Digital Economy Bill passes in UK- without orphan works provision

7 04 2010

Busy day. The controversial Digital Economy Bill has apparently passed in the UK. The good news is that the controversial orphan works provisions in the bill were removed, due primarily to the efforts of photographers. YEAH photogs.

Read about it here.

My previous post on the controversy, and photographers efforts is here.


Photo groups file suit against Google

7 04 2010

Well, several photo groups, along with some photographers, have filed suit against Google regarding their google books project.

I won’t repeat what has been said in the various articles. You can read about it:

In the New York Times;

On the ASMP website;

Read the complaint itself.

One thing I will say is that the recent Supreme Court ruling of Reed Elsevier v. Muchnik has paved the way for this case.

Here is why.

Many of the photographers covered  in the Google Books photographers class action suit have likely not registered their copyrights. This means that they could not bring suit themselves and still get statutory damages. But in the Muchnik case, the Supreme Court ruled that the court can still have jurisdiction over a copyright case in a class action, even if the members of the class covered by the settlement have not all registered their copyrights. Of course the google suit asks for statutory damages for each infringement, and a court is not likely to award statutory damages for infringements where the copyright is not registered. But getting a judgment and getting a settlement are two entirely different things. The way is now clear for a settlement.

Photographers should be aware of the danger of class actions suits. Google may get hit in the pocket book, but there is always a risk that photographers who aren’t in the original suit will not see much of the money. Here’s hoping that the photo groups don’t let that happen.

Photographers Respond to British Orphan Works bill

11 03 2010

There has been some gnashing of the teeth regarding the proposed Digital Economy Bill which is being proposed in the United Kingdom. A British photography group has responded and recently posted their briefing paper. This is a great argument for the problems with an orphan works bill.

My understanding from congress is that there is no Orphan Works proposal at this time, but I have a feeling that it will be dropped on us with little warning when it is introduced, so it is great to have these arguments sorted out. The British comments are well thought out and useful for any OW debate.

Find them here:

Thanks to those in GB who are fighting for rights that photographers throughout the globe value.


Copyright Petition to Obama

22 09 2009

The Copyright Alliance, a group that promotes copyrights (good guess, right), has launched a campaign to collect petition signatures asking the Obama Administration to promote policies that respect and advance copyrights. It does not ask for anything specific, so there is little room for excuse or debate on this one. Step up.

It takes about 20 seconds.

The copyright of “Happy Birthday”

7 05 2009
210 POSH awc

Happy Birthday Ladies! Did you get a performance license for that song?

Did you know that someone claims ownership to the copyright to the song “Happy Birthday to You”?

It was referenced in the dissent of a well-known copyright case, Eldred v. Ashcroft.

In honor of the end of law school finals, here is some light summer reading for you.

A legal scholar did some digging and found out some interesting facts. Digging deeply into the authorship of the lyrics and the melody, technical legal issues, evidentiary issues and policy issues, the author provides a logical look at the facts of a song whose music was written in 1893, but was combined with lyrics and published in 1935.

So what is the answer- as in many legal issues, it’s complicated. I won’t spoil the ending for you, you can read the paper yourself. Reading like a soap opera for copyright nerds like me, it is not only a very interesting tale, but a great look at the history of copyright law.

Ultimately, until tested in court, we won’t have a definitive answer, and no one seems likely to challenge it (the article addresses why). In the mean time, the song earns over $2 million in licensing revenue every year.

Find the article at this link.