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Note: Due to being gone all of last week at the 6th International Integrity & Plagiarism Conference, this is something of a catch up 3 Count with older stories, normal routine to resume tomorrow!
First off today, Jennifer Schessler at The New York Times reports that The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed a district court ruling from last December stating the the characters Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson are no longer protected by copyright.
The case started with Leslie S. Klinger, an editor of the “In the Company of Sherlock Holmes”, a collection of stories featuring the character, and other books about the famous fictional detective. Klinger was threatened by the estate of Sir Author Conan Doyle, the author of the series, who claimed that the character was still protected by copyright because 10 of the later stories featuring Sherlock Holmes were still under copyright protection.
However, the court ruled that, since the bulk of the original Holmes stories were in the public domain, that others were free to use those earlier stories to create new works, just not the details from later ones. Klinger had previously paid licensing fees to the estate but refused to do so after deciding that the character was free to use.
Next up today, Eriq Gardner at The Hollywood Reporter Esquire reports that there are signs the U.S. Supreme Court may take up a copyright termination case filed by the estate of comic book legend Jack Kirby and those efforts are further bolstered by two prominent friend of the court briefs, one from Bruce Lehman, former director of the US. Patent and Trademark Office, and comic book historian Mark Evanier.
At issue is whether the estate of Jack Kirby can terminate contracts and agreements signed with Marvel comics and reclaim rights to several key characters including Spider-Man, X-Men, The Incredible Hulk, Thor and more. Copyright termination allows creators to reclaim rights after a certain number of years but doesn’t exist in cases of works made for hire, which is what Marvel claims the characters were. However, the estate has always contended that Kirby’s relationship was that of a freelancer, not an employee.
Still, two lower courts have taken Marvel’s side, denying copyright termination. The estate has appealed to the Supreme Court but a lack of differing opinions on the circuit level made it seemingly unlikely the court would take the case. However, both Lehman and Evanier have filed briefs on behalf of the estate and, coupled with the court requesting a response from Marvel and discussing the case in meetings, there’s at least a good chance the case could become the next major Supreme Court challenge for copyright, with implications for any company that works with freelancers.
Finally today, Colin Stutz at Billboard reports that a district judge has dismissed a copyright infringement lawsuit against musician Lady Gaga saying that the song she accused to have plagiarized from is not substantially similar enough to her work to support such a lawsuit.
Chicago musician Rebecca Francescatti accused Gaga of plagiarizing from her 1999 track “Juda” when creating the more recent “Judas”. However, the judge has found that the two songs do not share any protected expression and granted Lady Gaga’s motion for summary judgment, tossing the case.
In addition to disputing the similarities, the judge also stated that the accused plagiarisms were not protectable under copyright law and that “No reasonable trier of fact could find that the songs’ expressions are substantially similar.”
That’s it for the three count today. We will be back tomorrow with three more copyright links. If you have a link that you want to suggest a link for the column or have any proposals to make it better. Feel free to leave a comment or send me an email. I hope to hear from you.
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