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.
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.
Shame on you. That’s the purpose of Plagarius, a German cereremony that awards the most blatant knock-off artists. The purpose of the awards is to send a message that stealing innovations is not acceptable.
Having their innovations knocked off in this manner can be an innovator’s worst nightmare. With some money and determination, they can shut down the knock-off artists. This kind of behavior really highlights the law of the market: if you succeed others will imitate.
Click here for the full BusinessWeek story.
Acknowledgment: Thanks to Arvind Natarajan for sending me the link to this story.
Pop culture critic and journalist C.E. Hanifin recently pointed out a fascinating intellectual property controversy at Target Addict. That blog comments on a news story run by The Virginian-Pilot, involving I.P. and lingerie.
April Spring, of Norfolk Virginia, obtained a design patent in December, 2008 for a design of women’s briefs marketed under her Foxers brand. This is the image of the design patent, as it was issued by the U.S Patent Office.
Spring’s design attaches an elastic waist band to the briefs, much like those seen on men’s boxer shorts.
Spring filed a lawsuit against Target, Corp. alleging the retailer knocked-off her design. The Foxers briefs are normally priced at between $20 to $26 a pair. The Target briefs that allegedly rip-off her design are priced at around $5 a pair.
Note: design patents are a special type of patent and differ from utility patents, which cover working inventions. Design patents cover only the ornamental look of a product, as opposed to how the product works.
Artists borrow material to create new art. This practice is widely acknowledged and condoned in art circles. Daniel Grant makes this point in a recent Wall Street Journal article. Mr. Grant also points out, however, that copyright law can potentially render artistic borrowing an unlawful transgression. What is routine practice in the arts may lead to litigation and an intellectual property minefield.
Mr. Grant’s article discusses the Rogers v. Koons case. In that case the renowned artist Jeff Koons was sued by photographer Art Rogers. Mr. Koons made an unauthorized sculptural and literal rendition of a photograph taken by Mr. Rogers that depicted a family with eight puppies. A federal court found that the sculptural representation amounted to copyright infringement. Mr Koons unsuccessfully argued that creating the sculpture from the photograph was a transformative social commentary. This type of commentary, he argued, was an important artistic activity. It was a good argument, but not a legally persuasive one.
The Rogers v. Koons case was decided in 1992. Seventeen years later, a very similar case is now publicly unfolding. This case also involves an artist and a photographer. In this case, the artist is Shepard Fairey, who created the Obama Poster shown below from a photograph taken by photographer Mannie Garcia. Mr. Garcia, who is a freelance photographer, was working for the Associated Press at the time he took the photograph, shown below next to the poster image. Mr. Fairey based his image on the photograph without asking the Associated Press for permission. Now, Mr. Fairey has sued the Associated Press to have the copyright issue resolved.
The question, however, remains contested. How can one determine if their new work has unlawfully copied another work? How much borrowing is permitted? Prior cases, like Rogers v. Koons state that an original work is copied when “the accused work is so substantially similar to the copyrighted work that reasonable jurors could not differ on this issue.” That is a fuzzy boundary that is determined on a case-by-case basis.
So here’s my question:
Techdirt does a nice job describing some of the problems currently facing artists and copyright. Basically, how can you artistically innovate without borrowing?
This is in response to a copyright-related story that recently popped up dealing with the iconic blue, white and red Obama campaign posters. As it turns out, the original image was a photograph taken by an Associated Press freelance photographer. The image was downloaded and altered by someone else to generate the iconic poster image. All this was done without getting the photographer or the A.P.’s permission, and in theory violating their copyright.