they’re not famous or successful yet)… and once they become successful and famous, they have already signed and bound themselves and their copyrighted works to an unfavorable contract.

Is there a chance to recapture your copyright and negotiate better contract terms after you’re famous and have more bargaining power?  YES!  Although, it takes a few decades for this option to become available and it is subject to a specific and detailed, procedural obstacle course.

Depending on when a work was released and with certain exceptions, authors and musicians have a chance to recapture their copyrighted materials that have been assigned to publisher or producer and renegotiate contracts 28, 35 or 56 years after the work was created.  While this doesn’t give an immediate do-over… if the song, album, novel or comic strip is a hit …this can help recapture the copyright and revenue for the creator.

[the Legal term for this is Copyright Termination.  Although this name is slightly misleading since it doesn’t necessarily mean that the copyright is entirely terminated.. but rather assignments are terminated and the copyright can revert back to the creator.]

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.

Three Myths About Music Sampling Reply

MYTH:  sampling less than 6 seconds of someone else’s music is okay

MYTH:  sampling less than 5 words of someone else’s lyrics is okay

MYTH:  sampling from a church group is okay

ALL THREE OF THESE STATEMENTS ARE MYTHS.  None of these instances are an automatic green light when it comes to sampling someone else’s music without permission.

[For more on Music Sampling see —> http://wp.me/p10nNq-3A ]

Put the World On Notice of Your Copyright 2

Like all property rights, copyright is an asset.  Keeping track of your copyright copyrightprotected works and putting the ‘world on notice’ of your copyright is important.  Take the simple step to give the world notice of your copyright by adding a copyright notice to fixed forms of your original works.  For example, add a copyright notice to copies of all your manuscripts, sheet music, screen plays, comic strips, websites and other original, creative works.

It’s simple to do.  The general format for writing out a copyright notice in the USA is: ©; followed by the year that the work was created; followed by the name of the owner/creator of the work.  For example: “© 2011 Ima Star.”  Adding the extra phrase ‘All rights reserved’ to the copyright notice adds some international copyright protection in Central and South America.  For example: “© 2011 Ima Star.  All rights reserved.”  In either format, the notice is usually placed on the title page of a manuscript, and on the bottom of sheet music, comic strips and websites.

Registering your copyright protected works for copyright protection with the US Copyright Office is also a great idea; however, do know that you can use the copyright notice before registering for copyright protection.

© 2011 Ima Star.  All rights reserved.

To register your work with the US Copyright Office –> http://www.copyright.gov/forms/

See also:http://wp.me/p10nNq-1o for info on adding a copyright notice to your website;  http://www.copyright.gov; @iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.

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

vk@kasterlegal.com