Bluebeat Claims It Owns Beatles Copyright By Re-recording Songs; Judge Disagrees

from the but-the-copyright-office dept

In the US, if you really want to "protect" your copyrighted works, you have to register the works. Unlike for a patent or a trademark, it's pretty much a rubberstamp process. Every so often the Copyright Office will reject a registration, but it's rare. It does still go through them all, though. Or at least it's supposed to. However, we recently wrote about the weird case of the site Bluebeat.com selling Beatles MP3s for $0.25. We noted that nowhere on the site did the company explain how it had the rights to do so, but in its response to the lawsuit filed by EMI, it explained its bizarre logic.

Basically, the company claims it somehow re-recorded the songs via a "psycho-acoustic simulation" (don't ask) and then added an image to the file, making it a totally new work (um... yeah). And then it registered the copyrights on those new recordings, claiming that the re-recording is a new work where Bluebeat.com actually owns the copyright. Its "proof" is that the Copyright Office okayed the registration -- suggesting that the rubber stamp at the Copyright Office is a bit too quick at times. A judge isn't buying it and has barred the sale of the MP3s for the time being (i.e., almost certainly forever). While it's amusing to see Bluebeat's tortured explanation, perhaps some of the blame needs to go to the Copyright Office for allowing these registrations in the first place. Of course, you have to wonder if this now also opens up Bluebeat to additional charges of false representation in registering the copyright...

In the meantime, some readers have noted that this is not the first time that the folks behind Bluebeat.com have had ridiculous interpretations of copyright law. Two and a half years ago, it sued Apple, Microsoft, RealNetworks and Adobe for not using the DRM created by Bluebeat's parent company, Media Rights Technologies. Basically, the company claimed that by not preventing the ability to rip files, these companies were violating the DMCA. Of course, that makes no sense.

Given that it's now twice that we're seeing totally foreign interpretations of basic copyright law, it almost makes you wonder if the company is doing this to make a point about the ridiculousness of copyright law, rather than for any legitimate reasons. Either that, or the company actually thinks that filing lawsuits as publicity stunts is smart. I would imagine that a judicial slapdown might correct the folks behind Bluebeat and MRT of that notion.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 7:48am

    No, I think they are just idiots hoping to get a truly stupid judge to give them a moronic decision that blogs like this would slap people over the head with for the next 50 years.

    Their actions make the stupid 1st amendment free speech arguments against copyright sound brilliant, and they too are fairly lame.

     

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  2.  
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    Dementia (profile), Nov 6th, 2009 @ 7:54am

    While I agree with the judge on the point that it isn't a valid copyright, I can also see the whole scenario as a public comment on the idiocy of the current state of copyright law.

    So exactly what, or which, "stupid 1st amendment free speech arguments against copyright" would you be referring to?

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 8:04am

    Re:

    I'll leave Mike to bring those up again some time soon (he needs the SEO keywords). Safe to say it's an amusing argument on the same level as claiming that fully loaded automatic weapons in public is "free speech".

     

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  4.  
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    LostSailor (profile), Nov 6th, 2009 @ 8:05am

    Copyfraud?

    Yet a different example of "copyfraud"?

     

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  5.  
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    Designerfx (profile), Nov 6th, 2009 @ 8:21am

    sheet music does this

    people charge money and claim copyright on mozart's works for example through this process.

    I find it insulting/disturbing.

     

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  6.  
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    Benjamin (profile), Nov 6th, 2009 @ 8:21am

    Copyright Office Overloaded

    As I understand it, the Copyright Office does a cursory examination of registration applications to ensure something obviously non-copyrightable is rejected, but if there is any chance some part is copyrightable, it accepts the registration and then lets the owners and any infringers duke it out in court.

    The Copyright Office has a major backlog as it is, so if it had to carefully ensure that every application was completely copyrightable and owned by the right people, it would need a lot more resources. I think moving all copyright cases to an adjudicative component of the Copyright Office is worth considering, but it would require more money and authority than the Office has right now.

     

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  7.  
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    Dementia (profile), Nov 6th, 2009 @ 8:24am

    Re: Re:

    Of course, once again, we won't try to prove our point, we'll just throw out some bogus statement and expect everyone to accept it at face value.

    Just for the record, I don't believe a "fully loaded automatic weapon in public" is a free speech issue. In point of fact, that would be a second amendment issue which, while related, is very different.

