No Pooh-Poohing This Ruling

A Reuters story reports that a federal court has tossed out a claim for hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties stemming from the characters of A.A. Milne's much-loved books on Winnie the Pooh.

The dispute, which apparently has been going on in the courts for 18 years, was brought by the heirs of the man who purchased the Pooh marketing rights from Milne and then re-sold them to Disney in 1961. According to the report, a U.S. judge in Los Angeles has finally dismissed the last remaining claims in the copyright infringement action against Disney. (I realized when I was reading casebooks in law school, it's darn hard to beat the Mouse in court.)

In a tangentially related story, a new Pooh character, Lottie the Otter, is about to be unveiled in a book titled Return to the Hundred Acre Wood. (See the New York Times story.) It's being billed as the first authorized Pooh book in 80 years.

Don't you wish you wrote something that still had marketability 80 years after the last one was published?

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...