Monthly Archives: August 2011
But all too many authors and artists waste their money, and that of those they accuse of stealing their work, in lawsuits that ignore the common sense rule that the broader and more general the idea, the harder it is to claim ownership. Conversely, the more specific the expression of that idea, the easier it is to prove plagiarism and similar infringements.
The latest example of this obtuseness is the action brought against photographer Ryan McGinley by one Janine Gordon, who is better known as JahJah. Her photographic stock in trade, writes the New York Times’s Randy Kennedy, is youth culture, including such subjects as “concert mosh pits and bull-riding rings and …glue sniffers in Brazil.”
In his self-defense McGinley said that his pictures and Gordon’s did not “look alike in the slightest.” What she was really complaining about is “the images share the same fundamental idea.” The judge expressed it far more explicitly than McGinley dared: JahJah Gordon’s “apparent theory of infringement would assert copyright interests in virtually any figure with outstretched arms, any interracial kiss, or any nude female torso. Such a conception of copyright law has no basis in statute, case law or common sense.”
Perhaps the most damning evidence was that of the judge’s own eyes: “The dictates of good eyes and common sense lead inexorably to the conclusion that there is no substantial similarity between Plaintiff’s works and the allegedly infringing compositions of McGinley.” (See Copyright Lawsuit Against Ryan McGinley Dismissed by Randy Kennedy.)
So, if you feel your work has been plagiarized, before reaching for your lawyer revisit the common sense guideline laid down by copyright.gov:
Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed. http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-protect.html
Apple’s new CEO Tim Cook was just welcomed with a goody bag filled with 1 million shares of his company’s stock. That was the easy part. Now he’s going to have to earn it.
But as much as he would like to focus on developing products envisioned by the retiring founder Steve Jobs (who will remain active in the company for as long as he is able), he may first have to shore up the iPad as it comes under fire from rivals seeking a share of Apple’s commanding market for the tablet computer.
In particular Cook will have to deal with Amazon, which is not only developing a tablet of its own but planning to offer it to consumers dirt-cheap. Amazon has not concealed its strategy of selling its Android-driven gadget at a loss – hundreds of dollars below iPad’s base price of $499 – just to pull the rug out from its competitor, according to Garrett Sloan of the New York Post.
Amazon has a long way to travel to bite into Apple’s 25 million unit lead, but no observer of Amazon would bet against its coming up with a product, a price and a marketing campaign that could close the gap faster than anyone would believe possible. Maybe Jeff Bezos should name the new tablet Orange, to facilitate comparison between Apples and Oranges.
Details in $99 tablets: Price is right
Hurricane Irene passed through New York with less damage than feared, except for the unnerving, incessant torrential downpour beating against apartment windows for eight hours straight. Some inconvenience but a price most of us were happy to pay given how bad it could have been. But typical of New Yorkers, a lot of grumbling when the New York Times did not show up on our doorsteps at 6:00 AM, forcing us to read the news on our iPads.
Emergency management in New York City was a model of intergovernment cooperation, municipal, state and federal. Hats off to Mayor Bloomberg, Whatever one’s politics, we felt ourselves to be in completely confident hands, supported by Governor Cuomo.
We expect public transportation to be restored for business as usual Monday morning. We can now exhale, and begin emptying our bathtub and dumping buckets with water reserved for emergencies. We will consume the gourmet K-rations we set aside for power outages – only in New York does one stock up on bagels and lox spread, sushi, and croissants to relieve suffering when trapped in one’s apartment for more than six hours.
There were no broken windows that we heard of, but a number of neighbors disregarded instructions to leave windows untaped. Prize for best window-taping goes to the artist across the street from us. Our hearts go out to him or her when the time comes to remove all that beautiful sticky cross-hatching.
Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Smite flat the thick rotundity o’ the world!
Crack nature’s moulds, an germens spill at once,
That make ingrateful man!
“WASHINGTON – As Hurricane Irene prepared to batter the East Coast of the United States, federal disaster officials warned that Internet outages caused by the storm could force people to interact with other people for the first time in years. News of the possible interpersonal interactions created panic up and down the coast as residents braced themselves for the horror of awkward silences and unwanted eye contact. And as officials warned people in the hurricane zone to stay indoors, residents feared the worst: conversations with members of their immediate family.”
