Abstract: Virtual reality (“VR”) technologies allow users to experience three-dimensional, multi-sensory environments (“virtual worlds”). This new and rapidly-developing technological platform is promising, but does not come without legal challenges. Issues regarding copyrights for virtual worlds and creations within those worlds can be expected. This article involves an exploration into potential application of copyright law to virtual reality technologies, focusing on what might be protected by copyright, potential infringement challenges, and how enforcement of these copyrights might play out for both users and developers.
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Abstract: In February 2007, Stephanie Lenz recorded a twenty-nine second video of her two young children dancing to the famous song “Let’s Go Crazy” by recording artist Prince. Lenz posted the video titled “Let’s Go Crazy #1” to YouTube.com (“YouTube”). At the time of the posting, Universal Music Group (“Universal”) was Prince’s publishing administrator and was responsible for his copyright enforcement. To enforce their copyrights on YouTube, Universal’s head of business affairs assigned the task of monitoring YouTube videos to a single employee. This employee would enter the titles of the most popular Prince songs into the YouTube search field and review the video to determine if it used one or more of Prince’s songs. Where a Prince song was used in the video, company policy required the employee to include the video on a removal list if the composition was the “focus of the video,” as it was in this case. This removal list was sent to another Universal employee, who emailed the removal list (“Takedown Notice”) to YouTube on June 4, 2007. The Takedown Notice was sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, the email address YouTube identified in its Terms of Service as intended solely for receiving notifications of alleged infringements under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”).
Abstract: As the highest grossing sports league in the world, the National Football League (NFL) operates with expansive and unprecedented reach. Each Super Bowl broadcast from 2010 to 2016 ranks as one of the seven most viewed programs in American television history and Sunday Night Football was the most watched weekly program in four of the past five years. Unsurprisingly, the NFL is intent on protecting their immensely popular product through aggressive intellectual property protections, though few are as pervasive as the telecast warning that accompanies every NFL game: “This telecast is copyrighted by NFL Productions for the private use of our audience. Any other use of this telecast or any pictures, descriptions, or accounts of the game without the NFL’s consent is prohibited.” Does the NFL’s copyright warning truly preclude fans from talking about a game with coworkers or from posting about it on their social media pages? How far does it extend? Given recent coverage by outlets such as ESPN in October 2016, there are indications that the NFL’s aggressive copyright tactics extend to its franchise teams as well. According to sourced league memoranda, the NFL has prohibited its Member Clubs from shooting or streaming video inside the stadium during a game and posting it on any form of social media, punishable by an initial fine of $25,000 and up to $100,000 for additional offenses.6 Further, teams are prohibited from taking video from broadcasts and creating their own highlights or moving images, including Graphics Interchange Format images (popularly known as GIFs). Essentially, the NFL has severely limited a Member Club’s ability to use media content its organization had an essential role in creating and, debatably, authoring.
Abstract: The idiosyncrasy of the Internet often invites colorful analogies in its description: high seas and piracy, Wild West and lawless frontier. This is not undeserved; despite great strides over the course of its development, the Internet remains unexamined and unregulated in many ways, and the regulations that do exist are largely self-governed. Copyright law in particular has proven contentious for lawmakers who are forced to balance digital rights management on a massive scale with the rights of end users. Nowhere is this conflict more apparent than in the practices of the video-sharing juggernaut YouTube.
Abstract: Spotify launched in 2008 into a new music streaming market that was revolutionizing the way that consumers listened to and purchased music. The primary attraction of streaming services is the access to a vast number of songs, often for a flat fee or even free. While these new streaming platforms have helped contribute to a decline in piracy and rising profits in the music industry , it also may be causing song writers to lose money. Spotify’s compensation model pays out royalties to the record labels, which then compensate the artists and performers. However, Spotify cites the record labels as the reason that artists are not getting paid, but that explanation glosses over whether or not Spotify has infringed upon the copyrights by streaming songs that the company does not have the license to. The streaming service is currently facing the threat of two class action lawsuits that allege that their payment model infringes song writers’ copyrights. The two questions, here, are: Has Spotify infringed upon the copyrights of owners of works that the service streams? Will a class action suit be the remedy for infringement, if infringement can be shown?
Abstract: When new technology arises, lawmakers struggle to keep up: how do I perform the balancing act of managing risk through regulation without stymying innovation. An ongoing struggle is the 3D printer and its copyright liability. 3D printers take a complicated manufacturing process and puts in our homes instead of a factory. The ease in which a person can create an object at home is an incredible feat, but it comes with consequences. Specifically, owners of copyrighted images are weary of their products being reproduced at home and sold in a secondary market. This article briefly describes the source of their concerns and reviews the copyright issues that arise in the world of 3D printing.
