Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Thursday, June 9, 2011

More On "The Hangover II" Copyright Dispute

Remember that "Hangover II" copyright infringement case invovling the tattoo on Ed Helms' face? The studio, Warner Brothers, now says it has plans to alter the tattoo if the case doesn't settle by the time the DVD hits stores at the end of the year. From documents submitted to the court:

If the parties are unable to resolve their dispute, Warner Bros. does not intend to make any use of the allegedly infringing tattoo after the film ends its run in theaters because Warner Bros. will digitally alter the film to substitute a different tattoo on Ed Helms’s face.

That solution sounds fairly costly. Mediation is set for the middle of this month. More here from The Hollywood Reporter.

June 9, 2011 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Free Speech and Seditious Speech In Singapore

Jaclyn L. C. Neo, National University of Singapore, has published Seditious in Singapore! Free Speech, Integration and the Offence of Promoting Ill-Will and Hostility Between Different Racial Groups. Here is the abstract.

In 2005, the archaic laws of sedition were summoned to counteract speech considered offensive to racial and religious groups in Singapore. Under the Sedition Act, it is seditious to, inter alia, promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population. In a later case involving religious proselytisation, a Christian couple was charged and convicted of sedition under the same section. This article examines this new phenomenon. It investigates the manner in which these laws have been employed and jurisprudentially developed to restrain speech on race and/or religion in Singapore. The article argues that the current state of the law is highly problematic for its adverse impact on free speech as well as for its conceptual confusions with alternative bases for restraining speech. It contends that failure to extricate the existing conceptual confusions is adverse to free speech and community integration in the long run. A three-fold legal framework is proposed to provide clearer guidance on inter-racial, inter-religious interaction within the Singaporean society.

The full text is not available from SSRN.

June 9, 2011 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

News of the World Pays Sienna Miller 100,000 Pounds

The News of the World and Sienna Miller have settled that phone hacking case. The tabloid is paying 100,000 pounds in damages for harassment and invasion of privacy and has apologized. Ms. Miller also has the opportunity to pursue legal redress should any other information obtained via the hacking activities be disclosed in future.

Meanwhile, the list of phone hacking targets may grow by at least two extremely high-profile names, according to the Guardian: former Prime Minister Tony Blair and former royal girlfriend and now royal wife Kate Middleton. The hacker is reported to have been Jonathan Rees, when he worked at the News of the World during the mid-2000s.

June 8, 2011 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Can Twitterers Who Tweet Contrary To Injunctions Be Swatted?

From the Guardian: (British) Attorney General Dominic Grieve says Tweeters who breach gag orders and reveal information that courts have ordered kept secret via injunctions could be prosecuted. However, at least one MP disagrees. Liberal Democrat John Hemming thinks it would be difficult, if not impossible, to pursue the 75,000 Twitter users who have named a Manchester United player as the party who obtained an injunction recently, and that the media should now be able to name the athlete--the horse having escaped the barn. MP Hemming doesn't think he could be prosecuted either (Parliamentary privilege). But a judge handed down a ruling Monday refusing to allow the Sun newspaper to name the player. Round three.

June 8, 2011 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Twitter and White Collar Crime

Ellen S. Podgor, Stetson University School of Law, has published 100 Years of White Collar Crime in 'Twitter' at 30 Review of Litigation 533 (2011). Here is the abstract.

Despite the fact that Twitter did not exist when the term “white collar crime” was coined in 1939, it is an interesting exercise to highlight the last 100 years of white collar criminal activity using “tweets.” In so doing, this Essay tries to capture some of the key events that have been prominent in the white collar world. 

This Essay first examines corporate criminal liability, looks next at individual liability, and then discusses key statutes and crimes that have been used in the prosecution of white collar criminal activity. In this regard, mail fraud, RICO, and perjury are examined. Sentencing issues and how they have influenced the treatment of white collar crime are tweeted. The ultimate goal of this fictional presentation is to demonstrate a historical overview of white collar crime happenings and is so doing evaluate its progression over time.

Download the article from SSRN at the link.

June 8, 2011 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Newspapers, Government Efficiency, and Voter Awareness

Christian Bruns and Oliver Himmler, both University of Goettingen, have published Newspaper Circulation and Local Government Efficiency at 113 Scandinavian Journal of Economics 470 (2011). Here is the abstract.

