Monday, 5 December 2016


This CopyKat from David Liao

Duran Duran lose copyright battle: Under US copyright law, songwriters have an inalienable right to call for a reversion of copyright after 35 years, a provision introduced to help address the imbalance of negotiating power artists tend to have early on in their careers. 1990’s group Duran Duran had sought to use this right to reclaim copyright in their first three albums, Duran Duran, Rio, and Seven and the Ragged Tiger, effectively terminating their agreement with publishers Gloucester Place Music (owned by Sony/ATV via their takeover of EMI Music Publishing). However in a High Court ruling last week, Mr Justice Arnold ruled “not without hesitation” that the contractual interpretation suggested by Gloucester Place was the correct one, and that the “parties' intention was that the 'entire copyrights' in the compositions should vest, and remain vested, in the claimant (Gloucester Place) for the 'full term' of the copyrights.” As such, Duran Duran would have to withdraw its application to have their copyright reverted. The effect of this is to allow English contract law to override statutory rights in another jurisdiction, and sets a troubling precedent for other UK songwriters as a test case.  We wait to hear whether the group will be granted leave appeal.

Symposium - ‘Harmonising European Intermediary Liability in Copyright’. The Institute for Information Law (IViR) of the University of Amsterdam is organising a one-day academic symposium on European intermediary liability on 14 January 2017: In view of the new EU copyright reform package, the symposium will examine the issues surrounding intermediary liability in copyright in Europe, including the extent of duties and remedies which are appropriate to impose on intermediaries and the conditions to govern these. Moving beyond the current safe harbour regime, it will explore avenues towards the adoption of a substantive European system. Spaces are limited and registration is required – see here for more details.

Jersey Boys: The creators of hit musical “Jersey Boys” have been held by a jury in Nevada to have infringed copyright in an unpublished book. The claimant (Donna Corbello) is the widow of Rex Woodward, who had co-written an autobiography with founding member of the Four Seasons Tommy DeVito (as previously covered here on the 1709 Blog). Despite Judge Robert Jones previously noting that historical works are entitled to lesser protection than works of fiction, which suggests only Woodward's expression of these facts or his “unique selection and arrangement” of otherwise unprotectable elements would attract copyright protection, there were eleven similarities identified between the manuscript and the musical. It was not indicated which specific parts of the autobiography were copied but these similarities include the dialogue surrounding songs, the characterisation of individuals, and the description of scenes. It was also decided that the copied material contributed 10% to the show’s success. Damages will be determined at a late trial and a spokesman for the show has told NBC 4 New York “Jersey Boys” plans to appeal this decision – stay tuned.

Getty Images: Getty Images has had a copyright case dismissed without prejudice. Previously covered here by the 1709 Blog, Getty had threatened photographer Carol Highsmith via License Compliance Services (LCS) for copyright licence infringement. Ironically the image in question was one of Highsmith’s own - she had donated it to the Library of Congress, and Getty and its affiliates were subsequently discovered to have made available more than 18,000 of her other photographs. Highsmith responded with a copyright claim of statutory damages of almost $500m. These claims were, however, recently dismissed in a New York District Court, along with other claims that Getty and LCS had charged licensing fees and collected settlements from purported infringers for images they had no right to represent.

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