In what could be the first instance of an author not being pleased to have passages of his book referenced on the Oprah Winfrey Show, a Pennsylvania writer is suing TV celebrity Oprah Winfrey and her production company for what the writer says was Ms. Winfrey's unauthorized quoting of his work on her show — quoting which the author claims amounts to copyright infringement as well as tortious conversion under state law.
According to the complaint filed with the federal court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Charles Harris tried pitching his booklet, "How America Elects Her Presidents," back in 2008 when Ms. Winfrey was actively supporting the presidential campaign of Barack Obama. Mr. Harris claims he sent copies of the book to the show but got no response indicating any interest. Then, according to the complaint, Mr. Harris was caused "shock and dismay" when in 2009 he heard Ms. Winfrey reading verbatim passages of the booklet on her show.
Oh, and he's asking for either actual damages (whatever those might be) or statutory damages up to $150,000 per infringing use.
An email announcement caught my attention recently.? A duo have created a stage musical based on the old 1960s cult horror film, Night of the Living Dead.? I've seen people try this sort of adaptation thing plenty of times before, oftentimes without their realizing that one can't just adapt a copyright protected work without the permission of the copyright holder.? But this announcement seemed like it had a bit more professionalism to it than some of the others I've seen.? So I wrote one of the collaborators to ask how they went about getting the right to adapt the film.? Turns out, I was told in the response, the creators of the original motion picture loused up the copyright application (this being at a time when official registration was a prerequisite to copyright) and never got it corrected.? According to one of the musical's creators, the original Night of the Living Dead is in the public domain.
Seemed like a longshot, but I?did a search?in the U.S. Copyright Office's online database.? Sure enough, while there appear to be plenty of later copyrights of later versions, there seems to be a notable absence in the database of a copyright?listing for?the original film.
Does that mean the musical's authors are correct that the original film truly is in the public domain?? Well, I didn't do an exhaustive search for?a conclusive?answer.? So don't hold me to anything on this.? But the cursory research seems to indicate they might be right.
It wasn't that long ago that I posted my personal rant about the ridiculously far-fetched TV show, Outlaw, which features Jimmy Smits as a U.S. Supreme Court justice who tosses in his robes to pursue the much more rewarding career of a trial lawyer defending people accused of criminal misconduct. I objected on the grounds of stupidity.
Well, apparently, I'm not the only one who found this show to be lacking something. The Associated Press reports that Outlaw has been docketed for cancellation. According to the report, NBC is moving the program to Saturday nights for its last few episodes before banging the final gavel on the show next month.
Justice is served.
A playwright posed a question concerning a script opportunity she was debating. The opportunity was the chance to have her five-minute play script (recently produced by a theater company) posted in its entirety on the theater company's website.
It's one of those situations where it's nice to get your work out there; but is putting your play's script online in its entirety too out there? After all, once it's on the web, can't anyone who comes across it just print out the script and perform the play without your even knowing about it?
Well, yes and no. Yes, someone who has computer access to your script can pretty much do things like print out as many copies as he wants and hand them off to a bunch of people with the intent to produce the play sans permission or royalties to the playwright. But, no, that someone can't do it legally. It still amounts to copyright infringement, and, if you get caught doing that, you could end up getting sued.
One of the things that doesn't quite register with people is that the Internet is not a buffet of free intellectual property. Just because you have access to text, sounds, or images online, it doesn't mean you have carte blanche to do with those things as you will. Unless that material is in the public domain, it's all protected by copyright.
So the playwright has to weigh the pros of having her script available for others to experience online against the cons of having it just a mouse click away from being unceremoniously swiped by copyright scofflaws around the globe.
'Tis the dilemma of the digital age in which we live.
For those of you who hate how TV stations up the volume on the commercials, making them so much louder than the programs they're sponsoring, Congress is charging to the rescue with a bill to turn down the noise.? The Associated Press reports that the Senate and House of Representatives have passed legislation that will require broadcasters and cable stations to keep the volume between program and ad constant.? Once the Senate and House iron out the minor differences between their bills, it'll go to the President for his signature.