Wednesday, September 26, 2012
|Union Workers on Parade - 1909|
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Monday, September 24, 2012
Dear Rich: I want to write a screenplay about a real life person. This person is deceased and has been the subject of several non-fiction books as well as magazine and news articles. My screenplay would not be directly based on a particular work but would be an original conception using incidents from the subject's life. The real name would be used, though. I was wondering if I could write my screenplay on spec and what, if any, copyright or life right issues I may have to deal with? Write on! A deceased person has no privacy rights and can't be defamed, so you're free to write what you want. However, the same would not be true about those still living. For living folks, you can avoid defamation claims by dealing in the facts, which are free for all to use. Also, you should avoid copying more than the facts from any published nonfiction works about the person. By the way, we explored life rights from another angle in a previous entry.
If the person is deceased and real names are not used ... In that case, you've shielded yourself from most potential liability -- as did Harold Robbins when he wrote The Carpetbaggers, based on the life of Howard Hughes (though some sources unconvincingly claimed it was based on Bill Lear, designer of the Lear Jet).
Thursday, September 20, 2012
Okay, so what if Craigslist sues you for copyright infringement? Assuming the Craigslist TOU holds up in court -- that is rights actually go from contributor to Craigslist -- you will be on the defensive. You will have to demonstrate either that (1) the ad is unprotectible under copyright because it's too short or trivial (we've seen your videos and we think the ads are long enough to merit separate copyright protection), or (2) the movies are a fair use. You have a reasonable fair use argument in that the ads are not being used for their intended purpose (to sell stuff) and your movies are commenting upon or parodying the ads. As we always warn, making a fair use argument against a well-heeled company is an uphill battle that could prove costly. BTW, the fact that you are making money off the movies doesn't affect the ability of Craigslist to come after you for infringement.
Trademark issues. In addition to copyright claims, Craigslist has the ability to come after you for trademark claims -- that is, you are creating the impression that Craigslist endorses or is associated with your movies. In your favor is the fact that you are arguably making an editorial use of their mark (for example, similar to "Best Cars Made By General Motors" or "Great Strategies of Fortune 500 Companies). Working against you is the fact that you use the trademark so prominently and Craigslist is already using a similar title at its site (and for a similar purpose, to highlight the wackier ads).
Bottom line dept. As with all potential infringement claims, the higher your profile, the more likely you will attract attention from Craigslist. We are hesitant to suggest that you stop your creative work. After all, some artists have jumpstarted their careers with infringements. For what it's worth, Craigslist is a relatively forward-thinking (and generally lovable) company and it's possible that their management may take a more enlightened approach to your work -- or at least, will offer means for you to halt without dragging you through litigation. But certainly if you intend to move to higher levels of exposure, at some point you will likely have to deal with the company.
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
How to Sell a TV Show -- powered by ehow
Making the deal. By "self to do it" we assume you mean do-it-yourself and no, we doubt there's any way you can DIY a deal unless you are capable of creating an alternate universe in which regular people can access industry decision-makers (perhaps a universe similar to the one in which Tinker Bell's life-support is maintained by thousands of believers). We base this opinion solely on anecdotal evidence from those who have pitched their work in New York and L.A. The relatively vacuous advice provided in the eHow video above, seems to validate our opinion. Despite the grim scorecard, we do believe that phenomenal writing and talent can succeed. To proceed along this course, we'd suggest you hone your skills with one of the many books, workshops, or seminars on the subject.
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Readers have complained that SCRIBD requires premium membership for the "free" download so here is a copy of the voice over/narrator release. Copy and paste!
Audio Reader Release Agreement
This Audio Reader Release Agreement (the Agreement) is made between [your company or name] ("Producer"), and [name of reader] (“Reader”).
Rights. Reader’s performance has been recorded in conjunction with a recording (the “Recording”) as described below:
Describe the Production
Reader assigns all rights in the performance on the Recording to the Producers and its assigns, licensees and successors. Reader’s grant includes, but is not limited to, the right to use the recordings listed above in all forms and media including composite, transcribed, or modified for all purposes, including advertising, trade or any commercial purpose throughout the world and for the length of copyright in such Recordings. Reader understands that Producer is not obligated to utilize any of the rights granted in this Agreement. Producer grants a non-exclusive license to Reader to perform samples of the Recording for portfolio purposes to show others the style and nature of Reader’s work.
Payment. Producers have paid Reader as follows: $___ as payment in full for the rights granted under this Agreement.
Credit. Producers will credit Reader with credit in the same size and format as is consistent with the audio book industry—that is, an audio credit either at the beginning or conclusion of the complete program and, if possible, print credit on the exterior packaging for the production. The failure to provide a credit shall not be a material breach of this Agreement.
Mediation; Arbitration. If a dispute arises under this Agreement, the parties agree to submit the dispute to binding arbitration in [City/State], conducted on a confidential basis pursuant to the arbitration rules of the American Arbitration Association.
General. Nothing contained in this Agreement shall be deemed to constitute either Producers or Reader a partner or employee of the other party. This Agreement shall be governed by and interpreted in accordance with the laws of [State].
Social Security No.:____________
Posted by The Dear Rich Staff at 5:57 PM
Monday, September 17, 2012
Long Question; Short Answer Dept. You need to see an IP attorney. We believe the letter granting all rights will trump prior agreements but we couldn't say for sure without looking at the papers. If you're still interested in patenting the invention, you need to confirm your ownership and you also need to check your deadlines particularly if the invention has been disclosed or published. Here's a collection of articles that may help you sort out ownership issues and here's a previous entry relevant for California inventor-employees.
