3 Count: Public Domain Battle

And a new battle of songwriter royalties...

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1: ‘We Shall Overcome’ Copyright Case Moves Closer to Trial

First off today, Ben Sisario at The New York Times reports that the lawsuit over whether We Shall Overcome is in the public domain is one step closer to a trial as a judge has denied a motion to dismiss.

The lawsuit, filed by the We Shall Overcome Foundation as well as the producers of the 2013 film Lee Daniels’ The Butler allege that the copyright to the iconic protest song is invalid. According to the plaintiffs, the version registered for copyright has only minor alterations that are not enough to justify a copyrightable variation. The Richmond Organization, the publisher that represents the song, says that the changes more than qualify it for copyrightability.

The Richmond Organization had sought to have the case dismissed but the judge has denied that, saying that the plaintiffs made enough of a case to move forward. Now the case heads for a possible summary judgment or, failing that, a trial. The case follows similar ones involving the songs Happy Birthday To You, which saw the publisher release its claim on the song, and This Land is Your Land, which is ongoing.

2: Radio Group Argues That the Price Tag for a Catalog of Classics Is Monopolistic

Next up today, Ed Christman at Billboard reports that Radio Music Licensing Committee (RMLC), which represents nearly 10,000 U.S. commercial radio broadcast stations, has filed a lawsuit against Global Music Rights (GMR), a boutique performing rights organization that is pushing for higher songwriter royalties.

GMR was founded by Irving Azoff in 2013 with the intent of pushing for higher songwriter royalties. They’ve amassed a bundle of “essential works”, about 20,000 songs from well-known artists. The largest two performing rights agencies, ASCAP and BMI, currently operate under consent decrees that greatly limit their negotiating power. GMR is not under one and is attempting to negotiate for higher royalty rates than would be possible under the consent decrees.

The lawsuit is filed in the same Pennsylvania cout that they sued another performing rights organization, SESAC. In that case, SESAC lost and was forced to submit to nearly all of the RMLC’s demands. However, recent litigation elsewhere, including including a ruling limiting the Department of Justice’s interpretation of the ASCAP and BMI consent decrees, could have an impact on the case.

3: Game Awards Show Mysteriously Removes Two Nintendo Fan Games

Finally today, Heather Alexandra at Kotaku reports that The Game Awards, an annual awards show for video games, has dropped two fan-made games from its nominee list less than 10 days before the ceremony.

The two games, Pokemon Uranium and AM2R were both contending for “Best Fan Creation”. However, both games had been previously hit with copyright notices from Nintendo as they are based on Nintendo properties, Pokemon and Metroid respectively.  

Though neither Nintendo nor The Game Awards have said why the games were removed, it’s widely suspected that copyright claims from Nintendo were part of the reason. So far, some 500 fan created titles have been removed by Nintendo over the past few years.


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.

The 3 Count Logo was created by Justin Goff and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License.

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