Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Who Owns Alfred Hitchock Show Script?


Dear Rich: I'm working on a script that is very loosely based on a radio play by a dead author; it was remade into an Alfred Hitchock show and I tried to track down the owner via NBC, who aired the show in the 60s, to no avail. So do I go through the family of the dead author? Would his estate own it (he wrote successful movies as well, so he's sort of a respected screenwriter) The NBC folks weren't really sure who owned the show, and the play was originally on an old radio play from the 30s or 40s, presumably all of the producers are dead and the show seems to be public domain ("Suspense") but I'm not totally sure if the story is since it got reproduced for TV. My story would digress substantially but has a similar set up and theme, although my characters are very different. How should I proceed? We're not sure we agree with you that the source material is public domain. The Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode does not appear to be public domain (only one of his TV episodes seems to have slipped under the PD trapdoor). The status of the work is also unclear because you are dealing with issues regarding derivative works. That is, there may be separate copyrights in the underlying story (based on the radio play) and in new material added to the teleplay.  (This chart provides a breakdown of the AHP teleplay writers and story creators.)
Tracking the owner -  the Rear Window problem. By a strange coincidence, your problems in determining ownership may be compounded by a Supreme Court ruling dealing with another Hitchcock work. As you can see from reviewing the case, ownership of older stories-turned-to-screenplays can often be murky. If you had sufficient resources you could engage a copyright research company to provide a full report on the ownership status. (Here's how to review public records on your own.) We think you'd have a far easier time modifying the plot and characters so all that remains are the general ideas and perhaps the basic plot twist -- sort of like the way Brian DePalma's Obsession is based on Hitchcock's Vertigo.
Need any theme music? By the way, you're free to re-record and use the Alfred Hitchcock Presents theme as that was lifted directly from a public domain composition (theme starts at about 38 seconds in) On a related note, here's a summary of the public domain status of Hitchcock's films.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Is a Release Needed for Using Musician in Book?

Dear Rich: I am writing a book that will feature women in music, but I need to have a release agreement they can sign that allows me to include their names, trademarks and biographies in this book. How and where do I get such an agreement. I will not be paying anyone to be included in the book, it will be all voluntary on their part. Good news! You don't need a release or copyright permission to include factual biographical information about musicians in your nonfiction book. In the event any musicians own trademarks, you're free to reproduce them without permission as well (because it's for editorial or "informational" purposes). You would only need permission if you were using copyrighted material, for example, song lyrics, photographs of the musician, or if you were copying somebody else's writings about the musician.

Friday, July 27, 2012

How Hard Is it to File a Design Patent?

Type/Status Drop Down Menu from Google Patents
Dear Rich: After looking at the sample design patent filing at your design patent site, it appears as though this is fairly easy. Is it really as easy as it appears?  Yes, we believe that with the aid of a draftsperson (someone who can do technical patent drawings), most people can file a design patent application. You can peruse some examples of design patents to see for yourself by using this search page at Google Patents. Enter the type of work you've created -- for example "table," "earrings," etc. -- then choose "Design (D)" from the drop down (see left). Examining the results, you'll see that no writing skill is required; it's all a matter of depicting your design accurately. However, after you file, you may need legal assistance if the design patent examiner determines that your design does not meet the standards of novelty and nonobviousness as described at our site. Keep in mind we're talking about design patents, not utility patents, and you will be getting protection only for the ornamental design of a useful object.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Can Band T-Shirt Feature Movie Quote

Dear Rich: I am in a band and we want to use a movie quote -- "They always grow louder when they're about to feed on human flesh" -- from The Princess Bride. The quote comes from a scene where a character is warning another of the presence of "the shrieking eels." The idea for the shirt would be to have the name of the band on the front with a custom drawing of two eels (not taken from the movie), and the quote would go on the back. Is this violating copyright laws? No, assuming your band is not named "Princess Bride" your t-shirts should not cause any copyright or trademark problems. It's true that in some cases, a movie company may go after someone who uses a quote on merchandise (as one studio did with "E.T. Phone Home") but we don't think this will occur here because of the obscurity of the quote (it didn't make into the film's memorable quote list) and because you don't reference the Princess Bride title. By the way, we've written about using movie quotes on t-shirts in a previous entry.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Can I Use Photographs of Animal Statues?

