Copyright Law Pop Quiz – News Organizations

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Consider the following scenarios:

  • Two high school cheerleaders are suspected of spearheading an elaborate underground gambling ring.  Neither the police nor the school will release the students’ photographs, but your reporter was able to obtain several images of the girls on Facebook along with a short video of them performing a cheerleading routine.  Can your station use these visuals in its newscast?  During a tease?  On its website?
  •  With the gubernatorial election a month away, a story appears overnight on the website of the local alternative weekly newspaper that the incumbent has late-stage cancer and may only have weeks to live.  Your political reporter tries, but is unable, to confirm the story overnight.  Can your station lead its morning newscast with the story?  If so, must you attribute the newspaper as the source of the story?
  • Your station’s primary competitor obtains hidden-camera video of the star quarterback for the local NFL team injecting steroids before a big game.  Your assignment editor identifies the source of the video, but is unable to negotiate a licensing agreement at a reasonable price.  Can your station still broadcast parts of the video on its newscast (using the video recorded from your competitor’s newscast)?

See, What Every News Organization Needs to Know About Copyright Law.

Who really owns an LLC’s blog entries?

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Though the question presents itself under very unfortunate circumstances, the issue is worth pondering.

Dear Rich: I am part of an LLC that owns a blog. One of our officers was the active blog contributor. She died last year. Some of the other officers would like to publish her blog posts, but we are unsure who owns the copyright – the LLC or her heirs?

See, Does LLC Own Officer’s Blog Entries?

‘Blurred Lines’ Lawsuit: Sony/ATV Settles With Marvin Gaye’s Family

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Breaking news in one of Hollywood’s top legal disputes of 2013. Definitely a step in the right direction for Sony/ATV, but they are not out of the woods just yet. Parties remaining will likely want to hear why Sony originally concluded that the songs were not similar.  See the link below for details.

‘Blurred Lines’ Lawsuit: Sony/ATV Settles With Marvin Gaye’s Family (Exclusive)

Trademark vs. Copyright

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Trademark vs. Copyright

Copyrights and Trademarks are important protection devices essential to the growth and success of a business or brand. Without protection your work is free for anyone to use without seeking permission or giving credit. While not protecting your work may result in loss profit, what is sometimes more important to a brand is proper credit.

Not only is it important to protect your work but also to use the proper method of protection. Improper protection will result in the same effect as no protection at all.

  • A copyright is used to protect “original works of art” including literary, musical and artistic. Copyrights protect the form of expression rather than the subject matter of the writing. For example, the description of of a machine could be copyrighted, but this would only prevent others from copying the description; it would not prevent others from writing a description of their own or from making and using the machine.
  • A trademark is a word, name, symbol or device used commercially to identify the source of the goods and distinguish them from others. Trademarks prevent others from using a confusingly similar mark, but not from making similar goods. Apple’s trademark protection is what prevents another company from using an “apple” or anything that closely resembles such on an electronic device. Those companies however, are free to build and create electronics.

Note: This brief summary is in no way intended to be a complete explanation of copyright and trademark – only a simple illustration of the difference between the two. Patents are a totally different beast within itself.

The Innocent Infringer

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Word cloud for Copyright infringement

Copyright Law is an obscure subject for many. It combines antiquated laws with a myriad of artistic individuals and dares them to gleam from the text its true meaning or intention. The notorious use of mis-leading phrases such as “innocent infringer” furthers the confusion. It leads one to believe that intent is necessary for the infringement of a copyright. When, in actuality, intent is not a determinative element of copyright infringement. In fact, intent in a copyright infringement claim is not a part of the analysis. This article further highlights the misconception.

Section 504(c)(2) of the 1976 Copyright Act provides for an “innocent intent” response to claims of copyright infringement. Its use does not preclude the defendant from being found in violation of copyright infringement, but if found in violation, it allows the court flexibility to reduce statutory damages below the minimum. It is important to note however that proving innocent intent on the part of the defendant is not easy. The Defendant must show that they did not know and that they should not have known that their conduct constituted an infringement. The Defendant’s belief must be both in good faith and reasonable.

A few examples of where “innocent intent” may be found are: 1. Defendant’s work is based upon an infringing work furnished by a third party; and 2. Defendant consciously and intentionally copies from the plaintiff’s work, with a good faith belief that the conduct is not infringing.

Cite: Innocent Infringement – The IT Law Wiki