Archive for the ‘copyright’ tag

“We Don’t Care”? Maybe Kanye should…

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140 characters may not seem like enough room to really say something of value. But if Kanye West is saying something, it can be worth a lot more than one may expect. Etsy seller “supervelma” has hand-stitched popular tweets from the rapper Kanye West onto fabric, framed them, and is currently selling them for $45 each on the online craft retailer Etsy. Understandably, West may be upset that someone else is profiting off of his hard-earned Twitter notoriety, but does he have a remedy? Copyright is the traditional form of protection for works of art. Having a registered copyright can prevent others from reproducing the work, making a derivative piece of art based on your original work, or further diluting the value of your work by displaying it. West could argue a claim of copyright infringement, however he may encounter difficulty proving that a tweet can actually receive copyright protection. Many tweets simply state facts—which cannot be protected by copyrights—or link to news articles, whose headlines are generally found to be insufficiently creative to warrant copyright protection. It is also debatable whether a tweet like, “Fur pillows are hard to actually sleep on” meets the de minimis requirement of creativity that a copyrighted work must have. Most copyright experts agree that there is not a bright line rule about whether tweets can gain copyright protection; a copyrightable tweet would certainly be the exception rather than the norm because of the observational nature of Twitter. West—a professional wordsmith—might be able to make a stronger argument than most that his tweets go beyond mere observations, and are artistic expressions that might even make it into future albums. Viewing his tweets as strings of song lyrics may convince a judge that his entire Twitter history, or at least some of his more introspective and personal tweets, would warrant the protective shield of a copyright. Even without a copyright, West would likely prevail because of the use of his name and “likeness”—in the form of a hand-stitched avatar on the cloth. Most states have held that people are entitled to a “right of publicity,” which recognizes a property right in the commercial value of a person’s identity. The commercial value of the name Kanye West, and the public image he has developed, is clearly what is driving the market for these embroideries. While “supervelma” does offer customers the chance to custom order whatever tweets they would like, West’s tweets are what gained the recognition of popular website Buzzfeed and undoubtedly drove up business. West certainly has grounds to seek an injunction to stop “supervelma” from continuing to produce these items, and depending on the state statute regarding remedies he could also sue to recover for any damages and may even be able to get exemplary damages if a jury felt they were appropriate. Public figures should be aware that the same media making them more available to fans can also provide more material for appropriation, and it may be worthwhile to increase their monitoring of retail websites like Etsy, Amazon, and eBay for unauthorized products.

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December 1st, 2014 at 1:44 pm

Posted in Commentary,Technology

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Keurig Walls Off the Garden by Shutting Out Third Party K-cups

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Keurig, the single serve coffee machine produced by Green Mountain, is nearly ubiquitous in offices, homes, and schools around the country. The device rose to popularity on the back of the K-cup, the single serve pods produced by Green Mountain that allowed a single cup of hundreds of different coffee, tea, and chocolate drinks to be brewed in a matter of seconds. Green Mountain made $3.9 billion in sales in 2012, with 2.7 billion coming from K-cup sales. Keurig was able to maintain strong sales of its K-cups because of several patents on the design and features of the K-cup. However, in September 2012, U.S. Patent Nos. 5,353,765 and 5,840,189 expired. These two patents covered the original K-cup design. Their expiry has opened the door for generic knockoff K-cups to flood the market. Green Mountain claims that the design covered by these patents is outdated and has been superseded by new and improved designs covered under patents that are still in force, including, U.S. Patent Nos. 6,645,537 and the still pending Application No. 20050051478. However, many generic K-cups are already on the market and work in Keurig’s brewing machines. While Keurig claims that generic K-cups will continue to make up less than 15% of the total K-cup market and stress that their current design is superior to any competing product, Green Mountain is clearly worried about the generic threat. In early March of this year Green Mountain announced “Keurig 2.0,” an improved brewing device that would be launching as early as the fall of 2014. Among other changes over previous models, the new Keurig brewer will contain technology that prevents generic K-cups from being used. Green Mountain is the latest to introduce protections for their propriety technology, following in the footsteps of Hewlett-Packard and other printer manufacturers who have added technology to their printers preventing generic printer cartridges from being used, or software companies that have added Digital Rights Management (DRM) to their software to prevent piracy. It is unclear exactly what sort of form this proprietary protection will take, but past forms used in printers include RFID tags. In any case, Green Mountain has made clear that they will still allow third parties to produce K-cups so long as they obtain a license from Green Mountain. Already, a legal fight is brewing over Green Mountain’s proposed move. TreeHouse Foods and Rogers Family are already suing Green Mountain on antitrust grounds. Besides the antitrust concerns, Green Mountain may have difficulty stopping third parties that circumvent their protections. In 2012, Lexmark installed technology to prohibit generic printer ink refills in their printers and lost an appeal in the 6th Circuit for a copyright and DMCA claim against a company that developed a work around for the protection technology for their generic ink refills. In the near future, the legal precedents set by these cases could have far-reaching effects on DRM and physical proprietary protections across the market.

