Author: Chelle Honiker

Remembering Aaron Bramley

There just isn’t a good way to start this. The freelance community has lost one of its champions, and TFA, in particular, has lost a guiding force. From Facebook: Aaron died on Saturday, August 26, 2017, at 10:15 AM. His death was peaceful, and his family was with him. Aaron lived a life of authentic gentle kindness, sprinkled liberally with a quick wit and a side of joy. While he had struggled with cancer for many months, it was appropriate that the final phase of his journey began during the solar eclipse and ended during a hurricane — which speaks...

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Copyrighting Code: When Oracle Took on Google, and (Mostly) Lost

Federal copyright law has existed in largely-unchanged form since October 1976, the last time Congress undertook a massive reform of our copyright system. To put that in a bit of techno-historical perspective, Microsoft was a mere eighteen months old at the time, having been incorporated in April 1975. Apple was a year younger, with an April 1976 incorporation date. The past forty years have brought more than a few technological changes, and it is debatable whether copyright law, as currently written, is capable of addressing the issues presented by modern computer technology. A years-long legal fight between Oracle and...

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DMCA Takedown Notices and Their Discontents

Whenever a new technology comes along that changes the way we consume information—by which I mean read books, watch movies, listen to music, and so on—the entrenched interests that own a substantial amount of the copyrights take notice. Sometimes, they fight back against the new technology, but it is usually a losing battle. This applies to devices like the VCR and to software and services made possible by the internet. Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998 to enable copyright owners to enforce their rights against people who post infringing material online. This can be a useful tool for copyright owners, but it is also subject to abuse on all sides. Freelancers should have an understanding of both the rights they may enforce and the liabilities they could incur under the DMCA Litigating over New Technology In one of the most famous cases of “Big Copyright” (I hope that doesn’t catch on) using the courts to try to shut down a new technology, several major movie studios sued Sony to stop its production of the Betamax VCR. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled in Sony’s favor in 1984, finding that recording television programs for one’s own later viewing is Fair Use rather than copyright infringement. Other efforts have succeeded against specific companies, products, or services, but they generally have not...

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More Interesting Recent Developments in Copyright Law, incl. Hot Yoga

Every freelancer working in some sort of creative field, or any field that makes direct or indirect contact with creativity, or might occasionally use the word “creative”—actually, let’s just say that every freelancer should have a general understanding of what may be subject to copyright protection. Two recent court decisions involving copyright disputes demonstrate some important points. Specifically, one decision addressed whether copyright law protects a sequence of yoga poses, as opposed to a written description or visual depiction of those poses. (Spoiler: it doesn’t.) The other decision considered whether the Fair Use doctrine allows Google to make snippets...

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Interesting Recent Developments in Copyright Law, feat. the Batmobile

We have gone into a bit of detail about copyrights here, and I have tried to present some real-world examples to demonstrate what types of materials may be subject to copyright protection, what rights copyright owners have, and so forth. The past few months have been unusually interesting (to put it bluntly) in terms of court decisions involving copyright law. Here is a quick rundown of a few recent decisions, and what they might mean. A Happy Birthday, Indeed You might have noticed that birthday scenes in movies and television shows rarely use the almost-universally-known song “Happy Birthday” (you...

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