Most Targeted Websites in Copyright Complaints to Google

24 November 2015

The entertainment industry continues to fight against online piracy and Google Search is one of their chosen battlefields. According to data published in Google’s Transparency Report, the number of requests requests the search giant receives continues to skyrocket. In the past month, copyright owners filed requests for more than 65 million URLs to be removed from search results due to copyright infringement. That’s more than 15 million requests per week, up from around 200,000 requests per week when Google started disclosing these numbers in 2011.

Our chart shows which websites were most often targeted in copyright infringement claims received by Google since 2011. Most of the websites in the Top 10 are file hosting services that are often used by file sharers to host illegal copies of copyright-protected material such as movies, TV series and music.

Infographic: Most Targeted Websites in Copyright Complaints to Google | Statista
You will find more statistics at Statista

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Anne Frank’s Diary Gains ‘Co-Author’ in Copyright Move

14 November 2015

From The New York Times:

When Otto Frank first published his daughter’s red-checked diary and notebooks, he wrote a prologue assuring readers that the book mostly contained her words, written while hiding from the Nazis in a secret annex of a factory in Amsterdam.

But now the Swiss foundation that holds the copyright to “The Diary of Anne Frank” is alerting publishers that her father is not only the editor but also legally the co-author of the celebrated book.

The move has a practical effect: It extends the copyright from Jan. 1, when it is set to expire in most of Europe, to the end of 2050. Copyrights in Europe generally end 70 years after an author’s death. Anne Frank died 70 years ago at Bergen-Belsen, a concentration camp, and Otto Frank died in 1980. Extending the copyright would block others from being able to publish the book without paying royalties or receiving permission.

In the United States, the diary’s copyright will still end in 2047, 95 years after the first publication of the book in 1952.

. . . .

Foundation officials “should think very carefully about the consequences,” said Agnès Tricoire, a lawyer in Paris who specializes in intellectual property rights in France, where critics have been the most vociferous and are organizing a challenge. “If you follow their arguments, it means that they have lied for years about the fact that it was only written by Anne Frank.”

The decision has also set the foundation on a possible collision course with the Anne Frank House museum in Amsterdam, a separate entity that for years has sparred with the Anne Frank foundation over legal questions, such as ownership of archives and trademark issues.

The museum has been working for five years with historians and researchers on an elaborate web version of the diary intended for publication once the copyright expires. The research is still progressing with a historical and textual analysis of her writing, including deletions, corrections and stains.

“We haven’t decided yet when or how the results will be published,” said Maatje Mostart, a spokeswoman for the Anne Frank House. “Any publishing will always be done within the legal frameworks.” She added pointedly that neither “Otto Frank nor any other person is co-author.”

. . . .

Six years ago, the foundation asked legal experts in various countries for advice on its copyright, according to Yves Kugelmann, a member of the foundation’s board. They concluded, he said, that Otto “created a new work” because of his role of editing, merging and trimming entries from her diary and notebooks and reshaping them into “kind of a collage” meriting its own copyright.

Merely declaring Otto the “co-author” on copyright filings extends the copyright, legal experts said, though such a stand could be tested in the courts. Readers would not see any changes on the books themselves, foundation officials said.

Link to the rest at The New York Times 

The Mysterious Case of the Fake Beatles Cover

31 October 2015

From Copyright and Technology:

Several big-name recording artists have been “digital holdouts” who have refused to license their material for distribution through interactive streaming music services like Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play Music, Rhapsody, and so on.  One by one, most of them eventually gave in and joined the crowd: Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Metallica, Kid Rock, Def Leppard, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Frank Zappa.  Only a tiny number of artists remain digital holdouts by choice, including the biggest one of all: the Beatles.  Or are they?

A curious phenomenon occurs around digital holdouts: other artists distribute cover versions of the digital holdouts’ tunes and create appropriate metadata, so that users searching for the big-name artists find the cover versions and play them.  This results in royalties for the cover artists even if the music wasn’t what the users expected. Cover versions with the right metadata are also picked up by Internet radio services.  So, if you searched for “Led Zeppelin” or started a “Led Zeppelin Radio” channel before Led Zep licensed its music to the interactive services, you might have heard Zep covers from a band called Led Zepagain.  When Interscope held Carly Rae Jepsen’s monster hit “Call Me Maybe” back from interactive services a couple of years ago, users heard a cover version by an unknown singer.

