Oh boy! Where to start on this one. Normally, when you have a commercial on TV, you would like it to go viral so more people see it. We've certainly seen some companies use this to their advantage. But what if the actors in those commercials don't want it to go viral? What if they happen to be (or hope to be) upstanding professionals, and the commercial involves them participating in frat-boyish fun, such as playing beer pong, which they hoped would only be seen in a tiny country on the other side of the globe? Well, that seems to be exactly what happened to a pair of unfortunate (but quite talented) beer pong players, who have now sued the producers of "The World's Funniest Commercials," TBS and Carlsberg beer.
You see, Scott Tipton and Christopher Kolb are really good at beer pong. So good, that Carlsberg hired them (and a few others) to perform in this commercial:
However, one of the guys was in law school at the time, and didn't want his future career prospects diminished by his beer pong prowess. Why? Because, as the complaint explains, "the plaintiffs' difficult trick-shots indicate substantial experience playing Beer-Pong, i.e., substantial experience drinking substantial quantities of beer -- a less than desirable image...." (emphasis in the original). He also did not want his (apparently beer pong ignorant) parents and grandparents to know of his amazing skills at the "most remarkable trick-shot, ricocheting the ping-pong ball four times off of uneven, angled surfaces, and into the beer cup with back-spin, after which both Tipton and Kolb celebrate exuberantly" (emphasis in the original). Because of this, he made sure that the agreement had geographic restrictions, such that it only showed in Denmark. The other guy was an actor, who claims he agreed to a "below standard" rate, knowing that the commercial was only for the Danish market.
But, of course, the video got some attention, and the producers of The World's Funniest Commercials decided to include it in their show (with Carlsberg's blessing) which aired in the US on TBS. Even worse, the producers used a clip from the commercial in their own commercial for the show. The guys then try to make the case that the TBS promo was the key reason why people watched the show, and their clip in the promo was the key part, and thus, they deserve 50% of all of TBS's advertising from the show. Good luck with that.
The lawsuit itself involves California's popular publicity rights law (that we've been talking about a lot lately) as well as a variety of other claims. However, in an age when we're already pointing out that geographic restrictions are obsolete, does it seem even remotely reasonable that the commercial would never be seen outside of Denmark?
And yes, the legal complaint makes sure to explain just what beer pong is, in case the court is unfamiliar with the... um... sport:
Apparently the ruling hinged on a questionable bit of Danish copyright law that makes an ISP liable for the content sent by users, because "the ISP makes temporary copies of small fragments of the copyrighted work as IP packets pass their routers." Of course, if you read the law that way, that puts tremendous liability on any ISP. It seems wholly unreasonable to interpret the law that way -- and, in fact, some point out that this appears to go against EU law. The article also notes that the questionable clause in Danish copyright law that puts this burden on ISPs was written by a guy who (you guessed it) now works for the recording industry. Funny how that works.
We've talked about smart filmmakers learning to embrace file sharing to enlarge their audience and to improve their business model, but it appears that some filmmakers are getting the wrong kind of message. TorrentFreak has the story of how some filmmakers in Denmark, who had a total flop on their hands, pretended that the local Piratgruppen organization literally broke into the studio, stole (used correctly, for once) the film, and were threatening to put it online. Of course, the whole thing was completely made up in a weak attempt to get publicity. Little actually came of it until it was exposed as totally made up -- but it's a pretty serious issue. The studio was blatantly lying and accusing people of out-and-out criminal behavior, knowing that it was false. And this is in Denmark, where the local anti-piracy group has been quite aggressive in going after anyone for copyright infringement. Shameful.
One of the really amazing things in witnessing the reactions among various politicians to the ACTA negotiations is realizing how out of the loop they are as well. They're often just as angry that things are being done in the name of their country that they have no visibility into. Of course, this adds to the impression that this whole process is not about figuring out what's best for the people of each country, but an end run around the democratic lawmaking process, pushed mainly by big industries (led by the entertainment and pharmaceutical industries).
So, with last week's leak showing that Denmark was one of the countries that was most against transparency for ACTA negotiations, Danish free culture activists like Henrik Moltke have been speaking up, going on TV and questioning why Denmark is being the transparency roadblock. And it appears to be working.
"It is news to me that Denmark is so close to the negotiations. And it's pretty shocking that Denmark should have taken the position that you actually want to give priority to secrecy," said Morten Messerschmidt, a member of the European Parliament
Messerschmidt has gone on to say that he's going to demand that Denmark support a more transparent ACTA process, and it appears that some other Danish politicians are agreeing as well.
One of the biggest issues in discussing ACTA is the rampant secrecy behind the negotiations. We've heard calls from many different politicians to get rid of the secrecy and be more transparent, but we hadn't heard who was against the transparency (other than some industry lobbyists who, in theory, shouldn't have much say in this). The only statement came from the USTR, who claimed that countries would leave the negotiating table if the text were made public -- but wouldn't say who or why.
