silentbrad writes: The Hollywood Reporter has a story about a playwright who has filed a lawsuit claiming that Zorro is in the public domain: "For nearly a century, the masked outlaw Zorro has been a popular character who in books and films has been featured defending against tyrannical villains who seek to oppress the masses. Zorro has been played by Douglas Fairbanks, Antonio Banderas and others.... But now comes a big attempt to free Zorro from any intellectual property grip. On Wednesday, a lawsuit was filed that asserts that Zorro is in the public domain, that trademarks on the character should be canceled and that the company currently professing rights on Zorro has perpetrated a fraud and that the masses should be able to exploit Zorro as they wish. According to complaint, "Defendants have built a licensing empire out of smoke and mirrors." The lawsuit, filed in Washington federal court, comes from Robert Cabell, who says that in 1996, he published a musical entitled "Z — The Musical of Zorro," that's based upon author Johnston McCulley's first Zorro story published in 1919 and the Fairbanks film that was released the following year. Cabell now says that he has been threatened with litigation after licensing his musical so that it can be performed in Germany this summer. The threats allegedly come from John Gertz, who owns Zorro Productions Inc. As a result of the reported threats, Cabell has gone to court with a complaint that's similar to the one that was recently filed in an attempt to declare "Sherlock Holmes" in the public domain. Except this one goes even further by alleging fraud on Gertz' part. "Specifically," says the lawsuit, "Defendants have fraudulently obtained federal trademark registrations for various 'Zorro' marks and falsely assert those registrations to impermissibly extend intellectual property protection over material for which all copyrights have expired. Defendants also fraudulently assert that copyrights for later-published material provide defendants with exclusive rights in the elements of the 1919 story and the 1920 film." In a 2001 decision, in a footnote, a federal judge said, "It is undisputed that Zorro appears in works whose copyrights have already expired, such as McCulley's story 'The Curse of Capistrano' and Fairbanks's movie, 'The Mark of Zorro.'" Cabell says that despite the ruling, Gertz and his company have fraudulently obtained multiple trademark registrations on "Zorro" and after allegedly duping the Trademark Office, have been using the registrations to prevent others like him from exploiting expired Zorro intellectual property. Cabell now seeks a declaration of non-infringement, permanent injunctive relief and cancellation of trademarks. He's also seeking damages for tortious interference, fraud and violation of the Consumer Protection Act.... Read the entire lawsuit here.
silentbrad writes: The National Post reports: "The [Royal Canadian] Mint recently issued a warning to Halifax-based folk music singer Dave Gunning — whose upcoming album depicts pennies on both the front and back cover — that he has violated the government’s copyright on the currency. Most of us have probably never thought of inspecting our money in great detail, but Canadian bills do indeed contain a copyright notice in the lower right corner, and coins are covered under the same provisions. The album, entitled No More Pennies, includes lyrics about the coin and features a man sitting in a coffee shop with a bunch of pennies strewn across the counter on its front cover. On the back is a picture of a giant penny falling below the horizon like a sunset. The Mint says it will not charge Mr. Gunning a fee for the first 2,000 albums he produces, but will levy a charge of $1,200 for the next 2,000 copies — a cost this struggling artist says he cannot afford. According to one government bureaucrat, however, the Mint is helping 'this guy out by giving him a break.'... 'It is pennies to them but is pretty substantial for me,' said Mr. Gunning, who has launched a 'Penny Drive' to try and raise the money to pay this unexpected tax.... The Canadian dollar is not the only major currency protected by copyright — the British Pound and the Euro also feature copyright notices. But the idea that the government can own the copyright on its works is a concept that’s completely foreign to Americans and citizens of many other countries. Under this country’s Copyright Act, all government works 'belong to Her Majesty' and remain copyrighted 'for a period of fifty years following the end of that calendar year.' This is known as 'Crown Copyright,' which is different from how public works are handled in countries such as the United States, where government documents are automatically put into the public domain."
silentbrad writes: The CBC reports that the Copyright Board of Canada will begin charging for music played at live venues: 'Money can't buy love — but if you want some great tunes playing at your wedding, it's going to cost you. The Copyright Board of Canada has certified new tariffs that apply to recorded music used at live events including conventions, karaoke bars, ice shows, fairs and, yes, weddings. The fees will be collected by a not-for-profit called Re:Sound. While the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (otherwise known as SOCAN) already collects money from many of these events for the songwriters, Re:Sound will represent the record labels and performers who contributed to the music.... For weddings, receptions, conventions, assemblies and fashion shows, the fee is $9.25 per day if fewer than 100 people are present and goes up to $39.33 for crowds of more than 500 people. If there's dancing, the fees double. Karaoke bars will pay between $86.06 and $124 annually depending on how many days per week they permit the amateur crooning. And parades, meanwhile, will be charged $4.39 for each float with recorded music participating in the parade, subject to a minimum fee of $32.55 per day.'
silentbrad writes: Michael Geist talks about Bill C-11, which has just gone into review: "The Bill C-11 committee has just opened the clause-by-clause review of the copyright bill with 39 amendments on the table: 8 from the goverment, 17 from the NDP, and 14 from the Liberals. The good news is that the misinformation campaign on issues such as fair dealing, user generated content, consumer provisions, statutory damages, and Internet provider liability has largely failed as the government is not proposing significant changes to those provisions. Unfortunately, the digital lock provisions will also remain largely unchanged as the government is not proposing to link circumvention to copyright infringement (both the NDP and Liberals will put forward such amendments). The music and movie lobby are getting one of their demands as the enabler provision will be expanded from targeting sites "primarily designed" to enable infringement to providing a service primarily for the purpose of enabling acts of infringement. The CIMA demand for an even broader rule has been rejected."