In this paper, we examine the role of the newspaper market for a key aspect of political accountability: the efficient use of public funds by elected politicians. Newspapers are a major provider of the political information voters use to monitor their elected officials, especially at the local level. Thus, the incentives for politicians to reduce budgetary slack should be stronger in jurisdictions where the electorate is well informed by newspapers. Using panel data on the circulation of some 150 newspapers in Norwegian municipalities, we show that increases in local newspaper circulation are associated with higher levels of local government efficiency.

The full text is not available from SSRN.

June 7, 2011 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

A New Way To Transfer Copyright Via Shrink Wrap License Agreements

Andrew P. Connors has published Dissecting Electronic Arts' Spore: An Analysis of the Illicit Transfer of Copyright Ownership of User-Generated Content in Computer Software at 4 Liberty University Law Review 405 (2010). Here is the abstract.

This Note addresses the legality of a new kind of "shrink-wrap" End User License Agreement (EULA) contained within a computer software installation that purports to transfer copyright in works created with the software from the user of the software to the manufacturer of the software. This Note analyzes the enforceability of this type of contract in the context of Electronic Arts’ much-lauded computer game, Spore. Rather than a conventional game that relies on in-house graphic designers and animators for its content, Spore relies on the collective creativity of its millions of users to make most of the content in the game. By way of a built-in three dimensional modeler, users create advanced three-dimensional objects, including virtual organisms, buildings, vehicles, and spaceships, which are uploaded to a central server and distributed to all game users. Subsequently, the individual users download copies of these uploaded objects on their local machines automatically. Hence, the users interact with content created by other users, rather than the graphic designers and animators employed by the computer game manufacturer. Because case law supports the enforcement of this kind of "shrink-wrap" license, this unique EULA represents a novel threat to the intellectual property interests of authors of creative works. Hence, this Note argues that Congress should amend Title 17, Chapter 2 of the United States Code in order to preclude the enforcement of this type of contract, to the extent that it misappropriates the legitimate intellectual property interests of authors of creative works and subverts the policy underlying federal copyright protection.

Download the Note from SSRN at the link.

June 7, 2011 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

French Media May Not Mention Particular Social Media To Viewers

The French agency Conseil Supérieur de l'Audiovisuel has told French reporters  (advisory opinion here, in French, based on a law first passed in 1986 prohibiting certain types of advertising, updated 2010) not to mention to viewers that they can "follow" or "friend" their favorite media types on Facebook and Twitter, for example. Particular social media are brands, according to the agency, and mentioning them constitutes impermissible advertising. Reuters article here, discussion here on Roy Greenslade's Blog. A New York Times article has more discussion.

June 7, 2011 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

New UK Report Recommends Changes To Protect Children From Sexual Imagery In Media

From the Guardian: media reaction to an independent report regarding sex-infused images of minors on tv and in ads. The Bailey Review, named for its chair, Reg Bailey, Chief Executive of the Mothers' Union, runs the gamut and includes such recommendations as "Ensuring that magazines and newspapers with sexualised images on their covers are not in easy sight of children," "Reducing the amount of on-street advertising containing sexualised imagery in locations where children are likely to see it," "Ensuring the content of pre-watershed television programming better meets parents’ expectations," "Introducing Age Rating for Music Videos," and "Making it easier for parents to block adult and age-restricted material from the internet." The media seems to be "confident" it can respond to these concerns. More here, here, here, and here.

June 7, 2011 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Copyright and Fictional Characters

Tabrez Ahmad and Debmita Mondal, both of KIIT University Law School, have published The Conflicting Interests in Copyrightability of Fictional Characters. Here is the abstract.

The commercial and popular appeal of fictional characters far surpasses the characters' role within the original work, and so it is important to ensure that the characters' creators are fairly and uniformly protected from unauthorized exploitation of their creations. This paper is based on the intellectual property law protection that could be granted to graphic and fictional characters that are part of our daily lives. Although fictional characters have become an increasingly pervasive part of the world today, they still do not enjoy well-defined legal protection against infringement. The judgments of various courts have been dealt with in detail to determine the attitude of the courts with regard to this kind of protection. An attempt has been made to find out how distinctly delineated must the story be told from a fictional character to avoid copyright violation. The courts have not been hesitant to develop various tests over the ages to determine whether a character is well delineated or not. So such tests have been vividly dealt in this paper and their sources have been stressed back to respective cases. If the character is found to be extremely well-developed, unique and has a personality different from other characters, only then is a copyright protection granted to such a fictional character. 

