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1: Supreme Court Asked to Save Abbott and Costello “Who’s on First?” Copyright

First off today, Eriq Gardner at The Hollywood Reporter Esquire reports that the heirs of William “Bud” Abbott and Lou Costello have petitioned the Supreme Court to ask it to review a case involving their comedy duo’s iconic Who’s on First comedy routine.

The case pits the heirs against the producers of the Broadway play Hand to God, which used a modified version of the bit in the play. However, the Second Circuit court of Appeals ruled that heirs lacked the standing to sue because Abbott and Costello did not register the copyright on the original bit, instead letting Universal Pictures claim it as part of the copyright on One Night in the Tropics, a film that featured the routine.

Though Universal quitclaimed the rights to the routine, the appeals court ruled that, without a copyright registration specific to the routine itself they could not file the lawsuit. The heirs are now appealing that decision to the Supreme Court in hopes that it will overturn that ruling.

2: Fansubs for TV Shows and Movies are Illegal, Court Rules

Next up today, Sebastian Anthony at Ars Technica UK reports that Fansubs, fan-created subtitles for works, are a copyright infringement and that only the original creator of the work has the right to distribute subtitles for it.

The issue pit the Free Subtitles Foundation, a group that works to create subtitles for works so they can be viewed by those who speak other languages, and the Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN. According to BREIN, such subtitles amounted to copyright infringement as they created a derivative work based on the original. Even though subtitles are downloaded separate from the content, BREIN also stated that such subtitles are generally used by those who pirate content.

Fansubbers, however, have long said they bring a net positive to the work, enabling millions of more people to enjoy it. The court, on the other hand, sided with BREIN, which in turn pledged to continue to fight fansubbing.

3: We Can’t Let John Deere Destroy the Very Idea of Ownership

Finally today, Kyle Wiens at Wired reports that John Deere and General Motors have filed comments with the U.S. Copyright Office that say, in their view, while customers own the tractor or car that they purchase, they are only licensing the software that allows it to operate. 

The issue deals with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which prohibits the circumvention of digital rights management tools. While the intent of the law was to prevent the breaking of encryption on DVDs and other copyrighted works, companies, such as John Deere, have used the law to make it difficult to repair or upgrade their products, requiring the use of an authorized repairman to make such adjustments.

The comment session comes ahead of a hearing after which the Copyright Office will make decisions on exemptions to the rule. John Deere and GM are hoping that their vehicles are not such an exemption though laws are also being proposed that would create a right to repair and require manufacturers to allow buyers to fix their products.

Suggestions

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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