Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Costume Right of Publicity

A new survey reveals that of all the 2008 presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani would make for the scariest Halloween costumes. Last-minute shoppers can still pick up Halloween masks of Dick Cheney, Laura Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Bill Clinton, the Rev. Al Sharpton, and other famous people who probably didn't give manufacturers permission to market their mugs. Could Hillary Clinton order the companies to stop selling her face?


Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Right of Publicity in USAToday

The use of Marilyn Monroe's iconic face to sell merchandise has prompted her only heir to push for laws giving estates of deceased celebrities sole control over marketing their famous personas.

The feud is playing out in New York and California. It pits the rights of estates to approve any use of the celebrity's image against the First Amendment right to use images and words of famous people for purposes such as research and art.

It has attracted a star-studded cast on both sides and placed millions of dollars at stake for families and other heirs. The dispute is the latest round in a long-running debate over the right to market celebrities' images after they die.

BITTER BATTLE CONTINUES: Photographers' heirs seek a cut of Monroe fortune

In New York, the right to market the images dies with the celebrity. A bill to hand estates power over the images stalled, despite support from Al Pacino, Yoko Ono and the estates of Babe Ruth and others. The bill likely will be reintroduced.
FIND MORE STORIES IN: New York | Photographers | Lee Strasberg

In California, where lawmakers are more sympathetic to entertainment industry issues, newly passed legislation clarifies and expands a state law that allows estates to control the marketing of deceased celebrities' images. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has not said whether he will sign the bill.

"There is a big argument that celebrities are in the public domain," says Greg Herbert, an Orlando attorney who specializes in First Amendment law. "Usually the motives of the estates are purely monetary. Are we going to reward people who are not the artists …? What's the public argument in giving them the right to control these photos when they did nothing to produce them?"

Hollywood's reigning sex goddess left most of her estate to her New York acting coach and mentor, Lee Strasberg. He left it to his third wife, Anna, when he died in 1982.

Anna Strasberg has made $30 million from Monroe's estate, court papers say. In 2001, she formed Marilyn Monroe LLC to manage it. It sells key chains, handbags and T-shirts with Monroe's image. In 2005, the company sued four photography archives that had been selling her photos to marketers of Monroe memorabilia.

The archives own the copyrights to the photos, but Strasberg claimed she controls the marketing and was owed licensing fees. The suits were split between federal judges in New York and California, who ruled against Strasberg in May.

The legislative push to get around those decisions began in June. Opponents, including the estates of Ray Charles and Marlon Brando, say the California bill will revoke the public's access to images and words of hundreds of actors and artists.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Media Execs Get Earful on Lyrics at House Subcommittee Hearing

The House Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and
Consumer Protection held a hearing Tuesday on degrading images in the
media. It was chaired by Rep Bobby Rush (D-IL). Most of the members
of the committee said they were looking for constructive dialog and
talked of their respect for the First Amendment. Chairman Rush said
it was not a "head-hunting" expedition. But along with those industry
witnesses who pointed out that Elvis and The Beatles had been branded
"devil music" were those, like Joseph Pitts (R-PA), who invoked
lead-painted toys, cigarette manufacturers and Columbine in his
assessment of the situation.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Amazon Launches Early Version Of Music Service has finally unveiled a beta version of its much-discussed digital music service, called Amazon MP3, offering more than 2 million DRM-free songs.

The service is almost entirely Web based, meaning no desktop application is needed to access the service. Customers have the option of downloading a small application that automatically saves purchased files in either iTunes or Windows Media Player.

Customers with existing Amazon accounts can simply pay for each track from their credit cards already stored with the system, and add digital tracks or albums to a cart that contains other products sold on as well.

As promised, there is variable pricing. Half of the 2 million tracks available cost 99 cents, while the other half are only 89 cents. More interesting is the variable pricing for albums, which range from $5 and under to $9. The service clearly advocates buying full albums over digital singles, and several artists that only will sell their work digitally as full albums -- such as Radiohead -- are present.

