Copyright Week: R Street’s Greatest Hits!

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Copyright Word

Advocacy groups and think tanks across the nation are celebrating Copyright Week this week, intended to highlight a series of discussions supporting key principles that should guide copyright policy.

Copyright law impacts everything from Internet access to the music we listen to the books we read. So we decided to join the fun and create “R Street’s Greatest Hits on Copyright Policy” (trademark pending) to highlight our own work in this important, yet nuanced space. In an effort to be hip with the millennials, here are those greatest hits in listicle form:

#TBT The ‘Blurred Lines’ of music copyright


In 2015, a federal jury handed down a $7.4 million verdict against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams, asserting the pair’s 2013 smash “Blurred Lines” borrowed inappropriately from the 1977 Marvin Gaye song “Got to Give It Up.” R Street’s R.J. Lehmann takes the time to explain the preposterousness of this ruling, including the many differences between Gaye’s old school classic and the 2013 hit. It’s clear that the court’s interpretation could hinder future artists and continue to the blur the lines of ownership and creativity. http://bit.ly/1NLdeto

Leave my NFL GIFs alone


Embattled National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell attempted this past season to limit the online proliferation of GIFs and Vines of league-owned content. After facing fierce backlash from sites like Deadspin and SB Nation, the NFL backtracked their effort. However, the episode could serve as a warning shot between sports leagues and fans looking for new ways to appreciate and enjoy the game. http://bit.ly/1MGNLO0

How much is a song worth, anyway?


This past year there has been much discussion about the economics of music. Artists, record labels, consumers, fans and legislators have spent a lot of time trying to figure out proper rules for the marketplace. In an age with so many competing avenues to share and find music, this column parses the details of this extremely complex system. http://bit.ly/1ZDdde0

Music Licensing: Longform


If you want to take a deeper dive into the maze of music copyright law, check out R Street’s policy study “Transparency in music licensing and the statutory remedy problem.” This paper examines the opaque system that hampers musicians and songwriters from fully benefiting from emerging ways to access music. http://bit.ly/23gb8tg

Books, books and more books!


A court ruling this past year reaffirmed the legality of Google Books, a project involving the unlicensed scanning and online search of whole libraries. The process of restoring and making available large swaths of older books is an important benefit to the public, introducing new readers to undiscovered works and enhancing the efforts of many academics and researchers.bit.ly/1V9WAW3

Do you really own your tractor?


They say nothing runs like a Deere! Yet if there is a malfunction and you try to repair your Deere tractor by tinkering with its software, you could be breaking the law. That’s because the software’s copyright is owned by the tractor company and cannot legally be changed or altered by anyone not authorized to do so, including the supposed “owner.” bit.ly/1PGsdCA

You didn’t build that!


Are creators or lawyers the driving force behind artistic freedom? This is the crucial question that R Street’s Zach Graves addresses in the Techdirt column “Imbalanced incentives hurt more than they help.” http://bit.ly/1MQia0S

R Street goes retro!



One of R Street’s first forays into the copyright discussion was through the classic hit policy study “Guarding against abuse: Restoring constitutional copyright” by R Street Associate Fellow Derek Khanna. In this study, Khanna evaluates the intent of the Constitution’s “progress clause,” as well as its application today. bit.ly/1lxFPba

And finally…

Fair use “In My Life”



R Street Associate Fellow Molly Schwartz perfectly summarizes the importance of fair use and a balanced copyright system:

No area of the federal law touches all of our lives so frequently and so ubiquitously as copyright law. Every time you write an email, every time you turn on your computer, every time you download a piece of software, every time you stream a song, every time you take a selfie, you are interacting with copyright law because you are making copies of someone else’s original idea. How copyright is regulated by the federal government has a direct impact on artists, tech companies, libraries, schools, content industries and ordinary users like you and me.