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.

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Comments on “Licensing Agreements Now Covering 'The Universe' And Future Media Not Yet Developed”

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Dark Helmet (profile) says:

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…

:Lobo Santo (profile) says:

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.

dr Kopp E. Wright (profile) says:

Re: Re: 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.”

william (profile) says:

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…

Anonymous Coward says:

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

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.

Grey Ferret says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Matt (profile) says:

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?

Designerfx (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

dr. Kopp E. Wright (profile) says:

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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