Food for Thought: Intellectual Property Protection for Recipes and Food Designs

By: Kurt M. Saunders and Valerie Flugge As any chef will tell you, cooking and food preparation is a creative, sometimes innovative, endeavor. Much thought and time is invested in selecting ingredients, developing the process for preparing the dish, and designing an interesting or appealing look and feel for a food item. If this is true, then it should come as no surprise that recipes, food designs, and other culinary creations can be protected by various forms of intellectual property, namely: trade secrets, design and utility patents, trade dress, but usually not copyright. This article considers how intellectual property law has been applied to protect recipes and food designs, along with broader issues relating to how these rights may overlap and their implications for competition. Download Full Article (PDF) Cite: 19 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 159

A Copy of a Copy of a Copy: Internet Mimesis and the Copyrightability of Memes

By: Elena Elmerinda Scialabba Memes have become a staple of Internet culture. They provide a crucial form of cultural interchange by allowing billions to communicate and commiserate about all facets of life through the sharing of amusing and relatable phenomena. However, many memes are created from copyrighted images, making it unclear whether their use constitutes copyright infringement actionable by the original copyright owners. This Note considers memes in the context of U.S. copyright law and proposes that memes could be protected against copyright infringement by the fair use doctrine, which excuses infringement if the would-be infringer’s use is socially desirable and aligned with the basic aims of copyright law. To illustrate this, this Note analyzes the “typical meme” through a thorough examination of the four statutory factors of fair use. Download Full Article (PDF) Cite: 18 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 332

Live Sports Virtual Reality Broadcasts: Copyright and Other Protections

By: Marie Hopkins As virtual reality rapidly progresses, broadcasts are able to increasingly mimic the experience of actually attending a game. As the technology advances and the viewer can freely move about the game and virtual reality can simulate the in-stadium attendance, the virtual reality broadcast nears the point where the broadcast is indistinguishable from the underlying game. Thus, novel copyright protection issues arise regarding the ability to protect the experience through copyright. Although normal broadcasts may be copyrighted, virtual reality broadcasts of live sports could lack protection under the Copyright Act because the elements of originality, authorship, and fixation are harder to satisfy for this type of work. If the elements that formerly protected broadcasts through copyright no longer apply, the virtual reality broadcast of the game will lose copyright protection. The virtual reality broadcaster can receive protection for the work in several ways, such as (1) by broadcaster-made modifications to the transmitted broadcast, (2) through misappropriation claims, or (3) by inserting contract terms. These additional steps maintain the ability of virtual reality broadcasters to disseminate works without fear the work will not be protectable by the law. Download Full Article (PDF) Cite: 16 Duke L. & Tech. Rev.

Seeking Rights, Not Rent: How Litigation Finance Can Help Break Music Copyright’s Precedent Gridlock

By: Glenn E. Chappell Since its inception, litigation finance has steadily grown in prevalence and popularity in the United States. While many scholars have examined its merits, few have considered litigation finance specifically in the context of copyright law. This is most unfortunate, for there, a vicious cycle has taken hold: high litigation costs discourage many market participants from taking cases to trial or summary judgment in order to vindicate their legal rights, even when they have strong cases. Thus, parties settle almost every case, which in turn prevents resolution of longstanding precedential questions in critical areas of copyright law. The legal uncertainty resulting from this precedential gridlock generates higher avoidance costs and poses more financial risks for market participants, particularly less-heeled or less-established parties. This Note proposes one way in which litigation finance could help break that cycle. Specifically, rights holders and defendants alike can use litigation finance to fund strategic-litigation campaigns to pressure the development of precedent. To illustrate how this might work, this Note examines litigation finance in the narrow context of music copyright, an area that perfectly illustrates the problems besetting copyright law writ large. In doing so, this Note flips a popular criticism of litigation

Increasing Copyright Protection for Social Media Users by Expanding Social Media Platforms’ Rights

By: Ryan Wichtowski Social media platforms allow users to share their creative works with the world. Users take great advantage of this functionality, as Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, Snapchat, and WhatsApp users alone uploaded 1.8 billion photos per day in 2014. Under the terms of service and terms of use agreements of most U.S. based social media platforms, users retain ownership of this content, since they only grant social media platforms nonexclusive licenses to their content. While nonexclusive licenses protect users vis-à-vis the social media platforms, these licenses preclude social media platforms from bringing copyright infringement claims on behalf of their users against infringers of user content under the Copyright Act of 1976. Since the average cost of litigating a copyright infringement case might be as high as two million dollars, the average social media user cannot protect his or her content against copyright infringers. To remedy this issue, Congress should amend 17 U.S.C. § 501 to allow social media platforms to bring copyright infringement claims against those who infringe their users’ content. Through this amendment, Congress would create a new protection for social media users while ensuring that users retain ownership over the content they create. Download Full Article (PDF)

