Copyright Update – January 2014

Hope everyone is having a great winter break.  Nothing enlivens a dull vacation or SNOW DAY more than COPYRIGHT NEWS (am I right?), so here’s a few news bites for you:

January 1 was Public Domain Day : Contrary to popular opinion, some things do enter the public domain here in the US — it’s just published works that are frozen until 2019.  Unpublished works have a life + 70 term, which means that works by authors who died in 1933 or earlier are now in the public domain.   Those authors whose works were published in the US in 1923 or after are still in copyright.  Yes, these rules work the same for posthumous publication.   More reading, with lots of links to interesting and delightful 20th century works that you may not have access to: 

Sherlock Holmes character is public domain! – I think I talked about the various “fun” public domain cases.  Well, one of them came out, and it’s good news for the public domain — the character of Sherlock Holmes, as exemplified in his numerous public domain works, is itself public domain.  No more licensing to the Arthur Conan Doyle estate for US productions.  

10th Circuit dissertation in library found infringing.

It sounds worse than it is, although, admittedly, it’s not good.  A Tenth Circuit case (southwest) found University of New Mexico liable for copyright infringement for distributing a dissertation without permission of the author.  The Diversey v. Schmidly (10th Cir. 2013) case involved a grad student who got into a fight with his advisor, and wanted to transfer; without the student knowing it, however, the advisor kept the (draft) dissertation and filed it with the Grad School and the library.  The central question was whether the statute of limitations had tolled.  

In theory, this could be bad for things like our ETD digitization project, or other kinds of special collection digitizations — but in practice I think it won’t be a big deal, because this particular case was so weird.  The Diversey v. Schmidly case picked up the logic of a rather weird — and again, bad, but very particular — case from the 4th Circuit, the Hotaling case.

Pre-1972 Sound Recordings – The Second Circuit will hear a case about Pre-1972 Sound Recordings on Vimeo, in Capitol v. Vimeo.

GoldieBlox v. the Beastie Boys – It’s on, because the Beastie Boys have now counter-sued.  We’ll be watching this case for its “fair use” implications.  

Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens (4th Cir. 2013) – Big win for fair use in this long-running case on fair uses in documentary films.  Note, the MPAA and the ALA were on the same sides!

Copyright and Non-US Universities – 

CANADA : Our neighbors to the north have been dealing with their equivalent of the CCC (“Access Copyright”), which, like CCC, has been aggressively trying to get universities to license content for course use.  The Canadian Supreme Court and the Canadian legislature, however, have been supportive of educational uses, and a number of Canadian universities are dropping their Big Deal licenses with Access Copyright.  Access Copyright is suing one major university (York University), and that will be a big case this next year.  

ISRAELI universities have settled with publishers, agreeing to a “best practices in fair use” approach, very similar to the one in the ARL Code.  Israel adopted a “fair use” law a few years ago very similar to the US approach.  

Lawsuits against universities by publishers or licensing groups continue in India (Delhi University) and New Zealand.  

Other US cases to watch

As for the US cases, we’re still waiting for appeals for Google Books, HathiTrust, and Georgia State — we’ll see!  I’m highly optimistic for the first two and anxious about the last.  Also coming up will be the Boundless textbook case.  

There are a bunch of online DVR cases (AereoDishAereoKiller, etc.) — I’m betting the Supreme Court will take one soon.  The Supreme Court has also agreed to take a case on software patents (Alice v. CLS Bank) which may follow up on the big patent case last year in Myriad Genetics, and help deal with some of the crazy software patent problems.   And of course the many opinions in the NSA surveillance are continuing to come out; watch for this one to go to the Supreme Court, too. 

Cheers, and if copyright isn’t enough to keep you entertained, well, you can always shovel snow.  


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