En Words

A place to talk about words - whether from books, stories, magazines, brochures, or matchbook covers.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Jackson Browne Suing John McCain

I guess it's a tradition for politicians to sling mud, though John McCain's campaign seems to be doing more than its share. But now it's stepped over the line: the copyright line, that is. A recent television ad made use of Browne's song Running on Empty, only the composer, traditionally a supporter of the other side of the political fence, says that it was done without permission. Oops. That would push the McCain camp from doing the possibly distasteful and even maybe unethical to the all-out illegal, as that woudl be a violation of copyright law.
The complaint alleges that McCain, the RNC and the ORP recently released a television commercial "in which McCain mocks the suggestion" of Obama "that the country can conserve gasoline by keeping their automobile tires inflated to the proper pressure," and that during the commercial Browne's song "Running On Empty" plays in the background.
We'd better through in the outright wrong as well, given that low tire pressure can lead to a significant drop in gas mileage.
Browne's complaint goes on to allege that he "is not the first victim of McCain's creation of false endorsements and manifest lack of respect for the intellectual property rights accorded to musicians by the United States Constitution." As examples, the complaint then asserts that McCain and his agents have made unauthorized use of musical works by ABBA, John Mellencamp, and Frankie Valli.
Oh, mamma mia, what is McCain going to say now?

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Good Discussion on Copyright Length

I've seen many discussions on a "proper" length of copyright go to extremes, but Megan McArdle's column on TheAtlantic.com takes what I think is a balanced and intelligent view of the topic. For example:
Also, at a time when the average life expectancy is 40, a copyright term of 21 years provides more than adequate incentive. In the modern day, we're trying to persuade young writers and artists to essentially make a large capital investment in their art by irrevocably committing to a career in their art. If at 45 or 50 their most successful works no longer produce revenue, the writer who produced his or her best work at 25 has a big problem. Hedging their bets by keeping a second career going does not make them or us better off.

It seems to me that the strictest advocates of very short copyright terms tend to be tenured professors--people who already have their retirement taken care of.
A very good point. The point about professors is one that has bothered me, as well. If I'm a highly-paid professor who wants to give his books away, like a Lawrence Lessing (who still sells his works), that's fine, but why expect that all writers should act as though they had tenure, which means essentially a lifetime lock on a job?

Perhaps the problem is that the extensions of copyright have been at the behest of corporations. Maybe companies should actually have shorter terms of copyright than individuals, because they are generally in a better position to profit from the works, which is the reason copyright is in place at all - as an incentive. How much more incentive do the corporations need?

Yes, if corporations were under greater restrictions, they'd try some end-around, like forcing people to license works to them in perpetuity. However, the copyright statutes allow for any copyright holder to end a license 35 years after the copyright date. So there would still be a limit, based on the copyright owner or his or her estate taking action.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Copyrighting Pyramids

This is just too insane not to believe. According to the BBC, the Egyptian government plans to pass a law requiring royalties when people make copies of museum pieces or such monuments as the Great Pyramid of Ghiza or the Sphinx.
Zahi Hawass, who chairs Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, told the BBC the law would apply in all countries.
I'd like to see how they are going to enforce that. Supposedly, the government would even require people doing something for private use to get permission from the Egyptian government. But apparently artists would be allowed to reproduce objects so long as they weren't exact replicas. Decent of them, eh? However, the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas wouldn't be required to pay because it isn't an exact replica and the interior is different from the actual one. And here I thought that slot machines were special prayer devices for the dead, betting that they'd actually need all that food and water buried with them.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Discovery Institute Steals Harvard Work?

The Discovery Institute claims to be a non-partisan think tank, but is actually interested in promoting specific political agendas ("The Institute discovers and promotes ideas in the common sense tradition of representative government, the free market and individual liberty."). One of the activities it embraces is trying to disprove the theory of evolution. But if this blog entry is right - and the video examples it links to are accurate - then DI personnel have blatantly plagiarized an animated educational short Harvard produced, even stripping out the school's copyright claims. Was this an evolutionary process, or simply divine intervention?

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Monday, November 05, 2007

One-Sentence Stories

Have you ever tried to take a letter or paper and dramatically cut the length? If so, then you'll appreciate the effort that can go into posting on the site, One Sentence. People take what is supposed to be a true story and boil it down to a single sentence. It's an interesting concept - coming up with something that has a degree of finish to it in that short a space. Unfortunately, to post one, you basically have to provide, non-exclusively, all rights. In other words, if the person wanted to put together a book using all the stories and not pay a single contributor, that would be legal.

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Friday, August 31, 2007

Viacom Claims Filmmaker Infringed His Own Copyright

This is one of those stories that can only make you scratch your head in wonder. An independent filmmaker in North Carolina blogged about an interesting situation copyright situation:
[M]ultimedia giant Viacom is claiming that I have violated their copyright by posting on YouTube a segment from it's VH1 show Web Junk 2.0... which VH1 produced – without permission – from a video that I had originally created.
Apparently Christopher Knight was running for a local board of education seat and created a commercial in which a Death Star blew up a little red school house. Viacom was amused enough to run it on national television without asking. But the humor quickly ended when Knight, who enjoyed the segment about himself, put it on YouTube. Only in the entertainment industry.

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Future Presidential Debates to be Released for Public Use

NBC had tried to control use of the first Democratic presidential debate of this season. But after a public backlash that included candidates Barack Obama and John Edwards, CNN at least has decided to give way and release future debates under a Creative Commons license - a form of open use licensing that is gaining popularity on the Internet. Hopefully all the networks will. Congratulations to the DailyBackground.com for apparently breaking the story.

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