EMI Music and Universal Music Group remain the only two major labels participating, along with a number of independent labels, due to the lack of DRM.

All labels, of course, sell their physical CDs on as well.

Amazon shoppers looking for physical CDs will find links to the download service for those albums that are available digitally, an interesting cross-selling technique designed to promote the download service to those who may not even know it exists yet. In every case, the digital album costs less than the physical one.

Amazon did not give a timeline for how long the service will be in beta mode.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Radiohead allows DRM-free digital downloads

Radiohead has finally broken its long-held ban on digital downloads by placing much of its catalog on a U.K. digital download service.

The band's former label, EMI Music Group, struck a deal with 7digital for such albums as "The Bends" and "OK Computer." Only the full albums are available, not individual track downloads. The catalog also will be sold without any DRM protection, per EMI's broader effort.

This has been a sticking point with Radiohead for some time, and is the primary reason its work has not yet appeared on iTunes. Radiohead does have a handful of songs on iTunes that were included on various soundtracks or compilations.

The 7digital service has scored a number of high-profile content exclusives of late due to its willingness to sell in album-only formats. Earlier this month it added Pink Floyd's catalog, and in August nabbed more than 20 Rolling Stones albums.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Court hears Jackson costume malfunction

PHILADELPHIA - CBS took many precautions before the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show that aired with Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction," an attorney for the company said Tuesday.

The broadcaster is challenging a $550,000 fine issued by the Federal Communications Commission. The two sides offered arguments before three federal appeals judges who must decide whether the brief glimpse of Jackson's barely covered breast was indecent, or merely a fleeting and accidental glitch that shouldn't be punished.

CBS Corp. lawyer Robert Corn-Revere said the network took many precautions, including choosing Jackson and Justin Timberlake over more provocative performers, reviewing the script, voicing concerns about ad-libbed remarks and applying a 5-second audio delay.

"I think the precautions CBS took even satisfied the FCC's standards," Corn-Revere said.

FCC lawyer Eric Miller argued that CBS was indifferent to the risk that "a highly sexualized performance" might cross the line.

Timberlake sang the lyrics, "Gonna have you naked by the end of this song," and that's exactly what happened, Miller said.

CBS should have known ahead of time what it was going to broadcast, the FCC said. The commission noted that Jackson's choreographer was quoted three days earlier as saying the performance would include "some shocking moments."

The case is the second recent test of the federal government's powers to regulate broadcast indecency. Last June, a federal appeals court in New York invalidated the government's policy on fleeting profanities uttered over the airwaves.

Some 90 million Americans watched Timberlake pull off part of Jackson's bustier, briefly exposing her right breast, which had only a silver sunburst "shield" covering her nipple, during the halftime show. The episode was later explained as a problem with her costume.

CBS challenged the FCC's fine, claiming "fleeting, isolated or unintended" images should not automatically be considered indecent. The agency noted it has long held that "even relatively fleeting references may be found indecent where other factors contribute to a finding of patent offensiveness."

Miller argued that Jackson and Timberlake were employees of CBS and that CBS should have to pay for their "willful" actions, given the network's lack of oversight.

via AP and

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Swedish Government Tries To Stop Piracy... Again

In another push to deter online piracy in Sweden, the country's government proposed a law forcing Internet service providers to cut off customers sharing copyrighted material via the Web. A report by a government-appointed investigator said that illegal file-sharing was "a significant obstacle" to giving users the options to abide by the law. If the ISPs choose not to cut off their service, they will face large fines.

The Swedish government has been trying hard over the last two years to shed the nation's image as a den for illegal MP3s. First came the July 2005 law banning online file-sharing. Then the police raided BitTorrent tracker the Pirate Bay. Next came the overturned conviction of a man standing trial for online piracy in October 2006.

According to the Associated Press, 10 percent of tech-savvy Swedes get their media illegally, in spite of all of the government actions. It remains to be seen if going to the source will be a significant deterrent.