TIME Music

Judge Rules That Shakira’s Hit Song ‘Loca’ Broke Copyright Laws

Colombian singer Shakira smiles during the closing ceremony of the 2014 Fifa World Cup, before the final match between Germany and Argentina, at Maracana Stadium, in Rio de Janeiro, southeastern Brazil, on July 13, 2014. Eduardo Nicolau/Estadao Conteudo—Agencia Estado/AP

Damages have yet to be fixed

A federal judge in New York has found that the Spanish-language version of Shakira’s hit song ‘Loca’ breaks copyright laws.

The song, which has sold millions of copies since its 2010 release, was found to indirectly infringe on a song by Dominican singer Roman Arias Vazquez, the BBC reports.

Judge Alvin Hellerstein ruled Tuesday that ‘Loca’ was based on a song by Dominican rapper El Cata, which in turn resembled Vazquez’s 1990s song ‘Loca con su Tiguere.’

El Cata, whose real name is Eduard Edwin Bello Pou, denies the resemblance, the BBC says.

Damages for the plaintiff, Mayimba Music, haven’t yet been determined.

The English version of ‘Loca’ was “not offered into evidence” at the trial.

[BBC]

TIME movies

Zero Theorem Director Terry Gilliam Is Being Sued Over a Mural

Celebrity Sightings In London -  June 1, 2014
Terry Gilliam sighted arriving at BBC studios on June 1, 2014 in London, England. Simon James/GC Images

Plaintiffs say he used their work without permission

Three prominent graffiti artists, whose work is well known in Argentina, are suing director Terry Gilliam for copyright infringement, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The plaintiffs, Argentines Franco Fasoli (also known as Jaz) and Nicolas Romero (who works under the name Ever), as well as Derek Mehaffey of Canada (who operates under the pseudonyms of Troy Lovegates and Other) claim their rights to a mural collaboration have been violated in Gilliam’s forthcoming movie The Zero Theorem.

The mural, known as Castillo, was completed in 2010 in Buenos Aires’ famous zona de graffiti — an area known for its street art. The artists say they later had the mural copyrighted in Argentina in 2013.

“The Copyrighted Artwork has achieved international recognition in the art world, and is widely recognized by the public in Argentina and abroad. Castillo is so important that it is one of the few public artworks that have survived for years in that particular zona de graffiti,” says the lawsuit.

Gilliam’s The Zero Theorem — which stars Matt Damon, Tilda Swinton and Chistoph Waltz — was shot primarily in Bucharest, Romania, but the artists claim that an exterior shot of a chapel “features a colorful mural that is a blatant misappropriation of Plaintiffs’ Copyrighted Artwork.”

Voltage Pictures and Amplify Releasing are also named as defendants.

The plaintiffs are seeking a “preliminary and permanent” injunction to the late-August video-on-demand release, and September 19 theatrical release, of The Zero Theorem, as well as statutory and punitive damages, profits, and costs for legal representation.

TIME Books

Sherlock Holmes Still in Public Domain After Another Loss for Doyle Estate

Judge to Doyle estate: You're on thin ice

Attention, Sherlock Holmes fanfiction writers, you can still try and squeeze some money out of 221b Baker Street’s famous resident — the world of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective series remains in the public domain, despite repeated attempts from the late author’s estate to hold on to copyright claim.

7th Circuit Judge Richard Posner said the estate’s activities were basically “a form of extortion” in an Aug. 4 decision that sided with an editor seeking legal-fee reimbursement from the estate, Gawker Media blog i09 reports.

Last year, editor Leslie Klinger took the estate to court after it tried to block publication of a new anthology series unless it was paid a licensing fee. After a judge ruled that all stories published before 1923 were in the public domain, the estate made an appeal that was rejected by Posner, who noted that the estate was asking for 135 years of copyright protection and could be in violation of anti-trust laws.

