A Very Merry Unbirthday to Warner Music Group

Ever wondered why restaurants insist on doing weird clapping cheers instead of just singing Happy Birthday To You? It’s because, for the past eighty years or so, various copyright owners have jealously protected the song, demanding licensing fees for its commercial use. In 1988, Warner/Chappell (Warner) acquired the copyright and makes about $2 million annually in royalties from it. Or at least they used to. Continue reading

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobr-COPYRIGHT Transfer Terminations

The last time G.I. Joe had this tough a fight was when “The Rock” battled “Acting” in GI Joe: Retribution . . . and lost. This time, Joe, and his manufacturer Hasbro, face a different, more nuanced foe: the alleged creator of the then-unnamed G.I. Joe action figures, Stanley Weston. Weston, 82, claims that he “created the original idea of manufacturing and selling male action figures wearing and carrying miniaturized versions of the uniforms, insignias, emblems and equipment of each of the different branches of the United States armed forces.’’ His pitch emphasized that, like disposable razors, the various accessories that come with the figures would create a steady revenue stream after the initial figure was purchased. Weston claims that in 1963 he pitched the idea to Hasbro’s (then Hassenfeld Bros., Inc.) VP of Research and Development, who loved the concept and created a prototype at Weston’s direction. According to the complaint, Weston was consistently referred to as the creator and owner of the rights, and at the time, there was never an allegation that Hasbro owned the rights in and of itself. Furthermore, Weston claims they signed a contract allowing Hasbro to manufacture the toys, although in the fifty years since its execution neither party has been able to locate a copy. Continue reading

“The End of the Tour:” Showdown Between Copyright and Right of Publicity

Jason Segel’s breakout role as a “serious” actor in The End of the Tour has proven to be a success. Segel plays acclaimed American novelist David Foster Wallace in the last days of a publicity tour, after his novel Infinite Jest hit the shelves to critical acclaim in 1996. The movie is based solely on the book Although of Course you End Up Becoming Yourself, which, in turn, is based on an unpublished Rolling Stone interview, and all three focus on several days leading up to Wallace’s last stop on his publicity tour in Minneapolis. However, nearly every review or article about the movie includes the fact that Wallace, if he was alive, would never have wanted this movie to be made, and that his widow and co-trustee are adamantly against the film. Continue reading

This Is How She Do: Katy Perry Threatens Copyright Suit Over “Left Shark”

The Super Bowl halftime show is nearly as big an event as the Super Bowl itself. Millions of people – many who are less than enthusiastic about football – tune in every year, so it is no surprise that the Left Shark during Perry’s “California Gurls” number received much recognition.

Perry had two dancing sharks behind her while she sang, and unfortunately, the Left Shark, found on “stage right,” seemed to have no idea what was going on, dancing off-tempo and making up its own moves in the background. Left Shark became an instant internet sensation, dancing into jokes, memes, and .gifs. And because the internet is a wonderful medium for the entrepreneurial spirit, Left Shark merchandise began appearing almost immediately afterward. Continue reading