Jury rules that Led Zeppelin did not steal "Stairway to Heaven"

A federal jury in Los Angeles has just ruled that Led Zeppelin did not swipe the opening to "Stairway to Heaven" from the Spirit song "Taurus." From the New York Times:

Mr. Plant and Mr. Page both testified that “Stairway to Heaven” had been composed independently, and that while both bands had played on the same bill a handful of times, they did not recall ever seeing Spirit perform and had no familiarity with “Taurus” until the lawsuit was brought.

“I didn’t remember it then, and I don’t remember it now,” Mr. Plant said.

The jury found that, although Mr. Page and Mr. Plant had access to “Taurus” before the release of “Stairway to Heaven,” the two songs’ original elements did not contain enough similarities. Before reaching the verdict on Thursday, the jury asked to listen to audio recordings of the introductions to both songs twice.

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Radiohead's "Creep" vs. The Hollies' "The Air That I Breathe"

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All the news about the "Stairway to Heaven" lawsuit reminded me of this lovely arrangement of another creative dispute: Radiohead's "Creep" vs. The Hollies' "The Air That I Breathe." Read the rest

AMC threatens to sue fansite over Walking Dead spoilers

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AMC claims that spoilers (and even predictions) of its show, The Walking Dead, infringe copyright. As spoilers are other people's descriptions of something they've seen, in their own words, this would put all unauthorized reviews and commentary in the same boat. But that hasn't stopped it issuing legal threats to fans.

AMC finally reached out to us! But it wasn’t a request not to post any info about the Lucille Victim or any type of friendly attempt at compromise, it was a cease and desist and a threat of a lawsuit by AMC Holdings, LLC’s attorney, Dennis Wilson. They say we can’t make any type of prediction about the Lucille Victim. Their stance is that making such a prediction would be considered copyright infringement. AMC tells us that we made some claim somewhere that says we received “copyright protected, trade secret information about the most critical plot information in the unreleased next season of The Walking Dead” and that we announced we were going to disclose this protected information. We still aren't sure where we supposedly made this claim because they did not identify where it was. ...

Basically what it all comes down to is if we post our Lucille Victim prediction and we're right, AMC says they will sue us. Whether there are grounds for it or not is not the issue, it still costs money to defend. That is the way our justice system works. Would we have defenses? Sure. But it also costs money to mount that defense.

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Appeals court rules brief "Vogue" horn sample was not copyright infringement

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The 9th Circuit Court affirmed today that a quarter-second sample used by Madonna didn't infringe the copyright of the original artist. Billboard reports that 1990 hit Vogue's use of a brass hit from 1976's "Love Break" was so small as to be trivial.

"After listening to the audio recordings submitted by the parties, we conclude that a reasonable juror could not conclude that an average audience would recognize the appropriation of the horn hit," writes 9th Circuit judge Susan Graber in today's opinion. "That common-sense conclusion is borne out by dry analysis. The horn hit is very short—less than a second. The horn hit occurs only a few times in Vogue. Without careful attention, the horn hits are easy to miss. Moreover, the horn hits in Vogue do not sound identical to the horn hits from Love Break... Even if one grants the dubious proposition that a listener recognized some similarities between the horn hits in the two songs, it is hard to imagine that he or she would conclude that sampling had occurred."

The ruling seems to run counter to other recent courtroom action where a song was found to infringe a Marvin Gaye classic despite containing no samples of it at all. But things are complicated in copyright! Note that the court listens to the recordings: subjective similarity is at hand, not just technology. Which perhaps explains why an extensively imitative passage with no direct sampling might be found infringing, but a short sample re-used in a novel and transformative way is not. Read the rest

Indie singer sues Bieber over unlicensed sample, but is it even her?

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Singer Casey Daniel accused Skrillex and Justin Bieber of using a sample of her voice without permission, but the targets of her lawsuit seem to have a good defense: the sample was of another singer entirely, and Skrillex posted video showing how he produced it.

Daniel's 2014 song Ring The Bell opens with a distinctive whooping cry from Daniel, repeated throughout:

You can hear it—according to Daniel—in Bieber's Skrillex-produced 2015 megahit Sorry:

Here's Daniel, on Facebook:

Like most artists that sample music, Bieber could have licensed my song for use in “Sorry.” But he chose not to contact me. After the release of “Sorry,” my lawyers sent Bieber a letter regarding the infringement, but Bieber’s team again chose to ignore me. I offered Bieber’s team an opportunity to have a private dialogue about the infringement, but they refused to even acknowledge my claim, despite the obviousness of the sample. Justin Bieber is the world’s biggest artist, and I’m sure that he and his team will launch a full attack against me. But, in the end, I was left with no other option. I believe I have an obligation to stand up for my music and art.

In response, though, Skrillex posted a video that seems to make obvious that the sample was in fact of a session singer.

“SORRY but we didn’t steal this,” Skrillex tweeted, with a prayer emoji. Bieber retweeted it, adding “#wedontsteal”. Read the rest

A copyright troll took down one of our favorite Tumblrs. Here's why it could happen to you.

