by Mike Masnick
Wed, Dec 26th 2012 10:54am
Thu, Nov 8th 2012 1:21pm
from the maybe-their-lawyers-were-drunk? dept
Reader Chris writes in about a story that appears to be a nice crossroads of these two aspects of product placement, in which several alcohol companies are apparently upset that their products are being shown in the movie Flight doing what those products do: get people drunk.
Anheuser-Busch said Monday that it has asked Paramount Pictures Corp. to obscure or remove the Budweiser logo from the film, which at one point shows Washington's character drinking the beer while behind the wheel.Now, you may be asking yourself, "Why didn't the film get permission to use the products in their film?" The answer is about as complicated as a straight line; they don't have to. Studios are not required to ask for permission to include every little brand in their movies -- even if some companies now think that's the case. True, Denzel Washington's character in the film is a drunk and Budweiser may not be pleased to be associated with that aspect of the story, but the law isn't concerned about Budweiser's pleasure. Trademark law isn't about making sure you're always happy about how your product is displayed.
Budweiser is hardly the only alcoholic beverage shown in "Flight," which earned $25 million in its debut weekend and is likely to remain popular with audiences. Washington's character frequently drinks vodka throughout the film, with several different brands represented. William Grant & Sons, which distributes Stolichnaya in the United States, also said it didn't license its brand for inclusion in the film and wouldn't have given permission if asked.
Even going beyond trademark law, it's not like they were "misrepresenting" anything. I, for one, can assure you that the depiction of beer being able to get a person hammered is spot on accurate, and if you won't take my word for it, I'll give you the phone numbers of some of my neighbors who can relate their experiences living near me on NFL Sundays. The point is that there's a reason these companies didn't give their permission: nobody asked them for it.
Trademark laws "don't exist to give companies the right to control and censor movies and TV shows that might happen to include real-world items," said Daniel Nazer, a resident fellow at Stanford Law School's Fair Use Project. "It is the case that often filmmakers get paid by companies to include their products. I think that's sort of led to a culture where they expect they'll have control. That's not a right the trademark law gives them."Unfortunately, with the wonderful garden of permission culture that IP laws have fertilized so well for us, companies think they can control...and control...and control. But just because sometimes filmmakers seek out product placement, that doesn't mean that all brand appearances need to first receive approval. Thankfully, thus far, the courts have recognized that they cannot keep their products out of film this way. Now let's all go have a non-generic beer.
Jay Dougherty, a professor at Loyola Law School, said the use of brands in films has generally been protected by the courts, even when the companies aren't pleased with the portrayals. "It wouldn't have been as effective a film if they used a bunch of non-generic brands," said Dougherty, who is also the director of the school's Entertainment & Media Law Institute. "In a normal situation, if the alcohol were just there as a smaller part of the movie, they might have created an artificial brand for it."
by Mike Masnick
Tue, May 29th 2012 8:38am
from the ownership-culture dept
Friedkin is the director and producer of the 1977 motion picture Sorcerer.... Friedkin is also a profit participant in the Picture, and owns a print. Although Defendants Paramount... and Universal... have previously had certain rights to exploit the Picture in the United States, each has recently disclaimed rights to exploit the Picture in the United States, and admitted ignorance as to who, if anyone, currently has such rights. Bafflingly, however, defendants persist in denying that Friedkin has any rights to exploit the Picture. Friedkin has filed this action to obtain a declaration as to the parties' respective rights in the Picture.It does seem fairly crazy that such an issue should end up in court, and it appears the court thinks so too. While the original was filed in California State Court, recently it was removed to federal court by the defendants, and the court immediately directed them to its alternative dispute resolution (ADR) program in the hopes that this gets settled outside of litigation. Either way, it seems like a pretty crazy situation where the studios deny the filmmaker the right to show the film, while at the same time refusing to explain what rights they do have in the film.
Mon, Apr 23rd 2012 5:05am
from the what-first-sale-doctrine dept
This rightly confused him. After all, he was the legal owner of that unwanted, unused Ultraviolet redemption code. How could it be copyright infringement to sell that code to someone else, if you aren't using it? Selling or handing off that code is no different than selling or giving away the DVD copy that you would not use. Additionally, he pointed out many more eBay auctions doing the exact same thing, selling unwanted Ultraviolet codes.
