05 January 2007

Comparative Law

Too many people in the entertainment industry — of which the publishing industry is a segment — are isolationists in the old Hawley-Smoot mold. It's not a coincidence that the "manufacturing clause" remained part of US copyright law until 1976! As Professor Patry noted earlier today — and as he implied yesterday — there are lots of interesting things about entertainment and related "stuff" outside the three-mile limit. (Leaving aside, for the moment, that the US is one of a small minority of nations that says the territorial limit is only three miles.)

Sometimes it's amusing to look at foreign coverage of US-based patent issues, and think about what they might mean in a copyright context. Consider, for example, cellphones. Increasingly, bleeding-edge users employ their cellphones as content containers — not just as a phone booth, but for a downloaded copy of Phone Booth. Leaving aside for the moment whether that downloaded copy was a pirate copy on YouTube — which we'll return to in a moment — consider the technology one finds in the cellphone. Many cellphones these days include a digital camera. Well, who exactly has the right to license that technology to cellphone manufacturers? Could creating copyrightable expression using an unlicensed implementation of that technology have implications for ownership of that copyright? Or should we just return to the "lawyers need jobs too!" paradigm? (Hopefully, the University of Washington is getting better legal counsel than did the University of Illinois in a case that virtually every first-year law student has encountered.)

And, in the reflexive interest of providing entertainment on this blawg, I offer the following test question for a course in copyright law. The embedded video may not be work-safe.

View the embedded video presentation below and discuss. You may assume that the presentation appears on YouTube. Do not limit your perspective to United States law, as the video raises several issues implicating non-US copyright law.

Hint: Your answer should specifically reference other cartoon characters, and should consider the content of the embedded video.
Suggested time: 60 minutes.

Of course, that question does cause some problems for the hearing- and/or visually impaired student...