     

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  8.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Nov 6th, 2009 @ 8:24am

    "it almost makes you wonder if the company is doing this to make a point about the ridiculousness of copyright law"

    I think they're the copyright equivalent to the Yes Men.

     

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  9.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Nov 6th, 2009 @ 8:27am

    Re:

    "I think they're the copyright equivalent to the Yes Men."

    And see, I don't. I think they're an odd bunch of megolamaniacs that actually give those of us that want a reasonable discussion on copyright reform really bad names.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 8:29am

    Re: Re: Re:

    You missed the point. Often when items are tossed out as unconstitutional (they right to bear arms does not stop the government from regulating certain types of arms, example) the next step is the good old 1st amendment, claiming (whatever) is free speech.

    Some copyright haters think that a 1st Amendment challenge to a system that has been around a couple of hundred years has merit. I will say, it has more merit than these idiots claiming copyright on stuff they know they don't have copyright on. But that is the difference between zero and "just about zero"

     

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  11.  
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    Dementia (profile), Nov 6th, 2009 @ 8:30am

    Re: Re:

    Sometimes it takes a swift boot to the head to get the conversation started.

     

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  12.  
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    Brooks (profile), Nov 6th, 2009 @ 8:36am

    Re: Re:

    Let me get this straight: the argument you're referring to but won't deign to mention because it's too ridiculous is just as ridiculous as another argument that you're willing to mention but that nobody is making. Did I get that right?

     

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  13.  
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    Dementia (profile), Nov 6th, 2009 @ 8:37am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Copyright isn't, and to the best of my knowledge, never has been about freedom of speech, so maybe your point is valid with regards to free speech arguments. Doesn't change the fact that copyright has been twisted, extended, and abused beyond anything ever intended.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 8:44am

    Re: Copyright Office Overloaded

    Yeah, exactly. Forcing the copyright office to try and figure out whether the work is actually owned by the person doing the registration is as onerous as forcing ISPs to figure out whether or not a particular download is legal or not.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 8:55am

    Copy = New Copyright?

    There *are* companies that take stuff, even stuff in the public domain, copy it, and then claim new copyright on the copies. So apparently copying something *is* enough to qualify for a new copyright these days. Or does that that only work for the likes of Bill Gates/Corbis, Getty, etc.?

     

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  16.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Nov 6th, 2009 @ 8:56am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Yes, but is that their intention? That doesn't ring true to me...

     

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  17.  
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    zabbadae, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 10:08am

    Fraud

    Their interpertation of copyright is way off. But by arguing that they made changes to the recordings they are in fact acknowledging that they defrauded their customers, because no where does it state that you were buying "Altered versions or recordings" of the music. In fact they list the record companies when listing the albums, and make every effort to cause one to believe they were buying original tracks. This would have been akin to selling tickets to see the Beatles prior to lennon's death and then having Beatlemania (the tribute band) perform instead.

     

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  18.  
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    Lisa (profile), Nov 6th, 2009 @ 10:12am

    Little advice to bluebeat

    Lay off the drugs. I know they say it's supposed to open your mind to great ideas not accessible to the sober mind but 'greatness' usually just means watching a clock claw out your stereo's eyes.

     

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  19.  
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    Evostick, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 10:17am

    If I take a photograph of a photograph do I then own the copywrite on the new image.

    If so, it seems copyright on images is broken

    If not then copyright can be used to prevent pictures being taken in any location, by placing posters of images you own on the walls (n.b. these could be photos of wallpaper).

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 10:28am

    Re: Fraud

    But by arguing that they made changes to the recordings they are in fact acknowledging that they defrauded their customers, because no where does it state that you were buying "Altered versions or recordings" of the music.

    So, you're saying that Apple is committing massive fraud with itunes too?

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 10:50am

    Is it that different than...

    It is an odd claim. However...
    I take the sheet music from Mozart, change one note, and get a cheap band to play it. I have three brand new copyrights, all are considered legit at this point in time. A copyright on the sheet music, a copyright on the arrangement I got together, and a copyright on the music itself. After all, that is how WGM and other music groups can take down classical music from Youtube.

    The only difference here is that instead of a human band, they used computers. Instead of a new group of singers, they used voice synthesizers. And we KNOW that the Recording is a COMPLETELY different copyright then either the sheet music or lyrics.

