Music Policy Summit in D.C.

For those in the Washington, D.C., area...Just thought you might like to know there's an event billed as the Future of Music Coalition Policy Summit scheduled to take place October 4 - 6, 2009. The summit is supposed to cover music technology, policy, and law.

For more info, check out its web site.

Are They Entitled to a Bigger Bite of the Apple?

It's another contract dispute based on interpretation of what the agreement actually means. In this case, the music publisher for Eminem and another party are suing Apple, Inc., over what they claim is Apple's unauthorized use of a number of songs, including Eminem's biggest hit.

You might think that, at that level of the business, stuff like this would be all worked out by the lawyers before anything finds its way onto iTunes. But, apparently, that isn't always the case.

An Associated Press story appears in the Washington Post.

No Charge No Defense

A question came up recently in which a friend was inquiring about a fair use exception to the copyright law. Among the things my friend pointed out was that there was no admission charge involved.

Just so we're all clear on this important point, whether or not anyone's charged for the experience has no impact on whether or not an appropriation of someone else's copyrighted material is a fair use. The reason is simple.

Let's say I've written a play, and someone gets ahold of a copy of the script and decides to produce it without attaining the necessary permission from me. Even if there's no admission charge to the people who come to see the show, the unauthorized production still causes me an economic harm because, now that everyone in that city who was interested in seeing the play has already had the opportunity to see it for free, what chance is there that those same people will pay to see the show again. My ability to market the play to a theater that charges admission has been diminished.

Bottom line...No charge is no defense to copyright infringement.

Cut the Wise Quacks

Just in case you thought only musicians have an intellectual property interest in the sounds they make professionally, there's a case that was filed in California in which the dispute centers around a kazoo that makes a duck-like quack.

It seems a San Francisco based, amphibious tour company, called Bay Quackers, is being sued by the Georgia based, national sightseeing company, Ride the Ducks, for what's being alleged as trademark infringement. Apparently, Bay Quackers' kazoo sounds a lot like Ride the Ducks' own quacking sound for which it claims a trademark — or, in this case, a sound mark. Result: a quacking litigation.

No word as yet as to whether Donald or Daffy will be called as expert witnesses...

Someone Thinks He's Gone Hollywood

There's an interesting article in this month's Dramatists Guild newsletter. The article was about a theater company that had invited playwrights to apply for the opportunity to write a commissioned musical. So far, so good. Right?

Well, according to the article, the commissioning contract the theater company was using would give the company 25 percent ownership of the copyright as well as such things as creative control, subsidiary rights, and the right to fire any authors at will.

If you're a budding playwright, let me just say that these contractual demands are way out of whack for the industry. (Something which the Guild's newsletter also strongly pointed out.) That kind of "we own the script" outlook is the sort of thing writers deal with when they sell a movie script to a Hollywood producer. It's not the kind of control that a producer gets over the script of a stage play.

The screenwriters deal away such rights, but they're typically paid handsomely for that sale. Trust me, playwrights aren't making anywhere near the same money. As a result, playwrights have little to no incentive to sell their intellectual property to someone who's merely intending to do a performance. As a playwright, you need only licence your script to a producer—giving that producer the right to perform the show but reserving the property rights to yourself. That, my friends, is the industry standard.