Author: Ashley Smolic

Activists derail ACTA in Europe, for now

In a move that could delay ratification by more than a year, the European Union has announced  that it has suspended ratification of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), a move that acknowledged both the public outcry regarding the accord and the legitimacy of the public’s concern. Commissioner Karel De Gucht stated in the announcement: We are planning to ask Europe’s highest court to assess whether ACTA is incompatible — in any way — with the EU’s fundamental rights and freedoms, such as freedom of expression and information or data protection and the right to property in case of intellectual property. Supporters of the pact argue that its purpose is to create an international standard to protect creators of film, television, music, fashion goods and the like from copyright infringement. Opponents reply the accord is a thinly veiled attempt to censor free speech and the internet. ACTA has been in the works for years, with many industrialized nations (including the United States, South Korea, and Japan) already have signed on. For the EU to be a party to the agreement, all 27 European member states would need to ratify it. Response to the measure has echoed the response to SOPA in the United States, with internet blackouts and protests occurring throughout the European Union. A primary complaint of opponents has been the secrecy surrounding the  negotiations on the agreement. The largest protests...

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A literary genre that may be a lawyer’s fantasy

Do lawyers rush in where fans have unabashedly tread? As fantasy and sci-fi fiction have become big dollar properties — especially if they make the leap from pages to screens (online and big) — there’s been a burst of literary litigation especially surrounding franchise properties. Serial works such as Harry Potter and Twilight have created cult-like followings, with fan fiction and “fanzines” emerging left and right. Generally speaking, these fan-created works coexist peacefully with the originals, serving in many instances to increase fervor and respect for the originating creation. But this isn’t always the case, as yet another bit of litigation involving the popular Darkover sci-fi books reminds.  In a recently filed complaint, the trust that owns and controls copyrights, marks and other commercial rights to the sci-fi series has taken aim at an author asserting she created derivative works without permission. The Darkover series has been in continuous print since 1962, with most of the books written by original author Marion Zimmer Bradley, best known for her tome, Mists of Avalon. The Darkover series is named for the fictional planet of its setting and the series follows a core of distinct characters. The works have shown staying power among readers and has built a big fan base. Since Bradley’s death in 1999, the Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Works Trust has operated as the trust for the series, with Ann Sharp acting as trustee. But in 2006, the trust asserts,...

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What’s hot in karaoke? $1 billion in legal howls

Karaoke is growing in popularity, with many bars and other entertainment venues offering it alongside trivia contests on one or many nights a week.  But this kind of group crooning may prove a costly and legally problematic pastime, if the music on the karaoke discs and programs is unlicensed. Sony/ATV Music Publishing claims statutory damages of at least $1.3 billion for such alleged infringement. KTS Karaoke has responded by suing Sony for declaratory relief of copyright noninfringement, or, in the alternative, a reduction of the damages amount at issue. Sony is a major music publisher and its kingdom of copyrights in this area is broad and diverse. The late Michael Jackson famously purchased ATV in 1985 for $46.5 million, thereby acquiring the rights to the Beatles’ music catalog. KTS is one of the nation’s largest karaoke distributors, marketing software and hardware for personal and commercial use. Eriq Gardner of The Hollywood Reporter reports that in correspondence sent to KTS, Sony claims at least 6,715 acts of copyright infringement. The music publisher asserts these occurred in the  sale of discs and software containing unlicensed tunes for which it holds copyrights. According to Gardner, Sony further says those 6,715 acts resulted in damages of $1.3 billion, an assuredly steep valuation. The KTS response hinges on when Sony claims it learned of these actions and steps the company may have failed to take...

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