Category Archives: Intellectual Property Rights

Copyright Law vs. Bad Dancing

The Digital Millenium Copyright Act has seen many absurd applications since it became law, but none, I think, are quite as absurd as this one:

The inventor of the “Electric Slide,” an iconic dance created in 1976, is fighting back against what he believes are copyright violations and, more importantly, examples of bad dancing.

Kyle Machulis, an engineer at San Francisco’s Linden Lab, said he received a Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notice about a video he had shot at a recent convention showing three people doing the Electric Slide.

“The creator of the Electric Slide claims to hold a copyright on the dance and is DMCAing every single video on YouTube” that references the dance, Machulis said. He’s also sent licensing demands to The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Machulis added.

Indeed, Richard Silver, who filed the copyright for the Electric Slide in 2004, said on one of his Web pages that the DeGeneres Show had been putting up a legal fight as he tried to get compensation for a segment that aired in February 2006 in which actress Teri Hatcher and other dancers performed the popular wedding shuffle.

Silver, it seems, is quite serious about protecting his supposed intellectual property right in the electric slide:

It appears Silver has for several years aggressively defended his copyright on the dance. In 2004, Silver apparently wrote an e-mail to Donna Woolard, an associate professor of exercise science at North Carolina’s Campbell University, demanding she remove a video of the dance from a Web site. He complained the dance wasn’t being done correctly on the video, and Woolard took down the video.

Silver wrote, according to e-mail correspondence posted by Woolard, that he had sued two Hollywood production companies for using the dance in several films and that he was now adding her as a co-defendant. It’s unclear what happened to the suit.

It’s stuff like this that makes me think that the entire idea of intellectual property is nonsense upon stilts.

H/T: Slashdot

Super Bowl Copyright Nonsense

As you may have noticed, the National Football League guards it’s copyright over the Super Bowl very jealously. That’ s why you never see any retailer who isn’t an official sponsor or advertiser mention the Super Bowl in their ads for, say, big screen televisions, soda, or beer. Instead, they call it “the Big Game.”

Considering the amount of money that the game brings in, it’s not surprising that the NFL would be protective of it’s product. This, however, strikes me as an immensely inappropriate extension of the copyright law:

Churches in Indiana and across the country are scrapping traditional Super Bowl viewing parties in wake of the NFL’s stance that mass viewings of the game on big screen TV’s would violate copyright law.

The issue came to light Thursday when the Star reported that the NFL had told Fall Creek Baptist Church in Indianapolis that its plans for a Super Bowl watch party in front a big screen TV would be illegal.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Thursday the league stands by its interpretation of copyright law and would look into any violators that comes to the league’s attention. The main concern for the league, Aiello said, is groups that charge admission to watch games and those that use a TV screen larger than 55 inches to show the game.

A story about Fall Creek’s plan to cancel its game viewing plans prompted dozens of calls and more than 500 email comments to the Star’s website Thursday. Aiello said media from around the country have been inquiring with the league as well.

In Indianapolis, home of the AFC Champion Colts, Indian Creek Christian Church and Castleton United Methodist Church are among those who have cancelled plans to watch the game in their churches.

And it’s not just the issue that seems to annoy the NFL, because they even object to mass-viewing parties where no admission is charged:

Aiello said the league has a longstanding policy against “mass out-of-home viewings” of the Super Bowl, even if the hosts don’t charge admission. The NFL makes an exception to that, however, for sports bars that show televised sports on a regular basis.

Why the NFL should care if I invite 60 of my closest friends over to watch the Super Bowl, at no charge, on my bigger-than-55-inch television (if I had one, that is) is entirely beyond me. And it’s yet another example of how state-protected copyrights are used to restrict individual choice.

H/T: Vivian Paige

Copyright Law And The Assault On Innovation II

A Federal Judge in New York has ruled that a lawsuit by the music industy against XM Satellite Radio over a new XM radio that allows consumers to record songs played on XM onto an MP3 player can proceed forward:

A lawsuit in which record companies accuse XM Satellite Radio Holdings of cheating them by letting consumers store songs can proceed toward trial, a judge ruled yesterday after finding merit to the companies’ claims.

Judge Deborah A. Batts of United States District Court in New York made the finding in a case brought by the Atlantic Recording Corporation, BMG Music, Capitol Records and other music distribution companies against XM Satellite, the satellite radio broadcaster.

