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First off today, Cecilia Kang at The New York Times reports that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has postponed a planned hearing on their plans to open up cable/satellite set-top boxes, saying the agency needs more time to consider the issue.
The proposal would require cable and satellite providers to allow access to their shows and services on competing set-top boxes. The goal was to bring additional competition to the set-top box field and enable consumers to purchase, rather than rent, their boxes.
However, the plan ran into controversy as rightsholders and cable companies both expressed concerns that the copyright implications for the plan. This included potential easier piracy, FCC involvement in program licenses and issues of FCC’s authority to enforce the proposal. While the FCC still plans to bring the matter to a vote, time may be running out as a new administration will come in after the new year.
Next up today, Eriq Gardner at The Hollywood Reporter Esquire reports that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) over the anti-circumvention provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
Under the current law, circumventing copyright protections is unlawful, even if the intended use would have been legal without the digital protections. There are exceptions to the blanket rule, but those are decided by the U.S. Copyright Office as part of their triennial review.
The EFF is suing saying that the blocks are unconstitutional and place a burden on free speech, specifically by limiting exploitation of work under fair use. However, the DOJ is hitting back saying that none of the plaintiffs in the case have been threatened with criminal prosecution and that there is no credible assertion of threat against them. The DOJ claims that, because of that, they have a lack of standing to sue but, even barring that, the DOJ argues that the law is “unquestionably constitutional” and that the plaintiffs failed to identify any instance where it was not.
Finally today, Andrew Chung at Reuters reports that The Supreme Court has declined to hear the Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town case, allowing an appeals court ruling to stand and the family of Fred Coots, the author of the song, to reclaim the rights on December 15, 2016.
Under U.S. copyright law, creators can terminate any licenses or agreements after a period of 35 years. However, doing so is legally complex and requires filing timely notices of intent. The Coots had signed a deal with EMI in 1951 but, in 1981, they began threatening copyright termination. However, they never filed a notice as both sides began negotiations.
That led to a new deal between EMI and the Coots but, when the Coots went to terminate that deal, the court ruled that, since they hadn’t filed their previous notice, the 1951 agreement was the foundational one and they could not terminate it. However, the appeals court found that both parties intended the 1981 agreement to replace the 1951 one, as such the agreement was eligible for termination. Now, with the Supreme Court declining to hear the case, the termination will take place in a few months.
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.