Dear Rich: I am from a suburb near San Diego and there are a lot of animals around town in the form of unusual statues and garden decorations. I would like to photograph all the animals and make a collage postcard or poster to sell. I know for sure that a lot of the animals are on private property (that I can photograph from public property).  I did some research on the Internet and sources say that if a person cannot detect who the property owner is by looking at the image then you do not need a property release. Some of the animals are large statues and if you saw them on the card/poster and then happened to drive by the property you would for sure know they were the same. Would that constitute identifying the owner??? and thus mean that I need a property release? Your collage may constitute copyright infringement but probably the more important questions are whether the rights holders in the sculptures will see your work, (and if they see it, whether they will care enough to do anything about it). Here's some background to help with your decision.
Copyright permission needed. As much as we like your theory about property releases, it's not accurate and it's not going to help. Sculptures are protected under copyright law. Assuming a sculpture you want to photograph and reproduce is protected under copyright law, you would need permission from the sculptor (or whoever the sculptor transferred copyright ownership to) in order to reproduce it. (The property owner is unlikely to be the copyright owner unless the sculpture was commissioned.)  Mass-produced lawn ornaments may be protected under copyright but it's unlikely the manufacturer will see or care about your collage. Those folks are generally more interested in stopping competing manufacturers. Also, for copyright law purposes, it doesn't matter whether the sculpture is on public or private property; what matters is whether the animal sculpture is protected by copyright law and whether your reproduction is an infringement.
When do you need permission from the property owner? You mentioned property releases and the main reasons you would need one is that you're photographing a copyright-protected building (unlikely) from private property, or you're photographing a property location as the basis for an advertisement or a movie. Photographs of copyrighted buildings taken from publicly accessible areas don't require permission. (We offer a free property release if you ever need one.)
BTW Dept. May we inquire: Does that triple question mark in your last sentence signify something ??? and why is it inserted in mid-sentence? Hopefully that's not a trending grammatical quirk.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Trademarks in Public Domain Baseball Cards

Dear Rich: Are there rules governing the use of artworks that have trademarks embedded in the image? For example, I found images of old baseball cards published in the early 1900s. All were published before 1922 and would be considered public domain for copyright purposes. The issue is that the images show players representing certain baseball teams. Some of the teams, such as the Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds and Brooklyn (now Los Angeles) Dodgers, are still in existence. The baseball cards are now owned by the Library of Congress and most have no copyright restrictions on record. This, however, does not mean that there are no trademark restrictions. Copyrights expire, but trademark rights don’t. Are there rules, law cases that give guidance on the use of such images where copyright and trademark rights may conflict?
Let's start with the principle that you can reproduce the card imagery for any informational purpose you want -- for example, in a book or a documentary or at a website explaining the history of baseball.
What if you sold a t-shirt? What if you sold merchandise with PD baseball card imagery that says "Reds" outside the Great American Ball Park? Would that trigger a lawsuit? Possibly. Would you prevail? We'd like to think you would. It's going to come down to a variety of factors such as the prominence of the name on the merchandise, consumer motivation for purchasing (Reds fan vs. baseball history fan), and issues similar to those raised in Dastar Corp. v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp (in which the Supreme Court held that a trademark claim could not be used to bar a public domain reproduction). Note, that case is not exactly on point with your situation and to see why, check out this article (scroll down to "C. Effect of Dastar on Merchandising Cases and on Federal Trademark Law.")  
When the cards don't include the name of the team. Many of the cards in the collection don't include the names of the teams. As a general rule, if you're not using the name of the team, just the city, there shouldn't be any trademark issues (unless the lettering for the city/team is so distinctive that it makes an association with consumers.) 
Teams that don't exist. Obviously for those baseball teams that are no longer in existence -- for example, the Boston Beaneaters -- the trademark rights are no longer being exploited and the marks are considered to be abandoned (although you may want to check the USPTO records to make sure nobody has resurrected these as zombie marks). As for the Brooklyn Dodgers, that mark had been abandoned and then brought back for certain merchandise (according to the ruling in Major League Baseball Properties, Inc. v. Sed Non Olet Denarius, Ltd). Nowadays, it appears that the mark has been resurrected and officially licensed for clothing (although non-infringing homages are always possible, too).
Bottom Line. If you don't want to get hassled, avoid merchandise that prominently displays existing team marks.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Webinar - Register Music With Copyright Office

Tuesday, July 24 at 11 a.m., we'll be providing a live webinar for California Lawyers for the Arts on How to Register Your Music With the Copyright Office.