In a lawsuit last year, the companies said XM infringed on their exclusive distribution rights by letting consumers record songs onto special receivers marketed as “XM + MP3” players.

XM argued that it was protected from infringement lawsuits by the Audio Home Recording Act of 1992, which permits individuals to record music off the radio for private use. The judge said she did not believe that the company was protected in this instance by the act.

While this is an early stage of the proceedings, this doesn’t strike me as very good news, or anyone else who believes in freedom to innovate. Especially when you consider remarks like this:

The judge said XM operated like traditional radio broadcast providers who cannot offer an interactive service, publish programming schedules before broadcast and play songs from an artist more often than specified within a three-hour period. But by broadcasting and storing copyrighted music for later recording by the consumer, the judge said XM was both a broadcaster and a distributor, but was paying only to be a broadcaster.

“The record companies sufficiently allege that serving as a music distributor to XM + MP3 users gives XM added commercial benefit as a satellite radio broadcaster,” Judge Batts said.

And what’s so wrong with that ?

Related Posts:

Copyright Law And The Assault On Innovation

More restrictions on speech?

Are you a blogger? Then S. 1 may concern you.

From Of Arms and the Law:

S.1 has been introduced in the Senate as “lobbying reform” — which in this case means “First Amendment infringements.” An amendment has been attached, which requires registration of bloggers with more than 500 readers, and who comment on policy issues. Violation would be a criminal offense.

I looked it up on the Library of Congress webpage (which is essentially unlinkable) and have attached section 220 in extended remarks, below. As the bill is reported, it appears to cover any “paid” grassroots lobbying, that reaches more than 500 people. But a blogger who receives contributions might be classed as a “paid” grassroots type. It looks like Congress wants to keep an eye on annoying people like Porkbusters. It may be significant that S.1 was introduced by Harry Reid, one of the Kings of Pork.

[UPDATE] We won this round. The Senate passed the Bennett Amendment, which eliminated the questionable language. Here is the roll call vote.

However, the Gregg Amendment, which would have established a line-item veto was blocked by the Harry Reid and Robert Byrd.

[ANOTHER UPDATE] Welcome to all Instapundit readers!

Federal Judge Outlaws Hyperlinking

According to one U.S. District Court Judge in Texas, it’s against the law to hyperlink to copyrighted material if the copyright holder objects:

A federal judge in Texas has ruled that it is unlawful to provide a hyperlink to a Webcast if the copyright owner objects to it.

U.S. District Judge Sam Lindsay in the northern district of Texas granted a preliminary injunction against Robert Davis, who operated and had been providing direct links to the live audiocasts of motorcycle racing events.

Lindsay ruled last week that “the link Davis provides on his Web site is not a ‘fair use’ of copyright material” and ordered him to cease linking directly to streaming audio files.

The audio Webcasts are copyrighted by SFX Motor Sports, a Texas company that is one of the largest producers of “Supercross” motorcycle racing events. SFX sued Davis in February, noting that fans who go to its own Web site will see the names and logos of sponsors including wireless company Amp’d Mobile. (Anyone who clicked on the link from Davis’ site, however, would not see the logos of companies that paid to be sponsors.)

Think for a second about what this means. You’re not posting copyright material yourself, you’re not even quoting from it. All you’re doing is linking to it. And yet, according to Judge Lindsey, this is a copyright violation. Of course, if he’s right, then the entire World Wide Web is nothing more than one big copyright violation, as John Dvorak points out:

A link is a link. Banning deep linking is a step towards banning all linking, and what does that do for the Google business model? Where are the Google attorneys helping out in this case? Are they helping out on the appeal? If not, then why not?

How do we even use the Internet if deep linking is illegal for some reason? We don’t, that’s how. Goodbye, Amazon. Hey Jeff, did you help out on this case?

Cases like this point out the problems I have with the entire concept of intellectual property law. How am I violating your rights if I post a link on my website to something you posted on yours ?

It’s not as if I took your content and appropriated it as my own. Heck, I haven’t even altered your content to make it appear original. Moreover, if you don’t want me deeplinking to your site, the you can take steps to make sure that won’t happen, but not doing so, you are implicitly saying it’s acceptable.

Of course, as the New York Times has discovered, hiding content behind a firewall seldom leads to success.

H/T: QandO

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