If you listen to “Beatles Radio” on a pure Internet radio service like Pandora, you will hear Beatles tunes every once in a while.  That’s because Internet radio services have statutory licenses that allow them to play any song at all, as long as they pay appropriate royalties to record labels and songwriters.  (Similarly, anyone can record a cover version of any song.) But an interactive service can’t offer any song for on-demand listening unless the rights holders have licensed it to do so.

. . . .

Apparently, Liverpool Beat is one of a couple of Beatles cover bands that are designed to sub in for the Beatles in circumstances similar to Led Zepagain for the real Zeppelin.  (There are also a couple of Beatles tribute bands called Liverpool Beat that play bars, weddings, etc., but this is different.)  Liverpool Beat has dozens of Beatles songs available on the major interactive streaming services — including Spotify, Google Play, and Apple Music — from all phases of the Beatles’ career.  I listened to all of them.  They range in quality from mediocre to pretty decent imitations, but they are clearly not the Beatles… except for “In My Life.”  That’s definitely John Lennon singing and George Martin’s double-speed piano solo.

Link to the rest at Copyright and Technology

German Consumer Protection Ministry Calls for the Right to Resell eBooks

27 October 2015

From The Digital Reader:  reports that Consumer Protection Ministry for the German state of Baden-Württemberg is now calling for consumers to have the right to resell the ebooks they buy.

The way things work right now is that consumers don’t buy an ebook so much as the buy a license to use the ebook. That license is defined at the whim of the ebook retailer, and often excludes the possibility that the consumer owns the file or can resell it (this, even though ebooks routinely cost more than paper books).

. . . .

But the Verbraucherschutzministerium Baden-Württemberg wants to change that. They are proposing that the principle of exhaustion be applied to ebooks just like it is with books.

The exhaustion doctrine (as it is also known) is a limit on IP rights that basically says that an IP holder’s control ends when an item like a book is sold. That doctrine is why you can resell a paper book, and activists have long argued it should apply to digital content as well.

As you may recall from the Oracle v Usedsoft decision, we’ve had some luck in that direction. Consumers in Europe do have the right to resell software. With ebooks, on the other hand, German courts have said that retailers can make consumers give up the resale right when they agree to a license to buy the ebook.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

Fisking the Authors Guild

20 October 2015

From Joe Konrath:

The Authors Guild just lost one of their ongoing cases against Google. The Guild have been whining that Google’s Book Scan–a service meant to digitally scan every book so the entire world could gain searchable Internet access to all of that info–is in fact violating copyright and stealing from authors.

Hey, Authors Guild! Why not also charge readers a fee every time they recommend a book via word of mouth?

. . . .

The Authors Guild has lost similar battles. During Authors Guild vs. Bill Smopey, they sued him because he’d sat in a Barnes & Nobel and read half of The Terror by Dan Simmons but hadn’t bought it. Smopey’s defense, “After the first 500 pages, the monster wasn’t even in it anymore, and I got bored and put it back.” The Guild claimed that Smopey owed Simmons’s publisher half of the cover price for reading without paying, and for partially crinkling page 342. The court dismissed the case.

During Authors Guild vs. Janet’s Mother, they sued because Janet bought a full price hardcover of Stephen King’s The Cell, then loaned it to her mother to read. The Guild demanded Janet’s Mother pay Stephen King a royalty, because she had no right to read what she hadn’t bought for herself. Janet’s Mother’s legal team dazzled with the famous, “Well, what about libraries?!” defense and the suit was dropped.

. . . .

The Guild recently remarked on their latest loss, to follow. Them in unreasonable bold italic font. I replied in sensible plain font.

Today, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals released its decision in Authors Guild v. Google. “The Authors Guild is disappointed that the Court has failed to reverse the District Court’s faulty interpretation of the fair use doctrine,” said Mary Rasenberger, Executive Director of the Authors Guild in New York. 

Apparently making all books discoverable on the Internet, which would not only add to the collective knowledge of the world, but help interested parties find the right books to buy, wasn’t fair use. That it would help people find more books to buy seems lost in the fear that people would rather surf the internet and piece together a book random page by random page at great frustration and time cost to get a maximum of 16% of the full title, out of order no less. We all love reading like that, don’t we?