BTW, speaking of inventors, today (actually yesterday) marks the one-year anniversary of the America Invents Act and seven provisions of the AIA go into effect: inventor's oath or declaration; preissuance submissions; supplemental examination; citation of patent owner claim scope statements; post grant review; inter partes review; and covered business method review. Read more about it at our AIA timeline.
Friday, September 14, 2012
Right, you had a question. First, you don't want to patent your t-shirt designs. Utility patents are for inventions and design patents are not intended for the appearance of t-shirts. You can read about the differences here and you can learn more about design patents, here. Second, you're best protected by copyright. If you don't want to spend much money, don't do anything. You get copyright automatically once you create an original design. If you want to register your most popular designs, you can do so online for $35 by following the instructions, here. Copyright registration provides benefits but is really only required if you are going to sue someone for infringement.
Thursday, September 13, 2012
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
What's at issue? You're correct about the right to shoot exterior views. We don't believe interiors, even if publicly viewable, would be covered by that exception. Unfortunately, we haven't located a case that distinguishes photos of the interior of a publicly viewable home from the exterior and that's what makes us unable to reach a more definitive conclusion. It's possible that the photographic uses of the interiors -- the real estate agent's promotion of the house sale -- would be considered permissible either under an implied license (they're essential for selling the house which we assume was everyone's goal), or possibly for purposes of fair use (the objective was to sell the house, not the images). As for further use of the photographs beyond the sale, ultimately it's going to come down to (1) whether your interiors are sufficiently original to merit copyright protection -- that is, whether the layout of the rooms goes beyond "standard configurations," (2) what elements (unprotected) are "functional elements whose design or placement is dictated by utilitarian concerns," and (3) whether the photographs of the interior reveal enough information to infringe the architectural plans or designs. Simply showing the kitchen, or bedroom, for example is unlikely by itself to constitute an infringement; you'll need to show that the combined effect of the photos is an infringement of several elements of the design. This legal article may help explain in more detail.
BTW Dept. If you're looking for more information on the law and photography we like Carolyn Wright's blog.
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
|Portrait of Anais Nin (1920)|
Reproduction and distribution. We couldn't tell you who to use or your options for making photo books (that's what Google is for) but we know there are lots of companies like shutterfly, lulu, and snapfish that produce those kinds of things.
Making Postcards or Posters? We're not sure what other types of reproduction you have in mind but if you intend to break out an image and quote for purposes of a poster or a postcard, a living person such as Stephen Nachmanovitch (or in some states, the estate of a dead person), may object under right of publicity laws. To successfully make such a claim, he would need to demonstrate that you were exploiting his personna. We think that's a longshot (or as a meteorologist might put it, "less than 10 per cent chance of rain") but we're lawyers and have to consider all possibilities.
Monday, September 10, 2012
Friday, September 7, 2012
|photo USDA |
Agricultural Research Service
Thursday, September 6, 2012
Muddy waters. Although the story, title, plot, dialogue, and characters are in the public domain, the original screenwriters (George Romero and John Russo) went gone on to create copyrighted sequels and remakes of the original using the same characters. (The two screenwriters couldn't agree on a sequel and Romero acquired the right to movie sequels using "Of the Dead" and Russo acquired rights to "Living Dead" movie sequels. Russo also went on to create a series of Night of the Living Dead comics using the characters and plot from the original.) No trademarks have been federally registered for "Night of the Living Dead" for books but the comics publisher has a reasonable claim that the term is used as the trademark for the series. All of this adds to the confusion surrounding copyright (and explains why a squadron of would-be and oft-bogus enforcers swoop down in opposition whenever the film is loaded on YouTube).
Bottom Line Dept. We think the coast is clear for a young reader's edition in the U.S. but you may want to get an opinion letter from a copyright/trademark lawyer, if possible. You have a good chance of prevailing on copyright claims but we think your activity may possibly attract lawsuits, anyway. In addition, we can't confirm copyright status of the film in the U.K. (where you're located).
BTW ... For those interested in "monetizing" the film, it's also unclear whether certain "separable" elements of the film are also public domain -- for example, the music (credited at different times to William Loose and Fred Steiner and to Scott Vladimir Licina), and the trailer for the film.
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
What about the products and ads? If any of the ads were published before 1923, they are not protected under copyright. (This chart will help you sort out which ads are in the public domain.) Even if copyright exists, chances are good that your reproduction will constitute a fair use as you are using the ads for purposes of commentary. You're probably fine with product imagery, too, as your reproduction would also likely be considered a fair use. Legally, the photographer (or whoever the photographer transferred the rights to) would own the copyright but typically, slavish reproduction of products will trigger limited copyright protection (despite what some companies may argue). Also, that's a general rule and ultimately depends on the creative details of the packaging, and the attitude of the copyright owner. In addition, check out Section 113(c) of the Copyright Act which is not exactly on point, but by analogy seems to permit informational uses of product imagery. Although we don't want to influence your writing, the fact that your history is "favorable" may quell any gathering copyright storms.
PS, no, the book cover isn't real, although you can feel free to use it if you're writing a fictional history of a bagel business. (We did work briefly in a bagel bakery and even burned our fingers grabbing and dropping hot onion bialys -- and the boss said, "What? Too heavy for you?" ).