Month: March 2011

Hip-hop sample OK under complex Indian law

A U.S. appellate court in Florida has upheld a lower court’s summary judgment for defendant Timberland, resolving an interesting legal question — not whether the music producer could sample a 1967 Bollywood tune for the rap “Put You on the Game,” but whether plaintiff Saregama India Ltd. owned that original tune’s copyright and had standing to litigate. To answer the question, the panel of judges reviewed “an Indian copyright statute from 1957, the types of customary agreements between film producers and musicians in the 1960s, and the specific contract between Saregama’s predecessor company and the producer of Aradhana,” the Bollywood movie from which the tune came. Indian copyright law can be confusing because “in old Bollywood films, there could be three separate owners of a sound recording copyright,” as THR Esq. noted in its report on this case. A first owner may have the exclusive right “to make any other sound recording embodying [the original sound recording].” A second owner may have the exclusive right “to sell or give on hire, or offer for sale or hire, any copy of the sound recording.” Finally, a third owner may have the exclusive right “to communicate the sound recording to the public.” Things are later simplified – the film producer is deemed the intial owner of the copyright and is allowed to transfer the other rights to the music producer via an expressed...

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DC case ricochets into big mess for cable giant

A federal judge in Washington, in a mass-litigation matter tied to online file-sharing, has issued a controversial decision that casts a cable giant into what it terms a big, onerous situation. This case concerns three film production companies, Call of the Wild Movie LLC, Maverick Entertainment Group Inc. and Donkeyball Movie. They filed separate complaints targeting thousands of individuals, who, the firms say, illegally traded copyrighted movies on BitTorrent. According to TorrentFreak, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell, in her ruling, essentially brushed off procedural objections, jurisdictional concerns and First Amendment arguments, allowing the companies to pursue what some have termed “mass-suing” of individuals it calls pirates. Time Warner found itself caught between the plaintiffs and thousands of anonymous Internet customers when the companies demanded names and information on users from the cable giant and net service provider. In her opinion, Howell states: “Time Warner claims that the subpoenas issued to it in each of the three cases should be quashed due to the undue burden that Time Warner faces with compliance. Alternatively, Time Warner argues that the subpoenas should be substantially modified to require production of the requested information on a schedule that would likely take about three years. All are cases in which copyright owners of separate movies allege that their copyrights are being infringed in the same manner. Specifically, the plaintiffs allege that varying numbers of defendants, who are...

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An industry scrum on public performance right

The White House recently offered its recommendations on copyright law, including the creation of a public performance right for sound recordings. This proposal has prompted an avalanche of complaints from various parties, especially radio broadcasters, record companies and performing artists. The tacit agreement between record companies, recording artists and radio broadcasters had been simple: free publicity in exchange for free music. This model worked well for many artists, who praise broadcast radio for vaulting them into stardom. Radio industry types, represented by the National Association of Broadcasters, object to this right as an “onerous, jobs-killing fee on America’s hometown radio stations.” This is an unusually strong condemnation from a powerful group that has been largely successful in lobbying Congress to prevent passage of legislation to create a performance right. The proposed Performance Rights Act (HR-848) was a congressional bill that failed in 2009. For sound recordings, the act would have created the exclusive right “to perform the copyrighted work publicly by means of an audio transmission” into section 106(6) of the Copyright Act of 1976. The lack of a public performance right also means that U.S. labels and artists cannot receive reciprocal payments from other countries. Record companies and recording artists (represented by the Recording Industry Association of America) would have the most to gain if this right were created, since they would start receiving royalties when stations play their recordings....

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Danes set a high bar in file-sharing cases

The Danish Supreme Court recently ruled that evidence, such as IP addresses, are too weak and insufficient evidence to prove liability in file-sharing cases. In that case, a person who was accused of sharing 13,000 tracks online was only ordered to pay $1,900 (krone) — an amount significantly lowered than that requested by the record labels — because the quality of the evidence provided by an anti-piracy group was inadequate. This court ruling has not only lowered the amount of compensation that accused file-sharers may owe to copyright owners, but has also set a high standard for the evidentiary support required in a file-sharing case. In the future, rights holders may need to gain physical access to an infringer’s computer in order to obtain sufficient evidence of alleged infringement. This type of discovery would be very expensive, according to a leading lawyer in the field, since a bailiff, IT experts, and a locksmith may be needed for such a process. Interestingly, this court ruling may also be a reflection of the recent moral standards study conducted in Denmark, which “found that a high percentage of the public found illicit downloading socially...

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Tunes up in cloud, legal woes to rain down?

Amazon.com has launched a new  ‘music locker’ service allowing fans to access their collections of tunes on any device of their choice, beating both Google and Apple to the punch. The top-flight online retailer launched two new services called the Amazon Cloud Drive and the Amazon Cloud Player, which let users to store up to 5GB of a music library at Amazon, with storage increasing to 20GB upon purchasing digital music from Amazon itself. Amazon’s move is daring, to say the least, and the risk of legal action against the retail giant is high. The reason: it launched its new cyber service without securing content licenses from any major record labels and movie studios. It says it is still working out key legal issues related to the service, the Wall Street Journal reported. Sony Music Entertainment expressed dismay at Amazon’s plans, echoing concerns of others in the industry: “We are disappointed that the locker service that Amazon is proposing is unlicensed by Sony Music,” a spokeswoman said Tuesday evening according to CNN Money. When they actually do begin to seek licenses, it seems Amazon will soon be asking for forgiveness rather than permission. Another similar ‘music locker’ service, started by entrepreneur Michael Robertson in the United States, was sued by EMI for copyright infringement. MP3.com lost this fight in A U.S. District Court in New York when a judge concluded...

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