By many accounts, “Happy Birthday to You” is the most popular and well-known song in the English language and has been so for years. This is a reality that has been very lucrative for Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., the company which has been enforcing a copyright on the song since its acquisition of Birch Tree Ltd. in 1998. That purchase brought with it six copyrights registered with the U.S. Copyright Office which protect musical arrangements for that song.
These copyright protections generate about $2 million in revenue every year for Warner/Chappell, making them very lucrative copyright holdings. The company enforces the copyright against film and entertainment productions of all kinds, exacting a thousand dollars or so from groups that often don’t have the resources to stake the large legal battle that would ensue by refusing to pay and incurring the possible $150,000 penalty that could be applicable under the terms of the Copyright Act of 1976.
However, one production company has decided to take this battle to the courts in the hopes of overturning what it feels are misappropriated copyright protections. If the court decides in favor of the plaintiff, Warner/Chappell could be ordered to return all copyright licensing fees it has collected for the past three years.
Washington– The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Internet Policy Task Force (IPTF) will hold the first meeting of the public multistakeholder forum on improving the operation of the notice and takedown system for removing infringing content from the Internet under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) on March 20, 2014 at the USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. The meeting was called for in the Commerce Department’s Green Paper on Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economyreleased last year. The IPTF is a joint effort between the USPTO and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).
The goal of the multistakeholder forum is to identify best practices and/or produce voluntary agreements for improving the operation of the DMCA notice and takedown system. The IPTF plans to hold several additional meetings throughout the year. The initial meeting will focus on identifying concrete topics to be addressed by participants, and to discuss and make decisions about the process for the forum’s ongoing work. The IPTF aims to have participation from a wide variety of the notice and takedown system’s current users, including right holders and individual creators, service providers, and any other stakeholders that are directly affected – such as consumer and public interest representatives, technical and engineering experts, and companies in the business of identifying infringing content.
The oral argument schedule for the Supreme Court over the next few months is heavy on intellectual property cases.
The Court will hear oral argument as follows: on February 26, in two cases on granting (Octane Fitness) and reviewing (Highmark) attorneys’ fee awards; on March 31, in a case (Alice Corp.) on patent eligibility of system and computer-implemented method claims; on April 21, in a case (POM Wonderful) on claims under Section 43 of the Lanham Act challenging labels regulated by the Food and Drug Administration; on April 22, in a case (Aereo) on whether a provider of broadcast television programming over the Internet violates a copyright owner’s public performance right; on April 28, in a case (Nautilus) on the proper standard for finding indefiniteness invalidity for patents; and on April 30, in a case (Limelight) on joint liability for method claim infringement where all of the claimed steps are performed but not by a single entity.
Marla Grossmanis an attorney and partner with the American Continental Group,where she represents clients before the White House, US federal agencies and the US Congress. In other words, Grossman is a lobbyist, but not just any lobbyist. Her clients are a whose-who among the elite in the entertainment industry.
In part 1 of our interview we discussed the prospects of patent litigation reform, the likelihood that Congress will open up the Copyright Act and pursue legislative reforms, and how to get a message heard on Capitol Hill. In part 2 of our interview, which appears below, we pick up where we left off discussing how to take a message to Congress, and then we transition into discussing how quickly legislation can be derailed, as was the case with SOPA, and the unfortunate need to continue to fight the same policy battles time after time. We end generally discussing the political climate in Washington, DC, and how it has changed over the years.
Without further ado, here is the finale of my interview with Marla Grossman.
QUINN: I also think that there is a fundamental misunderstanding on the part of many. I wonder whether it’s an intentional misunderstanding or whether it’s just that they don’t know any better, but there are a lot of people who seem to think that putting out a product is innovation. While it may be a new product to them, that’s not what innovation is about. What that is in many cases is about something you said earlier – many seem to want to be able to take the intellectual property of other people without consequence. How do we combat that kind of growing definition of innovation or growing understanding of innovation
If you are familiar with the politics of intellectual property as it is played out inside the beltway you undoubtedly already know Marla Grossman. Grossman is an attorney and partner with the American Continental Group, and her bio page says “she helps her clients with strategic public policy planning and representation before the White House, US federal agencies and the US Congress.” She is a lobbyist who seems to most typically represent clients with a pro-intellectual property position. Her client list is a virtual whose who of the elite entertainment industry.
