Getting Paid for… Co-Creating awesome stuff like the game Twister and Superman Reply

Getting paid for creating wildly successful stuff can take many forms and is an important part of the creative process. Often stuff that becomes wildly successful (like the Superman comic and the game Twister) start out as humble creative endeavors created by two co-creators. For example: superman

  • SUPERMAN was created by Seigel and Schuster who created a comic book out of four weeks worth of comic strips that they couldn’t sell. They sold the comic book along with their rights to the creation for $130. (long-running litigation has ensued regarding the existence, validity and scope of an agreement transferring the rights to Superman).
  • TWISTER was created by Foley (a game designer) and Rabens (an artist) who were awarded a twisterUS Patent (No. 3,454,279) for their invention of an “apparatus for playing a game wherein the players constitute the game pieces.” Evidently Foley did not receive royalties for the game; however, he did negotiate a buyout and sold his rights. (According to a Mr. Foley’s obituary this past week, he accepted about $27,000 in a negotiated buyout).

It’s interesting to compare these deals. Did the creators have any idea that their creations would become iconic? Probably not. At least not in the case of Superman. If Superman’s co-creators had known how famous their creation would become, they probably would have negotiated a higher price, residual rights, royalties and possibly reserved merchandising rights.

Personally, I am a big fan of both Superman and Twister! I am in awe of the creative minds who created these gems… and I encourage folks to negotiate creative deals to maximize revenue from their creations. You never know…. your creation could become a cultural icon.

For more information on the ongoing Superman litigation, see also, http://dockets.justia.com/docket/california/cacdce/2:2004cv08400/166317/; http://robot6.comicbookresources.com/2013/03/superman-legal-battle-isnt-over-yet-siegels-try-a-new-strategy/; http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-06-13/marc-toberoff-supermans-lawyer; @iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.

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

vk@kasterlegal.com

Viral Post Won’t Protect Copyright in US… Although Maybe in EU 2

If you use Facebook, I’m sure you have seen the viral post proclaiming copyright in posted content. While the proclamation sounds rather official…. it doesn’t actually mean anything (if you are in the US)… nor does it preserve any of your rights (including copyright) that are modified, abdicated,or terminated by the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy of the Facebook website. What this means is that by using the Facebook website the conditions listed in the Terms of Service (which speak to broad control and use of posted content by Facebook for virtual eternity) are consented to.

The Viral Post (or a modified version of it):

I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, illustrations, comics, professional photos and videos, etc. For commercial use of the above my written consent is needed at all times! (Anyone reading this can copy this text and paste it on their Facebook Wall. This will place…them under protection of copyright laws).

In response to the viral post, Facebook has a statement on their website dispelling the rumor and directing folks to its Terms of Service which state (but are subject to change):

For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.

How did the viral post get started? One explanation is youthful optimism. Another possibility (and very interesting possibility) is that the post was started in the EU where organized challenges to Facebook’s Privacy Policy and Terms are Services are being made for non-conformance with EU laws. The EU has different policies (from the US) regarding the use of data including photo archives and EU laws may require different consent mechanisms. (Since Facebook is a US company, it is likely that their Privacy Policy and Terms of Service are written in American legalese). While surfing through the website for Europe-v-Facebook.org (which is a group in the EU that is challenging Facebook’s Privacy Policy and has threatened litigation for non-compliance with EU law) I read this: “We were just informed that Facebook is soon proposing a new change to its privacy policy…. Facebook said so far that if 7,000 users demand the same changes they would have users give the chance to vote on them.” If this is true… it could be interesting… it could have started the viral post or one like it… and it could possibly change Facebook’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Service in the EU… and maybe other places too.

See also, http://europe-v-facebook.org/EN/en.html; http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57554497-93/viral-post-wont-copyright-your-facebook-updates/; http://www.facebook.com/legal/terms; http://newsroom.fb.com/Fact-Check; NY Times article: Law Students in Austria Challenge Facebook Policy on 12/5/12 and www.kasterlegal.com

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

vk@kasterlegal.com

Copyright: composing new music intertwined with Schubert fragments Reply

Copyright automatically vests in original music compositions.  Originality is key to copyright and the music composed by Maestro Luciano Berio to complete an unfinished symphony, in D major, by Schubert is a fantastic work that offers an interesting opportunity to take a closer look at copyright, copyrightable works and the public domain.

Franz Peter Schubert (1797-1828) was a prolific composer who composed numerous masterpieces including sketches of a symphony, in D major, that would have been his 10th symphony.  Schubert died before completing the symphony and left behind the sketches of the unfinished piece, including notes on instrumentation, which are in the public domain and free to use, copy, perform and create derivative works of.