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April 2nd, 2014 at 4:22 pm

Judge has ruled in landmark copyright case: Google Books is here to stay

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If you are anything like the average college student, you have probably scrambled for a book desperately needed for a research project in the last few days before said project is due. The most common fix to this problem is a technique perfected over the last decade – just google it. Google Books contains millions of scanned pages of books that are a click away from being your research project savior. Eight years ago, all that was thrown into jeopardy when an organization called The Authors Guild filed a class action lawsuit against Google’s mass digitization project for copyright infringement. The Authors Guild, along with several authors whose works appear on Google Books without permission, argue that Google benefits financially from their work, thereby violating copyright law. On November 14, 2013, however, federal district judge Denny Chin granted Google’s motion for summary judgment, dismissing the suit. In his 30-page opinion, Judge Chin declared that Google Books met the requirements for the “fair use” defense to copyright infringement. This defense permits the fair use of copyrighted works “to fulfill copyright’s very purpose, to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.” Judge Chin found that Google Books met the four factors of the fair use defense: 1) nonprofit educational purposes, 2) nature of the copyrighted work, 3) sustainability of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole, and 4) effect of the use on the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. Wired provides a great summary of Google’s fulfillment of the four factors.

In his opinion, Judge Chin largely focused on the many benefits of Google Books, such as its efficiency in obtaining books as a reference tool, increasing general access, and allowing scholars to analyze massive amounts of data. Judge Chin acknowledged the legitimacy of plaintiff’s main argument that Google Books is a for-profit commercial enterprise, but emphasized that the scanned pages themselves are not for sale, and no advertisements are present on the pages containing the snippets of the book. Therefore, Google “does not engage in the direct commercialization of copyrighted books.”

Judge Chin further explained that by providing links to where the book may be purchased, Google Books actually enhances the sale of the books to the benefit of copyright holders. In fact, many authors have noticed online databases such as Google allows readers to find their work, thereby increasing their audiences.

The only factor that Judge Chin did mark as weighing slightly in the plaintiff’s favor is the third: sustainability of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole. Google scans the full text of these books, and provides certain sections for different searches. Google does, however, limit the amount of text displayed for each search, and therefore Judge Chin found this factor only “slightly against” a finding of fair use. In response to the dismissal of its suit, the Authors Guild has declared an intention to appeal after expressing their disappointment and disagreement with the decision. This case, however, has lasted almost a decade, and is not likely to be reversed due to the overwhelming public benefits for Google Books. Not only is Google Books “highly transformative” in the way we research, but it also allows authors to get noticed. The key sticking point is that this service benefits authors far more than it hinders them. Google Books will most likely be here to stay, much to the relief of student procrastinators (and realistically, everyone else who likes books) everywhere. For another look at this landmark decision, see http://www.mttlrblog.org/2013/11/24/google-one-step-closer-to-world-domination-seriously/.

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November 24th, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Google One Step Closer To World Domination, Seriously

