Monday, March 7, 2011

A Blogging Hiatus

When I started this blog in December 2008, I said I wanted to counter the “shocking lack of balance in discussion of copyright and related issues on the Internet.” For almost two and a half years, I’ve tried to do just that. Armed with nothing but free Blogger software and a not-so-free PACER account, I’ve done my best to provide copyright owners’ side of the story on the major anti-piracy cases of the day, while countering the misinformation about copyright that too often dominates the blogosphere. And, thanks to help, tips, and encouragement from countless others who fight in obscurity for creators’ rights – not to mention the antics of Joel Tenenbaum, Jammie Thomas-Rasset, and most of all, Charlie Nesson – it’s been a blast. And hopefully I’ve done a small part to demonstrate why, when the studios, record labels, and music publishers go to court to enforce their rights, they usually win.

So it’s with a sense of accomplishment but some regret that that I’m putting the blog on hiatus for the foreseeable future. On February 28 I started in a new position as Content Protection Counsel at the Motion Picture Association of America, where my primary responsibility will be litigating anti-piracy cases on behalf of the MPAA’s member studios. For reasons that I think most litigators will understand, I’ve concluded that it won’t be possible to continue the blog in my current role; the issues of privilege, confidentiality, and conflicts, even if ultimately surmountable, are simply too dicey to worry about day-to-day. I plan to leave the blog up as long as Blogger will host it; the disclaimer that I’ve posted since the beginning still applies: “This is Ben's personal blog and does not necessarily represent the views of any past, present, or future clients or employers.”

I encourage anyone and everyone who knows and cares about these issues to speak out, blog, comment on other blogs, and do whatever you can consistent with your day job. There is plenty of room out there for thoughtful commentary; I’d particularly recommend readers bookmark Terry Hart’s “Copyhype,” which since last summer has been providing rigorously researched debunking of some of the copyleft’s latest tropes.

Thanks again to everyone who has helped out over the past couple years. I’m still reachable at copyrightsandcampaigns [at]

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Court: Merchandising of Shepard Fairey 'Obama Hope' image not fair use; factual issues remain on substantial similarity

The court in the case involving Shepard Fairey's use of an AP photograph in his famous "Obama Hope" poster has ruled that a company that manufactured and distributed clothing bearing the Obama Hope image under license from one of Fairey's corporate entities did not engage in fair use. The court, however, held that there remains a factual dispute whether the images used by One 3 Two, Inc. on its merchandise were "substantially similar" to the AP photo. Judge Alvin Hellerstein did not explain his reasoning in his brief summary order. Trial on the remaining issues is set for March 21. Here is One 3 Two's opening brief, and the AP's.
Shepard Fairey Summary Judgment Order

The claims between the AP and Fairey and his corporate entities have been dismissed pursuant to settlement.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

AP and Shepard Fairey settle case; claims against corporate entities remain

The Associated Press announced that it has "settled in principle" its copyright case against artist Shepard Fairey over his use of an AP photograph in the iconic "Obama Hope" poster. The announcement of the settlement comes a little more than seven months after the judge in the case stated at a hearing, "sooner or later, The Associated Press is going to win" the case and urged settlement.

According to the AP's announcement:
In settling the lawsuit, the AP and Mr. Fairey have agreed that neither side surrenders its view of the law. Mr. Fairey has agreed that he will not use another AP photo in his work without obtaining a license from the AP. The two sides have also agreed to work together going forward with the image and share the rights to make the posters and merchandise bearing the image and to collaborate on a series of images that Fairey will create based on AP photographs. The parties have agreed to additional financial terms that will remain confidential.
The AP's claims against other Fairey-related entities, however, remain. So do its claims against One 3 Two, Inc., a company that manufactured and distributed clothing bearing the Obama Hope image under license from Obey Giant, one of Fairey's entities. One 3 Two's summary judgment brief argues that it didn't copy protectable elements of the AP's photo but, for procedural reasons, does not address fair use. The AP's brief does argue that Fairey's and One 3 Two's use of its photo was not fair.