Over a century later, the maestro and composer Luciano Berio (1925-2003) undertook the task of completing Schubert’s unfinished symphony.  Berio composed original music that weaves together Schubert’s sketches into a completed work that can be performed and enjoyed by us all.  (Berio referred to his work as “the cement-work”).  Back to our copyright analysis… Berio’s original composition that pieces together Schubert’s sketches is copyrightable because it is an original music composition.  Because Berio’s music is copyrighted, permission is required to use, copy, perform and create derivative work of his work. (…Schubert’s sketches are still fair game).

Berio has been praised for completing Schubert’s composition (titled Rendering) in a style and manner that sounds “Schubertian”.  (Listen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-76EhKzEsPM&feature=related)

See also:  Conductor David Robertson talks about Schubert & Berio’s Rendering: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-NfoOAm7Fvoa US copyright registration for a sound recording of Rendering; http://www.bachtrack.com/review-mostly-mozart-festival-2012-malkki-berio-rendering-ohlsson-beethoven; http://composers21.com/compdocs/beriol.htm;  http://www.classicalarchives.com/composer/3308.html#tvf=tracks&tv=about;iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.

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

vk@kasterlegal.com

 

breathe easy… in any Hatha Yoga sequence Reply

Following up on a post last month on a Hot Yoga Copyright Dispute… launched by Bikram Yoga to defend copyrights held in a sequence of 26 Hatha Yoga postures… The US Copyright Office has weighed in on the court proceedings and issued a letter stating that a Hatha Yoga sequence is NOT granted copyright as a work of choreography.

An excerpt from the Defendant’s legal document submitted to the US District Court in California, quoting correspondence from the US Copyright office:

“..[T]he Choudhury Yoga Sequence is legally invalid because the Copyright Office has determined that yoga is not protected as choreography. According to a December 7, 2011 letter to Defendants from Laura Lee Fischer, Acting Chief of the Performing Arts Division of the Copyright Office, the Copyright Office previously “took the position that although functional physical movements did not represent the type of authorship which Congress intended to be protected under the copyright law, [the Copyright Office] could register the selection and ordering of public domain exercises.” However, the Copyright Office recently reevaluated this position. “The Registration Program of the Copyright Office reviewed the legislative history relating to section l02(a) of the copyright law, and in conjunction with senior management, determined that exercises, including yoga exercises, do not constitute the subject matter that Congress intended to protect as choreography. Thus, we will not register such exercises (including yoga movements), whether described as exercises or as selection and ordering of movements.” [From page 10-11 of Defendant’s Answer to the Complaint dated 12/9/2011. In the case: Bikram’s Yoga College of India L.P. v. Yoga to the People, Inc., 11-cv-07998, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).  click here for the court document ]

You can breathe easy… in any Hatha Yoga sequence of your choice. Although, it appears that this lawsuit is still alive and moving forward since there are other non-copyright elements in the case.

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

vk@kasterlegal.com

For more information: http://wp.me/p10nNq-fE on HOT YOGA dispute; http://www.dailybusinessreview.com/PubArticleDBR.jsp?id=1323647402672&slreturn=1; http://dockets.justia.com and http://www.yogatruth.org/; @iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.

 

Hot Yoga Copyright Dispute 3

Evidently Bikram Yoga is suing Yoga to the People (another Hatha Yoga establishment) for copying a sequence of 26 Hatha Yoga postures performed in a hot room (105 degrees) …claiming a violation US copyright law.

Is this Copyright Infringement? Could be if the postures or the “routine of postures” are original. (It is possible to obtain copyright protection for choreography.) Although proving that a sequence of Hatha Yoga postures is original could be a challenge; since, Hatha Yoga is an ancient spiritual tradition with roots in India.

Interestingly, over the last decade, the Indian government has launched aggressive ‘traditional knowledge’ campaigns seeking to recapture ancient traditional knowledge, including Yoga, Ayurveda, and Homoeopathy practices that have been granted intellectual property protection in other counties. For example, several patents have been revoked in the US and the EU for turmeric, basmati and neem tree extracts because the patents were for traditional uses that are mentioned in numerous ancient texts. (Patent and copyright protection are similar ~ they both require originality. Patent law requires “novelty” for legal protection and enforcement… and copyright law requires “originality.”)

It will be interesting to see how flexible the US courts and the Indian Government are with Bikram’s allegation of copyright ownership and infringement of the “Hot Yoga” sequence at issue.

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

vk@kasterlegal.com

For more information: 12/9/2011 UPDATE http://wp.me/p10nNq-fT from the US Copyright Office; India’s Traditional Knowledge Digital Library: http://www.tkdl.res.in/tkdl/langdefault/common/Abouttkdl.asp?GL=Eng; The WIPO Creative Heritage Project: http://www.wipo.int/freepublications/en/tk/934/wipo_pub_l934tch.pdf; and Bikram’s US Copyright registration numbers: TX0005259325, TX0006555860, TX0005624003, TX0000179160, TXu001323218, TX0005499662, TXu001022657, TXu000934417, PA0001053335; @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).

