Copyright, Folklore and Traditional Native Culture

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I recently came back from a wonderful vacation with my wife in New Mexico. This is a spectacular part of the US for art lovers, as well as for those interested in nature and history. Santa Fe seems to have more art museums than gas stations, ranging from the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum to the New Mexico Museum of Art, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, the Institute of American Indian Arts and many others. There are private galleries galore, and many native vendors selling art. The art scene, which first achieved prominence in the 1920’s, extends to other centres as well, such as Taos, Abiqiui, and a number of native “pueblos”. (If this sounds like an unsolicited plug for New Mexico as a place to visit, it is). Continue reading “Copyright, Folklore and Traditional Native Culture”

Girl Guides of Canada Oppose Copyright Term Extension! What Next?

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Who among us has not purchased the ubiquitous Girl Guide cookies (aka Girl Scout cookies in the USA), available outside a supermarket or in a mall of your choice every spring. Even if you are not a fan of this particular version of the oreo cookie, one takes satisfaction from knowing that the money is going to a good cause. The Girl Guides (or Girl Scouts) is a great organization, dedicated–according to the website of the Girl Guides of Canada (GGC)–to making a “positive difference in the life of every girl and woman who experiences Guiding so she can contribute responsibly to her communities.” Its mission is to enable girls “to be confident, resourceful and courageous, and to make a difference in the world”. These are laudable goals, and one would expect that money provided to the Guides through cookie sales or direct donation would go directly to support programs for girls. Thus it was with some degree of surprise that I learned that at least some of the money raised goes for political causes that are not exactly central to Guiding, such as lobbying the Parliament of Canada to oppose any extension to the term of copyright protection. Continue reading “Girl Guides of Canada Oppose Copyright Term Extension! What Next?”

YouTube and the Music Value Gap

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Canadian musician, songwriter, boutique record label owner and music festival organizer  Miranda Mulholland made quite a splash with her cri de coeur address to the Economic Club of Canada in late May about the challenges facing performers in today’s digital world. Kate Taylor, entertainment columnist for the Globe and Mail who moderated the Economic Club event, in her article “What happens when we starve our artists”, strongly sympathized with Mulholland’s argument that musicians are being shortchanged by the digital distribution model. Mulholland took particular aim at YouTube; Continue reading “YouTube and the Music Value Gap”

WannaCry and China: Will This Finally Lead to Real Action against Software Piracy in China? (And bring an end to copyright enforcement with “Chinese characteristics”?)

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China was hit hard, very hard, by the recent WannaCry ransomware attack. Of course, government institutions and businesses world-wide suffered from the virus but it seems that China was disproportionally affected. China has a huge online population, which may be one factor explaining the widespread impact of the attack. According to media reports citing data from the China Internet Network Information Center, China’s internet users (or “netizens” to use a favoured English-language adaptation in China) totalled 731 million at the end of 2016, an increase of over 40 million from a year earlier. But the attack was directed more at institutions than individuals. The New York Times reported that over 40,000 institutions and companies in China were affected including major universities, airlines, railway stations, gas stations and social media outlets. Continue reading “WannaCry and China: Will This Finally Lead to Real Action against Software Piracy in China? (And bring an end to copyright enforcement with “Chinese characteristics”?)”

Some Curiosities of the Copyright World

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In Lewis Carroll’s classic (1865) children’s story, Alice in Wonderland, Alice remarked that things got “curious and curiouser” as she entered her mysterious world. Curious and curiouser is certainly one way to describe some of the things that have been happening in the copyright world lately. Copyright ownership has been contested in fields of creative expression as disparate as tattoos of NBA players to artificial language, in this case the Klingon language of Star Wars. It has involved high profile artists such as Led Zeppelin who were accused of illegally copying the guitar riff in their famous song “Stairway to Heaven” from musical group Spirit’s 1968 recording of “Taurus”, written by the late songwriter Randy Wolfe. The suit was based in part on allegations that Led Zeppelin members Jimmy Page and Robert Plant had heard Spirit play Taurus before “Stairway” was written. They were acquitted by a jury that concluded that while band members had heard the song, there was not substantial similarity between the key elements of the two pieces of music. Alleged copyright infringement has even involved a photograph taken by a monkey, as I have written in my blog. In this case we know, thanks to a decision of the California Ninth Circuit, that Naruto the macaque does not own the copyright on the photo, but we are still not sure who does. Continue reading “Some Curiosities of the Copyright World”

The Copyright Alliance Celebrates its 10th Anniversary: Rights Holders (and Others) World-Wide Should Rejoice

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On May 17, the Washington DC, based Copyright Alliance will celebrate its tenth anniversary. This organization, which represents some 82,000 graphic and commercial artists, 16,000 film and television directors, 125,000 film, television and stage workers, more than 44,500 photographers, 9000 plus authors, 160,000 music, screen and television performers, 1.3 million songwriters and composers, and over 120,000 recording artists is clearly the home port for the ship S.S. Copyright. The Alliance also has corporate members; 400 book publishers, 3000 music publishers, 160 magazine media companies, 350 record labels, two sports leagues, six motion picture studios, 2000 newspaper publishers, over 6,500 radio and TV broadcasters and 760 plus software and technology companies. And that’s not all! The membership also includes a number of industry associations, such as the Association of American Publishers, the Recording Industry Association of America, the Association of Independent Music Publishers, the Business Software Alliance, the Entertainment Software Association, the Motion Picture Association of America, the News Media Alliance, the Screen Actors Guild, and I could go on. In other words, it is a very big tent under which many varied elements of creativity and the copyright industries are welcome. Rights-holders and others world-wide have good reason to congratulate the Copyright Alliance on its success. Continue reading “The Copyright Alliance Celebrates its 10th Anniversary: Rights Holders (and Others) World-Wide Should Rejoice”

Calculating the Economic Impact of Counterfeiting and Piracy: It’s in the Hundreds of Billions

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Who says that piracy doesn’t really hurt anyone or have much of an economic impact? A recent report released in early February and published by Frontier Economics on behalf of the International Chamber of Commerce and BASCAP (Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy), along with INTA (International Trade Mark Association), reports the disturbing figure that the value of international and domestic trade in counterfeit and pirated goods in 2013 reached a total of $710 to $ 917 billion. In addition, the study estimates that the global value of digital piracy in movies, music and software in 2015 was $213 billion. At the high end, that totals 1.13 trillion dollars in trade in counterfeited and pirated products, both physical and online. It gets worse. The study estimates this amount will grow to between 1.9 and 2.8 trillion dollars by the year 2022. This translates into digital piracy in film, music and software being valued at between $384 and $856 billion in 5 years time. As a result, the estimated employment losses due to counterfeiting and piracy will surpass 5 million by 2022. Continue reading “Calculating the Economic Impact of Counterfeiting and Piracy: It’s in the Hundreds of Billions”