Re:Create Recap – Week of January 4, 2016

Copyright Office Seeks Comments On Improving Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). On December 31, the U.S. Copyright Office announced its plans to solicit comments on the effectiveness of the DMCA and its “safe harbor” provisions. The Office seeks to understand how section 512’s safe harbors, limitations on liability for online service providers and notice-and-takedown process impact copyright issues. Ars Technica notes in US Copyright Office is taking comments about how well the DMCA is working that submissions can be made starting February 1, and comments will be due on March 21.

CBS Seeks To Stop Independently-Produced Star Trek Movie. CBS Studios and Paramount Pictures filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against the producer of Axanar, an independently-produced prequel film that has raised more than $1 million on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Although CBS has allowed amateur Star Trek productions to proceed in the past, CBS seeks statutory damages as well as an injunction preventing the filmmakers from producing their fan film, despite the fact that the Axanar producers have promised that the film will be distributed for free and remain “totally non-commercial.” CBS nonetheless alleges that the film does not constitute fair use and will infringe on copyrighted elements, including settings, characters, species and themes, as described in Rolling Stone’s Crowdfunded ‘Star Trek’ Movie Facing Copyright Infringement Lawsuit. The Organization for Transformative Works defended the filmmakers, stating: “We hope that copyright owners agree with us: fanworks often add to the markets for original copyrighted works, rather than competing with them.”

Without Fair Use, Luke Skywalker May Not Exist. In Project Disco’s blog, What the Release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens Teaches Us About Copyright Policy, Jonathan Band highlights the role of limitations and exceptions in copyright law. Many of the movie’s themes were inspired by previous films and history, such as how the plot closely resembles Arthurian mythology or how the Jedi order mimics the samurai portrayed in the Seven Samurai. Band writes, “The entire Star Wars saga, including the most recent episode, reminds us that too much copyright protection stifles creativity. Congress, the Administration, and the Copyright Office must bear this in mind as they develop and implement copyright policy.”

Thousands Of Works Enter Public Domain On January 1—Except In The U.S. On January 1, “Public Domain Day,” thousands of books, movies, songs, and works of art entered the public domain across the world, except in the United States. As copyright laws vary throughout the world, Quartz examines which authors and works are now available in It’s Public Domain Day and once again Americans get almost nothing. For instance, the works of Winston Churchill, T.S. Eliot and Malcolm X entered the public domain in Canada and much of Africa and Asia, where copyrights are protected only 50 years after death.

Anne Frank’s Diary Enters Public Domain Despite Ongoing Copyright Dispute. Seventy years after her death, Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl also entered the public domain on January 1. The Verge’s Anne Frank’s diary is now free to download despite copyright dispute explains that only the Dutch version is available, while the translated versions are still copyrighted. However, charitable foundation Anne Frank Fonds is fighting to extend the copyright for 70 years after the death of Anne’s father, Otto, as they allege he “earned his own copyright.”

Bank of America Claims Copyright Infringement To Take Down Journalist’s Tweets.
After a Business Insider UK editor tweeted jokes about Bank of America accompanied by quotes from one of the bank’s research documents, the bank filed a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) claim with Twitter to remove the tweets. The journalist received an email from Twitter that his content violated the bank’s copyright and noted that continued actions could result in the deletion of his Twitter account, according to Bank of America gets Twitter to delete journalist’s joke, says he violated copyright in Ars Technica. “Investment banks apparently have the power to censor journalists on Twitter, simply by asking,” the journalist wrote. “That is depressing.”

Internet Service Provider To Pay $25 Million For Failing To Disconnect Repeat Copyright Infringers. Cory Doctorow writes A win for copyright trolls: Cox must pay $25M for not disconnecting users in Boing Boing following the jury decision to fine Cox Cable for its failure to disconnect subscribers accused of “repeat infringement.” Doctorow clarifies that the case does not force Internet service providers (ISPs) to pass on demand letters though they will have to terminate “repeat infringers.” However, the definition of a “repeat infringer” is still nebulous, which could result in an accused infringer’s termination regardless of conviction. “The verdict will almost certainly be appealed,” concludes Doctorow.

Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Brought By Abbott & Costello Heirs Over Copyright To “Who’s On First” Routine. On December 17 a federal judge threw out a lawsuit on brought by Abbott and Costello’s heirs against a Broadway play which includes a part of the comedians’ “Who’s on First” routine. Techdirt’s Mike Masnick analyzes the evolution of the comedic routine’s copyright claim and the judge’s ruling in Copyright Lawsuit Over ‘Who’s on First’ Doesn’t Get Past First Base. Masnick not only argues that the routine should fall in the public domain but praises the court’s decision that the case falls under transformative, fair use as “an overall victory against yet another attempt at overly abusive copyright claims by heirs.”

2015 In Review: Who Got What Wrong In Copyright. Although many advocates were happy to see copyright at the forefront of policy in 2015, Electronic Frontier Foundation’s (EFF) blog post A Ban On Ripping CD’s Is This Year’s Lowest Point In International Copyright In International Copyright: 2015 In Review explains how the international community missed the mark on fair use. Reviewing many international policies, Jeremy Malcolm highlights how actions such as data retention laws in Australia, criminalization in South Africa and the potential ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership will harm the copyright community. The one bright spot, Malcolm explains, is the EU’s foreshadowing that its governing body will adopt changes to copyright law and include exceptions such as freedom of panorama, text and data mining.