Sir Arthur Conan Doyle heirs in dispute over copyright to Sherlock Holmes

The Estate and heirs of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle have steadfastly defended their royalty and licensing rights despite the majority of his works being published before 1923 and hence placing them in the public domain. A few works were published after 1923 and will not be in the public domain definitively unitl 2023. A author whose has written a number of works based on the Sherlock Holmes character has refused to pay the licensing fees and is now in litigation with the estate – apparently it is not so elementry Dear Watson! Read more here at the 1709 Blog.


New Scotland Yard (Norman Shaw Buildings) Circa. 1890, London, U.K. Source: Flickr

New Scotland Yard (Norman Shaw Buildings) Circa. 1890, London, U.K. Source: Flickr



Copyright Clearance Center a threat to fair use and academic freedom?

Kevin Smith of Duke University recently blogged about whether it was time for those universities and colleges using the Copyright Clearance Center’s (CCC) rights clearance services to reconsider using the service since it funded the lawsuit against Georgia State University (even after it changed its e-reserves policy). CCC is now funding the appeal and being joined by one of its partners the American Association of University Presses which filed an amicus brief with the court on behalf of the plaintiff publishers. I share Mr. Smith’s concern and believe all institutions and private companies for that matter should reconsider using CCC services especially in light of the following:

1.  CCC, while a non-profit, disbursed $171.1 million in 2011 to rightsholders and had disbursed over $1.3 Billion in the 10 years prior to that time. CCC’s licensing revenue has balloned over the past few years and we see the company aggresively investing that money in suing any institution it believes threatens its business model – do we really want to feed so that at some point in the near future we really don’t have a choice to go through them or not – what happens when it becomes the scholarly equivalent of the Motion Picture Association of America or the Recording Industry of American threatening to sue and imprison faculty, students (and librarians) on chumped of charges of piracy – I hate to paint a picture of a dystopian future but that is where I see this going unless action is taken now; and

2. Not only is the CCC plowing money into lawsuits but it has an education (propaganda) machine that attempts to intimidate those who wish to exercise their fair use rights. Noticeably there is no reference to the original Constitutional mandate

United States Constitution

United States Constitution

of copyright promoting learning and the useful arts – hard to square that with suing universities I guess?

As Mr. Smith points out, librarians have an obligation to ensure that faculty and students have access to the material they need to conduct research and maintain high standards of scholarship and those critical matters have to be considered when determining whether one should continue to utilize certain resources. However, I would argue that for the money spent on CCC services universities could develop their own systems for permissions, including a service that promotes fair use and would inform faculty and students if something were in the public domain and not charge for it, not invest money in litigation against centers of education, advocate for faculty, students, and learning in general and not pose a threat to becoming a monopoly that strangles the life out of fair use.

Prince and a Dancing Baby may save Fair Use

ImageIs it possible that the Purple Prince and a dancing baby may expand and even save the concept of fair use? –  well maybe not but at least this DMCA take-down case has an interesting cast of characters and for the record we love dancing babies, Prince (despite his views on copyright), and Fair Use here at the Roundup – read more here at Ars Technica.

Copyright Trolls

green trollJust came across this site dedicated to fighting copyright trolls – typically law firms that use the threat of litigation to extort settlements out of alleged infringers (usually related to pornography). I don’t think this is what the Framers had in mind when they wrote:

“To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries”

In any event, welcome to the seedy side of copyright.

Disney sued for copyright infringement

Disney has been sued for copyright infringement – Shut the Front Door! you say? How could a company singularly responsible for the bloating of copyright protection be found in such a predicament? Well, unfortunately it seems the claim is not as solid as it might first appear – sorry to burst your bubble, on a Monday no less, but read more here at TechDirt.