Court Says: Remastering = Copyright

There's a longstanding issue over the protections afforded sound recordings made before 1972.  That's when the U.S. Congress specifically added sound recordings to the list of works that are eligible for federal copyright.  Previously recorded works have traditionally sought their protections under state laws, and that proved sufficient until now.

In a ruling handed down by a U.S. District Court in California, the judge held that a digitally remastered version of a pre-1972 music recording can qualify for the federal copyright protection so long as the remastered recording involves original creativity that changes the sound in some way.

So those who own the songs should be happy about that, right?  Well, in an interesting twist, the ruling actually works against the original owners.

You see, federal copyright law carves out an explicit exception to the need to pay for songs that are broadcast on a standard, terrestrial radio station.  So, if the music falls under federal rather than state protections, the radio station gets to broadcast it without paying.

The ruling comes out of the case of ABS Entertainment v. CBS.  You can read the court opinion within an article from the Hollywood Reporter.

To Bare or Not To Bare

It's been more than a few years since New York's highest court ruled that women in that state can bare their chests anyplace men are permitted to do so.  However, full nudity is still not something you can get away with in Central Park.  That is, unless it's part of art.

An all-female cast put on a production of Shakespeare's play, The Tempest, and they did it in the park, in broad daylight, and in the nude.  How did they get away with that?  Nudity is permitted in New York if it's an artistic expression, and no one was going to say Shakespeare isn't art.

Broadwayworld.com has more info and a pixilated video...for those of you who just can't get too much exposure to the Bard.

A Work in Progress

The Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African American History and Culture issued a statement saying it will continue its plans to feature an exhibit about Bill Cosby, but it will do so with a reference to the accusations of sexual misconduct that hang over the famed comedian's head.

The museum's plans include a section on Mr. Cosby's role as a television entertainer who had been a part of groundbreaking programs.  Yet, in light of the allegations made by several women and the legal problems that currently plague him, there had been controversy over his inclusion in the museum.

In a statement issued by museum Founding Director Lonnie Bunch, Mr. Bunch said "our interpretation of Bill Cosby is a work in progress."  He further stated that visitors to the museum will learn about Mr. Cosby's impact on American entertainment while also "recognizing that his legacy has been severely damaged by the recent accusations."

The “Black-ish” Perception

Three days ago, I watched the TV sitcom, Black-ish, a show I’ve liked from its inception.  It was, to date, the program’s most serious episode, illustrating the varied reactions within the show’s primary family to news reports regarding a grand jury’s decision not to indict police officers on charges of brutality involving an African American teenager.

 It isn’t often that a TV show still has me thinking about it three days later.  I’ve forgotten most shows three minutes after the final commercial break.  But this episode was different, and I must give credit to those involved in its creation for trying to shed some light on what is an ongoing tragedy in America.

 The tragedy is actually twofold.

 First, there is the tragedy of racially motivated brutality.  I truly believe that the overwhelming majority of people, including law enforcement officers, deplore and would never commit any such act.  However, it takes only a few individuals of differing viewpoint to have such an atrocity occur, and, based on the sheer volume of occasions on which it could happen, it happens all too often.

 The second part of the tragedy, as the episode of Black-ish portrayed, is that there is a large segment of our community that, based on its experience, does not have confidence in our judicial system or the people entrusted to uphold it.  I can imagine no more fearful state of affairs than to be in a position where one cannot expect the rights and protections supposedly guaranteed to every American.  And to know there are those who harbor uncertainty and even fear of the very people tasked with guarding those rights is, for me, a condition of sadness the magnitude of which I do not believe I could properly describe in words.

 I do not expect a half-hour sitcom to raise and thoroughly debate every conceivable issue on any given topic.  So I do not hold Black-ish to such a standard.  There are elements of controversy that were not touched.  For example, I do not recall the show’s characters making commentary on those occasions when public protest over alleged brutality turns to violence, destruction of property, and/or looting.  Violence is an act of brutality, itself; destruction of property (public or private) is malicious vandalism that further damages the community; and looting is just opportunistic thievery.

 I strongly support every American’s First Amendment right “peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  However, “peaceably” assembled people do not commit the above referenced acts, and to suggest those things are justified by the circumstances is to subscribe to the school of thought that teaches two wrongs somehow make a right.  That sort of convoluted logic does not coincide with the teachings of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. as I understand them.

 The “case” as portrayed in the TV show was fictitious and sparse on details.  So I do not believe it can be conclusively analyzed from a legal perspective, and I will not try.  However, for me, the greater issue—the one perhaps we all should be analyzing—is what, if anything, can be done to lessen this racial rift over the perceptions and realities regarding our judicial system.  If a TV show gets us thinking about it, so much the better for us all.

Authors Guild Seeks Supreme Justice

The Authors Guild has taken its decade-long fight with Google to the U.S. Supreme Court.  The Guild has filed a request for the High Court to review the battle over whether Google has the legal right to provide scanned excerpts of books online.

Google has maintained that the excerpts are simply a research tool for Internet users and that they fall under the Fair Use Doctrine of American copyright law.  The Authors Guild sees it as a form of republication without payment to the authors.

The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled in Google's favor.  The rationale for that decision was that the Court didn't consider the excerpted matterial a meaningful alternative to having the full book.  Therefore, in the Court's view, the excerpts didn't infringe the authors' copyrights on the works as a whole.

According to an article in the Washington Post, the Guild isn't trying to shut down Google's practice of scanning books but, rather, have Google pay for the right to do so.