“America owes its thriving literary culture to copyright protection. 

Actually, America owes its thriving literary culture to writers who are compelled to create. Copyright doesn’t ensure a writer makes money. Readers do. And if the readers can’t find the writer because–let’s take a wild leap here–the writer’s work isn’t searchable on the world’s biggest search engine, then copyright isn’t going to put one cent in that writer’s pocket.

. . . .

It’s unfortunate that a Court as well-respected as the Second Circuit does not see the damaging effect that uses such as Google’s can have on authors’ potential income.

Yeah, damaging. Someone Googles a topic, and it leads to a free except of my book. Every author wants people to browse a bookstore and find their book among the thousands of others. But to be able to do this online, 24/7? That’s stealing.

There are many ways to read a book without compensating the authors. Buy used. Go to a library. Borrow from a friend. Steal online. Use a paperback exchange. Read fan fic.

Authors shouldn’t fear being read. Being read will eventually lead to getting paid. Authors should be worrying about not being read, because readers don’t know they exist. Google Book Scan wants to show the world books that the world hasn’t ever seen before. The Authors Guild wants to micromanage this boon to authors and readers by collecting royalties.

Can someone call Mary Rasenberger on her landline, or if that’s too technologically advanced for her, send her a telegram, and let her know the rest of us are living in 2015.

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath and thanks to Ava and others for the tip.

Here’s a link to Joe Konrath’s books. If you like what an author has written, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Buck Rogers and the Copyright Trolls, Redux

18 October 2015

From The Digital Reader:

With older stories and characters like Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes, Barsoom, and Buck Rogers increasingly protected by trademarks and not copyrights, it is becoming more and more important every day that anyone following digital publishing news understand the distinctions between these two parts of IP law, and how trademarks can be used to lock down works that have otherwise fallen into the public domain.

. . . .

Earlier this year a filmmaker by the name of Don Murphy who had been hoping to make a movie based on the 87-year-old public domain story Armageddon 2419 AD filed a lawsuit against the Dille Family Trust, the legal entity that controls the IP of the author, Philip Francis Nowlan.

Murphy asked a judge to declare that the story was in the public domain.

. . . .

As I explained back in August, it is possible to hold a valid trademark on a work whose copyright has expired. For example, this is how the Burroughs estate maintains control over the Barsoom series.

Do you recall the execrable John Carter of Mars movie from 2012? After it bombed at the box office, the rights reverted from Disney to the Burroughs estate (or so the estate claimed; I am unconvinced that the IP claims are valid).

The trademark issue is important to this Buck Rogers lawsuit because while the copyrights may have expired, the trademarks might still be valid. A tv series based on Buck Rogers was produced in the 1970s, which means that there could be trademarks on elements from the stories.

This movie that Murphy wants to make might contain elements that violate the estate’s trademarks. We can’t know that for sure without seeing the movie, but we also can’t summarily discard the possibility.

. . . .

All I can say at this time is that when we hear of an author’s estate acting as a copyright troll, we can’t assume that only copyrights are involved. The trolls are now using trademarks to their advantage.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

Court Rules That Google Books Is Not Infringement

18 October 2015

From Gizmodo:

Google’s been embroiled in a battle with writers and the Authors Guild over whether or not the company’s book scanning project infringed on their copyright. Today the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals held that it’s fair use.

In case you’ve never used Google Books before, it’s a searchable database of millions of books that Google has digitized through agreements with libraries. Many of the books are nonfiction and most are out of print. When you search for something in Google Books, it tells which of those books have the phrase in it and how many times it appears. You’ll also get a maximum of three “snippets”—images of about 1/8 of a page—showing the phrase you searched for. Google also has a myriad of other restrictions that make it really hard to use the database to see a significant amount of the book, including blacklisting ten percent of the book from the Internet entirely.

. . . .

Both the search function and the snippet functions were deemed to be fair use, with the court applying each of the four factors outlined in federal law:

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

The court found the search function transformative since “the result of a word search is different in purpose, character, expression, meaning, and message from the page (and the book) from which it is drawn.” The purpose is to make information about the book available, not the information in the book. Snippet view was also deemed transformative as it added value to the search function’s new use—it tells researchers whether the book uses the term in a way that would induce her to obtain a copy of the book.