“The Doyle estate’s business strategy is plain: charge a modest license fee for which there is no legal basis, in the hope that the ‘rational’ writer or publisher asked for the fee will pay it rather than incur a greater cost, in legal expenses, in challenging the legality of the demand,” Klinger wrote in his decision supporting Kinger’s request for reimbursement, which he called “a public service.”

TIME Aereo

Aereo to Court: We’re ‘Bleeding to Death’

A month after the Supreme Court ruled that the TV-streaming service was operating illegally, the cash-strapped startup has requested an emergency ruling that will enable it to start earning revenue again

+ READ ARTICLE

Facing a dire financial situation, the TV-streaming service Aereo Inc. asked a federal court in Manhattan for an emergency ruling on its application to operate as a cable TV service, a move that would allow the company to begin earning revenue for the first time since it stopped operations June 28.

The TV-streaming startup said it is “figuratively bleeding to death,” as it has not made money since it stopped operating after the Supreme Court ruled its services were in violation of copyright law last month.

“Unless it is able to resume operations in the immediate future, the company will likely not survive,” said Aereo in a federal court filing.

A federal judge in Manhattan declined to make a decision on the application Friday, saying the company “jumped the gun” in making the request without permission.

A Supreme Court ruling in June found that the company’s antenna-based transmission of live and recorded broadcast programming was a violation of U.S. copyright law. In response, Aereo began to argue that it was a cable company, the very sort of company it was hoping to replace. But Aereo cannot operate as a cable company without a license to do so from the U.S. Copyright Office, which has said it will not issue a license until the courts determine the company’s status.

[Bloomberg]

TIME Copyright

Seth McFarlane Accused of Stealing Ted Character

"A Million Ways To Die In The West" Photocall
Seth MacFarlane attends a photocall to promote "A Million Ways To Die In The West" held at Claridges Hotel on May 27, 2014 in London, England. Karwai Tang—WireImage

Another production company has accused the funnyman of ripping off their character

A California-based production company filed a lawsuit against Seth MacFarlane Tuesday accusing the comedian and filmmaker of stealing the vulgar, womanizing teddy bear character used in the movie Ted.

According to the complaint, filed by Bengal Mangle Productions, Ted‘s lead character is similar to one in the screenplay for the web series Acting School Academy, which was written in 2008.

“The screenplay included a character named Charlie (“Charlie”),” the suit says. “Charlie is a teddy bear who lives in a human, adult world with all human friends. Charlie has a penchant for drinking, smoking, prostitutes, and is a generally vulgar yet humorous character. “

The plaintiffs claim Acting School Academy was circulated on YouTube, Facebook, iTunes, Funny or Die, Vimeo and other forums and viewed around 1.2 million times.

Universal released the movie Ted, created by McFarlane, in June 2012. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Ted was the highest-grossing R-rated comedy of the year, raking in $550 million.

The suit alleges copyright infringement and seeks recovery of unspecified damages. Neither McFarlane nor Universal responded to a request for comment from THR.

[THR]

TIME

Court: Sherlock Holmes Is Public Domain, My Dear Watson

Arthur Conan Doyle
William Henry Gates—Getty Images/The Bridgeman Art Library

The beloved detective of 221B Baker Street is now in the public domain

Publishing your Sherlock Holmes fan-fiction just got a whole lot easier.

The Seventh Circuit Court ruled Monday that Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective is almost entirely in the public domain.

The decision came in a suit between the Doyle estate and Leslie Klinger, who was editing a set of stories inspired by Sherlock Holmes and other Doyle characters. This was Klinger’s second book of stories based on the Sherlock Holmes canon. For his first anthology, his publisher paid a licensing fee to Doyle’s estate, but this time Klinger decided to sue the estate instead of paying the fee.

Copyright on most of the Sherlock Holmes stories has already expired. Only Doyle’s last 10 stories, published between 1923 and 1927, were still protected under American copyright law, with their expiration dates between 2018 and 2022 depending on their original publication date.

