Licensing Agreements Now Covering 'The Universe' And Future Media Not Yet Developed

from the about-time dept

In the past, we've had a bunch of stories about TV shows being released on DVDs having to change their music to deal with the fact that it wasn't licensed for DVD release originally (often because when the TV shows were on the air, there was no such thing as a DVR -- or even a VCR -- so it couldn't even have been predicted). Then, of course, there have been a series of famous lawsuits over whether or not publications can "republish" their old magazines in electronic format, because freelancers who wrote the original articles only signed licenses for the single publication.

However, it looks like lawyers drafting such legal arrangements are beginning to recognize this as an issue and are trying to prepare for such eventual new media opportunities. Eric Goldman alerts us to a WSJ article, highlighting how phrases like "in all media, throughout the universe" are becoming increasingly common in licensing contract language. While some decry this as being imprecise and overly broad, I tend to fall on the other side of the fence. Not having those types of clauses in agreements in decades past have resulted in a lot of long and drawn out lawsuits (and old content that simply cannot be repurposed for modern media). Better to have the language seem ridiculously inclusive than lose culture to history because no one predicted the next popular format.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Ryan, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 1:59pm

    Other Universes

    I don't know, this legalese seems to completely ignore infinite universe theory. If scientists were to find empirical evidence for its plausibility in the near future, one could well argue in court that he/she was in a different universe when the contract was signed. Stupid...

     

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      Dark Helmet (profile), Oct 30th, 2009 @ 2:09pm

      Re: Other Universes

      Agreed. They really should have used the distinction "multiverse" to avoid such an issue. After all, what if I fax digital self through the quantum foam into a nearly identical multiverse, obtain music I hadn't licensed in MY universe from the other universe, then faxed myself back to my universe along with the infringing music?

      That reminds me, it's time for another reading of Timeline, by Michael Crichton...

       

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      :Lobo Santo (profile), Oct 30th, 2009 @ 2:09pm

      Re: Other Universes

      A definition:
      The Universe comprises everything that physically exists, the entirety of space and time, all forms of matter and energy, and the physical laws and constants that govern them.

      Good thinking there, though.

      As much as I despise lawyers, there are times when their craft nears an art form; and that one particular phrase "...in all media which presently exists or has yet to be developed or discovered, throughout the universe, in perpetuity..." rings true. It is quite exact in its phrasing.

       

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        dr Kopp E. Wright, Oct 31st, 2009 @ 7:58am

        When in the course of.....

        well said, now, in the future, in perpetuity, here, universally and beyond.
        ---dr k

        PS How about the eloquence of "When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one party to proclaim plenar rights to the expressive configurement of God's free elements....such that no other creature of God's firmament can, shall or will borrow, steal, or God Forbid, copy, said configurement now, ever or never......unless I say so, the Supreme Court says so...or it is learned that it has been in the public domain for 2000 years and is a reconfigurement of an obscure bible story. In the event a court of competent jurisdiction adjudicates to my favor and blesses my palm with Ben Franklins, 1/2 of that money will go for the public benefit through The Grammys Musicare or other such greater "artistic / creative" community benefit. This goes for my attorney too, who will donate half his fees for the greater creative good. If providence allows me to accumulate over $100 million from my creative expression, all rights to my work past that will be considered public domain after a 3 year run at exclusivity...... by the people, for the people..[the creative spirit] shall not perish from this earth."

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 3:19pm

      Re: Other Universes

      According to the Infinite Universe Theory, there is a universe where WKRP has the original music in it already.

       

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      william (profile), Oct 30th, 2009 @ 3:45pm

      Re: Other Universes

      what if they include the clause to include all universe, than the alternate universe copyright is own by another company?

      So company A in universe A claims copyright over item A in all universes while company B in universe B claims copyright over item A(alt) in all universes.

      So who owns the copyright? does universe A supreme court have jurisdiction over universe B?

      I should go watch that futurama episode where professor created all those boxes containing universes...

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 2:10pm

    You only have to go look at the history of Estdomains / Esthost to understand why "230" protection is such an overbroad concept.

    http://voices.washingtonpost.com/securityfix/2008/09/estdomains.html

    Effectively by buying up all the items in the chain (domain registrar, hosting, IP blocks, bandwidth providers, interconnects, etc) they create a system that was almost unbreakable.

    Complain about spam? Heck, complain to the host! Heck, complain to the host's host. Complain to the bandwidth provider. Complain to the IP block holder. complain to anyone - you are all complaining to the same person. All of those individual items would be considered "230 exempt", and actually getting down to the bottom and seeing who is spamming was almost impossible.

    230 is blessed protection for some, it is also a great way to scam for others.

     

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      :Lobo Santo (profile), Oct 30th, 2009 @ 2:12pm

      Re:

      (As many times as I've said this... but what you've described fits perfectly.)

      This, like most of life's problems, can be solved with proper application of explosives.

       

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    Grey Ferret, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 2:13pm

    The Universe is not enough

    The Universe is far too limiting. Better to state: "in all media, throughout the multiverse". Try to cover as many bases as possible. And maybe even throw in a "real or imagined" clause as well.

