Copyright and Terrorism Suspects

Here’s an interesting blog post a few years ago on the objections voiced by musicians against the alleged use of their songs in suspected torture cases in Guantanamo. The article discusses some of the copyright claims the artists may raise. Most recently, artists including R.E.M. and Pearl Jam have filed a freedom of information act request to determine if the songs were used. See the recent article here.

J.D. Salinger Sues Author of Catcher in the Rye Sequel for Copyright Infringement


J.D. Salinger, author of the classic Catcher in the Rye novel filed a lawsuit in Manhattan alleging that the authors of a sequel to his acclaimed novel have committed copyright infringement. In the complaint, Mr. Salinger alleges that the unauthorized sequel involves an elderly Holden Caulfield who leaves a retirement home to spend a few days in New York City.

Salinger asserts that his copyright to the first work grants him the exclusive right to authorize any derivative works of that prior and seminal work of fiction. The complaint alleges that the new sequel is an unauthorized derivative, and Mr. Salinger requests the court to grant an injunction against its publication, sale and distribution.

Given the nature of Mr. Salinger’s copyright, and if the injunction is granted, many of us will probably never know how phony or lousy that sequel may have really been.

To read the full complaint click here.

Will Google Shut Down Copycat Site?

A student in my Entrepreneurship class recently made me aware of the site: “Let me Google that for you” .com (LMGTFY).

As the name of LMGTFY implies, the site shows you how to search Google if you follow the simple steps listed on the site. I showed the website in class, and one student immediately thought it was a joke. “That’s not so unique” was one comment. “Why not get rid of the middleman and go straight to Google?” another student asked.

As it turns out, the website is dedicated “to all those people that find it more convenient to bother you with their question rather than google it for themselves.” So, if you receive an annoying question, rather than ignore the person or say something nasty, you can send them to LMGTFY and hope they get the message not to bother you again.

The website raises some intellectual property issues, however. I asked the class if they would be willing to invest in this company. The site apparently is trying to raise advertising revenues and claims to have a “steady stream of traffic made up primarily of affluent 30-somethings.” They also claim to have received 1.25 million visitors in February. One student said he would not invest because Google would be able to “shut them down fairly quickly”.

Under what grounds? First, there is the possible trademark issue since the Google trademark and logo are used on the site. Also, the Google website is secured under copyright.

Copyright Criminals!

Hi everyone. In this post I’ll talk about Kembrew McCleod’s lecture as part of the recent “Intellectual Property Controversies” series held here at Michigan Tech (see previous post).

I first heard of Kembrew a few years ago when he played a prank on the i.p. (intellectual property) system. To make a point about how copyrights and trademarks are used by corporations to limit the public’s free speech, Kembrew registered “freedom of speech” as a federal trademark. He later made headlines by asserting that trademark against AT&T, since they tried to place an ad in a local newspaper that used the tagline “freedom of speech”.

Kembrew is about to release a film he co-produced with Benjamin Franzen, called “Copyright Criminals“. I saw the film as part of a free sneak preview screening at Michigan Tech. The film does a nice job of interviewing hip hop artists like Chuck D. who, in the ’90’s, sampled key sounds from music legends like George Clinton and Clyde Stubblefield.

The sampling was done as part of a massive creative excercise to further the emerging Hip Hop and Rap music genres. Little did the artists know that, once they had beguin to make some money, they would be flooded with letters from the music studios that viewed the sampling as massive copyright infringement. Hence the movie’s controversial title, “Copyright Criminals”.

The sneak peek was followed up by Kembrew’s talk, which focused on how he viewed the entire copyright system as broken. Kembrew called on a massive engagement in the public consciousness on how copyright laws limit expressions and creativity. 

That insights is an important one, I believe. Copyright really does touch everyone. Anyone who consumes media, software or information engages copyright. Right now, I am creating copyrights as I type. Right now, these copyrights are being distributed over fiber cables all over the world, often without my express permission. It’s o.k. I won’t send any cease and desist letters! That reminds me, I need to post a creative commons license on this blog to put everyone on notice it is o.k. to post, re-distribute, and copy this blog anywhere for any purposes, as long as attribution is mentioned.

For the next post I’ll review the next lecture speaker: Danny Obrien from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). The EFF is a civil rights organization that ensures companies don’t use intellectual property to quash your civil liberties, like privacy and freedom of speech.

In the meantime, please keep an eye out for “Copyright Criminals” and support them by buying some merchandise!