Outliving your copyrights sounds like a curse but for Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Tom Petty and other songwriters it may prove a blessing. It could be a blessing for a lot of aging authors, too, if they step through the window in the US copyright law that allows them to terminate book contracts 35 years after the contract date. Even agreements that originally conveyed rights to publishers in perpetuity cannot trump these termination rights.
Though authors and agents have been aware, for several years, of the impending impact of the law, the time to take action has arrived. So we thought we’d reprint the blog we posted about a year ago, Rights Bump Swells Bigger and Bigger.
Are you ready for The Big Bump?
Those of you who read our posting in September (Copyright Asteroid Hurtling Towards Earth) know that The Big Bump is a major copyright event shaping up for the near future. As copyright attorney Lloyd J. Jassin informed us, thanks to a provision of the US Copyright code authors will be able to terminate contracts negotiated in the late 1970s even if those contracts appear to give the publisher rights forever.
“Starting in 2011,” Jassin writes, “the publishing and entertainment industries will be looking at the possibility of thousands of negotiations with copyright owners seeking to recapture their rights. Some call it ‘contract bumping.’ This powerful ‘re-valuation mechanism’ found in the Copyright Act allows authors (and their heirs) to terminate contracts 35-years after the contract date. The termination right trumps written agreements — even agreements which state they are in perpetuity.” [Italics ours]
Though nobody has panicked, the news has begun to percolate and publishing people and their lawyers are beginning to review their old contracts to determine what books are affected and to institute damage control measures.
For publishers the strategy is to commence negotiations with authors and agents now to extend or renew the old contracts or negotiate brand-new ones. Because e-books and print on demand, two products essential to extending the life of a contract, did not exist pre-1978 (or pre-1998 for that matter), publishers will insist that renewals provide for them.
The big question however is, once authors know they can recapture their old contracts, will they blithely sign their e-book and POD rights away?
Authors who exercise their “bump” right will realize what a treasure the copyright law has bestowed on them. Why would they bestow it back on their publisher, especially if their publisher is paying a lower e-book royalty than is being offered down the street by some independent e-book publishers. (Full disclosure. E-Reads is down the street.)
Which means that independent e-book publishers might be in for windfalls starting 2013.
Publishers, authors and agents have a lot to think about between now and 2013, and it isn’t too soon to start thinking about it now.
For the full text of Article 203 of the 1978 Copyright Act, the provision that is causing all this turmoil, click here.
And for attorney Jassin’s detailed instruction for recovery of your rights, read Copyright Termination: How Authors (and Their Heirs) Can Recapture Their Pre-1978 Copyrights.
Early in 2009, when Jobs’ was forced to temporarily give up leadership of Apple in order to combat pancreatic cancer, we reminded our readers of Charles De Gaulle’s grim remark: “The graveyards are full of indispensable men.”
“Every business captain,” we said, “needs to post that quotation on the wall in front of his or her desk as a reminder that great leaders must be great delegators. Jobs is as indispensable as corporate heads can possibly be, but adverse health has forced him, as it did De Gaulle, to look at his mortality and relinquish to others tasks that threaten to sap the energy he needs to restore his health.” (See My Irreplaceable You.) Jobs’s medical leave in ’09 was enough to depress the value of Apple’s shares by 2% in the domestic stock market and as much as 7.9% overseas.
And now the day of reckoning has arrived for Steve Jobs and the company he has fashioned like a masterpiece wrought by a modern-day Cellini: today he resigned as CEO, admitting he was no longer able to effectively run it. The reins will be picked up by Chief Operating Office Tim Cook. In his poignant statement Jobs said “I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.”
What will become of Apple? In the Wall Street Journal Yukari Iwatani Kane writes that “People familiar with the situation have said that Mr. Jobs continues to be active at Apple and is closely involved in the company’s product strategy. Apple watchers don’t expect that to change even after Mr. Cook takes over.”
The first test of that statement came today when the stock market opened. The last trade before the announcement on Wednesday August 24th, was $376.18. Overnight, before the market opened today, shares dropped over $12.00 a share. However, it closed at 373.72, an unremarkable drop of $2.46, less than -0.65%. This would seem to suggest that sensible investors see that Jobs’s signature on his company is deeply embedded in the quality of its products and service. It doesn’t hurt that in the last quarter Apple reported blowout earnings of over 7.3 billion dollars.
The company is scarcely vulnerable. Its presiding visionary, however, is all too mortal. We wish him godspeed on his journey.