Anyone who has happened upon Amazon.com over the past several months has undoubtedly noticed Amazon’s painstaking efforts to market its new Kindle 2 device to readers-at-large. The Kindle – a hardware device about the size and weight of an average book – allows users to directly download e-books (up to 1500 at a time) and read the titles on its “electronic paper” display. Of all of the Kindle 2's new features, the most heavily promoted is its ability to “read” books aloud to the user by relying on text-to-speech software.
However, this new feature has come under attack by the Author’s Guild which contends that a purchaser of an "e-book" buys only the right to read the book -- not the right to have the book read out loud. In fact, the concern that this feature will cannibalize the market for audio-books was apparently big enough to incite the President of the Author's Guild to author a New York Times opinion column on the issue. As noted in his article, technology has advanced to a point where the “computerized voices” on text-to-speech software are “almost indistinguishable from human ones”; with some of these programs going so far as to include an occasional ‘um,’ ‘er’, sigh and -- even -- coughs, in order to accurately simulate a human reader. Thus, the threat posed to audiobooks by text-to-speech software is greater than would have been possible in the past.
Rap artists Lil Jon, Lil Bo, and Big Sam, who together comprise the hip hop group Lil Jon and the East Side Boyz, prevailed in a copyright infringement case regarding the song "The Weedman", from their platinum album, "Kings of Crunk". The case was brought by a freelance musician and producer who claimed copyright ownership of the work, and the artists prevailed after successfully asserting a defense which was primarily based on the existence of an implied license for the use of the work.
The decision rendered by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit can be found here.
J.K Rowling emerged victorious in a copyright decision that was announced earlier today by the Southern District of New York. The work at issue? A Harry Potter encyclopedia written by a librarian and rabid Harry Potter fan. In permanently blocking publication of the work, the court rejected the defendant's "fair use" defense, finding that the encyclopedia incorporated "too much of Rowling's creative work" and would cause J.K Rowling "irreparable harm" as a writer.
Obviously, a guide to a "fictional universe" must necessarily incorporate lengthy references and passages of the underlying fictional work. However, today's decision highlights the limited applicability of the "fair use" defense to such works (which are not, in a strict sense, academic.) Accordingly, future authors of such literary guides may want to consider seeking a copyright holder's consent prior to beginning any such endeavor. Otherwise, they too will risk having their book tossed into a 'goblet of fire' (or 'chamber of secrets') by an adverse copyright ruling.
Find the story here.
Find an explanation of the "fair use" defense here.
This is a highly publicized copyright case that touches on numerous issues, many of which have yet to be decided.
NEWS ARTICLE: HERE
"One of California's most popular specialty license plates — depicting the tail of a Pacific humpback whale rising out of misty waters — could soon become endangered itself. Robert Wyland, the artist who created the pale blue image and gave it to the state more than a decade ago to help it raise money for marine programs, is now demanding 20 percent of any future revenue for his art foundation."
STORY LINK: HERE
THE LICENSE PLATE IN QUESTION: HERE
Considering the number of works of art that incorporate images found in nature, it's worth taking a moment to consider the extent to which such works should be protected. While works of art that depict animals or plants in their natural state likely fall within the public domain; works taking more artistic liberties will likely be accorded more protection. An interesting article discussing the issue in more detail is available HERE.
In an en banc decision, the Eleventh Circuit issued a ruling in the case of Greenberg v. National Geographic Society, holding that National Geographic was privileged, under the Copyright Act, to reproduce its print magazine issues on a digital CD-ROM format, without compensating a freelance photographer who had contributed items to the print magazine issues. The Court, relying heavily on a United States Supreme Court named New York Times v. Tasini, 533 U.S. 483 (2001), reasoned that the addition of a montage to the CD-ROM did not make it "new" under copyright law, sufficient to require National Geographic to compensate the freelance photographer for publication of the photographs in the CD-ROM format. Instead, the Court held that the changes contained in the CD-ROM constituted a revision to a collective work, which fell squarely within a privilege contained in the Copyright Act. The complete decision is available HERE.