Klinger claimed that the stories in his anthology only drew on material from Sherlock Holmes stories already in the public domain. The estate said that Doyle’s last 10 stories greatly helped to flesh out the character of Sherlock Holmes, so the estate’s hold on the character should extend until the copyright on the last story expired.

Judge Richard Posner sided with Klinger, saying that Doyle’s estate was using this literary explanation as a way to obtain almost 135 years of copyright protection, well beyond the norm. In his decision, Posner got excited and used some nerdy examples to explain his reasoning.

Repeatedly at the oral argument the estate’s lawyer dramatized the concept of a “round” character by describing large circles with his arms. And the additional details about Holmes and Watson in the ten late stories do indeed make for a more “rounded,” in the sense of a fuller, portrayal of these characters. In much the same way we learn things about Sir John Falstaff in Henry IV, Part 2, in Henry V (though he doesn’t actually appear in that play but is merely discussed in it), and in The Merry Wives of Windsor, that were not remarked in his first appearance, in Henry IV, Part 1. Notice also that Henry V, in which Falstaff is reported as dying, precedes The Merry Wives, in which he is very much alive. Likewise the ten last Sherlock Holmes stories all are set before 1914, which was the last year in which the other stories were set. One of the ten, The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger (published in 1927), is set in 1896. See 2 William S. Baring-Gould, The Annotated Sherlock Holmes 453 (1967). Thus a more rounded Holmes or Watson (or Falstaff) is found in a later work depicting a younger person. We don’t see how that can justify extending the expired copyright on the flatter character. A contemporary example is the six Star Wars movies: Episodes IV, V, and VI were produced before I, II, and III. The Doyle estate would presumably argue that the copyrights on the characters as portrayed in IV, V, and VI will not expire until the copyrights on I, II, and III expire.

TIME Copyright

This Is How the Patent Trolls and Trial Lawyers Won

Capitol
The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

For over a year, intellectual property reform advocates and their allies in Congress have been trying to advance legislation designed to crack down on so-called patent trolls, which are firms that don’t build products, but rather seek to extract license fees or legal judgments from other companies. Until recently, prospects for reform appeared good, as lawmakers honed legislation that would curb the worst kind of patent troll abuse.

But this week, the process ground to a halt, after Sen. Pat Leahy, the powerful Vermont Democrat who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, abruptly yanked the “Patent Transparency and Improvements Act” from the Senate agenda, effectively killing the bill for the foreseeable future.

Patent reform advocates reacted with dismay, but Sen. Leahy said he had no choice because lawmakers had been unable to bring the issue’s various stakeholders together. “I have said all along that we needed broad bipartisan support to get a bill through the Senate,” Sen. Leahy said in a statement. “Regrettably, competing companies on both sides of this issue refused to come to agreement on how to achieve that goal.”

“If the stakeholders are able to reach a more targeted agreement that focuses on the problem of patent trolls, there will be a path for passage this year and I will bring it immediately to the Committee,” Leahy added.

The bill would have increased transparency in patent ownership, allowed patent infringement cases to be stayed while the suits are litigated, and cracked down on frivolous demand letters. The bill would have also opened to the door to what’s known as “fee shifting,” which is the idea that if plaintiffs lose a patent case, they should be on the hook for the defendant’s legal fees.

According to multiple reports, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat, pressured Leahy to abandon the legislation, warning that the bill had no chance of passing the full Senate. “While the announcement came from Leahy, sources close to the negotiations all pointed to [Reid] as the one who really killed the bill,” Ars Technica reported. Reid “played a decisive, behind-the-scenes role in the legislation’s fate, according to sources on and off the Hill,” Politico added.

Several powerful D.C. lobbying interests, including trial lawyers and the pharmaceutical industry, opposed the bill, according to multiple reports. Reid has raised nearly $4 million in campaign contributions from individuals and political action committees associated with the legal profession since 2009, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Lawyers and law firms groups are Reid’s top donors over that period of time.

