Tag Archives: Copyright

Copyright Questions and Answers for Information Professionals: From the Columns of Against the Grain – A Book Review

copyrightquestionsandanswers

For many information professionals, copyright fascinates and confounds. Copyright is glossed over in many classes, and librarians struggle to find clear answers to questions that arise in their practice. In the early days of a career, it is easy to blame youth for your befuddlement, but as years pass it becomes more and more difficult to plead ignorance. I have turned to a number of resources, including books, seminars, and massive online open courses, but all have skimmed over practical issues. For many librarians, copyright is simply a hurdle, not a concept to be lingered over, and swift resolutions to imperative questions are invaluable. Copyright Questions and Answers for Information Professionals: From the Columns of Against the Grain by Laura N. Gasaway goes a long way in fulfilling that need.

Gasaway, a recognized expert on copyright, has been wrangling with copyright problems for fifteen years now, answering questions from readers in a regular column in Against the Grain, the periodical offshoot of the Charleston Conferences. In her column, she addresses her audience of librarians, publishers, teachers, and authors, clearing the fog and replacing it with clear practicalities, one query at a time.

In her new offering, these questions and answers have been curated, updated, organized, and reassembled, giving readers access, in a single work, to Gasaway’s experience and expertise that was before scattered throughout her columns. Gasaway covers all the usual suspects, including fair use rights, library reserves, licensing, interlibrary loan, preservation, software, and digitization. Question-and-answer pairings are organized into topical chapters, and the book finishes with an emerging issues chapter providing current content on timely subjects such as HathiTrust and the first sale doctrine.

Each chapter features a brief introduction that provides context, but the value of the text lies in her answers to each questioner’s specific needs. While this idiosyncrasy does make the book poorly suited for cover-to-cover reading, it is perfect for quick reference. Other popular copyright texts use the question-and-answer format to show applications of broad concepts, but since the questions posed in this book are wide-ranging and true to life, it effectively provides applicable answers to specific questions. Unfortunately, this also means that when looking for concrete answers, there is no guarantee that guidance for a given question is present between the covers.

In this case, a comprehensive and exhaustive index holds the key to unlocking the precious wisdom inside this book. This is a weakness of the book. While a primarily question-and-answer format leads you to believe that this work would be well-suited for novices, specialized vocabulary or specific portions of the Copyright Acts are often indexed instead of the words used by the questioner. Underutilized cross references again hinder those without a strong knowledge base, and while excellent term definitions and clear, concise summaries of concepts are repeatedly provided throughout the text, the index does not easily lead a reader to them. Not having comprehensive keyword references may seem to avoid redundancy, but instead it limits usability. Readers will not be approaching this text with exact replicas of existing questions, but instead will need to glean their own answers through a careful reading of answers to similar inquires. Because the language of exact inquires is not carefully indexed, an e-book version of this work would be preferable, allowing readers to perform keyword searches and thus work with whatever vocabulary they have on hand.

While the index and other minor inconsistencies keep Gasaway’s content from shining as brightly as it should, Gasaway deserves great praise for her work’s greatest strength: her ability to strike a balance between handing out specific advice and teaching readers strategies to navigate the treacherous waters around best practices and general guidelines. Guidelines and fair use do not lend themselves to cut-and-dry answers, making many copyright texts full of generalizations. However, Gasaway brilliantly teaches her lessons through examples, focusing not only on the use of best practices, but also on the importance of careful risk assessment. She reminds readers that copyright is rarely a firm line, unfortunate though it seems. Instead, application of copyright law is often nebulous. Gasaway’s well-balanced advice guides readers in making their own choices, weighing their options, and choosing to overcome their copyright hurdles the way that is most appropriate for them. In this role, Gasaway is truly a master of her craft.

~Ashley Moye~

This book review first appeared in 106 Law Libr. J. 108-109 (2014).

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Need Student Publishing Support? Your Library has a Guide for That!

While some long to see their names in lights, and others their names in block lettering across the cover of a bound volume, publishing as a student is a route each and every one of you can benefit from, even those without specific dreams of grandeur.   Seeking out potential avenues of publications and creating content not only allows you to contribute to the profession and legal community, but also gives you a chance to build a public profile, develop your writing skills, and advance your learning in your chosen fields.

Do you know about our Research Guides page, which features a range of information tools designed to assist you with your research and study at Charlotte School of Law?