    So, really, is their claim THAT out of left field?

    And that is not even considering the companies that reprint Mark Twain and claim a new copyright due to formatting or page numbering, or movie reprints of Nosferatu with copyrights on how since it is on a DVD instead of the original tape it is covered by a new copyright. Honestly, this seems almost LOGICAL when examined side by side with those other examples.

    That said, it is all BS.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    zabbadae, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 10:58am

    Anonymous Coward: First Apple Itunes doesn't claim to alter the music that you hear, nor do they claim to own the copyright, and they, the label and the artists are in agreement that the MP3 recording although in a different media which has characteristics different from other media represents the original recording to a degree that they are essentially the same thing. Bluebeat specifically states that they have altered them to the point that they are no longer bound by their original copyright and that makes it fraud when they sell them as true to the original.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 10:59am

    Re:

    Almost. You get the copyrights from photographing paintings, so says the National Portrait Gallery(http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20090713/0203135526.shtml).

    When you photograph a photograph, you are still creating something new(?) so of COURSE you get the copyright on it.

    Now we just need the final step where by having the copyright of the photo of the photo, you get to take ownership of the source photo's copyrights. And we are SO close too!(http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20080509/0229381071.shtml) Just need to turn it to work the other way too.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    zabbadae, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 11:08am

    Anonymous Coward

    First Mozart's music is not protected by copyright laws, recording of them most likely are . But you are wrong that in changing one note constitutes a new piece of work. Ask George Harrison who was sued for stealing the music for My Sweet Lord. There has to be a significant change in the works to be considered a new work. Odly Parodies do not break copyright laws (i.e. Weird Al).

    Now even if they used new musiciansor computers the music itself is still copyrighted and they must get permission to record them and pay for that right.

    Mark Twains works are no longer under copyright, so actually anyone can release a copy of his works legally, although you would have to make sure you copied the original works and not any that may have been produced with additional content that might fall under copyright law.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 11:17am

    Copyright Office

    Most copyright offices do no work to check that the work is actually original or not. All copyright registration at the copyright office does is two things:

    1) It establishes a presumption that the work actually existed at the time you've registered it, and that you own it. This presumption is rebuttable by evidence (ie, as it will be in this case).
    2) In Canada, it eliminates the defence of 'innocent infringement' (which, to my knowledge, doesn't exist in the US, and probably won't exist in Canada after the next round of copyright 'reforms').

    There's no real way that the copyright office can check and make sure something is original for most works. Sure, they could spend a ton of effort skimming for stuff like this, but it's not really worth it. A copyright registration isn't worth all that much (it's not like a patent registration or trademark registration where the actual getting of the thing registered takes work and is an accomplishment).

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    zabbadae, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 11:18am

    National Museum

    You only can own the photography rights if you take pictures in the public domain, (otherwise you can be sued for copyright infringement, and it also depends on your use of the photograph.

    Now if I take a photo of a photo, my photo may be copyrighted but usually only if it varies from the original, but if I sell it as the original photo that is fraud.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    zabbadae, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 11:29am

    Copyright office

    Your right the Copyright office usually rubberstamps everything, there is really no good way for them to be able to compare every thing that comes in to everything else that has already been copyrighted. But it does give a time and date as to when it was supposed to be original work. (actually your original works are copyrighted even these feedback comments without need of going through the copyright office, but getting an actual copyright can make your case stronger should you wish to go after someone for copyright infringement. So being granted a copyrightdoes not mean that you are the owner, only that you proclaim to be, after that it is up to the corts to decide.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous1, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 11:39am

    Your right the Copyright office usually rubberstamps everything, there is really no good way for them to be able to compare every thing that comes in to everything else that has already been copyrighted...

    Yes sooo difficult.

    Type in X web address, look at catalouge in question, determine if said works are owned by claimed owner.

    LOL. STOP DEFENDING INCOMPETENCE, AND POORLY RUN GOVERNMENT PLEASE. Good points otherwise.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 12:47pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I'll let mike correct you...

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20090629/0317365399.shtml

    Now you can enjoy some of the reasons why Techdirt is something like The Onion, you really have to think that so much of this is made up!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 1:55pm

    Re:

    Yes sooo difficult.
    Type in X web address, look at catalouge in question,


    You might find this hard to believe, but there was a world before the Internet and there is still one outside of it.

