Universal Music Group loves the idea of suing music fans for the full freight when it comes to copyright infringement, celebrating their ability to extract $150,000 per act of infringement with punitive damages on top -- but now that Universal's been slapped with one of these copyright suits (for sampling Hendrix without permission, something I think they should be able to do, FWIW), they've decided that these damages are "unconstitutionally excessive."
The case in question involves now-deceased rapper The Notorious B.I.G., whose album Ready to Die incorporated an unlicensed sample of "Singing in the Morning" from the Ohio Players after a Hendrix sample was denied clearance. The sample made its way onto the final album and even onto reissued albums. Bridgeport Music and Westbound Records, which control the rights to the song, sued. A district court ruled in their favor; Bridgeport took the $150,000 maximum in statutory damages, while Westbound sought compensatory and punitive damages. Westbound scored big, earning $366,939 from the jury along with punitive damages of a whopping $3.5 million.
In appealing the ruling, Universal argued that the punitive damages award was "grossly excessive and should be vacated or at least reduced." The reason? It's excessive. The brief quotes a Supreme Court ruling that said, "In practice, few awards exceeding a single-digit ratio between punitive and compensatory damages, to a significant degree, will satisfy due process." Universal pointed out that the award in question was "approximately 10 to 1, far above the line of unconstitutional impropriety."
Since the earliest days of the "semantic web,", millions of dollars and hours of coding effort have been thrown at the problem of really organizing large corpuses of information, with two approaches emerging: rigid ontologies (like the Dewey Decimal system) that require a system's users to be deeply expert in the structures they're working in; […]
In 1971, the Australian indigenous artist Harold Thomas created the iconic Australian Aboriginal Flag which has since been named one of the "official flags of Australia," which resulted in Thomas successfully suing to assert copyright over the design.
[Editor's note: Whenever governments review their copyright, one of two things happens: either they only listen to industry reps and then come to the "conclusion" that more copyright is always better; or they listen to stakeholders and experts and conclude that a little goes a long way. Normally, when the latter happens, the government that […]
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