    Then again, some technology that is not classified as "media" will come along in the future, and make all this terminology obsolete anyway.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 2:25pm

      Re: The Universe is not enough

      Wow, you beat me to it.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 2:37pm

      Re: The Universe is not enough

      I just wish someone would come up with a non local form of communication that would allow us to cheaply communicate with each other without the possibility of being tracked or stopped (and I don't mean TOR either).

      Then again, the government probably already has such technology but it's being suppressed from the public.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 3:57pm

      Re: The Universe is not enough

      Oh Great!

      All we need now is the RIAA/MPAA getting "throughout the multiverse" added to the next batch copyright laws, and I get billed for the downloading of copyrighted media.

      Because in a infinite number universes at least one of me downloaded every possible song & movie created, known and unknown, in every possible format, known and unknown.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 2:24pm

    what about the multiverse. Some physicians believe there are multiple universes. What if some of this content winds up in another parallel universe?

     

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    Matt (profile), Oct 30th, 2009 @ 2:27pm

    The trouble with imprecise language is that it is rarely interpreted the way everyone expects (because everyone has a different expectation). The word "media" in the sample phrase is loaded, and likely undefined.

    Of course, the broadest definition is likely something like "any 'tangible medium of expression' to which the law of copyright applies." But that may not be appropriate for every license, because it could surreptitiously sweep in some derivative work rights (which may not even be the author's to give).

    It is interesting to me to see content publishers scrambling and spending time, effort, and money to try to remedy the fact that our broken copyright law has ugly and unintended consequences. When commercial actors are having to create private-law (ie - contract) remedies for the harshness and stupidity of public laws designed to protect the same commercial actors, isn't there a problem?

     

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    Designerfx (profile), Oct 30th, 2009 @ 2:28pm

    easily stated as overly broad

    this won't and shouldn't hold up in court, for certain.

    meanwhile, it's important that people have to specify what they want in a contract. If it's "in the universe" why not just make it simply and say "anywhere"?

    oh right, ambiguous/overbroad, same reason they're trying to make it overbroad with "universe".

    Products can have iterations, derivatives specified. The more we allow this contract creep, the more it will cause further issues down the road too in copyright and patents, easily.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 2:35pm

    What's wrong with this?

    You have to think to the future. In a few thousand years, evolved pigs from space will desire to buy a copies of "Animal Farm" and wear properly licensed soccer apparel (The NFL will have died off by this time).

    It'll be the next big commercial market and trillions will be made. Just remember in the future of Animalism, all animals will be equal, but some animals will be more equal than others.

     

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    Stute, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 3:05pm

    Next up...

    Suing the universe for copyright infringement because of all the broadcasts we've been pumping out for these last several decades!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 3:09pm

    Science and dictionaries can describe "universe" but what is it in a legal sense? I am sure the first legal dispute will put an interesting spin on what it legally means.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 3:27pm

    I wonder if usage of the word 'Universe' was cooked up by some Scientology® aficionados. If so, then IP discussions could in a sense become less legal, and more of a theology debate.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 4:25pm

    What if the aliens with far superior technology and military capabilities do not like intellectual property? Is the U.S. et al going to try to invade them too? Are we going to sue? I hope these aliens use their military force to disbar our earthly government bodies in hopes of giving our citizens some actual freedom.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 4:52pm

    Will someone think of the aliens.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 5:02pm

    What happens if I take the song back in time with me, to a time before it was created? Could I then copyright the song as my own? I do not believe the current clause covers temporal incursions. MEDIA FAIL!

     

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    Busted Keys, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 5:07pm

    ...and God

    '...and any acts of God' should be included in there.

     

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    Mice, Oct 31st, 2009 @ 7:32am

    Good Luck with that

    I think someone already has a copyright on "Life, the Universe and Everything"

     

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    dr. Kopp E. Wright, Oct 31st, 2009 @ 7:37am

    Beyond the beyond...

    Indeed inclusiveness can save hundreds of millions of dollars in IP squabbling....take a cue for dr KEW.....(who knew past Guttenberg, Marconi, Philo T. Farnsworth and Mad Man Muntz?)...

    Here's the dr kopp e wright phrase that takes it to the next level of possibility
    (Gene Roddenberry, Steven Spielberg, Carl Sagan, are you listening??)

    Here's the new magic phrase: "in all media throughout the universe and beyond..."

     

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    Brian Corber (profile), Oct 31st, 2009 @ 3:20pm

    artful drafting

    clauses such as "throughout the universe" and in perpetuity and "in any media herefter conceivedZ" are old hat and have been for a few years now. This wasn't news, it was olds.

     

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Nov 1st, 2009 @ 10:08pm

      Re: artful drafting

      clauses such as "throughout the universe" and in perpetuity and "in any media herefter conceivedZ" are old hat and have been for a few years now. This wasn't news, it was olds.

      And therefore we shouldn't discuss them?

       

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