Link to the rest at Gizmodo and thanks to Masha for the tip.

Did PETA Name the Right Macaque in Its ‘Monkey Selfie’ Lawsuit?

29 September 2015

From Motherboard:


Copyright claimed by David Slater and Naruto

On Tuesday, September 22, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) filed a lawsuit on behalf of a male Sulawesi crested macaque named Naruto, arguing that the monkey owns a copyright in the famous “monkey selfies.”

The lawsuit is against wildlife photographer David Slater, whose camera was used in the creation of the monkey selfies, and publisher Blurb Inc., which published a book of his photography.

In response to the unusual lawsuit, we asked a number of questions. One issue that was not, in the view of some readers, adequately addressed: How did PETA know the monkey in the photo was Naruto, or even that it was a male?

. . . .

Some coverage of the monkey selfie controversy last year identified the macaque as female. The photographer David Slater identifies the monkey as female in his book,Wildlife Personalities. PETA’s own president, Ingrid Newkirk, identified the monkey as female in a 2014 essay arguing that the monkey should own copyright in the photos.

Male Sulawesi crested macaques (also known as Celebes crested macaques and black macaques) are about twice the size of female macaques. They also have “enlarged canine teeth compared to females.” The monkey in the famous “selfie” photo does not have enlarged canine teeth compared to juvenile monkeys.

. . . .

Photographer David Slater told us in an email, “All you need to know is PETA have no proof they are talking about the same monkey. They hope you will buy into their stunt because an expert is willing to say her monkey is the one in my photos without proof. Engelhardt is bringing the Macaca Nigra Project into disrepute.” He added, in reference to the photos being posted on Wikipedia as being under the public domain, “And, WHY aren’t PETA suing Wikimedia for loss of royalties? Important question!”

. . . .

When we asked PETA’s general counsel, Jeffrey Kerr, whether Naruto knew about the lawsuit, he responded, “Um, the… fact here is that Naruto is unable to come into court himself and so we are standing as Next Friend. Your question is silly, frankly.”

We also asked if Naruto knew whether the selfies existed. “I have the same response,” he replied.

We then asked whether a monkey could intentionally create a copyrighted work if he didn’t know the work existed. Kerr answered in the affirmative, later clarifying that “He was aware of the cause and effect relationship between pushing the shutter, his reflection in the camera,” but also insisted that we not report he said that the monkey knows his own selfies exist on the internet.

. . . .

For a deeper dive into the legal logic behind this lawsuit, the full interview with Kerr follows.


How was the monkey identified?

Naruto is known to the people who work in Sulawesi for the protection of the macaques [the Macaca Nigra Project]. They have known Naruto since his birth in November 2008, and when the story originally broke long ago, they were very much aware of, and recognized Naruto in the photographs.

. . . .

Note: Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 17(c)(2) says:

A minor or an incompetent person who does not have a duly appointed representative may sue by a next friend or by a guardian ad litem. The court must appoint a guardian ad litem—or issue another appropriate order—to protect a minor or incompetent person who is unrepresented in an action.

PETA is using this rule to represent the monkey in a federal district court.

. . . .

So, my understanding is that the Copyright Office has refused to register the photo, or one of the photos…

My understanding is that they’ve never been asked to register a copy of the photograph. I believe they’ve never refused. And the Compendium is the Copyright Office’s opinion on the state of law but is not authoritative. They’re not the legislative body, they are not a court. And we respectfully disagree with their view on that.

. . . .

How does an animal have standing in federal court on a copyright issue?

Well that’s what we’re arguing. It’s clear that the Copyright Act provides protection for authors of original works and it’s clear by Mr. Slater’s own admission that Naruto is the author of this work. And so we are representing Naruto as his Next Friend because he, like, other parties, can’t come to court on their own. But that is the issue that we believe Naruto should be given copyright protection in this photo in this case.

. . . .

So with all of these hypothetical animals, obviously Naruto is an interesting case because there aren’t many of these… But there are a few instances (where, for instance, elephants create paintings) in which animals have created art and that art is under Compendium rules, not considered copyrightable under US law. What are you basically proposing is that these animals be given copyrights in their work, and whatever organization rushes into the gap first gets to administer those copyrights.