Still unknown is the status of the federal grand jury investigation of Fairey for his admitted falsehoods and evidence spoliation regarding which photograph he used as a basis for the poster.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Harvard shocker: Crimson rails against piracy, endorses university 'three strikes' penalty

It's less than a mile from Harvard Law School's Berkman Center to the offices of the Harvard Crimson. But it doesn't seem that the Berkman Center's ideas have made that short journey south. From a Crimson editorial that ran Monday:
Recently, the Motion Picture Association of America began sending thousands of letters to colleges and universities across the country, reminding them of their obligation to set up a "written plan to effectively combat the unauthorized distribution of copyright material by users of the institution's network" under the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008. Because we believe that intellectual property rights are important and the unauthorized downloading of copyrighted music, movies, and television programs is wrong, we applaud this move and hope that universities abide by the guidelines set down in the HEOA.

Our support for the MPAA’s actions is based on our belief that the unauthorized downloading of music, movies, and television programs, although easy, is questionable at the most basic level. In our postindustrial economy, the protection of intellectual property rights is important for several reasons. First, these rights must be safeguarded in order to provide an incentive for innovation. Without any guarantee of legitimacy, entrepreneurs will have no motivation to create new intellectual property, as it could be stolen at any time. Second, at a broader level, intellectual property rights are important because each person has a fundamental right to enjoy the fruits of his or her mental labor. Intellectual entrepreneurship requires a broad societal commitment to the rule of law and the importance of private enterprise.
Read the whole, excellent, thing.

Washington Legal Foundation: 'The Supreme Court Left Most Copyright Litigants Wanting in 2010'

On the Washington Legal Foundation's blog, Brad R. Newberg of Reed Smith LLP has a good summary of the Supreme Court's action (and inaction) on copyright in 2010. Here's the intro:
It has been a busy month for the Supreme Court not tackling copyright issues. On November 29, 2010, the Court denied certiorari in two copyright cases, Harper v. Maverick Recording Co., No. 10-94, and Bryant v. Media Right Productions, No. 10-415. Then, on December 13, it announced that no decision would be issued in Costco Wholesale Corp. v. Omega, S.A., No. 08-1423, due to a 4-4 split (Justice Kagan was recused). Along with the Court’s decision back in March to avoid the Section 411 registration/application issue in Reed Elsevier, Inc. v. Muchnick, 2010 will end with the Supreme Court having missed some opportunities to clarify parts of the Copyright Act that have real-world ramifications for copyright owners, users, and legal practitioners.
Definitely read the whole thing.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

New House Judiciary Chaiman Smith vows to protect IP

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), currently the ranking Member on the House Judiciary Committee, announced today that he will serve as chairman in the next Congress. And he made clear that he will continue the committee's strong support for intellectual property rights:
As Chairman of the Committee, I will focus on efforts to strengthen national security, protect intellectual property, prevent frivolous lawsuits and keep children safe from Internet sex predators. The Judiciary Committee will support industries that employ millions of Americans by protecting their patents and copyrights.
(h/t TechDailyDose)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Thomas-Rasset: I owe nothing; labels seek injunction; court to Nesson: you're no amicus of mine

Several developments in the case of Jammie Thomas-Rasset following the third jury's award of $1.5 million to the major record labels in their copyright infringement suit:
  • Thomas-Rasset is seeking to have the award reduced to zero, on constitutional grounds. She is explicitly forgoing an argument based on common-law remittitur, the means by which the court reduced the second jury's award of $1.92 million down to $54,000. The court's decision on this motion -- which I expect him to grant, at least in part -- will allow one or both sides to appeal immediately to the Eighth Circuit, mercifully sparing all parties a fourth trial.
  • The labels are seeking an injunction against further infringement by Thomas-Rasset via peer-to-peer or other means.
  • The court told Harvard Law Professor Charles Nesson "thanks, but no thanks," rejecting his proposed amicus brief attacking the jury's award. "The proposed brief would not be of assistance to the Court," ruled Chief Judge Michael Davis of the District of Minnesota. " "Not so much as a thank you for the effort," lamented Nesson, adding, ":<("

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

C&C again named to ABA Journal's top 100 law blogs

I'm pleased to report that for the second year in a row the editors of the ABA Journal have named Copyrights & Campaigns one of the top 100 legal blogs. Thanks to all who have read, commented, tipped, passed along documents, and otherwise contributed to this effort. Posting hasn't been as frequent this year because of my day job, but I'm still blogging, as well as writing a regular legal column for Billboard.

If you're so inclined, you can vote for C&C as the top blog in the IP category here.