The Traklight Blog

Explore the world of intangible assets and IP with guest blogs, business owner interviews, and more.

Is This Browser Extension Violating Copyright?

For as much fun as college can be, one of the least pleasant aspects of attending university is purchasing textbooks. As a student, you have the distinct privilege of paying hundreds of dollars for books that you'll only use for a brief period, *cough* if at all *cough*. And while yours truly was unlucky enough to attend college during the nascence of eCommerce, today's students have a litany of options when it comes to ordering books online and finding the best price. But one startup's price-comparison tool has a major textbook company threatening legal action.

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Worst IP Mistakes in 2014, Part 2

This is the second of three posts (read Part 1 here) on the Worst IP Mistakes made in 2014 by some companies we spoke with last year.


I have written on this before but multiple questions about using open source code keep coming up with clients and in presentation question and answer. A couple of concepts are involved but at the root is copyright and the related licensing terms and conditions.

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Sony's Copyrighted Material Leaked, Possibly by North Koreans

In today's increasingly interconnected world, data security is as great of a concern as it has ever been. Even since an enterprising Ferris Bueller altered his attendance records to afford himself a day off, hacking has become far less farcical and far more malicious. From personal information to financial data, seemingly nothing is safe from the reaches of digital piracy. And one of Hollywood's largest studios has fallen prey to this scourge.

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From #Instagood to #Instabad and Back to #Instagood Again

I know it can be annoying or often downright difficult to figure out what is fair use and what is not fair use of copyrighted material, but that never means it is 100% free to distribute or even rebrand it as your own. If you think about it, adhering to the rules of protected intellectual property (IP) is really just a complicated version of a lesson we all learned in kindergarten: Don’t take what isn’t yours. 

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Software Copyright Infringement | Oracle Vs. Google

We take a lot of things for granted when it comes to technology. We don't bat an eye at our ability to press a couple buttons on our computer and print a document, or that we can touch an icon on our phone and open applications that provide us directions, news, or pictures of what people had for dinner. For that connectedness and interactivity, we have application programming interfaces to thank. Simply put, they enable different applications to communicate with one another, creating a digital ecosystem where your iPhone works with your Twitter account, which links to your Facebook account, and both are linked to your Instagram...you get the idea. But a court ruling this year has thrown the future of open source platforms into tumult.

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Beware of Copyright Infringement when Photographing the Eiffel Tower

Architectural design is protected by copyright law. But we have mentioned before that taking photographs of public buildings are completely legal (as long as you are taking photographs in a public space it’s all fair game). No one will come slap you with copyright infringement if you publish a photograph of yourself in front of the Statue of Liberty. But you might be in trouble if you take a photograph of another classic French structure at night, the Eiffel Tower.

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What's Going On Between Thicke and Gaye? | Copyright Infringement Case

The world of music is teeming with creative individuals with heads full of new ideas. But given the number of artists out there, it seems inevitable that accusations of copying from one another will occur from time to time. Many modern classics are built upon prior works, rightly or wrongly; Rick James' "Superfreak" gave us MC Hammer's "Can't Touch This," and Queen's "Under Pressure" was cribbed to make Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby" ("Ninja Rap," in all its glory, was presumably original). But one recent case of alleged musical theft is moving closer to its day in court.

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Are Pictures Of Money Copyrighted?

Among the many questions about intellectual property (IP) rights, one of the most interesting I’ve come across is, "Are pictures of money copyrighted?” Sure, we’ve all had fleeting thoughts of printing out our own money and retiring to a beach somewhere to live like royalty, before the realities of things like prison and more prison snap us back to reality. But behind such fanciful thoughts is a more salient question regarding the legality of using images of currency for artistic or creative purposes. So what are the rules as it regards images of money?

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Eminem and Iggy Azalea Out for Blood: Copyright Infringement

Last week saw two popular artists file a complaint for copyright infringement.

Eminem, the Detroit rapper who rocked the world with his hard hitting rhymes is suing the National Party of New Zealand for using the music for his hit song "Lose Yourself" in a campaign video. The campaign video to promote John Key, who is up for re-election, has since been taken down but the National Party rejected the allegations leveled against it stating the music was taken from the Beatbox library and, although similar, is not identical nor does it include any lyrics.