Well, there’s several problems with your questions. First this case is only about Naruto and these monkey selfie photographs. I don’t know the facts and circumstances in which those other works were created, and I don’t know of any actual legal cases that have come down on that. And I’ve already covered that we respectfully disagree with the US Copyright Office’s opinion in their Compendium. But the facts are indisputable that Naruto took these photographs as his free autonomous intentional act that resulted in the original works fixed in a tangible medium. And that’s what the Copyright Act provides protection for. And so he should get that protection and the corresponding benefit for him and his habitat and their population because of the danger they face they need all the help they can get.

Does Naruto know about this lawsuit?


Um, the… fact here is that Naruto is unable to come into court himself and so we are standing as Next Friend. Your question is silly, frankly. The issue is as I’ve stated it.

Does Naruto know about his selfies?


I have the same response.

Naruto certainly knew at the time that he was engaged in intentional conduct that is obvious from Mr. Slater’s own description of the situation. And Naruto clearly engaged in the purposeful intentional conduct that resulted in the creation of the selfies.

Link to the rest at Motherboard

Regarding PG’s use of the photo, he recognizes the copyright claims of both David Slater and Naruto. He believes his use of this photo, regardless of the creator, falls under Fair Use, an exception to the general rule that the author has exclusive rights to control the publication of his/her/its works.

PG won’t go through an analysis, but here’s the text of 17 U.S. Code § 107 – Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use:

Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include—

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.

PG will note that photos are an interesting fair use case under Factor (3) above because, unlike quoting from a written work, using a small portion of a photograph is usually not feasible. Displaying a slice of 10% of the macaque photo would not constitute a meaningful visual that illustrates the copyright issue in question.

Those interested in more information may find Fair Use in the Visual Arts, created by the Center for Media and Social Impact, of interest. A couple of excerpts follow:

The right to make fair use of copyrighted materials is a key tool for the visual arts community, although its members may not always choose to take advantage of it. They may still seek copyright permissions, for instance, to maintain relationships, to reward someone deemed deserving, or to obtain access to material needed for their purposes. But, in certain other cases, including those described in the Code, they may choose instead to employ fair use of copyrighted material in order to accomplish their professional goals.

Many members of the visual arts community employ fair use in their professional practices and many do so regularly. For instance, scholars and their editors employ fair use in the context of analytic writing (for example, in using reproductions of copyrighted artworks and quotations). Teachers rely on it—along with other copyright exceptions—to show images of works being discussed during class sessions, and, even more heavily, to provide relevant images for student use outside class. In the museum context, fair use may be employed in exhibitions and publications, and in a range of digital and educational projects. Artists may employ fair use to build on preexisting works, engage with contemporary culture, or provide artistic, political, or social commentary. And the entire visual arts community benefits from fair use when it enables enhanced access to archival materials. These are only some of the most common ways in which fair use is central to visual arts practice.

. . . .

Analytic Writing

Analytic writing focuses attention on artists, artworks, and movements; it includes analyses of art within larger cultural, political, and theoretical contexts. Such writing routinely includes reproductions, in full or in part, of relevant artworks in all media, texts, historical images, digital phenomena, and other visual culture. This material—much of it copyrighted—may be drawn from a variety of sources, including the collections of libraries and archives  (generally referred to here as “memory institutions”), notes and photographs taken by the writer, and documentary reproductions created or published by others; some works start out in analog formats and others are born digital. Sometimes the visual or textual works reproduced in connection with analytic writing are the specific subjects of analysis. Sometimes they are used to illustrate larger points about artistic trends and tendencies, or to document a particular point or conclusion. Such writing is published both within traditional academic venues and in ever-expanding venues beyond them. It may be published in a variety of formats, including print and electronic books and journals, exhibition catalogues, collection catalogues, blog and social media posts, and contributions to collaborative digital projects, such as wikis (which projects often reside in institutional repositories), or it may be delivered at academic meetings or on similar occasions. The effectiveness of analytic writing about art is improved by the reproduction of the materials that it references. In many instances, particularly for works of visual art, writers may conclude that reproduction of an entire work may be the most appropriate way to make their points.

