Work for Hire: Who Owns the Copyright In The Iron Man Theme?

ironmanBy Chike Eze

Generally, the author of a work owns the copyright in the work. However, an exception to the rule is that the employee or hiring party for whom the work was prepared is considered the owner of the work. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York applied the “instance and expense” test in Urbont v. Sony Music Entertainment to determine whether the Iron Man Theme, created by Jack Urbont (“Urbont”) at Marvel’s request, was a work made for hire. Continue reading

YouTube Remixers & Small Statutory Offenders in Focus

YOUTUBER_ICONBy Andrew H. Fuller

There is little doubt that YouTube content creators have been causing waves in the copyright world since its inception. For example, in 2009, YouTube started to mute the audio tracks of any videos or streams posted by users that contained unauthorized copyrighted music. Another common and popular genre of YouTube content is remixes, where YouTube artists create content by altering and sampling from existing, copyright protected content. Most YouTube content creators are unaware and unconcerned about copyright laws or infringement claims until YouTube cracks down on them. Those who are vaguely familiar often assume that their use is within the bounds of Copyright’s Fair Use exception. Given the general (mis)understanding around Fair Use and the courts’ treatment and application of this exception, the Lanham Act would seem ripe for an update. While the technological landscape of media dissemination and user consumption has radically shifted, the laws around copyright haven’t changed. Continue reading

A Step Toward Protecting Fair Use on YouTube

h13tuhz14ceqcmsazeb5By Juliya Ziskina

Since its beginning, YouTube has been involved in battles over copyright infringement, and over the years, YouTube has increased its policing of pirated material. The most common cases of copyright infringement involve using songs in a film or video without permission of the copyright holder, or placing segments of movies or music videos on websites where it is easy for the public to download them. Therefore, the giants of the entertainment industry have begun cracking down on websites such as YouTube.

YouTube, in response to these accusations, started to remove videos that may use segments of music or film without the copyright owner’s permission. Fan videos that incorporate a celebrity picture slideshow using a song as the primary audio track and videos of musicians playing covers of famous songs are common examples of videos that have been deleted from YouTube as a result of alleged copyright infringement. However, a widely known example of proper fair use is, for instance, a segment by the TV host Stephen Colbert that rebroadcasts cable news clips for the comedian to react to. Continue reading

A New Co-Author to Anne Frank’s Diary

Anne FrankBy Binh Vong

One of the most widely-read books of the 20th century, Anne Frank’s diary gives us a glimpse of World War II through the details of the years when the Frank family hid from the Nazis in the attic of a factory in Amsterdam. Anne’s father, Otto Frank, compiled the diary and gave the copyright of the book to Anne Frank Fonds (“the Foundation”), a Swiss foundation. Because Anne Frank died in 1945, under the copyright law of the European Union, the copyright to the book in Europe was originally set to end this upcoming January 1st, 70 years after her death.

In a move to extend the copyright of the book, the Foundation recently announced that Otto Frank co-authored the book, which would extend the copyright of the book to 70 years after Otto Frank’s death in 1980. This gives the Foundation exclusive rights over the book until 2050 in Europe. The copyright to Anne Frank’s diary in the United States does not end until 2047, 95 years after the book was first published in the United States in 1952. Continue reading

Return the Empty Cartridges! — Federal Circuit to Hear Patent Exhaustion Case En Banc

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By Don Wang

All you patent law nerds out there, grab your popcorn! The next blockbuster case you have been waiting for is about to hit the courts. On April 14, 2015, the Federal Circuit, on its own motion, ordered an en banc hearing of Lexmark International v. Impression Products, Inc.. In this patent infringement case, the Federal Circuit will decide whether it will overturn two of its own precedents on the patent exhaustion doctrine.

The plaintiff-patentee in this case is the printer manufacturer Lexmark, and the products-in-suit are Lexmark’s patent-protected toner cartridges. Lexmark offers the same cartridges through two separate programs: “Regular Program” cartridges at full price and “Return Program” cartridges at a discount. Customers of the Return Program must agree to use the cartridges only once and return them after use. Lexmark contractually imposes such restrictions on both the end-user consumers and the authorized resellers. In the current suit, Lexmark alleged that Impression Products, among other cartridges resellers, infringed its patents by acquiring, refilling, and selling refurbished cartridges under Lexmark’s Return Program. Continue reading