What may make his case unique over the others is that he is selling a code for the recently released Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. Since the movie has only been out for a few days now, Paramount may be working overtime to make sure that people are only buying the retail packages rather than just the digital version. Even if Paramount's end goal is to promote retail sales of the movie, flagging these sales as copyright infringement is tantamount to copyfraud.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Apr 16th 2012 7:15am
from the does-anyone-take-these-people-seriously? dept
It appears that Paramount's "Worldwide VP of Content Protection and Outreach" Al Perry also fits into the same unthinking mode. We've already discussed Perry's recent talk to Brooklyn Law School, but there was one section that caught my eye and deserves a separate post. It comes right at the beginning:
Perry opened by noting that one has to articulate a problem before seeking to solve it, and he refers to the problem as “content theft.” He pointed out that copyright law gives creators the right to monetize their creations, and that even if people like Louis C.K. decide not to do so, that’s a choice and not a requirement.Now that seems bizarre and totally unsupportable. Remember, Louis CK made over $1 million in just a few days -- an amount that he admits was much higher than what he would have received just for a straight up performance. In what world does going direct-to-fans, building a good relationship, automatically mean no money made at all? Not the one we're based on.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Apr 11th 2012 12:32pm
Paramount's Post-SOPA 'Outreach' To Law Students About 'Content Theft' Still Shows An Out Of Touch Operation
from the talking-at-cross-purposes dept
Honestly, the talking points won't surprise anyone who pays attention to this stuff. Perry argues that Hollywood is suffering massively from "content theft" and that something must be done. Mazzone, thankfully, points out that Perry is being disingenuous in using the word "theft," when it's not theft under the law or in reality. Using the word "theft" unfairly biases the discussion and ignores both the realities of copyright, and the fact that copyright is not absolute. Perry, however, can't let go of the term, apparently. You could sum of Perry's talk by basically saying "well, the big Hollywood studios are suffering, and it's everyone's fault but our own."
He literally admits that there may be more indie films and such, but that those aren't the films that anyone cares about. Instead, you see, culture will be worse off if Hollywood can't produce the next Transformers movie:
While he said he didn’t want to get into copyright math, Perry noted that the number of films released by the six major motion picture studios has dropped from 204 in 2006 to 134 in 2011.... He suggested that online infringement affects ancillary (post-box office) revenues, which isn’t captured in rosy reports of ticket sales. Perry said he doesn’t believe that infringement will wipe out content – rather, it will shift it. We’ll see more small-budget or amateur films, and fewer major studio films. These movies, he suggested, are the iconic ones that people remember and reference, so piracy may have an important cultural impact.Of course, there are a few problems in these claims. While the big six studios may have made fewer movies, many more movies were made overall in the global economy. Just looking at the US, while the major studios released 204 movies in 2006, indies released 390. His number is off in 2011. It was actually 141 movies released by the major studios... but indies increased their release numbers to 469. So, total movies released actually grew from 2006 until 2011. That certainly suggests that everyone else in the market is figuring out how to adapt. Why should we be concerned about six companies that are unwilling to adapt? And, is that ever condescending and insulting to suggest that indie movies can't possibly have the "cultural impact" of a movie like Jack and Jill.
Perry also praised totally one-sided and misleading "education campaigns" that copyright maximalist organizations like the Copyright Alliance have been able to get into schools, ignoring things like fair use (it was also noted that Perry ignored fair use in his initial statements). It's really silly that schools are accepting industry propaganda like that to teach kids. Thankfully, more accurate alternatives are being created.
The other bit of good news in all of this is that it sounds like the students were mostly skeptical of Perry's claims, and recognize that he's exaggerating -- though it sounded like he couldn't even comprehend where they were coming from:
The discussion was impressively thoughtful and civil. The students evinced skepticism about the movie industry’s good faith and bona fides, particularly given the drafting of SOPA / PROTECT IP, and also given the recording industry’s history of suing its users. Perry pointed out that Paramount is trying hard to make content available widely, cheaply, and easily, and that the only other way of altering the reward calculus to users is to engage in enforcement against end consumers, which no one likes. He was repeatedly puzzled by the attitude of law students that infringement isn’t a big deal (since it’s unlawful), particularly when this attitude is justified by reference to movie industry profits.In the end, while it was civil, it sounds like the same old story of Hollywood just not understanding. The profits of six organizations is of little concern to the wider social benefit, and Hollywood cannot show that there's any wider harm (because there is no such proof). Thankfully, it appears that the students (and professors) at Brooklyn Law get this important point.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Apr 4th 2012 9:40am
from the sickening dept
It appears that process is continuing. Last week, Paramount's VP of "Content Protection," Alfred Perry, made a ridiculous and childish presentation in which he effectively put criminal targets on the backs of five companies, and suggested that they were all no different than Megaupload, and that the government was coming for them next:
The end result, however, is that the five sites on the list have been forced to go on the defensive hoping to avoid criminal prosecution with the federal government twisting everything they do to present it in the worst possible light.
MediaFire fired back at Perry, pointing out that the company is a large legitimate company run by reputable entrepreneurs, and one that has always worked with the MPAA and RIAA to stop the spread of infringing content. Similarly, PutLocker has fired back, telling TorrentFreak that Perry's comments were defamatory:
In any other industry, a person making this type of statement could be sued for libel. Funny how that works,” PutLocker Operations Officer Adrian Petroff told TorrentFreak.But the chilling effects here are very, very real. Two of the other five sites on the target list have now effectively made themselves useless for sharing legitimate files worldwide -- one of the key use cases for cyberlockers. FileServe and Wupload have turned themselves into pure backup services, rather than file sharing services, to avoid the risk of criminal prosecution.
“PutLocker takes a strong stand against copyright infringement and in the past year and a half we have taken down hundreds of thousands of infringing files and blocked the accounts of hundreds of repeat offenders,” adds Petroff. “PutLocker always cooperates with copyright holders and law enforcement agencies at home and abroad to uphold the rights of content producers and distributors alike.”