Image: @itspeteski

Regular Boing Boing readers have seen me credit This Isn't Happiness many times for wonderful visual and audio finds. We've been linking to Peter Nidzgorski's work since way back in 2008. Recently, his wonderful tumblog—a mix of art, music, film, urban ennui, and sexy design ephemera—went dark. No! Why? Automated DMCA takedowns, spurred by the complaint of a well-known copyright troll.

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Copyright troll Rightscorp must pay $450,000 over robocalls

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Copyright shakedown company Rightscorp, which threatens suspected music sharers with lawsuits unless they give Rightscorp money, has agreed to pay $450,000 to settle claims it illegally targeted thousands of people with recorded messages.

Morgan Pietz, an attorney who played a key role in bringing down Prenda Law, sued Rightscorp in 2014, saying that the company's efforts to get settlements from alleged pirates went too far. Rightscorp's illegal "robocalls" violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), a 1991 law that limits how automated calling devices are used. The class-action lawsuit claimed that some Rightscorp targets were receiving one robocall on their cell phone per day. It's generally illegal to have automated devices call cell phones.

Earlier this week, Pietz and his co-counsel filed court papers outlining the settlement. Rightscorp will pay $450,000 into a settlement fund, which will be paid out to the 2,059 identified class members who received the allegedly illegal calls. Each class member who fills out an "affidavit of noninfringement" will receive up to $100. The rest of the fund will pay for costs of notice and claim administration (about $25,000) and attorneys' fees and costs, which cannot exceed $330,000. Rightscorp will also "release any and all alleged claims" against the class members. The company had accused the 2,059 class members of committing 126,409 acts of copyright infringement.

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DMCA exemption carved to help preserve old games

Illo: Wordpress.com / Automattic

The US Library of Congress has created an exemption to copyright law to make it legal to preserve abandoned video games, including online server code required to play them. Read the rest

After 80 years, Happy Birthday song is finally in the public domain

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A federal judge in Los Angeles today delivered “a stunning reversal of decades of copyright claims,” as the LA Times put it. Warner/Chappell Music does not hold a valid copyright claim to the "Happy Birthday To You" song. The royalties they demanded were not theirs to demand.

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Why copyright should not be infinite, in a nutshell

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Well-funded arguments are often made that copyright should last forever, replacing its original purpose (encouraging the creation of new works) with a plainly proprietary system of cultural ownership. Eric Crampton explains why this is a bad idea.

Even from the perspective of a profit-seeking artist, copyright is a double-edged sword. Stronger copyright both increases the rewards from having produced a piece of work and increases the cost of creating new works.

Too weak of copyright can mean that too few works are created, although artists have gotten far better at working out alternative ways of earning a living when, regardless of the letter of copyright law, enforcement has become difficult. Further, at standard time discounting rates, a 20-year extension to copyright’s term might provide only about a two percent increase in the value of any earned royalties. It is not particularly plausible that many new works would come into existence because of that slight increase.

On the other side, too strong of copyright can surely kill new creation. Artistic works feed off each other. New works build on older traditions, reinterpreting old folk tales and old folk tunes for new generations. The Brothers Grimm collected and published older folk tales like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty in the 1800s. In the 1900s, Walt Disney brought those stories to life in a new form. In the 2000s, well, it is hard for new innovation to occur because copyright law, at least in the United States, has frozen the usage of most important works produced since 1923.

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Darren Dutton's weird comedy remix masterpiece: Badgers

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A very funny pastoral pastiche, handmade from 100% recycled vintage sound clips.

Anti-piracy dolts gobble up content with "pixels" DMCA takedowns

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Several Vimeo members whose videos had "pixels" in the title are victims of the latest overly broad DMCA takedown request by Entura International, working on behalf of Sony's summer schlockbuster Pixels. Read the rest

The twisted history of the Happy Birthday song—and the copyright shenanigans that keep it profitable

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I've obtained the 1922 book that demonstrates this classic song should rest in the public domain.

Stop the Music

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A chilling piece of science fiction projects the future of our most frightening tech-law trends: what will the mission-creep for memory erasure look like?

Lawsuit claims Conan O'Brien stole jokes from Twitter

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In a lawsuit against Conan O'Brien, San Diego resident Robert Kaseberg says his lulzy tweets about Tom Brady, Caitlyn Jenner, airlines, and the Washington Monument all made it into the late night host's monologue. Read the rest

Twitter joke thieves are getting DMCA takedowns

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Among professional comedians, joke theft is no joke. Now Twitter is allowing members to use DMCA notices to take down tweets posted by accounts that copy and paste them without attribution. PlagiarismBad's name-and-shame campaign has already netted a few celebrities. Read the rest

Reddit's going to remove "copyrighted material?" As if.

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Reddit's proposed new policies continue its principled ideological commitment to ignoring problems. But it also wants to do something about copyright infringement. Perhaps Reddit can brush its white supremacy and rape advice subreddits under the rug! But can it live without copyrighted material? Get real, Reddit! Read the rest

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