Hollywood Docket: Hacking Rights; Pellicano-Related Verdict; 'Family Ties' Settlement

DOWN: Anthony Pellicano

The jailed private eye is denied a bail request even as others convicted in the infamous wiretapping scandal walk free pending appeals. (His lawyers vow to fight the ruling.)

The U.S. Copyright Office has ruled on exempting certain activities from being illegal under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's anti-circumvention protections.

The decision came after proposals were brought forward by public advocates, libraries, documentary filmmakers, individual consumers and others. The Copyright Office held hearings and considered allowing more tinkering to consumer entertainment and mobile devices.

It's a process that happens every three years, and this time around, the Copyright Office decided that it's OK to take a DVD and "make use of short portions...for the purpose of criticism or comment" in noncommercial videos such as remix or mash-up videos, documentary films, multimedia ebooks offering film analysis, and for educational purposes such as a film studies classroom.

“Without this exemption, many important projects currently in production could not have been made,” said Michael Donaldson, an attorney who worked with the USC Intellectual Property Clinic and a coalition of documentary filmmakers on the issue. “This is a great day for documentary filmmaking and for the future of books.”

In addition, the Copyright Office applied these circumvention exceptions to online distribution services as well.

"We're thrilled that the Copyright Office broke new ground in protecting remix artists," wrote EFF intellectual property director Corynne McSherry. "We can't let misguided federal law block a new form of art and expression."

Advocates of looser hacking rules didn't get everything they wanted. While the Copyright Office reauthorized an allowance to circumvent access controls on mobile phones to allow software interoperability, it will now become illegal to jailbreak mobile phones to connect to wireless networks other than the original carrier. This means people who buy an iPhone through AT&T can't change the settings to connect with Sprint or another carrier.

Consumer advocates are also not happy about decision to prevent jailbreaking of iPads and to prevent the cracking of DVDs for personal use and time-shifting allowances.

"“Under this view of the law every personal non-commercial space shift is a violation of copyright law," said Public Knowledge vp Michael Weinberg. "That means, according to the Copyright Office, every person who has ever ripped a CD to put on her iPod is a copyright infringer.”

The Copyright Office's full ruling is here.

In other entertainment and media news:

  • In the first jury verdict in a civil case emanating from jailed Hollywood private eye Anthony Pellicano, the ex-wife of a billionaire philanthropist was ordered to pay $4 million for paying Pellicano to invade the privacy of her husband.
  • The Asylum, the low-budget film studio that makes so-called "mockbusters" that look and feel similar to big-budget Hollywood movies, has won an appeals court victory in an odd case. The owners of the Winchester Mystery House, a "haunted" tourist attraction near San Jose, sued claiming the Asylum's 2009 film The Haunting of Winchester House, which was described on a DVD jacket as "the terrifying true story," infringed its trademark. Asylum filed motion for summary judgment, which was granted, and now a California appeals court has affirmed. Here's the opinion.  
  • A California appeals court has reaffirmed a lower court's decision that Allison Gibson, the creator and former showrunner of  Reba, isn't entitled to a share of profits from the 2nd season after she departed. Here's the ruling.
  • CBS and Paramount Home Entertainment have settled a case claiming they breached a copyright licensing deal by including the Texaco Star Theatre theme song in DVD releases of the hit 1980s series Family Ties. Kling Corp., which holds the copyright on the theme song, sued demanding revenue from the show. A stipulation announcing the settlement was filed Friday.
  • Hear the story about Jay-Z and Beyonce losing their bid for trademark rights on Blue Ivy Carter, the name of their daughter? That's not quite accurate. What actually happened was a Boston wedding planner had filed a registration on "Blue Ivy" (before the birth of the baby) and achieved success at the USPTO. That led a trademark examiner to find a likelihood of confusion in two classes of goods, but still leaving Jay-Z and Beyonce potentially able to lock up a trademark on all sorts of other goods -- beauty products, toys electronic devices, etc. The DuetsBlog has more.