Do you use Flickr? They have recently come under fire for selling canvas prints and wall mounts of user-submitted photographs through their website without passing any of the profits on to the creator. Creative Commons (“CC”) licensing is allowing them to do this 100% legally.
There are a lot of different ways people use the service. I use it to store backups of photos. It also has a very robust “Advanced Search” feature, which comes in handy to find free stock photos.
Star Wars taught me the importance of contract drafting. No, seriously! I was reading for an Entertainment Law course two years ago when I came across a case from the 1980s involving Lucasfilm, LTD and Platinum Record, Co. The lawsuit centered around a dispute over a contract which allowed director George Lucas to use four popular songs in his film American Graffiti, first released in 1973. The issue in the case didn’t arise until almost a decade later, when MCA Distributing Corp. (an affiliate of Universal) released the film for sale and to rent on videocassette, which Platinum Record argued was in violation of their contract.
By this point, you might be wondering what this has to do with ebooks (or Star Wars, for that matter). Well, last week U.S. District Court Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald held that a 2011 ebook distribution deal signed by author Jean George violated an earlier, 1971 contract. The 1971 contract granted publisher HarperCollins the right to publish the children’s book Julie of the Wolves in “book form” and “electronic means now known or hereinafter invented.” This language in the contract is what caught my eye and provides an important lesson in contract drafting: think ahead.
Another lawsuit against Comedy Central’s hit show South Park could lead to a dead end. The focus of this post is to examine the fair use defense instead of the lack of similarity or likelihood that South Park was specifically referencing Exavier Wardlaw’s The Lollipop Forest.
1: What Exactly Is Going On?
On Tuesday, October 2, 2012, Exavier Wardlaw filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania naming South Park Studios, Trey Parker, and Matt Stone as defendants. Wardlaw alleges copyright infringement by the South Park executives through the use of the “Lollipop King” character in a three-episode story arc entitled Imaginationland. The episodes aired on Comedy Central in October 2007. The complaint lists the airing of the episodes as 2009, which might have been based on re-runs instead of the initial premiere.
Wardlaw created a “dramatic work and music; or choreography” called ‘Navah and Nasim and The Lollipop Forest” in 2005 according to a behind-the-scenes YouTube video and U.S. Copyright Office filing. Wardlaw filmed the work which he then put on YouTube. The copyright in the musical/ play was officially registered on March 7, 2006. You can click here and search “PAu003048246” as the “Registration Number” to see the copyright registration. Imaginationland was registered with the U.S. Copyright office on October 31, 2007, the air date of the final episode in the story arc (See registration PA0001590750).
South Park Studios combined all three episodes to release the feature-length version of ‘Imaginationland’ in 2008 and also won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program.