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In yet another unfortunate turn of events in the Authors Guild’s fight to enforce their interpretation of copyright law, the United States District Court in Manhattan ruled in favor of Google in Authors Guild v. Google, Inc. The court held that by digitizing books and provided only snippets, Google’s use of the material was transformative and not harmful to the market for the original work, this making it a fair use under the Copyright Act. Judge Denny Chin’s view is that such a service will draw in new readers who were previously unaware of the books and thereby boost sales. That is certainly a possibility, but it seems equally likely that Google’s rather generous snippets will allow users to immediately find what they are searching for and never bother with procuring the entire work, thus preventing a purchase. The fair use factors are highly fact specific and predicting the outcome of fair use cases is often difficult. But some say that this is not a problem here because of another recently decided case in the Second Circuit, Authors Guild, Inc v. HathiTrust. In this case the Authors Guild sued a consortium of academic institutions for partnering with Google to make digitized works available to their educational communities. Judge Chin referenced HathiTrust in the Google decision and said that “if there is no liability for copyright infringement on the libraries' part, there can be no liability on Google's part.” While the decision in HathiTrust is certainly persuasive, it is not necessarily controlling. That case held that the HathiTrust’s use of books scanned by Google for educational purposes was a fair use under the Copyright Act, a statute with multiple provisions that allow educational institutions such as libraries and universities to do certain things that would otherwise be infringement. Google, on the other hand, is amassing a gigantic collection of text and making certain portions almost indiscriminately available. It is naïve to think that Google’s motivations are perfectly aligned with the academic institutions that make up the HathiTrust. Google is emphatically not a library, university, or other institution devoted to education or serving the public—it is a business. And it’s a business that has been aggressively expanding of late. Like libraries, Google is a place to find information. But unlike libraries, Google does not provide information solely as a way to benefit the community or further education. Instead, Google has very successfully monetized information gathering and storage. Not only do searchers on Google.com view advertisements above and alongside their search results, many Gmail users now see advertisements formatted to look like emails when they open their inbox. Then, perhaps the most persuasive part of the HathiTrust case was the decision not to enjoin the Orphan Works Project, an attempt to make works of unclear authorship available to the public. Judge Baer, in holding that the issue lacked ripeness, said “[w]ere I to enjoin the OWP, I would do so in the absence of crucial information about what that program will look like should it come to pass and whom it will impact.” Judge Chin may not have considered Google’s penchant for monetizing the previously “un-monetizable,” but it certainly could yet happen. For another look at this landmark decision, see http://www.mttlrblog.org/2013/11/24/judge-has-ruled-in-landmark-copyright-case-google-books-is-here-to-stay/.

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November 24th, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Just a Playlist… or Something More?

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Music streaming service, Spotify, has yet again found itself at odds with a creator in the music industry. This time around, the disagreement centers on a more novel question: Does a compilation constitute copyrightable intellectual property? According to U.K. based dance-music record label, Ministry of Sound, it does. Ministry of Sound, or MoS, has recently filed a lawsuit in the U.K. High Court against Spotify, claiming copyright infringement. MoS produces compilation albums comprised of songs which the label has not itself created, but has selected and placed in a purposeful, specific order on the album. The record label’s “beef” with Spotify is grounded in the fact that the streaming service currently allows users to create playlists that essentially emulate the compilation albums. Further irritating the label, some users even go as far as to title those playlists “Ministry of Sound.” To be clear, the users are not illegally downloading the MoS albums; they are instead legally listening to the individual tracks through the streaming service and replicating MoS’ order of the tracks in their own playlists. After pleading with Spotify to remove these playlists since last year to no avail, MoS finally had enough and essentially said, “see you in court.” This case will turn on the issue of whether or not the order/structure of the content on MoS’ albums is copyrightable. But what are the odds that a court will actually determine that the compilation albums (in terms of their ordering of songs) constitute copyrightable material? The claim MoS is making is certainly deserving of at least some consideration. Factually, we can see how the artistic compilation of music is the result of a unique, creative process. This process may even require extensive research and hours of dedication to deriving the perfect order. For those reasons, there is an argument to be made that the end result of the process is an original work. Where MoS will likely find its greatest struggle in this lawsuit, however, is in showing that its compilation albums constitute a work original enough to be worthy of copyright protection. Since the filing of the lawsuit, many comments on the relevant articles and blog posts have shown disdain for the idea that taking music that someone else created, and placing it in a specific order on a playlist, could constitute anything that could even remotely be considered copyrightable, or truly original. When MoS’ albums are equated with mere playlists (which are viewed as lists that require no skill or real effort to produce) the future for MoS in this lawsuit against Spotify doesn’t look so bright. While the public consensus seems to be that MoS’ claim simply does not hold water, the worlds of music, technology, and copyright should certainly keep a close eye on this case, as the possibility exists that the UK court could side with MoS. This is an issue of copyright definition and protection that the courts have not yet faced (MoS is the first label to make this type of claim), and it could wind up being a real game changer for the industries involved. If MoS wins, this could strike a major blow to the business model of Spotify and other music streaming services that allow users to create playlists, as playlists are becoming an increasingly prevalent and important form of music consumption. If MoS loses, the compilation sales business model for MoS may prove unsustainable—will people continue buying the compilation albums when they can just recreate the same playlist for free on Spotify? Additionally, MoS’ claim could be the catalyst for similar claims to be brought in US courts. Through these cases, law and technology continue to shape the ways in which we view art and originality. In today’s world, where will the court draw the line of what is and is not art in the sense of copyright? To find out, we’ll just have to stay tuned.