Friday, July 20, 2012

She Wants to Use a Word From Cheesiest Song Ever


Dear Rich: I'm trying to avoid seeking permission to mention a song in a novel I'm writing and plan to self-publish. I understand that song titles can't be copyrighted, but I'm wondering if quoting a single word from a named song will require permission, given the context: two of my characters are arguing about the lyrics to Kiss From a Rose, with one saying that a grave is mentioned in the song, and the other contending that the word is "gray" (which my research tells me is the case). One character also says that the lyrics refer to a kiss and a rose, but since these words are given in the song title, I would hope that they are safe. Am I on dangerous ground with the grave-versus-gray dialogue? Also, if one of my characters refers to Kiss From a Rose as "like, the cheesiest song in the world," would this be considered libelous? Let's address your last question first. You are not committing libel because you are not making a false statement. "Cheesiness" is defined as "trying too hard, unsubtle, and inauthentic." Therefore, we can conclude that Kiss From a Rose is actually like, the cheesiest song in the world (it's number two of cheesy songs on this list). Even if it was the third or fourth cheesiest song in the world (or didn't even make the top ten), you and your characters are free to diss any Seal song under First Amendment principles.
Using lyrics. It's fine for your characters to talk about songs and even quote one or two lines under fair use principles. (Spoiler Alert: In our humble opinion, Kiss From a Rose contains some of the strangest, most incomprehensible lyrics ever!) In any case, you should probably only consider seeking permission if you're using more than a couple of lines. We talk more about when permission is needed for song lyrics (and how to get it) in this book.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Does "Copyright Claimant" Mean Singular or Plural?

Dear Rich: I have a question regarding registering a group of songs. Circular 50 states that a group of unpublished songs can be registered on one application as long as "the copyright owner or owners" is the same for all songs. Circular 50 also says that a group of published songs can be registered with one application if all the compositions are "owned by the same copyright claimant." Does "copyright claimant" mean that it must be singular -- one individual or one entity -- or can it be co-owners as long as long as all the compositions are owned by the same co-owners? We called the Copyright Office and an information specialist informed us that a copyright claimaint could be plural (co-owners) as long as the co-owners are the same for all compositions. By the way, if you're willing to stay on hold for a while, you can always get answers to copyright questions at 202-707-5959 (or toll free at 877-476-0778). If you're willing to wait, you can get written responses within 5 working days here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Should I File My Own Patent Application?

Dear Rich: I read the article about doing one's own patent application and not needing an attorney. I have an invention for a product that I know will generate great interest. It's a method for treating metal surfaces that greatly will improve material strength at high temperature applications. Based on the article I assume that once I obtain a patent I will not have to worry about enforcing the patent. I have read how so many issued patents become invalid or that a court determines that the application is not broad enough to cover all aspects of the invention. I assume that cannot happen if as you say the patent office will help me with my claims. Is that correct? In the meantime, based on the legal advice I have read on your site I will prepare and file my application and save on legal fees. Assuming that this is the article to which you refer, the following info may help you.
You will have to worry about enforcing your patent. Having a patent doesn't relieve you from the obligation of enforcing it, just the opposite. As this article (and as David Pressman explains in his book Patent it Yourself), a patent is merely a license to go after infringers. Unfortunately, you will have to finance that enforcement out of your own pocket.
Don't rely on the patent examiner for your claims. Patent examiners have an obligation to assist applicants and the article includes two first-person accounts: one in which the applicant dissed the competency of the examiner; and the other in which the applicant was assisted in claims drafting by the examiner. (You can probably find many other comments about patent examiners by trolling the web or reviewing sites such as bustpatents.com.) In any case, though examiners can and may assist, you should draft and understand your claims before and after any modifications by the examiner. It would be best if you can have your patent claims reviewed by a patent expert (although practically, most patent attorneys will want to review the whole thing).
No matter who drafts your claims, it's always possible that a patent may be declared invalid.  Don't assume that your patent will survive all attacks just because an examiner helps you with your claims. (By the way, the same is true even if a patent attorney drafts your application; the difference being that you can sue the attorney for malpractice but not the examiner). Nobody can guarantee that an issued patent won't be later determined to be invalid, or too narrowly drawn to cover infringements. That often depends on the evidence that's uncovered, the tenacity of each party in the dispute, and the whims of the legal system.
"Based on the legal advice I have read on your site ..." Not to put too fine a point on it, Nolo and the Dear Rich Staff shy away from providing legal advice. Whether or not you should handle your own patent application depends on your resources -- time, money, and technical abilities --  as well as your personality (are you the type of person who can manage a fairly complex project?) If you need further information on whether you are suited (or whether it's worth pursuing a patent), check out Pressman's Patent it Yourself.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Idea for Documentary About Famous TV Personality

