Category Archives: IP Matter

Getty Has An Image Problem: The Portrait of a Modern Copyright Dilemma

 

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By: Brian J. Meli

To be, or not to be, that is the question—
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing, end them?

~Prince Hamlet

Google ‘Getty Images’ and ‘demand letter’ and you’ll have your pick of vitriol-laced horror stories to choose from. The storylines vary case-by-case, but the narrative is usually the same: Getty Images is a predatory company that’s made an unscrupulous art form out of extorting millions of dollars from unsuspecting Internet-goers. Most of the accounts you’ll read go something like this: someone unwittingly uses an image from the company’s library without permission on his/her website, social media page or blog, triggering a pernicious demand letter containing sweeping allegations of copyright infringement. The demand letter then seeks compensation in an amount significantly above what most consider reasonable—but below what’s usually worth hiring a lawyer to mount a defense over—in exchange for the matter being dropped; leading ultimately to the response de rigueur of “just pay the bastards.”

It’s this perceived extortion as a business model that invokes such public hostility, has given rise to entire online gripe communities, and why, I suspect, if you’re conducting an opinion poll among Internet users asking what word best describes the Seattle-based company, you’ll get responses like “unreasonable,” “bully” and maybe even “criminal.” The negative sentiment runs deep, and was on full display recently when a particularly able-bodied recipient of one such demand letter (an intellectual property law firm), responded with a lawsuit of its own. The public’s jubilant response to the prospect of Getty getting some comeuppance sent a loud and clear message: Getty Images is the company everyone loves to hate.

But is Getty really the villain people make it out to be? Or is it merely a misunderstood company doing what it can to protect its interests and guard its digital property in this age of point, click and copy?

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Putting the IP in IPO: How a Newfound Respect For Intellectual Property Turned a Notorious Counterfeit Marketplace Into the Largest IPO Ever

 

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By:  Brian  J. Meli

Before September 19th, the date of its initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange, many Americans had never heard of Chinese Internet conglomerate Alibaba or its eccentric founder and Chairman Jack Ma. Now the Chinese eBay/Amazon (with 10x and 7x the annual sales of those two companies, respectively), and its iconoclast leader are all anyone in the media and the investment community can seem to talk about. And there’s good reason for that. Not only was the Alibaba Group’s IPO the largest ever for a Chinese-based company on the NYSE, but with an estimated value of $25 billion, it was the largest IPO for any company, ever.

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The NCAA is Anti-Competitive: The Ruling Heard Round the College Sports World

By: Brian J. Meli

I’ve been following the O’Bannon v. NCAA trial with great interest since it began. Not just because of its growing status as a landmark antitrust case, its roots in intellectual property, or its potential to dramatically shift the balance of power in college sports; but also because it was Ed O’Bannon’s championship UCLA team in the mid-nineties (specifically his pint-sized point guard Tyus Edny’s last minute, coast-to-coast game winning buzzer beater) that cemented my passion for the spring sporting ritual that is March Madness. Back then, who could imagine Ed O’Bannon would wind up being the lead plaintiff in a case that could alter the landscape of collegiate sports forever. And yet, that’s exactly where we are.

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The Wisdom of Crowds: The Risks and Rewards of Crowdsourcing and the User-Generated Content Movement

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By: Brian J. Meli

Nowhere is the Internet’s ability to lay waste to established but out-moded industries on fuller display than in the realm of crowdsourcing. Everywhere you turn there’s a new crowdsourced-based start-up boldly proclaiming the dawn of a new era and the end of the way you’re currently (and have always been) doing something. Whether that something is locating sources for investment capital or booking a second honeymoon, there’s a host of new companies promising to do it more efficiently and less expensively than ever before by unleashing the power of the masses.

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The Supreme Court Has Decided The Fate of TV: The Aereo Ruling And Where We Go From Here

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By: Brian J. Meli

Not since Sony v. Universal City Studios has a copyright case captured the attention of the broadcast and entertainment industries, or the imagination of the public at large, quite like American Broadcasting Cos., Inc. v. Aereo. In case you missed last year’s lower court skirmishes in this fast-moving dispute, or the serious economic incentives driving them, you can find a summary of the lead up here.

If you’d rather skip to the end, read on.

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Did the USPTO Just Right a Social Wrong, Or Abridge Free Speech?

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By: Brian J. Meli

The Washington Redskins football team is back in the news, but not for their astute draft day maneuverings or the buzz surrounding the start of training camp. This particular story is not a new one either—not by a long shot. In fact, it’s been the source of public debate since well before the team’s current crop of rookies were even born.

Once again, it’s the team’s name that’s grabbing headlines: Redskins. Racial slur? Or proud nickname? By canceling six different federal REDSKINS trademark registrations on the grounds that they disparage Native Americans, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) made it clear today where they stand. Whichever side you come down on, this debate is now squarely on the front page again. And this time around there’s every indication it’s going to be there for a while, with everyone from the President of the United States to Bob Costas weighing in.

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A Billboard In Peru, And The Obsolescence Of The Commercial Speech Doctrine

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By: Brian J. Meli

For nearly forty years the fault line dissecting freedom of speech under the First Amendment has been a concept as widely accepted in judicial circles as Newton’s law of gravitation in scientific ones. One side of that line belongs exclusively to commercial speech, more commonly known by its street name: advertising. The other side is the domain of non-commercial speech, which is more or less anything that isn’t advertising. Both are protected, but only the latter is considered sacred, and therefore except for a few rare instances (“fire!” in a crowded theater) it’s off-limits to regulators. The distinction is so widely recognized that no one gives it much thought anymore. If you’re the CMO of an e-cigarette company, you know there are limits to what you can say in your advertising, and on your labeling and packaging. But if you’re invited to appear on 60 Minutes, or you’re interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, you’re largely free to express your personal opinions about your product. Whether or not you’re actually conscious of the fact that the former is commercial speech and the latter likely isn’t, you inherently know there’s a difference. 

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The 2014 ANA Advertising Law And Public Policy Conference Answers Many Questions, Poses Even More

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By: Brian J. Meli

The 2014 ANA Advertising Law and Public Policy Conference is now officially in the books. The two-day conference held in Washington D.C. featured a formidable line-up of industry experts weighing in on a wide variety of hot-button topics in advertising law. The conference was both broad in scope and ambitious by nature, bringing practitioners up to speed on the current state of legal and regulatory affairs, and endeavoring to sketch a workable outline for what the future may hold in an industry reshaping itself daily through technology.

As you might expect from a group of speakers as varied as attorneys general, CIOs and members of academia, there were diverse viewpoints on a wide range of topics. But as the event got going, the topics began pooling into three discernable themes:

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