What’s in a Name: Cable Systems, FilmOn, and Judicial Consideration of the Applicability of the Copyright Act’s Compulsory License to Online Broadcasters of Cable Content

By: Kathryn M. Boyd The way we consume media today is vastly different from the way media was consumed in 1976, when the Copyright Act created the compulsory license for cable systems. The compulsory license allowed cable systems, as defined by the Copyright Act, to pay a set fee for the right to air television programming rather than working out individual deals with each group that owned the copyright in the programming, and helped make television more widely accessible to the viewing public. FilmOn, a company that uses a mini-antenna system to capture and retransmit broadcast network signals, is now seeking access to the compulsory license. In three concurrent legal cases in New York, California, and D.C., FilmOn argues that it meets the statutory requirements to classify as a cable system. This Issue Brief examines the legal history of cable systems and considers the effects of agency influence, policy concerns, and the lack of judicial or congressional resolution regarding FilmOn’s contested legal status. Download Full Article (PDF) Cite: 15 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 139

Copyright Severability: The Hurdle Between 3D-Printing and Mass Crowdsourced Innovation

By: Alan Fu 3D-printing is gradually becoming widely accessible to the population, and with accessibility come enthusiasm, participation, and ingenuity. Its continued development reflects a potential surge in technological advancement, bestowing on any person with a computer and the right software the ability to design and create. So far, the utilitarian benefits of designs such as blueprints, schematics, and CAD files have always been safeguarded from copyright over-protection through the doctrine of copyright severability. However, the doctrine is applied inconsistently across different circuits and different factual scenarios. This inconsistency can chill innovation by making it impossible to distinguish aesthetic designs protected by copyright from functional designs that are not. Thus, copyright severability does not do enough to protect innovation as 3D-printing begins to make product design more accessible to the general public. A more suitable solution may lie in the abstraction-filtration-comparison test from the software context of copyright infringement. Download Full Article (PDF) Cite: 15 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 84

Putting Fair Use on Display: Ending the Permissions Culture in the Museum Community

By: Rosemary Chandler Digital technologies present museums with tremendous opportunities to increase public access to the arts. But the longstanding “permissions culture” entrenched in the museum community—in which licenses are obtained for the use of copyrighted materials regardless of whether such uses are “fair,” such that licenses are not legally required—likely will make the cost of many potential digital projects prohibitively expensive. Ending the permissions culture is therefore critically important to museums as they seek to connect with diverse audiences in the Digital Age. In this issue brief, I argue that such a development will require clear and context-specific information about fair use that enables museum professionals to better understand the appropriate boundaries of fair use, and that a community-based code of best practices—like the College Art Association’s recently released Code of Best Practices for Fair Use in the Visual Arts—is likely the best means to achieve this. Download Full Article (PDF) Cite: 15 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 60

Legal Nature of Emails: A Comparative Perspective

By: Edina Harbinja There is currently a conflict between laws and the market in their treatment of email. Laws mandate that emails are not protected as property unless copyrightable or protected by another legal mechanism. But the market suggests that emails are user-owned property without further qualification. Moreover, the nature of email is treated slightly differently between the U.S. and U.K. legal regimes. While the current legal regimes applicable to email in the U.K. and U.S. are reasonable, legal harmonization within these systems, and with the service provider market, should be achieved. Download Full Article (PDF) Cite: 14 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 227

Aereo and Internet Television: A Call to Save the Ducks (A La Carte)

By: Pooja Patel If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it is probably a duck. The most recent U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding the Copyright Act employed this “duck test” when determining that Aereo, an Internet content-streaming company, violated the Copyright Act by infringing on the copyrights of television broadcast networks. The Supreme Court ruled that Aereo’s Internet streaming services resembled cable television transmissions too closely. Therefore, by streaming copyrighted programming to its subscribers without the cable compulsory license, Aereo violated the Transmit Clause of the 1976 Copyright Act. Subsequently, Aereo used this Supreme Court decision to obtain a compulsory license from the Copyright Office but was denied. Forced back into litigation, Aereo filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy This Issue Brief describes Aereo’s technology, the litigation that followed, and the related precedent, and concludes that the district court should have granted Aereo a Section 111 Statutory License in line with the Supreme Court’s “duck test.” It considers the implications of the Court’s preliminary injunction against Aereo’s “a la carte” TV technology, what this means for the future of similar technological innovation, and the effects on consumers and competition. Download Full Article (PDF)