Dear Rich When I was an employee with a TV production company, I had conceptualized and developed a 3-page documentary treatment about a famous personality and an annual event that he organizes. I understand that all intellectual rights belong to the company. Can I legally make a film independently based on this premise after I have left the company? Can I also use the same title? You may have the legal right to pitch the show -- more on that later --  but practically, if the TV production company thinks you're using proprietary material, chances are good they'll figure out a way to drag you into court. TV people are touchy about idea-theft and even the most embarrassingly mundane ideas become the subject of lawsuits -- most recently, All-American MuslimBingo America, and So You Think You Can Dance. Keep in mind that some of these cases go on longer than the shows themselves.
Do you have the legal right? We start with the premise that the basic idea of a documentary about a famous personality (and his annual event) is not protectable and anyone can pursue it --  unless you've contractually agreed not to. Whether you would prevail in an idea-theft lawsuit depends on  your employment agreement, whether your treatment arose to the level of a company trade secret, whether the treatment was copyrightable, and how much of the treatment is used in your production. As a general rule, the more detailed the company's treatment, the harder it will be for you to launch a similar project. Unique details -- a novel line of questioning, an out-of-the-box POV, or previously undiscovered research -- tend to enhance trade secrecy and copyright, and make it easier to prove theft. As for the title, if it's so unique that you want to take it, it's probably a trade secret. Check your employment agreement to determine any post-employment limitations, and keep in mind that you'll have to indemnify your production, so it may be worth getting a legal full-monty.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Can I Use Real Sports Teams in Novel

Dear Rich: I came across this post in doing some research for a book I’m about to write. I’m looking at writing a satirical sports novel with references to real life people but with names changed of course. As far as professional teams go, am I allowed to use the names of real NBA, MLB, etc. teams in a fiction book or do I need to rename them altogether along with creating a fictional professional sports league, too? Yes, you can write about real teams and leagues in a fictional work. That's because the law permits editorial or informational uses of trademarks. This article explains the basic principles. As we've advised previously, you want to avoid use of those trademarks in the title, cover or any other aspect of the book that advertises the book. As far as satirizing real baseball players and changing their names, you may want to look at another post.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Wants to Use Ladies in Pool Picture

my mom as a teenager
Dear Rich: I am taking an assemblage class and mix different medias including photos. One image I created included a photo of ladies in a pool from the 1930's. I've seen it in magazines and on greeting cards, etc. A lot of people loved my collage. I think if I give them away it's probably okay, but if it goes further and people want to "buy" my collages, can I get in trouble for including a photo that I didn't take? As we've noted before, infringement occurs whether the works are distributed for free or sold for a profit. The distinction probably shouldn't matter in your case because if the photo was published in the 1930s, it would only be protected under U.S. copyright if it had been renewed. (Less than 15% of works were renewed.) In other words, odds are good that the work is in the public domain. Checking the copyright status of pre-1978 works, particularly photos, is difficult and you would need to track down the source or original publisher of the image. If we were a betting blog, we'd bet that you won't have any problems with your planned use.
What about the copyright exception for photos of women in swimsuits? Because of the immense popularity of photos of women in swimsuits, male lawmakers in 1983 created an exception to copyright law known as the Anderson Rule (named after Baywatch star, Pamela Anderson), which permits limited reproductions of photographs of swimsuit-clad women if the use is not-for-profit and proper attribution is provided. (After a case was brought by Victoria's Secret, it was established that the rule does not apply to women in lingerie.) Following an outburst by women's groups, the Anderson rule was expanded in 1987 to include men, as well. Of course, none of this is true but we just wanted to keep you on the page as long as possible to improve our SEO.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wants to Use Victorian Paper Scraps