Composers of Hit Song File Declaratory Judgment Action

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Faced with the prospect of copyright infringement lawsuits from Bridgeport Music, Inc. (“Bridgeport”) and Marvin Gaye’s heirs (the “Heirs”), the composers of the multinational hit song “Blurred Lines” filed a declaratory judgment action against Bridgeport and the Heirs in the United States District Court for the Central District of California on August 15, 2013.  Through this action, the composers, namely Pharrell Williams, Robin Thicke, and Clifford Harris, Jr., request that the court declare that “Blurred Lines” does not infringe Bridgeport’s composition “Sexy Ways” or Gaye’s composition “Got to Give It Up.” The lawsuit alleges that Bridgeport and the Heirs have continually insisted that “Blurred Lines” infringes their respective compositions and have stated an intention to file a lawsuit for copyright infringement if not compensated.   The composers, however, claim that “[t]here are no similarities between plaintiffs’ composition and those the claimants allege they own, other than commonplace musical elements.”  Instead, according to the suit, the composers “created a hit and did it without copying anyone else’s composition.” Generally, to establish a claim for copyright infringement a plaintiff must establish:  (1) copying of a prior copyrighted work; and (2) a substantial similarity to the prior copyrighted work sufficient to constitute unlawful appropriation.  A plaintiff can generally demonstrate the first element based upon evidence of access to the copyrighted work and similarity.  Here, it does not seem to be disputed that the composers had access to “Sexy Ways” or “Got to Give It Up.”  Indeed, according to the suit, the “intent in producing ‘Blurred Lines’ was to evoke an era.”  The question remains, however, whether the similarities between “Blurred Lines” and the prior works are sufficient to demonstrate “copying” and “substantial similarity.” To date, neither Bridgeport nor the Heirs have filed an answer to the composers’ complaint.

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September 29th, 2013 at 10:47 am

It’s the Sweetest Hat Ever!

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The relationship between the developer of a show, book, or other story and a fan is usually pretty straightforward.  The artist conceives, produces, and distributes a story, the fan consumes the story, and, if the fan really loves the story, consumes all sorts of official merchandise.  It's a win-win situation: the creator collects proceeds from the sales; the fan proclaims her love for the story by proudly displaying merchandise from her favorite creative endeavor. This relationship has grown increasingly tense, however, as sites like Etsy and deviantART enable individual fans of a series to create and sell their own art and merchandise.  Fan art is an external display of love for a creative undertaking, but when fan-developed products are sold, they begin to intrude on the copyright holder's commercial interests. Firefly was a short-lived television show (and basis for the movieSerenity) that developed, and continues to maintain, a large cult following of Browncoats (as fans of the show affectionately call themselves).  One popular piece of Browncoat flair has been the "Jayne Hat," a knitted hat based on the one received by tough guy Jayne Cobb from his mother in Firefly episode "The Message."  This past spring, FOX, the owner of the rights to the Firefly series, started sending cease-and-desist letters to fans selling handmade Jayne Hats on Etsy.  Not coincidentally, around the same time, FOX sold a license to mass-produce Jayne hats, and large retailers like ThinkGeek started selling the officially licensed version (ThinkGeek, not a business to thoughtlessly infuriate the customer base apparent from its name, quickly released a statement distancing themselves from the letters, and now donates all profits from the product to a Browncoat charity). FOX unquestionably has the legal right to stop commercial activity that infringes on its copyrighted material, even though enforcing that right gained the ire of the Browncoats with knitting skills (and their customers).  The owners of the rights to creative content with large fan bases, however, may want to consider the good-will ramifications of cutting down this kind of grassroots fan activity.  Suppressing the genuine love that fans demonstrate for their favorite shows, movies, and books can sour the same consumers that companies rely on to purchase Blu-Rays and licensed swag.  Indeed, FOX may have lightened its touch in this case: at the time of this writing, one can easily find relevant Etsy results for "cunning hat" (the generic term for the Jayne hat) and even a few good results for a home-made Jayne hat. FOX's actions are also a reminder to fans of all kinds to be aware and careful about the way they display their love for their favorite media.  With over 130,000 geeks attending ComicCon, just one of many similar fan conventions held each year, the fanbase for many creative endeavors can be a significant source of business.  Fans should be aware that by selling merchandise subject to copyright, they may be later cursing the sudden but inevitable betrayal of their favorite franchises when the copyright holder accuses them of infringement.

