Thursday, May 31, 2012
|London Street Fiddler 1880|
"Many copyright experts believe that licenses imposing copyright-like restriction on how the public may use public domain materials should be legally unenforceable. This is because the federal copyright law prevents people from using contracts to create their own private copyrights. However, almost all courts have ignored the experts and enforced these licenses."
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
The End User License. We're not sure how cases like yours will resolve in court but we believe Craigslist has a strong argument regarding enforcement of its end user license. Everyone who joins Craigslist is faced with the screen shown above before joining -- and by clicking "I Accept" you entered into an enforceable agreement (which Craigslist believes you breached). As you correctly point out, your situation is further weakened by the use of "Craigs" in your site name and domain name. Craigslist's attorneys don't like that because it implies an association or endorsement. We're sorry to report that you may have to rethink your business model.
PS. We've looked at similar Craigslist issues (and examined the end user license) in January and March 2012,
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Copyright or design patent? The rights you get with a design patent are considered to be broader or more powerful than a copyright. That's because you don't need to prove that an infringer saw your work and copied it -- all that matters is that the two works are the same. But that advantage may prove more valuable for those designers who can afford to obtain the design patent (as well as to enforce it). The design patent application and filing process can take a year or more and cost one to two thousand dollars. A copyright is automatic -- it exists once you create the work -- and registration, which provides benefits if you need to chase someone, typically takes three to six months and costs approximately $50 to $65. Copyright will last for your life plus 70 years; a design patent lasts for 14 years. In addition, there are many rules for design patents that could disqualify it as an option for you. For example, if your design has been offered for sale or images of it have been published more than a year ago (referred to as the one-year rule), you cannot now file for a design patent. (Note these rules will change on March 16, 2013, when the U.S. moves to a first to file system.) Finally, not all art can be protected under copyright and not all designs are protected under design patent law. Copyright law does not protect functional designs; and the USPTO will not issue design patents for 'surface ornamentation' (that is, two-dimensional illustrations such as drawings). So, if you're only decorating the surface of an object, you may not qualify. Here's more on design patents.
Thursday, May 24, 2012
How much is paid? According to Dina Appleton's book, Hollywood Dealmaking: Negotiating Talent Agreements, $25,000 to $100,000 is typically paid for TV life story rights, and between $100,000 and $250,000 is paid for motion picture life story rights. Sometimes a fraction of this payment (for example, 10%) is paid as an option and the remainder is only paid if the TV show or film goes into production.
P.S. Check out our previous life-rights post.
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
|Mrs. Tibitts (circa 1860)|
Longer answer (1) Once something's fallen in the public domain as a result of old age (as has all photography published in the U.S. before 1923), it cannot be reclaimed. If you modify a public domain work -- add additional imagery, unique coloration, or anything else arty -- you can claim your combination of old and new. But you will never be able to stop someone from reproducing the underlying public domain image with one possible exception. If you use a public domain image as your product's trademark, you may be able to stop competitors from using the same image on similar goods under trademark law.
Longer answer (2) It doesn't matter if someone "discovers" a public domain work and publishes it at their blog. If it's public domain, anyone can reproduce it. For more on the public domain, check out Steve Fishman's excellent book.
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
You can "grab" some rights if ... If you had created the games independently and transferred rights to the company, you could reclaim copyright 35 years after the transfer. (Here's more on the 35 year reversion rule.) But that's probably not the case if you're an ex-employee. The original company would own those rights with no right of reversion. Alternatively, anyone (not just you and the other ex-employees) can claim any trademarks (for example, the videogame names) if the current company has stopped exploiting the games and has no apparent intention to resume. (Here's more on trademark abandonment.)
Course of action. If you think there's a chance the games can make some money perhaps the company would be more responsive if you offered them a deal -- for example, you'll grant them a royalty of future revenues. (PS Try to avoid providing an advance to keep your risk factor down.)