Dear Rich: I am a fashion designer with a small clothing label. I'm interested in using some 'victorian paper scraps' (they are printed onto the fabric) and then I plan in my turn to stitch them on some garments in my clothing collection. They will be sold commercially and as I don't want to step on any ones toes nor break any copyright laws or infringe in trademarks. I have asked the seller if the prints are over a 100 years old and I can use them commercially and she says they are? Is there any way that I can find out to be certain and what would you advice me to do. I just want some piece of mind when using them, knowing that I won't get into any trouble. The short answer to your question is that your activities -- cutting up and restitching of existing fabric -- won't violate any laws. Your activities are protected under a principle known as the first sale doctrine. You would only run into a problem if the images were protected under copyright (which we seriously doubt) and you were duplicating those images (that is, making copies). BTW, we talked about the first sale doctrine in a previous post.
Why don't we believe these scraps are protected by copyright?  According to this site, Victorian paper scraps appeared at the beginning of the 19th Century initially in black and white or color (if hand-tinted). Color printing of these scraps began in the late 1930's. Because of these dates, chances are very strong that these works are in the public domain (see this chart for more details) either because copyright expired or was never renewed. In any case, determining whether copyright exists is an academic exercise as your use is permitted by the first sale doctrine and does not violate copyright law.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Wants to Leave Copyright to Son

Dear Rich: I want to leave a copyright to my son but want the management of publication, sale and any income from the book to be left to my husband. How do I arrange that? A copyright consists of a bundle of rights and it sounds like you want that bundle --  the right to reproduce, distribute and profit -- to go to your husband. We're not sure what that would leave for your son except to have his name on the copyright (and having your name on the copyright doesn't mean much if somebody else has acquired all of the rights). Perhaps what you wanted was for your husband to obtain all rights and income during his life and then for the copyright to pass to your son after your husband's death. In that case, you would most likely want to establish a trust. We're not estate planning experts (though we have friends who are) but we believe that it would be more than a simple living trust. More likely it would need to be irrevocable and would require an attorney's assistance.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Working With Developmental Editor

Dear Rich: I am developing a book and I'm considering working with an editor who will assist with development. The editor sent me a confidentiality agreement to sign basically protecting her company in the first part and protecting me and my book idea at the end with these two paragraphs. 
The Author’s commitment to maintaining the confidentiality of Company’s Confidential Information shall not extend to information the Author already possessed at the time of disclosure by Company, information which is in or subsequently becomes public domain, whether through release by Company or through a source other than the Author. 
Company understands that the Author will share information about the Author’s work, including, but not limited to, draft manuscripts and/or concepts for a book or books (hereafter “Author’s Confidential Information”) with Company during Author’s dealings with Company. Company agrees to keep Author’s Confidential information confidential, except as necessary to provide services to the Author.
I wanted to know if that’s all I need for an initial meeting with a book development editor. 

We're excited because this is the first time that a reader and the Dear Rich Staff went to the same summer camp -- Camp Lohikan. We have fond memories of our times there but we're glad we got out before the Honda dirt bikes arrived.
Right, you had a question. The first paragraph, above, is a typical "exclusionary" clause from an NDA and we explain its purpose at our NDA site. It's nice to have this clause but its absence probably wouldn't make much difference, as a court would insist on these exclusions even if they weren't part of the contract. The second paragraph establishes that confidential information about your book won't be disclosed unless it's required for the Company to do its job. You might inquire as to what types of services require disclosure. If concerned, you might even insist that the agreement be modified so that your permission is sought whenever the Company discloses the book to a third party. 
Is that all you need for the meeting? You could have an attorney look at the remainder of the contract, or you could review the basics of confidentiality agreements at our site. And of course, if you have sufficient clout in negotiations with the editor, you might want to consider providing your own contract. That agreement could sort out any copyright or ownership issues or prohibit the editor from publishing a work that competes directly with your project.
Who do you trust. Mostly it comes down to trust. The biggest issue for you is whether the editor is reputable and whether you can trust her. Generally, it's difficult for an editor with an unethical reputation of stealing book ideas to stay in business for a long time. So if an editor's been around for many years, that may be an indicator of trustworthiness. Perhaps you can also ask to speak with other clients, as well as checking the editor's reputation online.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Wants Self-Publishing Rights Back

From "Correct Postures for Housework
Dear Rich: Back in 2004 I self-published a book while retaining full copyright to this publication. Now will it be possible for me to revoke the publisher’s right to further publication of book? If you self-published your book, chances are you control all rights, not a third party. For example, if you self published via CreateSpace, that arrangement is non-exclusive and you are always free to stop selling via CreateSpace and transfer all rights to a major publisher (although CreateSpace retains an ISBN for the book). If you meant that you paid for the publication via a vanity publisher (or any publisher for that matter) your ability to terminate depends on the terms of the agreement. Owning the copyright in a book doesn't trump the rights of a publisher. Typically, it's the opposite -- the publishing agreement transfers all rights granted under copyright law to the publisher for a limited period. We addressed this issue last month.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Copyright in Glass Negatives

