Category Archives: Technology Matter

When A Picture is Worth a Thousand Pictures: The Curious Case of Copyright Overlap

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By: Brian J. Meli

At a party over the holidays, a photographer friend of mine asked me a copyright question that seemed straightforward enough. Being an intellectual property attorney, I’m no stranger to these questions, and aside from the festive stylings of Andy Williams and Bing Crosby playing in the background, there wasn’t much different about this particular occasion. But as the question evolved into one of the more absorbing, thought-provoking discussions I’ve had in a while, I realized I’d been too quick to judge.

The topic on my friend’s mind that night concerned the rights photographers have in photographs they take of other artists’ copyrighted works. My friend, you see, is frequently commissioned to photograph famous works of art for various publicity purposes.

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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 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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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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What’s The Story With All Those Mobile Coverage Maps?

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By: Brian J. Meli

It happened one Saturday afternoon a few weeks ago. I was stuck indoors, perusing the day’s schedule of college basketball games and girding for the latest in a spate of nasty New England nor’easters, when I came across that now ubiquitous Verizon Wireless ad where regular people are asked to interpret brightly colored ink blots that turn out to be maps representing the nationwide network data coverage areas (or lack thereof) of Verizon’s competitors. After the interviewees take turns interpreting the expressionist-inspired shapes as depicting everything from a gaggle of geese to Whistler’s Mother, they’re shown Verizon’s network map, revealing an unambiguous rendering of the lower forty-eight, thus receiving a much needed “reality check.”

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An Equal Opportunity Internet: The Net Neutrality Endgame

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ByBrian J. Meli

A lot of ink was spilled last week over the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. striking down the FCC’s Open Internet rules, better known by their catchier nom de plume: “net neutrality.” While there’s been no lack of coverage on the ruling, or prognostication on what it may mean for the future of the Internet, I’m inclined to add my own voice to the chorus; if for no other reason than to provide what I see as some needed perspective on the topic. If, in the process, I talk some of the digital doomsdayers back from the ledge a few steps, so be it.

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