And that's the real key here. Perry and the rest of the Hollywood legacy "content protection" crew freak out about 41 billion page views. What they ignore is that the reason there were 41 billion page views was because these sites were offering something useful that people wanted. But Perry isn't in the business of recognizing what the market wants. His very job title makes it clear that his job is holding back the tide. It's about "content protection" in a world where content can't be protected. If Paramount were run by execs who actually had vision and understood innovation, they'd see 41 billion pageviews and their eyes would light up at the massive opportunity. Just imagine what you could do with 41 billion pageviews? And, if you were a company like Paramount and could offer your content up legally, you'd have a huge head start over the cyberlockers. If anything is criminal here, it's the incredible shortsightedness of Paramount's execs, to spit in the face of consumers and a massive business opportunity for themselves.
Even worse, they're doing so by simply declaring innovative websites guilty of criminal charges, despite no actual charges being filed, no trial, no evidence and no chance for these companies to make their case. From a legal standpoint, this is despicable. It's standard operating procedures for a flailing, out of touch, anti-visionary company, however. It's just too bad that the world is letting a company like Paramount (and its parent company, Viacom) get away with such practices.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Feb 7th 2012 7:20pm
More Details About Paramount's Offer To Law Schools To Teach Them About The Evils Of 'Content Theft'
from the counterbalance? dept
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Feb 3rd 2012 6:34pm
Paramount Wants To Talk To Students About How They're All Thieves & Then Ask For Ideas On What To Do
from the still-not-getting-it dept
"an overnight fedex letter from Paramount expressing the extent to which they are ‘humbled’ and ‘surprised’ by the extent of the public reaction to SOPA/PIPA and asking to come to campus to talk to faculty and students about “content theft, its challenges, and possible ways to address it."Paramount specifically asks to give a "formal presentation followed by an open discussion period or to participate in a class session." First of all, actually having open discussions would be a good first step, because that's been lacking in this whole debate. But, I'm not sure starting off that conversation by referring to copyright infringement as "content theft" is the best way to kick things off. I know that the industry has chosen "content theft" as its moral panic phrase of the year, after they realized that the people they'd unfairly branded as "pirates" had taken back that phrase and turned it to their own advantage.
Why not hold a truly open discussion in which everyone can participate and talk about ideas as to the true nature of the problem? That discussion is happening every day out there on the "wild west" of the internet, if only the folk at the studios actually wanted to join in. Perhaps if they did so, they wouldn't be so terrified of the internet.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Sep 16th 2011 8:48am
Harlan Ellison Sues Again; Because No One Could Have Possibly Came Up With The Same SciFi Ideas As He Did
from the how-much-does-he-get-paid-to-piss dept
In a video from a few years back that has made the rounds time and time again, and which we've posted before, Ellison discusses how "I don't take a piss without getting paid" and bitches about all those damn amateurs undercutting his rates by giving stuff away for free.
It ain't about the 'principle,' friend, its (sic) about the MONEY! Pay Me! Am I doing this for other writers, for Mom (still dead), and apple pie? Hell no! I'm doing it for the 35-year-long disrespect and the money!So it's not surprising that he's suing again. This time, he's suing 20th Century Fox and trying to stop the release of a new sci-fi movie, In Time, which he claims is a pure copy of one of his most famous works, "Repent, Harlequin! Said The Ticktockman" Of course, as we've discussed plenty of times, copyright is only supposed to cover specific expressions, and not ideas... and the "similarities" he lists certainly sound like ideas, not expressions:
Both works are said to take place in a "dystopian corporate future in which everyone is allotted a specific amount of time to live." In both works, government authorities known as a "Timekeeper" track the precise amount of time each citizen has left.Of course, as Julian Sanchez points out, there are lots of sci-fi stories that have a very similar storyline (perhaps even more similar), including Logan's Run and The Quantum Thief. Maybe Ellison will sue over those too.
The complaint goes on to list similarities in the features of the universe as well as the plot surfaces -- the manipulation of time an individual can live, the type of death experienced by those whose time runs out, rebellion by story protagonists, and so forth.
Unfortunately, these days, courts have really blurred the line between what's an expression and what's an idea, so perhaps something comes of this. But, once again, this really is just about money... and competition. It turns out that Ellison recently sold the rights to "Repent Harlequin" and another movie is being made. So, Ellison would like to censor this competition. But, really, it's pretty ridiculous for Ellison to think that no one else could have possibly come up with similar ideas on their own. And even if they were built off that bit of an idea from his work, is it really such a problem that people created a different version of it? Does Ellison really believe that none of his work was built off ideas influenced by others?
I jumped over to Ellison's website to see if he'd put up any more colorful statements about the lawsuit (not that he'd want me to use them without paying him), but instead I find a splash page that just says:
"Why do people keep insisting that I join the 21st Century? I *LIVE* in the 21st Century! I just don't want to be bothered by the shitheads on the internet!"Seems like such a sweet guy.