On June 22, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that there is no need for Marvel/Disney to continue paying contractual royalties to the inventor of a device that makes it possible for Spider-Man toys to shoot webs, as the patent on the invention has expired.
The recent US Copyright Office proposals for solving the problem of orphan works have evoked strong responses from commentators. Krista Cox of the Association of Research Libraries, Kevin Smith at Duke, and Mike Masnick of Techdirt all point out that, rather than addressing the root causes for orphan works, the proposed solutions would make a bad situation worse.
The Copyright Office recommends different approaches to addressing issues surrounding orphan works and mass digitization. Draft legislation is offered to address use of orphan works. To regulate and facilitate mass digitization projects, the Copyright Office proposes an “ECL” (extended collective licensing) model, administered by “CMOs” (collective management organizations such as ASCAP, BMI, SESAC) . The draft legislation about the treatment of orphan works appears to have been drafted without taking into account the intellectual property provisions of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.
This victory in the Turtles’ ongoing fight for royalties on music recorded before 1972 may also benefit other groups: SiriusXM and Pandora, among others, may owe substantial royalties to many smaller artists, lesser-known musicians who could not otherwise afford to litigate the issue. The suits revolve around the difference between federal and state copyright law. Section 114 of the federal Copyright Act puts a “statute of limitations on exclusive rights to recordings made on or after February 15, 1972.” Some state law, however, addresses pre-1972 recordings, and it is under California, Florida, and New York law that The Turtles filed the class-action suits against SiriusXM.
The US Copyright Office recently announced a new index of fair use cases, joining the Stanford Copyright and Fair Use site and the IP Watchdog site in offering useful ways to consult fair use case law. Kevin Smith, Director of the Office of Copyright and Scholarly Communication at Duke, has reviewed the new index and compared it to previously existing resources.
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