The complaint has been filed in Wellington, New Zealand. Hopefully the High Court will recognize the importance of respecting foreign copyrights, certainly considering how important the New Zealand legal system considers intellectual property rights. A spokesman for Eminem’s publisher stated, “It is both disappointing and sadly ironic that the political party responsible for championing the rights of music publishers in New Zealand by the introduction of the three strikes copyright reforms should itself have so little regard for copyright.” Lose Yourself has been licensed to only a handful of companies and certainly not to any political party as the publishers are against such usage.

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Disney And DJ Locked In Trademark Dispute Over Mouse Logo

Disney has been known to aggressively protect its intellectual property (IP) in the past and the latest IP issue involving mouse ears is no different. People familiar with electronic dance music (EDM) are no stranger to the music of DeadMau5. Joel Zimmerman, the man behind the mask, is an established producer from Canada that has been performing and selling records for over 10 years now. He has trademarks over his mouse themed logo, known as Mau5head, in over 30 countries.

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What Architects and Engineers Need to Know about Intellectual Property

This is a guest blog by Danny Swift, LicenseSure LLC Intern, with guidance from Patricia A. Harris, Esq., Founder and CEO of LicenseSure LLC. LicenseSure provides business formation and licensing compliance services for design professionals throughout the US. A/E businesses must conform with both business and licensing rules in every state in which they have a project, and requirements are often opaque and frequently differ from state to state. Failure to comply with these rules results in fines and penalties for unlicensed practice, not to mention project stoppages, disrupted client relationships and bad publicity. LicenseSure assists its clients in all 50 states with establishing and maintaining compliance throughout the course of their projects.

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Yes, Movie Piracy Is a Form of Intellectual Property Theft

We all like to keep up on the latest movies, whether they are action, drama, comedy, or the binary work of Nicolas Cage. And chances are, you’ve come across someone who may get these movies in a less-than-legal fashion, whether it be pirated DVDs or torrent file sharing. Undoubtedly, these people and many others like them would think that their actions are an innocuous, victimless crime against a large, faceless corporation that already makes enormous sums of money. But these movies are still the intellectual properties of their respective studios, and movie piracy is a matter these studios take very seriously, as one British man found out.

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Who Owns the Copyright On An Animal Selfie?

Monkeys and humans are similar in more ways than one: we have opposable thumbs, share a majority of DNA, and evidently, love taking selfies. Back in 2011, British photographer David Slater travelled to Indonesia to take photographs of black crested macaques. In a not-so-surprising turn of events, the macaques completely disregarded Slater’s setup and started playing with one of his cameras that produced the photo under controversy: a selfie of a grinning macaque that garnered much internet craze and went viral. The photo found its way onto Wikimedia commons where it is free to download and use and, despite Slater’s removal notices, has been kept in the public domain. Wikimedia has stated that Slater does not own the rights of the photograph as he did not take the photo but the macaque did. On the website where the photo is available for download the license states that,

“...this file is in the public domain, because as the work of a non-human animal, it has no human author in whom copyright is vested.

This raises an interesting question regarding copyright ownership. So who legally owns the photo in question?

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Using Copyright Law to Protect Intellectual Property

Steve Jobs was secretive about what Apple did, and for good reason. There are people out there who would like to steal your intellectual property (IP)–competitors who would love to emulate what you have spent years to create or mold into the business idea that you own. Don't give them that chance; it's up to you to protect intellectual property that's yours! Jobs was so concerned about people stealing his trade secrets that he often published erroneous press releases just to thwart the press and the public until he was ready to unveil his latest work of genius.

All businesses have intellectual property. It's up to you to help protect it.

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Copyrights in Technology: SoundCloud Equity Deal to License Music

SoundCloud is an online audio distribution platform founded in 2007 by two Swedish artists, and has since gained over 250 million users. This German company initially started as a means for new artists to share their music, receive feedback, and communicate with their fans, but is expanding to include popular mainstream artists as well. It wants to become the YouTube of music, but unlike YouTube which can play music by major recording labels due to multiple licensing deals, SoundCloud has to take down such content. Although SoundCloud has a copyright do’s and don’ts list on its website and removes infringing content after providing Takedown Notices for copyright infringement, they do not want to have to provide such notices as they grow.