Dear Rich: My great grandfather was among other things a photographer in the late 1800's. We have some of his original glass plate negatives which have never been out of the family's possession. At this time we are considering printing limited edition prints of some of the images. Since we own the negatives can we copyright them? If your great-grandfather died before 1942, and the photos were never published, they are in the public domain. (A photo is "published" when copies are distributed to the public by sale or some other ownership transfer.) If you don't know the year he died, your great-grandfather's unpublished photos are protected for 120 years from creation (that is, anything created before 1892 is public domain). 
Publication. If the photos were published, the rules vary depending on the date of publication and whether the work had to be renewed. You can explore all of these possibilities using this public domain chart.
Exploiting the negatives. We hope you can share and enjoy the negatives in some way. It's true that a few glass negative discoveries bring about a jackpot, but, alas, most glass negatives aren't worth dragging to Antiques Road Show (although they may have some historical value).

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Using Willie Nelson Statue on T-shirt

Dear Rich, I am in the process of setting up a design company that will sell counter-culture t-shirts online. Additionally, my friends and I are creating a web comedy show where we insert commercials to advertise our prospective websites to drive traffic and increase sales. Both projects push boundaries due to the market we are trying to capture. (1) In one piece, I have photographed a toy dragon made by Schleich and applied my irreverent psychedelic pop technique. Others have photographed Star Wars, Barbie, Anime or GI Joe toys as apart of their artwork.I believe I can claim rights to fair use. Is that correct? (2) In another piece entitled Pothead says, I have used a portrait of George Washington that is labeled as public domain. I should be in the clear, but I want to make sure. (3) In a third piece, I have photographed a public statue of Willie Nelson that is just off the sidewalk in downtown Austin. Is this acceptable or is it a question of whether the statue is on public or private property? Can I claim fair use as well? Please repeat after us: I will not rely on fair use as a defense. As we have explained before, fair use -- no matter what you read -- is primarily a pay-to-play defense. You have to pay a lawyer to convince a judge it is fair use. The only exception is if your situation is on all fours with a previous fair use case. To get an idea if a case fits your needs, check out this summary of fair use cases prepared by the Dear Rich staff. (And check out the Fair Use site.) As for your specific questions, we've answered them, below.
  1. The Dragon.  You should presume that the Schleich dragon is protected under copyright law. Your "irreverent psychedelic pop technique" may create a distinct derivative work, and maybe you could make a fair use argument (see above) but if Schleich saw your work and chose to hassle you, they could drag you into court and make you prove your fair use claim. (It's true that in one case, an artist was permitted to use Barbie dolls in his works but even if your facts are the same, keep in mind that the artist was dragged through a lengthy and expensive court proceeding.) Anyway, with so many public domain dragons, you may want to choose one of those instead?
  2. George. A portrait of George Washington made during his life time -- for example, one of the George Stuart portraits -- is in the public domain. A portrait first published in the U.S. before 1923 is in the public domain. Works  published after 1922 may or may not be in the public domain (check this chart for more details).
  3. Willie. The Willie Nelson statue is protected under copyright law. It doesn't matter whether the statue is viewable in public or private. We assume the sculptors own the rights (unless they transferred them to someone else) and if the copyright owners find out about your use (and care), they could hassle you. Again, a fair use argument is possible but see above.




Monday, July 2, 2012

Should I Use DRM on My eBooks?

Dear Rich: I am curious to know your thinking as to digital rights management and copyright violations. I have looked at offering our books directly from our website, but have held off on the decision to do so because of lack of DRM. For those unaware, DRM refers to digital rights management, typically software code that controls or restricts access to a work. (BTW, we've addressed DRM and related issues in a previous post.) DRM has been described by one publishing executive as a "speed bump" that doesn't stop anyone from copying. To that extent the four major eBook DRM formats have been widely hacked as have the DRM used in the books from the two leading online eBook stores (Kindle and iBooks). It's illegal to crack eBook DRM under the anti-circumvention rules of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act ... but as is clear from a "DRM hack" Google search, the law is rarely enforced. The Dear Rich Staff has no opinion on the matter as we feel equally aligned with the desires of content holders and content hackers. Nolo, our employer uses no DRM for the eBooks it sells directly from its website (and never has).