Needless to say, trial lawyers are among the groups that benefit the most from rampant patent litigation. Engine Advocacy, a non-profit group that works to advance the agenda of startups on Capitol Hill, expressed disappointment at Leahy’s action.

“This news is devastating to the welfare of startups who will continue to face the threat of patent trolls,” wrote Engine Advocacy executive director Julie Samuels. “That no agreement could be reached, especially in light of the efforts being made across the committee to find common ground, is also bad news for the economy where annual losses from patent troll litigation are billions of dollars.”

Patent troll lawsuits have tripled in the last two years, rising from 29% of all infringement suits to 62% of all infringement suits, according to a recent study by the National Economic Council and the Council of Economic Advisers.

Researchers at Boston University estimate that patent troll lawsuits accounted for $29 billion of direct costs to defendants in 2011, and are “associated with half a trillion dollars of lost wealth to defendants from 1990 through 2010, mostly from technology companies.”

TIME Aereo

Barry Diller Blasts Obama for Backing TV Broadcasters

Media tycoon Barry Diller attends the performance of "One Night Only" benefiting the Motion Picture and Television Fund in Los Angeles
Media tycoon Barry Diller. Phil McCarten / REUTERS

The billionaire says the Obama Administration is aligning itself "against competition, choice and the consumer" by supporting TV broadcasters aiming to kill Aereo

Billionaire mogul Barry Diller blasted the Obama Administration and the nation’s largest TV broadcasters on Thursday for trying to shut down Aereo, the upstart online video service backed by the media investor. Next week, Aereo will square off against the broadcasters in a landmark Supreme Court case with billions of dollars at stake that could transform the TV business.

Aereo uses thousands of dime-sized antennas to pick up free, over-the-air TV signals, which it transmits to customers over the Internet for a monthly fee starting at $8. The startup has angered the major broadcasters, including NBC, FOX, ABC and CBS, which claim the service is illegal because it’s ripping off their copyrighted TV signals. Aereo hit back on Thursday by launching a website designed to advance its argument that the service is legal.

In March, the Obama administration filed a friend of the court brief supporting the broadcasters and claiming that Aereo is “liable for infringement.” Several well-known public interest and technology advocacy groups have backed Aereo, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Knowledge, the Consumer Electronics Association, and Engine Advocacy. Dozens of prominent law professors and legal scholars are also supporting Aereo.

Last year, federal courts in New York and Boston agreed with Aereo’s argument that it is transmitting legally protected “private performances” to individual users over their own leased antennas, based on principles established by the important 2008 Cablevision decision, which allowed remote-storage DVR technology. But in February, a federal judge in Utah sided with the broadcasters, intensifying the legal uncertainty surrounding Aereo.

“The networks would like the court to expand copyright law far beyond what Congress intended,” says EFF Staff Attorney Mitch Stoltz. “The networks’ interpretation of the law would strip away the commercial freedom that led to the home stereo, the VCR, all manner of personal audio and video technology and to Internet services of many kinds.”

Diller’s broadside, which was published in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece, accused the TV networks of turning their back on a century-old agreement in which they were granted use of the nation’s public airwaves in exchange for delivering free, advertising-supported TV programming. In recent years, the TV networks have been able to extract billions of dollars in retransmission fees from cable and satellite companies for the right to broadcast their programming.

“Broadcasters make more money when consumers are steered away from over-the-air program delivery and toward cable and satellite systems that pay the broadcasters retransmission fees,” wrote Diller, who is on Aereo’s board of directors. “There’s nothing wrong with that. But it seems rich for them to forget the agreement they made to provide television to the consumer in return for the spectrum that enables their business.”

Diller also castigated the Obama administration for aligning itself “against competition, choice and the consumer” by supporting the broadcasters. “In siding with the broadcasters, the administration has signaled that the preservation of legacy business models takes precedence over lawful technological innovation,” Diller wrote.

