Tag Archives: copyright

“Happy Birthday” Freed! Next should be Mickey Mouse

Original melodyYesterday, a federal judge summarily ruled that the infamous song, “Happy Birthday To You” is not copyrighted. Time-Warner bought the company that bought the company that bought the company that bought some rights to the song in the ’30s. The paperwork was vague, so the lawyers interpreted it to make lots of money for the alleged copyright holder.

The royalties currently add up to about $2 million a year. The plaintiffs in the copyright case are starting a class action suit to recover some of the royalties that Time Warner and its predecessors collected improperly.

The point of copyright and patents is to encourage people to create things. The copyright gives a legal monopoly over the work for some number of years. Modern patents last about 20 years. Copyrights used to last 28 years. Now they last 70 years past the death of the author. Clearly this has nothing to do with paying authors. It has everything to do with selling a DVD containing black-and-white Disney cartoons.

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The Strike

Copyright symbol

I took the site offline yesterday in solidarity with the Electronic Frontiers Foundation and other organizations to protest impending US congressional action on “copyright protection” bills.

As a published author I’m happy to have the government enforce copyright laws so that I get paid for my work. But the current proposals are heavy-handed attempts by the entertainment industry to stack the deck in their favor. I’m tired of this. I want copyright protections to make sense both socially and technologically. I want due process when someone’s web site is threatened with closure.

Bad Internet!

According to the CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment, the Internet has been really bad for film making. CEO Michael Lynton was, of course, talking about copyright. This was at a breakfast panel discussion on the future of film making sponsored by Syracuse U. and the New Yorker.

Co-panelist Nora Ephron zeroed in on what really worries folks like Lynton: the potential death of copyright and what this does to their corporate empires. She equated the Hollywood film business to a giant Ponzi scheme that enriches a few at the top.

If anything, the Internet is pushing the content-production business back to its roots: creating “shows” that draw a quick crowd and pay for themselves immediately. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A lot of great productions were made on a shoestring.

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