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Don't Get Sued for Copyright Infringement Despite Fair Use

A scandal that rocked the world half a decade ago is finally drawing to a close. UK Prime Minister’s former Director of Communications, Andy Coulson, was found guilty of conspiring to hack phones from 2000 to 2006 while he was the editor of News of the World, a subsidiary of News Corp. But News Corp is in the news for more than a criminal offense. News Corp Australia owns 142 newspapers and recently started a feud with new kid on the block, Daily Mail Australia. The acrimony started in early June when News Corp threatened to sue Daily Mail if they did not cease plagiarizing their work and called Daily Mail’s journalists “copy snatchers and parasites.” Daily Mail countered back by stating that News Corp has lifted 10 of their stories from their website without citing proper credit or linking back to the original story. Amongst the stories lifted, Daily Mail claimed News Corp had used an exclusive video of One Direction smoking cannabis without providing them with proper credit.

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Protecting Your IP: To Copyright or Patent? That Is the Question.

Time and time again, we've discussed that your intellectual property (IP) is an invaluable aspect of your business. As more and more tech startups gain prominence, a significant issue needs to be addressed regarding protecting your IP: should software be protected by copyright or patent? For years, companies believed that copyrighting software was the logical method to protect it from being imitated. Since then, it has become clear that copyrights have become a little more ambiguous when it comes to whether someone copied an idea from a piece of software.

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Locate Copyrights For Media Found In Your Business

Copyrights can potentially become a concern if your business happens to have acquired a very old business dealing in media. Stored in your business might be creative works that have been sitting around gathering dust for a long time and with no identification as to who created them. These could be books, photographs, or even articles with no author designation. It's all intellectual property (IP) you could potentially use in your business for profit. But should you go ahead and use them if you aren't sure if they're copyrighted? How do you locate copyrights on that IP?

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RightsCorp: A Possible Solution to Online Copyright Infringement

The world of copyrights has been an endless well of information and complex issues that never stay out of the courts. And out of all business entities that take those issues to the courts, the entertainment industry has been there countless times. While that has never really ended, could there be a new watchdog group available to help keep institutions like the music industry from pursuing litigation?

That answer seems to be Rightscorp, currently one of the leading organizations helping provide compensation to the world of movies and music. They monitor a number of torrent sites to assure no copyright infringement of their clients is taking place. Right now, they are focused on protecting music more than anything after years of the music industry taking a beating online in the form of song piracy.

It was reported at the end of February that Rightscorp would begin protecting 13 top singles on the Hot 100 charts to ensure they are not downloaded illegally. But what is the future of this company and how are they becoming a major force for the entertainment industry? While ASCAP and BMI have been known to assure residuals to musical artists, will Rightscorp become the new copyright police for all entertainment-related intellectual property?

The Track Record of Rightscorp

Rightscorp’s revenue last year was around $320,000. Considering they take half of what they recuperate from infringers, they managed to collect around $640,000 in fines last year. Through their monitoring, they go through internet service providers (ISPs) to notify those illegally downloading music to pay $20 per song or risk having to pay up to $150,000 in civil penalties. This procedure seems to be working well rather than having to seek expensive litigation. Plus, it appears to be making back some of the money the music industry has lost since illegal downloading began.

Regardless, is it really going to help crack down on intellectual property (IP) theft in the entertainment world? The notices are sent via internet service providers that have to offer their clients the option to pay the fine or have their services terminated. Most ISPs would not want to lose clients who are paying good money on a subscription basis. Rightcorp claims that five out of the top 10 ISPs in the country are sending Rightcorp’s notices and they hope to get other ISPs onboard as well. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) an ISP loses its ‘safe harbor’ protection if it fails to cancel service to recurrent offenders. The settlement offers act as a deterrent without having to pursue more complicated legal moves or pay severe fines prescribed under the DMCA. It gives people illegally downloading music knowledge that they are being monitored not unlike the NSA.

While this monitoring might seem obtrusive, it may have to be necessary for more than just IP in the entertainment industry. Rightscorp hasn't necessarily limited itself to entertainment and says they help monitor any type of intellectual property that is copyrighted. Perhaps they'll eventually expand their reach and go within the realm of trade secrets where theft is a recurring problem.

No matter how far they go with their protections, your own business still has to take control of its intellectual property. You need other protections as well (and education) to know how to keep it safe and how to profit from what you have. For more information on intellectual property check out Traklight's Resources.


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