The paper has been broadly divided into three sections: Part 1 – Dealing with the concept of fictional characters, their components and types, Part 2 – The concepts copyrightability of characters and infringement of such copyright referring to the relevant cases, Part 3 – A comparative study between alternative protection available under other IP regimes and copyright law, Part 4 – the Indian scenario, and finally, the conclusion. Thus, this article tends to explore the availability and weaknesses of copyright law and alternative doctrines in protecting fictional characters, and briefly examines the argument for establishing a separate legal category specifically for fictional characters.

The full text is not available from SSRN.

June 7, 2011 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

IP Rights In the Digital Era

Robert P. Merges, University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, has published To Waive and Waive Not: Property and Flexibility in the Digital Era. Here is the abstract.

Even in an era when creative works can sometimes be made collectively, and where copying and modifying existing works is often easy, individual ownership of discrete creative works still makes sense. Individual creative effort is still the crucial ingredient for many high quality works, and the control conferred by ownership is often the most efficient, and even more frequently the most fair, social arrangement. Even so, a common argument against property rights in the digital era is that they come with a heavy transactional burden. The need to clear permission to use digital works is said to impede the potential of high velocity distribution models and participatory creative efforts. There are, broadly speaking, three solutions to the problem. First, society can cut back on the number of property rights, or rework the structure of rights with an eye toward transactional efficiencies. Second, right holders or society in general can invest in rights clearance mechanisms that make it easier for users and consumers of rights-protected works to transact more efficiently. Third, legal rules can be tailored to make it easier for right holders to commit to a binding non-enforcement of their rights.

The purpose of this brief Article is to explore in some depth this third option. I begin by describing how waiver contributes to the supple texture of property rights, making it easy for individuals to exercise choices after rights have been granted. This is, in my view, a cornerstone feature of property rights, and one of their chief advantages over other entitlements and incentive regimes. Next, I show how waiver fits with other basic features of property rights. I argue that waiver can be thought of as an aspect of the structure of rights, as well as a (particularly simple) rights clearance mechanism. Finally, I describe some simple ideas that could clarify knotty issues surrounding legal requirements for waiver of intellectual property rights. The most important are: 1) binding, easily verified waiver mechanisms that are “good against the world”; and 2) scope of waiver rules that make it simple for right holders to selectively waive rights, for example, permitting some uses and not others. I conclude with a call for more attention to the waiver strategy as a way of retaining our traditional commitment to property while easing the transactional burden that property rights entail.

Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

June 7, 2011 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 6, 2011

I Can Has Journalism Revolution?

Ben Hu, the "I Can Has Cheezburger" mogul, is challenging mainstream journalists and publishers, whether they have made a move to the Internet or not, to think outside the printer's box. "Why are we still consuming the news like it's 1899?" he asks. So, he has launched The Moby Dick Project. Says Mr. Hu, "I am trying to create a dialog to raise awareness to solve this problem. This project’s goal is to create discussions around how and what we can do to solve the problems we face with news presentation today. I’m no more qualified to lead this discussion than an average news junkie. It’s been too long since journalism school and I don’t work in the news, but I would like to bring together great minds and passionate people around this problem."

June 6, 2011 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

I Can Has Journalism Revolution?

Ben Hu, the "I Can Has Cheezburger" mogul, is challenging mainstream journalists and publishers, whether they have made a move to the Internet or not, to think outside the printer's box. "Why are we still consuming the news like it's 1899?" he asks. So, he has launched The Moby Dick Project. Says Mr. Hu, "I am trying to create a dialog to raise awareness to solve this problem. This project’s goal is to create discussions around how and what we can do to solve the problems we face with news presentation today. I’m no more qualified to lead this discussion than an average news junkie. It’s been too long since journalism school and I don’t work in the news, but I would like to bring together great minds and passionate people around this problem."

June 6, 2011 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Media Ask UK Government To Allow Cameras In the Courtroom

UK media, including Sky News, are asking the Ministry of Justice to allow cameras in the courtroom, in a reversal of policy that stretches back decades. They argue that allowing filming of at least some proceedings would permit the public to see justice being done. But opponents of the move to broadcast proceedings say cameras in the courtroom might intimidate witnesses, and might encourage attorneys and parties to show off. More here from the Guardian.

June 6, 2011 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)