You know, when it comes to publicity rights, that expansion of law that masturbates celebrity egos like no other, I can laugh it off when we hear from the likes of Lindsay Lohan, Katherine Heigl, and Dan Snyder. I mean, sure they’re famous and rich, but they still probably deserve that famous Hitchhiker’s Guide designation of “mostly harmless.” That their attacks on anyone who dares make even the barest reference to their holy visages typically fail usually serves as enough mental closure in my mind to keep the dogs from barking in my head at night.
Over the years we’ve written a few times about lawyers trying to sue Westlaw, LexisNexis and Thomson Reuters for aggregating public court legal filings, and then reselling them. As we’ve noted in the past, rulings by the court (or filings by the government) are in the public domain, but filings by lawyers representing other parties likely have some level of copyright protection over them. However, there is an exceptionally strong fair use claim to being able to make use of such public filings. Earlier lawsuits, such as ones we wrote about in 2009 and 2010 appeared to fizzle out, but the one we wrote about in 2012 actually went to a federal court in New York. A little over a year ago, we wrote about how the case was easily dismissed on summary judgment, with a promise to issue a full ruling at a later date.
And we’re back with another episode of Lindsay Lohan Sues People For Stuff They Didn’t Do. It’s been a while, so you may not remember that Lohan, who has been quite lawsuit-happy in the past, was reportedly discussing filing a likeness-rights suit against the makers of Grand Theft Auto 5, claiming that a character in the game is based on her. That was in December of last year and apparently over six months of her lawyers explaining to her what parody is hasn’t taken, because reports are now coming out that she has indeed filed in a New York court:
We’ve seen this many times before, how patents can hold back very useful developments. Notice how 3D printing is suddenly a big thing? It’s not because of any new miraculous breakthroughs, but because some key patents finally started expiring, allowing real innovation to move forward. We saw something similar in the field of infrared grills, which were put on the… uh… back burner (sorry) until key patents expired. Derek now points us to a similar example.
For many years, we’ve had ongoing debates about whether or not it’s ethical or legal to use open WiFi connections. It’s one of those debates that never seem to stop. Unfortunately, in a ruling yesterday, the Third Circuit appeals court suggested that merely using an open WiFi network may be a criminal act. This is hugely problematic for a variety of reasons.
Disney is a name that is often associated with copyright maximalism for pretty good reasons. Despite the fact that many of its early successes depended heavily on either direct infringement or making use of the public domain, the company was a very aggressive enforcer of its own copyrights. And, of course, it was also a primary lobbyist for expanding copyright protections, andextending copyright term every time Mickey Mouse approached the public domain.
However, in the past few years, it’s seemed as though Disney has been a bit quieter than in the past about copyright issues, allowing some other companies to take the lead on that. And, in some cases, it seems to even be recognizing (*gasp*) that some infringement can actually be a good thing. Andrew Leonard, over at Salon, has the story of how Disney has finally joined the 21st century in realizing that having fans create derivative works around the movie Frozen, has actually been useful and free promotion for the original (and massively successful) movie.
All too often we seem to see people making copyright claims over public domain works. It’s especially egregious when we see museums do this kind of thing, as happens every so often.
While museums in some other countries like to try to claim that they can create a new copyright on the digital scan of a public domain image, in the U.S. it is generally considered settled law that museums cannot create such a new copyright. Public domain is the public domain….
In 2012, we pointed out how ridiculous it was that then Homeland Security boss Janet Napolitano, who self-described herself as a Luddite, admitted that she didn’t use email at all. This seemed troubling, given that DHS was ostensibly in charge of cybersecurity, and you’d hope that the boss would understand the basics of email. Of course, she later admitted to the real reason why she didn’t use email: it created a paper-trail that would make her too accountable….
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