Monday, May 21, 2012
Thursday, May 17, 2012
Right, you had a question. Because you're creating a how-to type food book-- not selling themed-Bento boxes -- we don't think you will need trademark permission. Activities like creating and photographing Yoda apple slices or a Snow White shaped sandwich, don't seem to be a trademark problem, especially if you're using a licensed cookie-cutter. (Note that as we speak, Disney lawyers are seeking to register the fairy tale moniker for processed fruit snacks). As for the Lego Bento box, we think an authorized Bento box would be a better choice for your book (versus creating a fake lego box). In general, your use of Disney, Star Wars and Lego, feels like an editorial/informational use (explained in a previous entry). In other words, you're less likely to trigger infringement if you write about or comment on trademarks. What you can't do is imply an association with, or dilute or tarnish these marks, for example, produce a whole Star Wars Bento box book (more Stars Wars recipes, here).
Copyright. You're probably fine reproducing these Bento versions of copyrighted characters without permission. It's possible, though doubtful, that some over-caffeinated general counsel may send a cease and desist claim but nowadays most media-savvy companies shy away from overzealous pursuit of iffy copyright claims (especially claims like these that may be excused by fair use).
Indemnity. Indemnity provisions are really a drag. Under your provision, you must get all necessary permissions and if a third party sues you for infringement, you're on the hook. So, despite our belief that permission may not be necessary, if your publisher disagrees, you'll have to either deal with it (good luck getting permission from this gang), pay for your publisher's permissions, or remove the material upon request by your publisher. Another possibility is that the publisher will be oblivious to the whole issue and nobody will ever complain. We hope that's the case.
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
NON-COMPETITION. The Author shall not prepare or be concerned in the preparation other than for the Publisher of any work which shall be an expansion or abridgment of the current Work, in whole or in part, or of a nature likely to affect prejudicially sales of the current Work. The Author will consult with Publisher before publishing or producing another work likely to affect prejudicially the sales of the Work herein contracted for.How long? Our initial concern about this provision -- besides the fact that it doesn't accurately define a competing work, and is written in a funky old-school contract writing style -- is how long the provision can be enforced. Since no time period is mentioned, we assume it's enforceable for the term (time period) of the agreement. We don't know what the term is, but it should be written somewhere in your agreement. In book contracts, it's typically for as long as the book remains in print (see our previous entry) or for the length of copyright. In either case, that's a long time. So, if you have the bargaining power, you might want to put a timer on this one -- for example, to preface the provision by saying, "For a period of one year, following publication of the Work, the Author shall not ....
What's competing? Our second concern is that it doesn't clearly define a competing work. It's no accident that this provision is vague. In the minds of some attorneys, ambiguity increases the breadth of coverage because it makes it possible to threaten and intimidate an author over any type (as long as it will "affect prejudicially sales") or size ("an expansion or abridgment") of work. An author with some bargaining power would want to limit this to a specific thing -- for example book-length works on the same specific topic. Also, if the contract contains a clause providing a right of first refusal for your next work (the publisher has first dibs on your next book), you should add language saying that if the publisher doesn't want to publish it, that your second book will not be considered a competing work.
Does your other stuff compete? Because the provision is so vague, we can't say whether the publisher will care about your other works and if so, what will the publisher do. If we were a betting blog, we would bet that the publisher probably won't care or do anything. First, they're probably aware that you're the expert on this particular subject and they're aware of your site and your freelance column, so they won't want to put a halt to this type of self-promotion -- it helps the book. Your one-off articles may or may not trigger friction. That depends on who is publishing them and where they are being published. One way to secure your position is to include a mention of the book in any of these efforts as that way you can make a reasonable argument that they are promotional not prejudicial.
Just sayin'. If you speak with one of the editors or publisher reps, you may want to discuss these concerns. The publisher may not change the contract (which will ultimately control what happens) but they may assure you that the provision is rarely enforced.
PS Feel free to send our contracts book to the company's legal counsel.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
An exception .... One exception to the rules expressed above is if the foreign manufacturer has a presence in the U.S. -- for example, there's a U.S. subsidiary or headquarters. In that case, the company is likely to be subject to U.S. jurisdiction and you may be able to enter into a typical template agreement. If you're seeking a basic NDA for various purposes, we've uploaded a collection of agreements with explanations.
