Okay, ya gotta love this one...
You know that tune they play at sports events when they want the crowd to chear on the home team by yelling "CHARGE!"? It kind of goes: "Da-da-da-DUT, da-daaaaaah." (And this is where everyone's suppose to yell "charge.") Well there's a man in Florida who claims he wrote that melody about 30 years ago and owns the copyright on it. What's more, he's suing for what he says are the monetary compensations he never received.
Bobby Kent filed the suit in Florida, claiming that he wrote the well-known ditty as part of a larger piece of music he titled Stadium Doodads. According to news reports, it first got played at San Diego Chargers games while Mr. Kent was in charge of the music there. He says other teams picked it up, but no one ever asked his permission or paid him for the use. So now he's suing ASCAP, and he's demanding of every professional sports team that they pay him $3,000 per year for the tune's use at their games. According to reports, so far only the Los Angeles Lakers have paid up.
One notable wrinkle in Mr. Kent's claim of authorship is that there seems to be some evidence that the same combination of six notes was penned some years earlier by Tommy Walker, a student at the University of Southern California, where they claim to have been playing the "charge" theme since the 1950s.
Mr. Kent lays claim to a registered copyright on his song. So perhaps the real legal issue is: Are the sports teams playing Mr. Kent's "da-da-das" or Mr. Walker's "da-da-das"?
Over the course of 2002-2005, I researched and wrote a play, titled The Judicial Murder of Mrs. Surratt, in which I dramatized the trial of Mary Surratt, a woman implicated in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the first woman judicially executed by the United States government. Performances of the play always spark a lot of questions about the legal issues involved. Those issues include not only the question of whether or not she was actually guilty but, also, the question of whether the military tribunal that heard the case was a legally valid venue in which to conduct the trial of civilians.
Robert Redford's new film, The Conspirator, delves into the same historical story (although, unlike my play, the film focuses its attention more on Mrs. Surratt's defense lawyer than on Mrs. Surratt, herself). And the film again raises these same now-146-year-old legal issues -- issues that continue to be debated today.
The film prompted a California public radio station to do a story about both the history and the legal issues. It includes an interview with yours truly. You can hear the story, as well as additional audio from reporter Kitty Felde's interviews, on the Southern California Public Radio website.
It was supposed to be only a six-month moratorium, but it was enough for artist Melanie Gold to file a First Amendment lawsuit in federal court against the upstate New York village of Greenwood Lake. According to a Times Herald-Record newspaper article, when Ms. Gold announced her plan to paint a mural on the side of a private building, village officials enacted a six-month ban on public art to give themselves time to establish a new committee for the purpose of creating a public art code -- something the town apparently didn't have but the officials deemed to be an important first step to giving official blessing to publicly displayed murals. Ms. Gold filed suit, claiming the ban infringed her First Amendment rights, and, she painted three public murals in protest.
According to the article, the suit was settled this month when the village agreed to repeal the ban. A victory, it seems, for the artist. Of course, if my math is correct, the six-month public art ban, which the article states was enacted on November 1st, was scheduled to end at the close of this month anyway.
I was watching the TV show, Monk, the other night, and there was a scene in which a police lieutenant got miffed with his captain because, as the lieutenant saw it, the captain gave credit to another person for the very same crime theory the lieutenant had offered earlier. The lieutenant's petulant response to this was that he was going to copyright his police notes from now on -- a notion the police captain looked on with disdain. "You're going to copyright your police notes?"
Well, silly though it might sound, under the U.S. copyright law, a police officer's notes might be automatically copyrighted as soon as they're written. Most anything original that's written down is automatically protected by copyright. You don't have to register a writing for it to be protected.
Of course, if you're making police notes as part of your job as a law enforcement officer, it could be argued that the copyright actually belongs to your employer -- the law enforcement agency for whom the notes were created -- rather than to the officer.
Correspondence written by musical legend John Lennon during his lifetime is going to be published in a new book. Actually, on a more technical level, it's a republishing of the letters. You see, the way the law views it, simply composing and mailing a letter is a form of publication. And, just in case you weren't sure about it, a letter that's composed under contemporary American copyright law is protected by copyright. So, according to a New York Times article, Mr. Lennon's correspondence is being published in the book with the permission of his widow, Yoko Ono, whom we can assume controls his estate.