The Obama administration’s support for the broadcasters “ignores the government’s own previous legal positions and threatens to outlaw the entire cloud-computing industry,” Diller wrote, echoing a point made by Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia in a recent interview with TIME. That’s because Aereo’s cloud-based DVR service relies on the same legal principles as the entire cloud-computing industry, which enables consumers to store data on remote servers accessible by the Internet.

The broadcasters claim that Aereo’s service amounts to blatant theft, and have warned that if Aereo prevails, they could remove their primetime shows from free TV and move them to pay channels like Showtime. The National Football League and Major League Baseball have threatened to take high-profile broadcasts like the Super Bowl and World Series to cable. Such a move by the broadcasters would “disenfranchise” millions of viewers who rely on antennas to receive TV programming, “just because they want to make more money,” Kanojia says.

Meanwhile, Aereo suffered a setback this week when the Supreme Court announced that Justice Samuel Alito, who had earlier recused himself from the case, will now be able to participate. Oral arguments are set for next Tuesday. (The high court doesn’t comment on why justices do or do not recuse themselves, but it’s often because of stock ownership in one of the parties.)

Alito’s participation gives the broadcasters a boost because it removes the possibility of 4-4 tie, which would have meant that a lower court ruling in favor of Aereo would stand. “With Alito no longer recused, broadcasters now have an additional avenue for scoring that fifth vote,” according to Scott R. Flick, a D.C.-based partner at the law firm Pillsbury. “In other words, it’s easier to attract 5 votes out of 9 than it is to get 5 votes out of 8.”

TIME Kim Dotcom

MegaUpload’s Kim Dotcom Launches a Political Party in New Zealand

An actor in police costume mock-arrests Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom, left, as he launches his new file sharing site "Mega" in Auckland Jan. 20, 2013. Nigel Marple—Reuters

The German-Finnish entrepreneur is also fighting extradition to the U.S. where he faces piracy charges

Controversial Internet mogul Kim Dotcom has launched a political party in New Zealand ahead of general elections in September.

The Internet Party would serve as a “movement for the freedom of the internet and technology, for privacy and political reform,” says the 40-year-old, according to the BBC.

Dotcom is currently fighting extradition to the U.S. where he faces charges of gross copyright infringement. Prosecutors allege his MegaUpload website facilitated the fraudulent downloading of pirated movies, games and TV programs worth some $175 million. The website was shut down in 2012 and Dotcom denies any wrongdoing.

If elected to parliament, which requires winning a seat outright or 5% of the national vote, the German-Finnish entrepreneur has vowed to “give you faster, cheaper internet, create high-tech jobs, protect your privacy and safeguard our independence.”

[BBC]

TIME

A ‘Dumb Starbucks’ Opens with the Word ‘Dumb’ Affixed to Everything

Would you like milk in your dumb iced coffee? A concept shop in Los Angeles is taking trademark to task by lampooning the Seattle-based coffee chain with a direct copy of its stores, but with the word 'dumb' before everything

+ READ ARTICLE

Take a Starbucks coffee shop, affix the word “dumb” to everything in sight, and you’ve got the idea behind a new concept store in Los Angeles that is attempting a gloriously dumb end run around the U.S. trademark system.

The Wall Street Journal reports that “Dumb Starbucks” opened this weekend with an offer of free drinks, from “Dumb Caramel Macchiato” to “Dumb Chai Tea Latte,” available in sizes ranging from “Dumb Tall” to “Dumb Venti.”

Pictures on social media showed a line of customers extending out of the front door, which had above it a perfect facsimile of the Starbucks logo, albeit with the word “dumb” squeezed into the outer ring. The scrupulous dumb theme even extended to the CD’s at the front counter, which titles such as “Dumb Norah Jones Duets” and “A Dumb Taste of Cuba.”

Workers handed dumbstruck customers a printed FAQ which stated that it was in fact a real business, but, “for legal reasons Dumb Starbucks needs to be categorized as a work of parody art,” which means a judge may soon have to decide if art can imitate business.

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