This page now plays host to our newest research guide, focused specifically on student publishing support.  Featuring both academic writing resources available through your library and free online materials, this guide serves as a one-stop resource to connect you with writing and publishing advice, submission guidelines for various journals and tools to help you decide where to submit.  It also provides information on copyright and your own rights as an author, resources for empirical research, and additional resources specifically tailored for law review.

And as always, if you run in to any questions or need further advice, don’t hesitate to ask your friendly library staff for assistance!

~Ashley Moye~

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The Betamax Ruling: Thirty Years Later

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Thirty years ago, on 18 January 1983, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Sony Corporation v. Universal Studios, INC., or what is often known as the Betamax case. Betamax is the name of the early home video recording system more commonly called VCRs. Of course, VCRs have gone the way of cassette recorders and eight track tapes, but at the time it was a ubiquitous and revolutionary change in how people watched televised entertainment. Before VCRs, and of course our current systems of Ti-Vo, Netflix, Amazon and streaming video, we Americans were enslaved to the network system of television viewing, with the exception of the growing cable industry. The VCR gave viewers choice as to when they would watch their favorite programs instead of having to either miss a show because of work or because they wanted to watch something else that aired at the same time.

This also meant that viewers could fast forward past commercials or other parts of a broadcast they did not want to watch. To companies like Universal Studios and Walt Disney Productions (a co-party to the suit against Sony) this was a potential blow to their revenue stream.  They argued originally in the California District Court that the VTRs (Video Tape Recorders) made Sony a contributory infringer of Universal’s and Disney’s copyrights. Universal stated that Sony was liable for such copyright infringement because of their marketing of the VTRs. Universal ET. Al., sought damages, an equitable accounting of profits, and an injunction against manufacture and marketing of VTRs. The District Court denied all relief, stating that:

…noncommercial home use recording of material broadcast over the public airwaves was fair use of copyrighted works and did not constitute copyright infringement, and that petitioners (Sony) couldn’t be held liable as contributory infringers even if the home use of a VTR was considered an infringing use.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the District Court ruling and ordered the District Court to fashion appropriate relief, landing the case before the US Supreme Court when Sony petitioned. In a 5-4 decision, the High Court held with the District Court findings. The opinion read by Justice Stevens held that the sale of the VTRs to the general public did not constitute a contributory infringement of copyright. In addition, the opinion held that many of the creators of the broadcast entertainment would be glad to have their material recorded so that more people could view it. Sony v. Universal was a landmark case and opened the doors to a vast scope of creative invention that otherwise would have been squashed, had the Court ruled in favor of Universal and Disney.

Of course, that was thirty years ago and Sony v. Universal is often cited in regards more recent challenges to copyright issues. The case against Napster and other forms of file sharing evoked Sony v. Universal, and today one wonders if this seminal event of jurisprudence would still carry in today’s high stakes entertainment dollars climate. The Court of thirty years ago could not have foreseen the event of streaming video and entities such as Netflix, Amazon, and Google. The makeup of the Court then was very different, and Justice Marshall with Justices Powell and Rehnquist joining delivered an almost acrimonious dissenting opinion. Modern legal scholars are turning their attention to those dissenting remarks. However, the Court does not like to reverse itself regardless of its ideological and political leanings. Therefore, it is perhaps safe to say that the Betamax case will continue to be evoked and challenged in the field of copyright and fair use.

~Kim Allman~

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Black and White: Copyright and Japanese Manga

blackandwhiteninja

There is a niche black market for sharing images that are not copyrighted in the United States. These are materials that are originally in a different language. The traditional, legitimate practice for translating these materials is for an American company to buy the rights from the overseas company. The American company then owns the American copyright and English translation.

However, many overseas materials never make it to the States through these companies. Either the companies are not interested in the materials, or they do not believe it will have an audience. As a result, fans of this media take it upon themselves to translate the images and content into English so that others may have a chance to enjoy them.

These Eiyū-tachi (heroes) are devoted to translating and uploading the series that they love so much. Like a ninja, the translated images  appear online the day after their publication in Japan. Once a company in the US purchases the rights, they begin a search and destroy campaign for online versions of these black and white comics. However, the uploaders always stay a step ahead by jumping to a new site and continuing business.