Grossman is “a mover and a shaker” around DC. Everyone knows Marla, and she knows everyone. You can find her at virtually every IP related event in the Greater DC area, whether it is at the Library of Congress, the United States Patent and Trademark Office, AIPLA, a black-tie affair or other industry event. We have included her in our “insiders” series and in 2013 the National Law Journal referred to her as a “leading copyright attorney and lobbyist.” She is the real deal.
Perhaps the reason Grossman has become so sought after as a representative, particularly in the copyright and entertainment industries, is because of her time working on Capitol Hill. The 1990s saw a number of legislative issues of great importance thanks to the sudden growth of the World Wide Web. During this time, from 1997-1999, Grossman served as minority counsel to the US Senate Judiciary Committee, where she worked to develop policy positions and legislative initiatives for US Senate Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who now Chair’s the Senate Judiciary Committee. During her time working on Capitol Hill Grossman worked on a variety of intellectual property, Internet usage, entertainment, online gaming and technology issues for Senator Leahy, and was directly involved with major reforms including the Digital Millennium Copyright Act; Copyright Term Extension Act; Trademark Law Treaty Implementation Act; Domain Name Amendment Act; and US Patent and Trademark Office Reauthorization Act.
Washington – The U.S. Department of Commerce’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently announced that the October 30, 2013 U.S. Department of Commerce public meeting on copyright policy issues had been postponed due to complications arising from the federal government shutdown. The meeting will now be held on December 12, 2013 from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. ET at the USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, VA and the period for post-meeting comments has been extended.
Comments are still being sought on the Commerce Department’s Internet Policy Task Force green paper, “Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economy,” produced by the USPTO and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The deadline for filing pre-meeting comments is November 13, 2013.
Washington – The U.S. Department of Commerce today announced that its Internet Policy Task Force (IPTF) will hold a public meeting to discuss copyright policy issues raised in a recently released green paper, “Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economy“(Green Paper). In addition to the meeting, the IPTF is soliciting public comments, both of which are part of the IPTF’s efforts to continue a dialogue on how to improve the current copyright framework for stakeholders, consumers, and national economic goals. The meeting will be held on October 30, 2013, in Washington, D.C. The IPTF intends to hold the public meeting in the Amphitheatre of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C.
Specifically in the Green Paper, the IPTF proposes five copyright policy issues to address, and the meeting will provide an opportunity for discussion that will be used to formulate the IPTF’s views and recommendations regarding copyright policy. The five issues include: (1) establishing a multistakeholder dialogue on improving the operation of the notice and takedown system for removing infringing content from the Internet under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA); (2) the legal framework for the creation of remixes; (3) the relevance and scope of the first sale doctrine in the digital environment; (4) the application of statutory damages in the contexts of individual file sharers and of secondary liability for large-scale infringement; and (5) the appropriate role for the government, if any, to help improve the online licensing environment, including access to comprehensive databases of rights information.
Recently I was driving around between appointments and flipping through radio stations on Sirius XM. I came across a song that at first I thought was the summer hit by Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams – Blurred Lines. But that wasn’t the song at all, rather is was Marvin Gaye’s Got to Give it Up. I knew it would only be time before reading about some kind of settlement between Marvin Gaye’s family and Thicke/Williams, but Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams suing the family of Marvin Gaye, asserting that they are not infringing the copyright in Got to Give it Up would be hilarious if it weren’t so utterly ridiculous. See Federal Complaint filed in Williams v. Bridgeport Music Inc.
First, there is absolutely no doubt from a legal perspective that Thicke and Williams are infringing the work of Marvin Gaye. You can verify this for yourself by listening to the two songs. The similarity is overwhelming.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Commerce today released a green paper on Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economy (Green Paper) to advance discussion on a set of policy issues critical to economic growth. The Green Paper discusses the goals of maintaining an appropriate balance between rights and exceptions as the law continues to be updated; ensuring that copyright can be meaningfully enforced on the Internet; and furthering the development of an efficient online marketplace.
