Author Harper Lee has filed a lawsuit against her former agent for what Ms. Lee says was a case of the agent tricking her into signing away her rights to her much lauded novel, To Kill a Mockingbird.
According to reports, Ms. Lee's lawsuit alleges that in 2007 Samuel Pinkus took advantage of the now-87-year-old author's weakened hearing and eyesight to dupe her into signing documents that transferred the book's copyright to Mr. Pinkus. Mr. Pinkus became Ms. Lee's agent in 2002, assuming the agent role his father had held prior to that.
Ms. Lee took legal action last year to regain the copyright, which she did. However, the latest round of litigation claims Mr. Pinkus is still collecting royalties on the book, and Ms. Lee has filed suit in New York to put a stop to that.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit handed down a victory for an appropriation artist -- that is, an artist who takes bits and pieces of other artist's intellectual property and incorporates them into his own work. The decision is likely to be much lauded by contemporary artists who create collages and other forms of visual arts that rely on visual source material.
The case stems from a claim by Patrick Cariou, who had published a book featuring his photographs of Jamaican Rastafarians, that visual artist Richard Prince infringed Mr. Cariou's copyright when Mr. Prince utilized a number of the photographs in an art exhibition. In its decision, the Court held that all but five of Mr. Prince's appropriation art passed the "transformative use" test to qualify as a fair use under copyright law. That is, in the Court's opinion, Mr. Prince had altered the photos enough such that his exhibition was not merely a repetition of the source material.
To quote the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, "Where Cariou’s serene and deliberately composed portraits and landscape photographs depict the natural beauty of Rastafarians and their surrounding environs, Prince’s crude and jarring works, on the other hand, are hectic and provocative." In some cases, Mr. Prince's alterations reportedly involved little more than gluing lozenges to the photographs. But apparently, it was just enough lozenge.
As for the five works that weren't given the "all clear" by the Second Circuit, they're not necessarily copyright infringing works. The appeals court is sending that decision back to the district court for further evaluation based on the ruling.
There was barely time for the altered-color fake blood to hit the wall before state censors in China pulled the plug on the Chinese premiere of the American movie, Django Unchained. According to a New York Times article, only a handful of people in China got to see an after-midnight screening on April 11th before the censors abruptly pulled the film out of the nation's theaters. To those commenting on the move, the rationale seems a bit murky.
China doesn't have a movie rating system to indicate the age-appropriate nature of a motion picture. And censorship there isn't going to run into any First Amendment issues, as it would in the United States. So censors there screen all films to ensure they are acceptable for all audience members. That often means a re-editing of imported films in order to have them conform to the censors' standards. According to the Times article, for Django Unchained it meant altering the color of fake blood as well as how far that fake blood was allowed to splatter. Despite the alterations, the censors yanked the film out of circulation just as it was about to make its debut to the Chinese market.
No word yet on whether the film's director, Quentin Tarantino, will allow further altering of the movie to please the censors in China.
If you're a photographer working on a book, and you ask people if you can take their photograph as part of that work -- and assuming they've given their permission to have their photos taken by you -- do you now have the right to publish the photos in your book?
Maybe not. At least, that was the result from a court decision in Switzerland. The court banned the sale of the book as a result of a lawsuit filed by multiple plaintiffs whose images appeared in the publication.
There doesn't appear to be any challenge as to whether the photographer had the right to take the photos. The plaintiffs had consented. But they claimed in their suit that they hadn't consented to the images being published in a book.
According to the Art Newspaper, the case could eventually end up in Switzerland's Supreme Court.
It seemed like a good idea. An enterprising mathmatics student studing in the United States noticed that a textbook sold for much less in his native Thailand. So he asked his family to buy up a bunch of the books back in his home country and ship them to him in America where he then resold them at a lower price than his fellow students could buy them in the American market. Free enterprise, right?
Well, the publisher of the textbook filed a lawsuit against the student, claiming he wasn't entitled to resell the foreign purchased books in the U.S. Why not, you ask? Isn't a person who buys a book entitled to resell it under the U.S. Copyright Act's "first sale" doctrine? That's what the student argued. But the publisher said the "first sale" doctrine only applied to books created in the United States, not to books created and sold abroad.
Call in the final arbiter, the U.S. Supreme Court. In a ruling last week, the High Court held that the "first sale" doctrine does indeed apply to works created beyond America's borders. That being the case, it now remains to be seen whether book publishers rethink their overseas pricing in order to avoid being undercut by foreign imports of their own book.