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September 15th, 2013 at 9:37 am

Fair Use in an Educational Setting

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The University of Michigan just recently won a lawsuit in which the University was alleged of copyright infringement in its effort to digitize its library contents. On September 12, 2011, the Authors Guild, the Australian Society of Authors, the Union Des Écrivaines et des Écrivains Québécois (UNEQ), and eight individual authors filed a lawsuit against HathiTrust, the University of Michigan, the University of California, the University of Wisconsin, Indiana University, and Cornell University for copyright infringement. On October 10, 2012, a Federal District Court in the Southern District of New York dismissed the suit finding that the University of Michigan’s use of books fit within "fair use" of the Copyright Act. HathiTrust was created through a collaboration of universities in order to establish a repository for those universities to archive and share their digitized collections. The Authors Guild argued that the access HathiTrust provided to the scanned materials was in violation of their members’ copyrights, claiming that the universities had pooled the unauthorized scans of an estimated 7 million copyright-protected books. The Authors Guild also claimed that while many U.S. universities had allowed the scanning of books that were in the public domain, only the defendant universities had allowed copyright-protected books to be scanned. One of the major issues with the HathiTrust digitalization plan was a project called Orphan Works. Orphan Works are books that are subject to copyright but whose copyright holders cannot be identified or located. As a consequence, users cannot seek permission to use these works in ways that might involve copying or distributing the work. The Authors Guild claimed that the procedures for determining whether a work should be deemed an “orphan” were deficient, as “within days of the suit’s filing on September 12th, the Authors Guild, its members, and others commenting on its blog had developed strong leads to dozens of authors and estates,” while in other cases “simple Google searches turned up most of the leads in minutes." HathiTrust has repeatedly claimed that the primary motive driving the digitalization effort was preservation for a scholarly purpose, as the sharing was limited to online reading by faculty and students of participating universities. The scholarly purpose of the digitalization would make the sharing legal under Section 107 of U.S. copyright law, which allows for fair use of a copyrighted work without infringing the copyright. HathiTrust argued that educational, non-profit uses of copyrighted works, falls within previous interpretations of what qualifies as “fair use." Federal District Judge Harold Baer Jr. of the Southern District of New York ruled in favor of HathiTrust, stating, “Although I recognize that the facts here may on some levels be without precedent, I am convinced that they fall safely within the protection of fair use … I cannot imagine a definition of fair use that would not encompass the transformative uses made by Defendants’ [Mass Digitalization Project] and would require that I terminate this invaluable contribution to the progress of science and cultivation of the arts.” With this ruling, Judge Baer has “reaffirmed the role of libraries as promoting knowledge creation and equality of access."

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February 4th, 2013 at 12:00 am

YouTube Updates its Content ID Dispute Process, but is it Enough?

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On October 3, 2012, YouTube announced a change in its content ID dispute process, as updated on its blog. What does this update really mean and why does it matter? A short story might help clarify the situation. Last spring, long before I enrolled to take Copyright, I received a panicked phone call from my mother, who had in turn received an e-mail from YouTube notifying her that she had violated the copyright policy of the website.  Turns out that my mom uploaded a video of my dogs dancing and playing to some music on the radio. The video had approximately three viewers (myself included), yet somehow, someone, somewhere claimed that the music playing on the radio in the background was copyright protected and that my mother was infringing on that right.  Who was policing the matter? What could my mom do in response? Was she really in trouble? I had no idea what the answers to any of these questions were, and needless to say, neither did my mom. So the video went away. This semester, I am taking Copyright and when the topic came up in class I was eager to tell my mom’s story and find out what on earth was going on. It just so happens that the day I decided to ask about my mom’s unfortunate YouTube experience in class was the same day YouTube reformed its content ID dispute process. As it turns out, YouTube’s content ID dispute process had been causing problems for quite some time, prompting many users to call for a change in YouTube’s policy. The old process worked as follows: a user posted a video, a copyright owner filed a claim, the user could then dispute the claim, but it went immediately back to the party claiming copyright infringement. The party claiming copyright can then either reinstate the claim, or release it. If the copyright claimant did not release the claim then the user had no further recourse. This process resulted in numerous false copyright claims, clearly abusing the system and harming users. Some recent examples include YouTube taking down the Democratic National Convention live stream in September and blocking the NASA recording of the Mars landing in August because of improper copyright claims. So what did YouTube change on October 3rd? YouTube’s blog states, “Content owners have uploaded more than ten million reference files to the Content ID system. At that scale, mistakes can and do happen. To address this, we’ve improved the algorithms that identify potentially invalid claims. We stop these claims from automatically affecting user videos and place them in a queue to be manually reviewed. This process prevents disputes that arise when content not owned by a partner inadvertently turns up in a reference file.” Further, YouTube introduced a new appeals process, which now gives users a new choice when handling a dispute. Now, when a user appeals, the content owner can either release the claim or file a formal DMCA copyright notification. This is significant because there are actual legal consequences for filing false DMCA takedown requests. There appears to be significant support for YouTube’s policy change, but there is still some skepticism. Timothy Lee from Ars Technica states that the change is “clearly an improvement,” but “still leave[s] a lot to be desired.” Patrick McKay from Fairusetube.org told Ars Technica that he is “cautiously optimistic” about the improvements. He elaborates: “it looks like they have finally made the exact change I and other critics of the content ID dispute process have been calling for them to make.” McKay adds, however, that he regrets that it took YouTube so long to realize that “allowing copyright claimants to reinstate their own claims was a problem.” Whether or not the policy change will make a true difference is yet to be seen, but in the very least YouTube is addressing the content ID dispute problem and taking steps in the right direction to correct it.