Thursday, May 10, 2012
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Right, you had a question. The Skandalakis anatomy book (we assume you're referring to Surgical Anatomy and Technique, by Lee John Skandalakis, John E. Skandalakis, and Panajiotis N. Skandalakis), is published by Springer International, in Germany. Springer explains its permission process at its website. (Note the fairly enlightened explanation of U.S. fair use which may be helpful in your case.) The company supposedly provides a downloadable permission request form on the permissions page but when we clicked it, we were re-directed to the homepage (ist der programmer abpoofen?) Probably your request should go to this Springer employee. But if that doesn't work, this page may provide more guidance. Of course, we explain the process for getting these types of rights in more detail in our permissions book.
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Monday, May 7, 2012
VARA. VARA protects an artist's rights in a work of fine art (of less than 200 copies) if it is a painting, drawing, print, or sculpture. The artist acquires the right to prevent the intentional distortion, mutilation, or modification of the work. The rights granted under VARA —known as attribution and integrity—are not transferable. Only the artist can exert these rights. Although copyright protection normally lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years, the rights granted under VARA last only for the life of the artist. That is, once the artist has died, the work can be destroyed under VARA without the destroyer seeking consent from the artist’s estate. If the artwork is created under the terms of a work made for hire agreement, the artist acquires no rights under VARA.
CARA. The California Art Preservation Act provides for civil penalties and injunctive relief for the intentional or grossly negligent destruction or mutilation of a work of fine art, defined in the statute as any original painting, sculpture, or drawing that is of "of recognized quality."Under the California statute (California Civil Code Sections 986-989), for example, an artist is entitled to 5% of the resale of a work of fine art. These rights survive for 20 years after the death of the artist.
CARA + VARA. Both of these laws enable an artist in California to prevent the mutilation or destruction of a commissioned art that becomes a fixture or part of the building. For example, when a building owner painted over a famous L.A. mural without first providing notice as required under California law, the artist sued under the California and federal laws and recovered 1.1 million.
But is it art? At least one court has ruled that in order for VARA to apply, the work at issue must have more than “artistic merit” or “some level of local notoriety”; it must be of “recognized stature” as an artistic work. In that case, the court permitted unauthorized dismantling of a 6,000-pound swan sculpture.
Friday, May 4, 2012
Thursday, May 3, 2012
Who owns what? Assuming you're not an employee of the nonprofit, and assuming you didn't sign any paperwork assigning your rights in the articles, you own the copyright and can reuse the material however you like. Most likely, what happened is that you gave the nonprofit an implied nonexclusive license to use the article and that's about all. If you did execute an agreement with the nonprofits, (1) review the rules on works made for hire to determine whether your agreement qualifies as work made for hire; and (2) review the rules regarding assignments to determine if you have assigned your rights. Our guess is that you haven't done either.
Note to nonprofits. If you run a nonprofit and want to acquire rights from freelancers, we suggest that you use a work made for hire agreement, license, or assignment. You can put together a simple agreement with the aid of an attorney or by using our permissions book. And speaking of books and nonprofits, may we also recommend one of our favorites on nonprofit fundraising.
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Print on Demand. We looked at the contract clause you forwarded and unfortunately it appears that termination for insufficient demand is made at the publisher's discretion. The termination/reversion clause also specifically states that print on demand is enough to justify the publisher's rights under the agreement. This is an onerous (but likely enforceable) reversion clause. A more equitable termination provision would have stated that you are justified to terminate if sales are under a certain number of units -- say less than 25 books per quarter -- for three or four consecutive quarters. (The issue of reversion clauses was recently discussed at this blog.)
Throw in the towel? That doesn't mean you still can't terminate the contract. But you must come up with evidence that the publisher committed some material breach of the publishing agreement. Typically, that means a failure to pay royalties. Just because there's nothing in the contact that details an obligation to make timely payment and accounting, these obligations are implied and may be your route to reclaiming rights. You should have a publishing attorney review the contract to determine if that is a basis or if there is another basis for reversion. The attorney would also review your contract's "assignment" provision to make sure that the successor publishers have the rights they claim to have. There may also be creative theories available. Though it's a longshot, a California court may be open to the argument that an exclusive licensee (the publisher) has an implied obligation to exploit the licensed work.
Can they keep the copyright forever? No, but they may be able to keep it until 2033. A copyright owner who transfers rights is entitled to reclaim them after 35 years. See our recent blog entry.