Copyright Law

Abraham Lincoln told a story about a lawyer who tried to establish that a calf had five legs by calling its tail a leg. But the calf had only four legs, Lincoln observed, because calling a tail a leg does not make it so…. Heeding Lincoln’s wisdom, and the requirements of the Copyright Act, we conclude that merely calling someone a copyright owner does not make it so.

– Judge Richard Clifton, writing for a unanimous panel of the Ninth Circuit in Righthaven LLC v. Hoehn.

(Additional commentary about this interesting case, after the jump.)

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Everyone loves doing the Harlem Shake, the latest dance craze to take YouTube by storm. Your friends have done it, law students have done it, and even Justin Timberlake has done it on Saturday Night Live. It’s a cultural phenomenon, and everyone wants to get involved, but eventually, the fun has got to stop — and as is usually the case with these viral videos, that stopping point comes quicker than a former Biglaw partner having a mid-life crisis.

This time, the fun is stopping because the ultimate party-killers are now on the scene to assess the damage. That’s right: lawyers are poking their noses into the Harlem Shake because of — you guessed it — copyright violations.

Let’s talk about the underlying legal claims before you feel the need to put on a Halloween costume in March and violently flail around to a 30-second music clip on film….

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