    ...determine if said works are owned by claimed owner.

    Just by magic, huh?

     

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  31.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Nov 6th, 2009 @ 2:26pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    It's well established that copyright and the First Amendment are in some state of conflict. There have been numerous lawsuits to try to deal with this, and the summation is that the courts find that, thanks to the idea/expression dichotomy and fair use, copyright law is mostly legal under the First Amendment, but there remain cases challenging this -- especially given how much copyright law has changed in the past 200 years.

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 6:19pm

    17 U.S.C. sec 114 exemption

    Basically, the company claims it somehow re-recorded the songs via a "psycho-acoustic simulation"...

    They probably did as that's exactly how MP3 recordings are created. An algorithm is used to analyze the spectral content of a source and then psycho-acoustic models are used to estimate how it would be perceived by a human listener. The algorithm then creates a recording that, when played back with an appropriate device, can imitate or simulate that effect on the listener so that to the listener it sounds about the same due to psycho-acoustic effects.

    Now, what about 17 U.S.C. sec 114? Well, it has an exemption concerning sound recordings that "imitate or simulate those in the copyrighted sound recording" that exempts them from claims of infringement.

    See Bluebeat's point?

    Of course, strictly following the law in this case would be politically incorrect and most judges, including this one, are all about political correctness. All the judge had to do was just declare that the MP3 process has not been "proven" to operate as described above and, poof, no more exemption. And of course the judge himself is the arbiter of what is and isn't proven. A bit of legal fiction to get the job done.

     

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  33.  
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    reechard (profile), Nov 7th, 2009 @ 7:41pm

    We are THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS, people!

    Could it be a stealth tactic? Probably not. Maybe they are seriously high (cough*SantaCruz*cough), hoping for an "Off with their heads!" ruling by the judge.

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2009 @ 4:44am

    Maybe they just intend to hold things up in court, and then when the company loses the lawsuit, it has no money and goes bankrupt while the executives pocket the profit from the sales they made before the lawsuit ended.

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    anon, Nov 16th, 2009 @ 10:42am

    hmmm

    http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2009/11/copyright-time-bomb-set-to-disrupt-music-publishing-industrie s/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+wired%2Findex+%28Wired%3A+Inde x+3+%28Top+Stories+2%29%29


    Not entirely crazy, especially if you read that. If you don't, short: 76 copyright act sunsets start soon, and a great deal of huge selling records are going to get returned to the artists that recorded them if they file for them, bands like the Eagles and other late 70's/early 80's bands to start. The RIAA has already tried to make that not happen with one sentence of language in an unrelated bill that would have made them all works for hire. One of their new arguments is that if they remaster digital versions of analog recordings, the can give the analog back and say the digitals are new recordings that they still own. Bluebeat is taking it a bit more extreme, but RIAA makes arguments that are just as totally beyond the pale, and might make that exact one to protect some very profitable catalogs from reverting to popular artists that certainly are not getting what they are paying for on their copyright, they don't need to establish a name, they don't need mass produced disk printing. If they can sell their songs themselves for the cost of bandwidth and print to order solid state media, it will be a big step to the RIAA getting choked out, because they are not worth the cut they take to bands and artists that have a multi generation fanbase, and they know it, so they will say and do anything to hold on to the masters they have. Bluebeat was dumb to try this with the beatles catalog, which has a complicated ownership at the moment, and is really really insanely high profile. Without bluebeat doing what they did, the RIAA or any of their client companies would have picked a smaller, quieter catalog to try this argument on first and see if it held water with any judge they go to lunch with.

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2010 @ 1:32am

    Amazon does it all the time, they get idiots to pay for public domain books through Kindle! (I would pay a nickel for wireless Shakespeare at most, or DL through Project Gutenberg for free!)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    Oh broher., Aug 10th, 2010 @ 4:27pm

    Re: sheet music does this

    With sheet music? Mozart? That's a totally different issue. Anyone can record Mozart's music, or create a printed work of it as sheet music, because it's public domain. But, the recording of, or printed sheet music (the actual printed work) is copyrightable. The music itself is not.

    You can record as much Mozart as you want, and own the copyright for the recording itself. You can also transcribe the music to notation, create a printed work from THAT, and copyright the printed work as well. They can only complain if you copy the printed work. They have nothing to say if you want to transcribe Mozart yourself and distribute it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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