Well, now we know who. A leaked document highlights which countries are against transparency and the list includes Belgium, Portugal, Germany, Denmark, South Korea and Singapore. Many other countries -- headed by the UK -- have been in support of opening up the process and being more transarent. Among those in favor of transparency are the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Ireland, Hungary, Poland, Estonia, Austria, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. And then there's the US, who simply claims it's being transparent, but apparently refuses to take a stand on transparency in the negotiations (why should it -- when those negotiations themselves are secret). Apparently the real stickler for secrecy is Denmark, which perhaps isn't that surprising. While there are many Danish people who are fighting the copyfight, Denmark's "anti-piracy" organization has been among the most aggressive in suing pretty much anyone, and demanding all sorts of sites be shut down or blocked. Unfortunately, it sounds like they're now the main blockers in keeping the ACTA process secret.
But, of course, for all that attempted secrecy, the documents keep leaking, and they're definitely problematic. It seems like it's time for the supporters of transparency to stand up to Denmark and the others and tell them that if they don't want the process to be transparent, then they should walk away from the agreement. And, in the meantime, it's time for the USTR to stop pretending it's being transparent and to actually support real transparency in these negotiations.
A bunch of folks have submitted the story of Henrik Anderson, a Danish man who ripped a bunch of DVDs for personal storage, and then turned himself in, noting that even though Danish law says it's okay to make a backup copy of content for private purposes, it also forbids circumvention of DRM, such as the DRM found on DVDs. We had avoided posting anything on the story until the Danish group responded, and while it missed the original deadline, it has now stated that it will not go after Anderson, so long as he's only using the content for private use:
The main purpose of the rule is to ensure against abuse of films and music being illegally copied and distributed further. The Association of Danish Videodistributors certainly have no interest in suing consumers who like you have purchased legitimate products -- quite the contrary.
Of course, if that were true, then wouldn't the Danish Antipiratgruppen push to change the anti-circumvention law that makes this particular process illegal? After all, shouldn't they stand behind what they claim?
We just wrote about how the Danish anti-piracy group was dropping its lawsuits against individual file sharers after realizing that Danish law made it almost impossible for the industry to win those cases. However, as pointed out by brokep, the international wing of the recording industry, the IFPI, wasted little time in trying to spin the news in its favor (Google translation of the original). The IFPI insists that the lawsuits won't stop, but just that the anti-piracy organization was realizing it needed more detailed evidence -- and this means that it will now start seizing computers to get evidence. Now, the Google translation trips up over the word "beslagslaeggelse," but multiple Danish speakers have confirmed that the word means "seize" or "confiscate." Of course, that raises some questions about why a private organization representing record labels has any right to seize computers of individuals. I think they were better off when they just admitted they were going to give up on the counterproductive legal strategy.
While the RIAA has backed down (but not stopped) lawsuits against those accused of file sharing in the US, it looks like the Danish anti-piracy bureau has decided to drop all of its lawsuits after it became clear that individuals were basically winning them all (Google translation of the original, found via brokep). Basically, the courts acquitted most of the individuals accused of private file sharing, with the one exception being the case where the guy confessed. And, the nature of the rulings in the acquittals made it clear that it was virtually impossible to win a lawsuit against individuals for file sharing. Of course, we have no doubt that the industry will continue to use other means, such as via regulatory capture, to continue to look for ways not to give consumers what they want.
On Friday, we wrote about how an artist's estate was going after a small town in Michigan, for daring to have a "Little Mermaid" statue to play up many of the town's Danish ancestors. There's a famous Little Mermaid statue in Denmark, and the artist's estate (the artist died fifty years ago) apparently thinks all such statues infringe on its copyright (even though this statue was very different). However, in our comments over the weekend Christopher alerted us to the news that the estate had withdrawn the copyright infringement claim, apparently citing the publicity as the reason. Apparently, being a copyright bully can have a bit of a backlash...
Dan sends in yet another story about copyright gone wrong. Apparently the small town of Greenville Michigan has a strong Danish heritage, and wanted to show that off with some artifact representing Denmark. It chose the iconic Little Mermaid statue, based on Hans Christian Andersen's story, and a similar iconic statue in Denmark. Apparently, however, the family of the artist who created the statue in Denmark is trying to clamp down and is demanding a lump sum payment or that the statue be taken down. The actual artist died in 1959... but thanks to recent extensions in copyright (yippee), copyright now lasts life plus seventy years.
Of course, I'm wondering if the statue even violates the copyright at all. While the town says it was inspired by the one in Denmark, the actual statue is different:
At about 30 inches high, it's half the size of the original and has a different face and other distinct features, including larger breasts. "We've gotten a lot of heat about that too," he says
Considering that so much of the statue is different, is it even a copyright violation at all? Apparently, this isn't the only town that's faced problems over such statues. The article notes, amusingly, that Vancouver, British Columbia -- after failing to get permission from the artist's estate -- instead put up a statue entitled "Girl in a Wetsuit" and even added swimming fins and goggles to get the point across. It's hard to believe that this one artist, whose been dead for fifty years, should have total control over statues of mermaids, but that's what today's copyright law gives us. Isn't it great?