Making ‘Stormtroopers’ in your basement? (gotta look at that basement) 2

In a galaxy not so far away… (the United Kingdom under the rule of HRH)… the original designer and prop maker of the Star Wars stormtrooper costume continues to make replicas of the iconic stormtrooper in his basement and sell them over the internet.  This basement stormtrooper-production-line led to a legal battle in the UK’s highest court.  Lucasfilms filed a lawsuit for copyright violation, in the hopes of shutting down the basement production.

The court ruled in favor of the basement stormtrooper-production since UK copyright law offers a short term of copyright protection for ‘props’ and that period of protection had expired.  (Interestingly, the same stormtrooper costumes are covered by a much longer term of copyright protection in the UK if the court had found them to be works of sculpture instead of classified as props.  Here in United States, if the stormtroopers were being produced in a basement on US soil… it is likely that Lucasfilms would have prevailed because, the US copyright law offers a much longer term of copyright protection regardless of the classification of the copyrightable work as a sculpture or prop.)  Since the stormtrooper costumes are still under copyright protection in the US, damages may have to be paid to Lucasfilms for any costumes that were sold here in the US.

Copyright laws and the term of copyright protection vary from country to country.

(I gotta tell ya, that I visited the UK courtroom while this case was being tried and there were stormtroopers set up all over the place.  The combination of wigs, robes, courtroom formalities and stormtroopers felt like another dimension… straight out of Star Wars.)

The case is: Lucasfilm v. Ainsworth, No. [2011] UKSC 39, U.K. Supreme Court.  See also, http://www.supremecourt.gov.uk/news/latest-judgments.html; @iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.

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

vk@kasterlegal.com

 

Copying another artist’s work into a New Medium can violate copyright 2

The idea behind a piece of artwork is not protected by copyright.  However, a near replica of an artist’s work in different medium can be a copyright violation if the new work closely copies a copyright protected work.  What this means is that being inspired by an idea of another contemporary artist to recreate your own artwork from scratch is…100% legit.  For example, if a famous photograph of the pyramids inspires you to fly to Egypt and try to recreate the exact same photo to display and sell in a gallery… there is no copyright violation.  However, it is different if you use a copy of a famous photograph of a pyramid to paint a replica of the photograph.  Painting a copy of a photograph changes the medium of the artwork, but it can often still be a copyright violation of the copied work.

Here are a few examples of instances when copying someone else’s artwork into a new medium could be a copyright violation of the original work:

  • Photographing a sculpture… for use on a postage stamp
  • Making a painting of another artist’s photograph… to display in a gallery show
  • Making a campaign poster out of another artist’s photograph… to sell and raise money
  • Making a sculpture of another artist’s photograph of a sad kid in a costume… to display and sell
  • Recreating another artist’s painting in peanut butter and jelly and photographing the PB&J  rendition… to display and sell

Obviously, there are many unique facts and factors to consider in each case… and many of these types of challenges settle before a court issues a final ruling.  However by the time the parties begin negotiating a settlement, the stakes are higher and the alleged infringer generally ends up paying much more than it would have cost to secure a license at the outset.

The solution is to get a license from the original artist to make a derivative work.  (Trying to deny or cover-up your source material is often unsuccessful and can cost a lot more $$ in the end.)

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

vk@kasterlegal.com.

Rogers v. Koons, 960 F.2d 301 (2d Cir. 1992)( The infringers fair use defense was denied); Gaylord v. United States, 595 F.3d 1364 (Fed. Cir. 2010); Fairey v Associated Press; alleged infringement between A.Brown and littlewhitehead; alleged infringement between Burdeny and Leong; NY Times article 9/28/11, questioning originality of Dylan paintings at the Gagosian; @iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.

Cooking up Copyright – (cookbooks and recipes) 3

FACT: A recipe is not copyrightable

FACT: A cookbook is copyrightable

What does this mean?  It means that while a recipe itself (ie the mere listing of ingredients) is not protectable by copyright, other original elements embodied in a cookbook can be protected by copyright registration.  For example: the selection of recipes, layout, descriptions, illustrations, cover artwork, explanations and accompanying text are all elements of a cookbook that can be protected by copyright registration.

Most cookbooks contain a substantial amount of content that can be protected by copyright, even though the actual listing of ingredients is not copyrightable.

IN SUMMARY: register cookbooks for copyright protection… and keep secret ingredients…secret.

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

vk@kasterlegal.com

for more from the US Copyright Office on recipes and cookbooks –>http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl122.html  and for more on how to register your cookbook for copyright registration for $35 –>  https://iplegalfreebies.wordpress.com/category/copyright-for-35/@iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.

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