Abstract: It is a well-known adage that the best things in life are free, but how true could this be with a copyright looming over the “Happy Birthday to You” song’s head? On
September 22, 2015, a U.S. District Court in California freed “Happy Birthday to You” by ruling on the case Marya v. Warner/Chappell Music, Inc. and declaring Warner/Chappell’s copyright invalid. Although the song is widely known by all, many individuals do not know that “Happy Birthday to You” was copyrighted at all, let alone know that Warner/Chappell was making $2 million a year from ownership. The history of how the song came to be provides an insight into how Warner/Chappell obtained a copyright and how the existence of the copyright was impacting everyone from filmmakers to restaurant chains.
Abstract: Few issues have attracted more legal attention and spurred more public debate in recent years than the controversy over patent rights. The crossroads of American law
and innovation finds its origin in the U.S. Constitution. Article 1, section 8 states that “Congress shall have the power to…promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.” The founding fathers recognized the social value of innovation, and the critical role government will inevitably play in protecting and encouraging technological advances.
Out of the foundations of the Constitution grew an elaborate system of patent laws, evolving over time to meet the needs of modern society. Nevertheless, in recent years, the frequency of extraneous patent lawsuits has become increasingly concerning. The economic and social burdens of frivolous litigation have led “academics, policymakers, and even judges to suggest that patent law[s] may have overleaped its proper bounds, or at least become too likely to frustrate, rather than to fulfill, its constitutional purpose of ‘promot[ing] the progress of science and useful arts’. The primary causes of this problem are the overly litigious entities pejoratively known as patent trolls, who are collectively responsible for the majority of today’s patent infringement cases. Although solutions to this complex problem are evasive, the need for reform is readily apparent. One of the most important and highly debated pieces of legislature surrounding the issue of patent trolls is the Innovation Act. This article introduces the Innovation Act, discusses proposed arguments for and against it, and opine on its merit.
The United States Copyright Act is primed to take center stage during this current legislative session, as several members of Congress introduced comprehensive legislation earlier this year known as the Fair Play, Fair Pay Act of 2015 (FPFPA). This bill seeks to modify the Copyright Act in three key ways. First, it would create a terrestrial public performance right for recording artists and owners of master sound recordings. Second, it would eliminate the Copyright Act’s exemption against federal copyright protection for sound recordings fixed prior to February 15, 1972. Third, it would establish a process designed to allow for the setting of consistent fair market royalty rates paid in consideration of the public performance of all sound recordings.
By William W. Shields
The now defunct technology start-up Aereo was poised to revolutionize the live broadcast television model. However, after a three-year legal battle spanning several states that eventually led to the Supreme Court, Aereo was found in violation of the Copyright Act of 1976. Broadcasters applauded the decision, while technologists worried the Court had not only failed to understand the technology behind Aereo, but had also created a dangerous legal precedent for all future cloud computing technologies.
Aereo allowed users to stream and record broadcast television to any laptop or mobile device. Shortly after Aereo was announced, broadcasters filed for an injunction claiming Aereo was in fact a cable companSuy, and as such needed to pay retransmission fees. The heart of broadcasters’ argument focused on the definition of “performance” and “to the public” under the Transmit Clause of the Copyright Act, 17 U.S. Code section 101. Aereo contested, stating that its service was acceptable both legally and technically because it simply provided users an alternative means to access free, over-the-air broadcasts. Much of Aereo’s legal argument rested on Cartoon Network LP, LLLP v. CSC Holdings, Inc. (hereinafter “Cablevision”).
The Supreme Court ultimately held for broadcasters in a 6-3 decision favoring a legislative intent interpretation of the Copyright Act. The Court agreed with the broadcasters’ argument that Aereo’s technology, though functionally legal, exploited a loophole created by the Cablevision decision. Therefore, Aereo was retransmitting to the public, and as such was in violation of the Copyright Act.
The decision has had a polarizing effect. Technologists fear that this decision may have unintended consequences in the ever-growing cloud computing space, whereas proponents argue that this decision is narrowly limited to cable companies. The decision has already played a role in challenging the launch of new services, most notably satellite television provider Dish’s release of Dish Anywhere – a service that allows users to stream cable television to any device. However, currently these ramifications are isolated to the broadcast industry and have yet to result in far reaching or significant consequences for the developing cloud computing technologies.
By Ruchir Patel