Regulating Data as Property: A New Construct for Moving Forward

By: Jeffrey Ritter and Anna Mayer

The global community urgently needs precise, clear rules that define ownership of data and express the attendant rights to license, transfer, use, modify, and destroy digital information assets. In response, this article proposes a new approach for regulating data as an entirely new class of property.

Recently, European and Asian public officials and industries have called for data ownership principles to be developed, above and beyond current privacy and data protection laws. In addition, official policy guidances and legal proposals have been published that offer to accelerate realization of a property rights structure for digital information. But how can ownership of digital information be achieved? How can those rights be transferred and enforced?

Those calls for data ownership emphasize the impact of ownership on the automotive industry and the vast quantities of operational data which smart automobiles and self-driving vehicles will produce. We looked at how, if at all, the issue was being considered in consumer-facing statements addressing the data being collected by their vehicles.

To formulate our proposal, we also considered continued advances in scientific research, quantum mechanics, and quantum computing which confirm that information in any digital or electronic medium is,

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.

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 finance on its head: while some scholars argue that litigation finance can distort litigation strategy by encouraging litigants to reject mutually beneficial settlements,

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.

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

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.

Frand v. Compulsory Licensing: The Lesser of the Two Evils

By: Srividhya Ragavan, Brendan Murphy, and Raj Davé

This paper focuses on two types of licenses that can best be described as outliers—FRAND and compulsory licenses. Overall, these two specific forms of licenses share the objective of producing a fair and reasonable license of a technology protected by intellectual property. The comparable objective notwithstanding, each type of license achieves this end using different mechanisms. The FRAND license emphasizes providing the licensee with reasonable terms, e.g., by preventing a standard patent holder from extracting unreasonably high royalty rates. By contrast, compulsory licenses emphasize the public benefit that flows from enabling access to an otherwise inaccessible invention. Ultimately, both forms of license attempt to create a value for the licensed product that can be remarkably different from the product’s true market value. Nevertheless, both forms ultimately benefit the end-consumer who pays less to access a product subject to either of these forms of license. In comparing these two forms of licenses, the paper hopes to determine whether one form is better than the other, and if so, from whose perspective—the consumer, the licensor or the licensee. In doing so, this paper compares the different prevailing efforts to embrace such licenses as well as the impact of such licenses on the industry.

Noriega v. Activision/Blizzard: The First Amendment Right to Use a Historical Figure’s Likeness in Video Games

By: Joshua Sinclair

Panama’s former dictator, Manuel Noriega, recently sued Activision Blizzard in the California Superior Court for using his likeness and image in the popular video game “Call of Duty: Black Ops II.” In his complaint, Noriega alleged that the use of his likeness violated his right of publicity. Former New York Mayor, Rudy Giuliani, came to Activision’s defense, and filed a motion to dismiss, which was granted. In granting Activision’s motion, the court held that Activision’s use of Noriega’s likeness was transformative and did not violate his right of publicity. This Issue Brief argues that the California Superior Court should not have applied the transformative use test but should have held that Manuel Noriega did not have a right of publicity for his place in Panama’s history.

Download Full Article (PDF)

Cite: 14 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 69