The Green Paper released today is the most thorough and comprehensive analysis of digital copyright policy issued by any administration since 1995. The report is a product of the Department of Commerce’s Internet Policy Task Force (IPTF) with input from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Through the IPTF, the USPTO and NTIA will solicit further public comments and convene roundtables and forums on a number of key policy issues.
“Copyright law strikes a number of important balances in delineating what is protectable and what is not, determining what uses are permitted without a license, and establishing appropriate enforcement mechanisms to combat piracy, so that all stakeholders benefit from the protection afforded by copyright,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. “Ensuring that our copyright policy provides incentives for creativity while promoting innovation on the Internet is a critical and challenging task. The Green Paper released today is an important step toward ensuring that the United States’ creative industries continue to have a substantial impact on strengthening our nation’s economy.”
In December of 2011, we published an article in the New England Journal of Medicine describing the current crisis in cognitive testing. Doctors and medical researchers are scrambling to adapt to the recent assertion of copyrights in a popular screening method that has been used for decades to measure cognitive impairment. Although the assertion of this particular set of rights is relatively new, doctors are increasingly facing copyright claims in a variety of tests, including those for depression and for pain.
In the New England Journal article, we tried to encourage the creation of a cultural norm in the field of medicine, in which medical researchers would ensure continued availability of their tests through appropriate open access licensing for any copyrights that might exist. In this companion piece, we consider the legal side of the question. Although copyrights in medical testing are being asserted frequently, are those rights valid, and should they be upheld in whatever courts eventually hear the issue?
On May 6, 2013, I sat down with Steve Kunin and we discussed a wide range of patent issues. In Part 1 of the interview we discussed the new post grant procedures for challenging issued patents, and started discussing the estoppel provisions. In Part 2 we conclude our discussion of estoppel and move into discussing secret prior art, the Economic Espionage Act, the algorithm line of cases from the Federal Circuit and the erosion of patent rights that started with eBay v. MercExchange.
QUINN: With respect to post grant procedures, a lot of the same kind of issues that applicants have always had to deal are being raised as concerns in light of the estoppel. It doesn’t matter whether or not prior art was findable in any intellectually honest way, the question is rather issue it is findable after you spent three or four, five million dollars to locate the one copy of the thesis in the library. I’ve always been troubled by that being prior art because how is an applicant going to know that? I mean maybe the applicant would but the one single thesis has always struck me as unfair, so now that fairness issue almost seems like it’s going the other way. What it seems to me is in patent law the more laws we get, the more complicated it gets, and it’s harder to see how the entire law fits together in a cohesive way.
KUNIN: The problem with respect to simplicity as compared to fairness is that so long as the exceptions don’t overtake the rule the law needs to apply both consistently and fairly. A rule of reason applies. Congress is forced to compromise when enacting any law because we have a process where there are many constituent groups advocating for their particular desired outcome and Congress in its wisdom fashions the law to try to strike a balance among these different views of what the law should be. The existing copyright laws are a representative example of the results of such a dynamic.
Phil McGraw photographed for the cover of Newsweek magazine by Jerry Avenaim.
Dr. Phil McGraw’s company, Peteski Productions (Peteski), recently filed a lawsuit against Gawker Media (Gawker) for copyright infringement. It appears that Deadspin.com (Deadspin), which is owned by Gawker Media, posted portions of the doctor’s exclusive interview with the man behind the Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax online before the show actually aired in various parts of the country.
Deadspin originally broke the story, including the hoaxster’s catfishing scheme; however Dr. Phil was given an exclusive interview with hoaxster, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. Dr. Phil’s interview with Tuiasosopo was a two-part episode, with a cliff-hanging first episode. But Deadspin took away Dr. Phil’s thunder (and seemingly lowered his ratings) by showing the “answer” to the cliffhanger online prior to Dr. Phil airing in most markets.