The Vatican has announced that it will digitize 41 million pages of ancient manuscripts which will be accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. Read more here on the technology behind this great endeavor at Hyperallergenic.
For those of you who need last minute Valentine’s Day cards you’re in luck. Two sites, the New York Public Library and the West Virginia University History Center have vintage Valentine’s Day card collections. The WVU site actually allows you to send a card to a recipient. These cards/images are in the public domain since they were created before 1923 and are free to use. Materials created after 1923 may be in the public domain if they meet certain criteria such as having the appropriate copyright notice or not having their copyright status renewed – requirements under copyright law in the past. Here is a useful chart by Peter Hirtle from Cornell University that can help you determine whether a particular item is within the public domain. Remember that other materials such as most materials created by the federal government are in the public domain as well even if created recently and are free to use.
One of the most famous American and iconic works of art with a love theme – Robert Indiana’s – Love (1966) – was denied copyright protection as copyright protection is generally not afforded to short phrases or titles – even if it was executed in a distinctive font and design.
And finally a list of reasons from the Stanford Copyright and Fair Use Center on why you should love fair use.
An L.A. based coffee shop has decided to call itself “Dumb Starbucks” and is claiming that it can do so with impunity as the use of the name constitutes fair use and parody of the Starbucks name. See the Wall Street Journal story here.
If I were a betting man I would not wager against the corporate caffeinated behemoth in what will probably be one of the most quickly filed lawsuits in history. (Disclosure: I’m having one of their delicious brewed coffees right now which may be affecting my disposition on the matter).
The dispute between Starbucks vs. Dumb Starbucks will most likely be determined under Trademark law under what is called the Lanham Act. The Lanham Act (Named after Tex. Rep. Fritz Lanham) is the federal law that governs federal trademark law (Note: Unlike Copyright you can register a trademark with a state government or with both the federal and a state government) While fair use is a concept in trademark law it isn’t likely to help Dumb Starbucks out too much – since one of the standards under the Lanham Act is that the use of the logo would not cause confusion amongst consumers – here that certainly is a possibility even if slight. The other main concern a court would have is that the operators of Dumb Starbucks are using Starbucks Logo to turn a profit and compete in the same business. The operators may be subject to claims for dilution or tarnishment – this is especially true where a logo is already famous when a party begins to use the logo as is the case here. Another story from USA Today – with better pictures here. A history of the Starbucks logo through the last four decades is located here.
Update: It appears the Dumb Starbucks store was a hoax put on my Comedy Central comdeian Nathan Fielder.
Recording artist Kanye West has filed suit to stop the makers of a virtual coin similar to bitcoin called “coinye” that has a comical depiction of the singer. Unfortunately for West he does not know who the maker of virtual currency is – read more here from TMZ.
The Center for the Study of the Public Domain have released their annual list of titles that would have entered the public domain as of January 1, 2014 but did not due to extensions in copyright terms that will keep such works locked up for an additional 56 years. Read more here from the Center’s website.
WordPress and Retraction Watch, a WordPress based blog reporting news on retractions of academic articles, have filed a lawsuit against what they allege to be baseless DMCA Take Down Notices file with the intent to censor news and opinions reported on the site. Read more here including a link to the complaint from the Retraction Watch site.
The Copyright Extension Act was passed 15 years ago pushed through Congress by lobbyists for the Disney Company. The act has another 5 years on the books before expiring but opposition against the extension is expected to be much greater next time around. Read more here from the Washington Post.