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November 14th, 2012 at 9:28 am

Posted in Commentary

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Video Games and Intellectual Property: Chrono Trigger Fan Remakes and Copyright Protection

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Before I start, I’d like to state that I realize that this topic has been beaten to death, but I’d like this to be a continuing series of posts on intellectual property issues in the video game community, and this situation is fairly straightforward and serves as a good introduction to the major issues at hand.

I’ll admit, Chrono Trigger is a very good game. I prefer Chrono Cross personally, but I understand why so many people consider it among the greatest games of all time. The story is lighthearted with some mature undertones, the battle system is simple to learn but has a surprising amount of depth, and the concept of traveling to different periods of time and having your actions affect future timelines was unique and well executed.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the strong fanbase would want more. Chrono Cross took a rather different approach to the series and was released over 10 years ago, and all fans have had since then are a PS1 port plagued with loading time issues and a DS remake that was well received but didn’t satiate long time fans. Long story short, they wanted a new Chrono game, one with updated graphics and a better connection to (or retcon of) Chrono Cross.

Several fan remakes started popping up starting from the early 2000s, but the most notable ones were Chrono Resurrection, Chrono Trigger: Crimson Echoes, and Chrono Trigger HD. Resurrection was a remake of the original game while Crimson Echoes was an interquel that tied together Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross. These first two were notable in that Square Enix, owner of the copyrights and trademarks related to Chrono Trigger, sent cease-and-desist letters to the developers of these games claiming trademark and copyright infringement.

Square Enix’s arguments were very strong. As derivative works, 17 U.S.C. § 106 gives the original copyright holders the exclusive rights to prepare such works, so the fans had to seek permission before creating work with Square Enix’s copyrights. While the developers might have claimed fair use under 17 U.S.C. § 107, particularly because they would release the games for free, the preemption of sales that Square Enix would supposedly get by making its own remake is enough of an effect on the potential market to bar the fair use defense. Square Enix had them dead to rights.

Chrono Trigger HD, another attempt at a straight remake using the Unreal engine, is taking a different approach. They have no website and they will not include their names in the credits, hoping that Square Enix will not be able to find out who is infringing their IP. This logic, however, is deeply flawed. As has been noted by Mark Methenitisa fellow Greek IP lawyer?!—and Zack Bastian, just because they can’t find the original developers doesn’t mean that the game is any less illegal. They’ll use their resources to take down whatever public disclosures they can find, and if the developers want anyone to play the game outside their torrent circle, they’ll probably have to disclose at some point.

Go figure, the law student likes IP protection. Seriously, though, there are a lot of game IP that fans want revisited. Xenogears deserves a proper disc 2. A third Chrono game would sell like crazy. The movement for a Final Fantasy VII remake is stronger than ever. If The Last Story and Mass Effect 3’s Extended Cut have taught us anything, it’s that game companies are listening to fans. If Microsoft is willing to address their Xbox Live harassment issues because of fan promotion of this web video, Square Enix may be willing to hear out Chrono Trigger fans. Infringing their IP is only going to discourage them from creating new content, which is why we have IP protection in the first place.

Of course, this brings up the question of user-generated content in general, such as the mod kits in the Elder Scrolls games, map editors in Starcraft, and level creators in LittleBigPlanet. DayZ is an interesting case as well, being a mod of Arma 2 that eventually became a retail game. But that’s another post.

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September 27th, 2012 at 11:12 am

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