Anyone who has happened upon Amazon.com over the past several months has undoubtedly noticed Amazon’s painstaking efforts to market its new Kindle 2 device to readers-at-large. The Kindle – a hardware device about the size and weight of an average book – allows users to directly download e-books (up to 1500 at a time) and read the titles on its “electronic paper” display. Of all of the Kindle 2's new features, the most heavily promoted is its ability to “read” books aloud to the user by relying on text-to-speech software.
However, this new feature has come under attack by the Author’s Guild which contends that a purchaser of an "e-book" buys only the right to read the book -- not the right to have the book read out loud. In fact, the concern that this feature will cannibalize the market for audio-books was apparently big enough to incite the President of the Author's Guild to author a New York Times opinion column on the issue. As noted in his article, technology has advanced to a point where the “computerized voices” on text-to-speech software are “almost indistinguishable from human ones”; with some of these programs going so far as to include an occasional ‘um,’ ‘er’, sigh and -- even -- coughs, in order to accurately simulate a human reader. Thus, the threat posed to audiobooks by text-to-speech software is greater than would have been possible in the past.
Rap artists Lil Jon, Lil Bo, and Big Sam, who together comprise the hip hop group Lil Jon and the East Side Boyz, prevailed in a copyright infringement case regarding the song "The Weedman", from their platinum album, "Kings of Crunk". The case was brought by a freelance musician and producer who claimed copyright ownership of the work, and the artists prevailed after successfully asserting a defense which was primarily based on the existence of an implied license for the use of the work.
The decision rendered by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit can be found here.
For years now the federal judiciary has made documents filed in federal court litigation available through a search platform known as PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records.) While the documents available through PACER are in the public domain, access to the documents requires registration as the documents are not indexed by commercial search engines. Moreover, a government fee of eight cents a page is charged for reading, printing, or downloading the documents.
The registration and fee requirements arguably have the effect of limiting public access to these records. Accordingly, an individual named Carl Malamud has been asking paying users of PACER to send him their documents and has begun publishing these for free on his website.
The U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection ("CBP") prevailed in a recent decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which concluded that CBP was authorized to seize watches bearing the counterfeit trademark "TOMMY", and impose a fine as a civil penalty on the importer, even though the owner of the mark at issue did not make or sell watches at the time of the seizure. The case is entitled United States of America v. Able Time, Inc., and the decision can be found here.
Earlier this year, Gibson Guitar Corp. became involved in litigation related to the enforcement of its patents against the makers and retailers of the GUITAR HERO video game. With the emergence of the GUITAR HERO video game into the popular culture, the results of this litigation could have interesting consequences. Here is one of the first news articles on this topic: www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23732204/
On October 13th, a bill increasing protection of intellectual property, namely, the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act of 2007 (the “PRO-IP Act”) was signed into law by President Bush.
The Act increases civil and criminal penalties for piracy and counterfeiting and creates a national "IP czar” who will be appointed by the Senate. The Act also enhances the Department of Justice's ("DOJ") power to enforce IP rights by authorizing law enforcement agents to seize property from copyright infringers.
Microsoft was recently awarded U.S. Patent 7,415,666 for a Method and System for navigating paginated content in page-based increments which has some up in arms at the notion that Microsoft could patent 'Page-Up' and 'Page-Down' keystrokes. (link) However, as you consider the outrage, remember that patents are much more than what is set forth in their titles and abstracts, and a true understanding of what is covered can only result from 'paging down' through the text of the patent to the claims. They are the starting point for revealing the true scope of a patent, which in most cases is much more nuanced than what may originally be thought.
J.K Rowling emerged victorious in a copyright decision that was announced earlier today by the Southern District of New York. The work at issue? A Harry Potter encyclopedia written by a librarian and rabid Harry Potter fan. In permanently blocking publication of the work, the court rejected the defendant's "fair use" defense, finding that the encyclopedia incorporated "too much of Rowling's creative work" and would cause J.K Rowling "irreparable harm" as a writer.
Obviously, a guide to a "fictional universe" must necessarily incorporate lengthy references and passages of the underlying fictional work. However, today's decision highlights the limited applicability of the "fair use" defense to such works (which are not, in a strict sense, academic.) Accordingly, future authors of such literary guides may want to consider seeking a copyright holder's consent prior to beginning any such endeavor. Otherwise, they too will risk having their book tossed into a 'goblet of fire' (or 'chamber of secrets') by an adverse copyright ruling.
Find the story here.
Find an explanation of the "fair use" defense here.