PRINCIPLE: In their analytic writing about art, scholars and other writers (and, by extension, their publishers) may invoke fair use to quote, excerpt, or reproduce copyrighted works, subject to certain limitations:


  • The writer’s use of the work, whether in part or in whole, should be justified by the analytic objective, and the user should be prepared to articulate that justification.
  • The writer’s analytic objective should predominate over that of merely representing the work or works used.
  • The amount and kind of material used and (where images are concerned) the size and resolution of the published reproduction should not exceed that appropriate to the analytic objective.
  • Justifications for use and the amount used should be considered especially carefully in connection with digital-format reproductions of born-digital works, where there is a heightened risk that reproductions may function as substitutes for the originals.
  • Reproductions of works should represent the original works as accurately as can be achieved under the circumstances.
  • The writing should provide attribution of the original work as is customary in the field, to the extent possible.

Link to the rest at Fair Use for the Visual Arts

Pow! Appeals court assigns copyright to the Batmobile

25 September 2015

From Ars Technica:

“Holy copyright law, Batman!” So goes a line in the first paragraph of a federal appeals court ruling announcing that the iconic Batmobile is a character protected by copyright.

The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals sided with DC Comics in its copyright infringement suit against Mark Towle, the operator of Gotham Garage, the maker of Batmobile modification kits.

“As Batman so sagely told Robin, ‘In our well-ordered society, protection of private property is essential,'” the three-judge court unanimously concluded.

. . . .

The San Francisco-based appeals court’s decision largely upholds a 2012 ruling . . . from a federal judge in DC Comics’ lawsuit that accused Gotham Garage of selling “unlicensed replica vehicle modification kits based on vehicle design copyrights from plaintiff’s Batman property, including various iterations of the fictional automobile, the Batmobile.”

. . . .

[T]he court held that copyright protection is not always available for every comic book, television, or motion picture character. The judges said it is available only for “characters that are especially distinctive.” And in the case of Eleanor and the Batmobile, those fictional vehicles qualify.

Batman nerds will appreciate the court’s three-prong analysis it used to determine whether a character or vehicle such as the Batmobile deserves copyright protection. The character must have “physical as well as conceptual qualities.” It must also be “sufficiently delineated” to be recognized as the same character whenever it appears. Finally, it must “contain some unique elements of expression.”

Link to the rest at Ars Technica and thanks to Ric for the tip.

‘Happy Birthday’ song copyright is not valid, judge rules

23 September 2015

From The Los Angeles Times:

In a stunning reversal of decades of copyright claims, a federal judge in Los Angeles has ruled that Warner/Chappell Music does not hold a valid copyright claim to the “Happy Birthday To You” song.

Warner had been enforcing its copyright claim since it paid $15 million to buy Birch Tree Group, the successor to Clayton F. Summy Co., which owned the original copyright. The song brings in about $2 million a year in royalties for Warner, according to some estimates.

Judge George H. King ruled Tuesday afternoon that a copyright filed by the Summy Co. in 1935 granted only the rights to specific arrangements of the music, not the actual song.

“Because Summy Co. never acquired the rights to the Happy Birthday lyrics,” wrote King, “Defendants, as Summy Co.’s purported successors-in-interest, do not own a valid copyright in the Happy Birthday lyrics.”

. . . .

Up until now, Warner has charged anyone who wanted to sing or play “Happy Birthday to You” — with the lyrics — as part of a profit-making enterprise. Most often, this occurred with stage productions, on television, in movies or in greeting cards. But even those who wanted to sing the song publicly as part of a business, say a restaurant owner giving out free birthday cake to patrons, would technically have to pay to use the song.

The complex saga of this six-note ditty has spanned more than 120 years, withstanding two world wars and several eras of copyright law. The song has seen the rise and fall of vinyl records, cassette tapes, CDs and now, the era of digital streaming music. 

. . . .

Tuesday’s ruling means that the song is now considered a public work and is free for everyone to use without fear of having to pay royalties, according to a statement from the plaintiffs’ attorneys.

Jennifer Nelson, a filmmaker and owner of Good Morning to You productions who was among the plaintiffs, called the decision a “great victory for musicians, artists and people around the world who have waited decades for this.”

The plaintiff’s attorneys have said that they will move next to qualify the lawsuit as a class-action, in an effort to recoup millions of dollars in royalties that Warner/Chappell has collected on the tune over the years.

Link to the rest at The Los Angeles Times and thanks to Ric and others  for the tip.

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