If you have not figured it out yet, I am talking about Japanese Manga…

If you are willing to skirt this grey area of the Internet, you can find some copyright free materials at mangahere.com or mangadoom.com. I have been reading these manga sites for more than 10 years, and I owe a lot to these hard working digitizers. We all live in fear of our favorite page getting a cease and desist order.

However, if you want to be a part of these guerrilla digitizers, you can find a guide at http://www.questie.com/manga/ScanEditGuide/scan.htm.

~Aaron Greene~

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West Study Aids: Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property is one of the most popular upper level courses here at CSL.  Our subscription to West Study Aids can definitely provide you access to a wide variety of study aids for various IP areas:

  • Copyright
  • International
  • Licensing
  • Patent Law
  • Survey Law
  • Trademarks

Nutshells:

  • LaFrance’s Copyright Law in a Nutshell
  • McManis’ Intellectual Property and Unfair Competition in a Nutshell
  • Miller and Davis’ Intellectual Property, Patents, Trademarks, and Copyright in a Nutshell
  • LaFrance’s Copyright Law in a Nutshell
  • Adelman, Rader, and Klancnik’s Patent Law in a Nutshell

Black Letter Outline:

  • Schechter’s Black Letter Outline on Intellectual Property

You can access West Study Aids by going to http://lawschool.westlaw.com and logging in to your Westlaw account.  Under “Legal Research and Tools” select “Study”.  From there you can search by keyword, subject, material type or series and you can browse all subject areas with one click.  You can also check out newly added study aids and create your own Favorites list.

~ Julie Morris ~

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Court Determines Disney is Off the Hook

The Central District of California closed the book to the decade long battle between Disney and the family of Stephen Slesinger, a comic-strip cartoonist.  The cartoonist acquired the Winnie the Pooh merchandising and trademark rights from A.A. Milne in 1930, and has in recent years accused Disney of copyright and trademark infringement.  Now the unresolved question of who owns the rights to the Winnie the Pooh characters has been answered, Disney came up empty handed.

Looking back often provides perspective for the future.  And as such, the procedural history of this case is interesting on numerous ethical and procedural accounts.  According to the order issued on September 29th, “it is significant … to record that for some 13 years, the parties litigated in Superior Court over SSI’s [Stephen Slesigner Inc.] assertion of its right to royalties from Disney arising out of the exploitation of merchandising and other rights in the Winnie the Pooh characters. In 2005, SSI’s Superior Court lawsuit was dismissed as a sanction.”  This 2005 sanction-based dismissal was issued because SSI hired a private investigator to break into Disney offices and allegedly steal thousands of documents.  The dismissal was later affirmed by the California Court of Appeals.

As a correction from my earlier post,  “Disney did not succeed in invalidating Slesinger’s ownership of the Pooh characters, and Judge Cooper awarded the defendant summary judgment in February 2007″ (Law360). After some investigation, I discovered that Disney was not a party to the 2007 litigation.  Disney was financially supporting the litigation by the granddaughters of the creator of Winnie the Pooh, because it was the intent of the ladies upon recovering the copyright from the Slesingers to assign it once and for all to the entertainment mogul.  According to Law 360, “In 2002, Clare Milne, the granddaughter of Pooh author A.A. Milne, and Harriet Jessie Minette Hunt, the granddaughter of illustrator E.H. Shepard, brought the copyright suit seeking to enforce a contract termination letter. The letter sent by Clare Milne dislodged the Slesinger estate from its license agreement with Disney so Milne could claim the lucrative rights.”

With litigation pending in state court, SSI filed several federal counterclaims  against Disney alleging that Disney’s exploitation of the Winnie the Pooh characters was an infringement upon SSI’s rightfully owned trademarks and copyrights.   Accordingly to CourthouseNews writer, Annie Youderian, “Slesinger’s widow [licensed] the family’s rights to Disney, which turned the ‘willy, nilly, silly old bear’ into the company’s most profitable character.” The Slesinger family  alleged that Disney owed them a million plus in damages based on licensing fees on proceeds from DVDs, video games and other items featuring Winnie the Pooh characters and story lines.

In May 2009, U.S. District Court Judge Florence-Marie Cooper dismissed SSI’s allegation for breach of contract, bad faith, fraud, and declaratory judgment, and yesterday issued an order granting Disney’s motion to dismiss the copyright and trademark infringement claim.  Hopefully, this won’t become the next never ending story.

-Liz McCurry-

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