01 October 2021

Slashed Link Sausage Platter

No, not price-slashing; these link sausages are already free. OK, free of independently-imposed "user fees" that act as free riders on top of suppressed infrastructure investments, like the Direct Marketing Association does with its lobbying for lower per-item mailing costs for its crappy advertising. At least this blawg post won't take an extra day or three to get to you now.

  • The European Union, in a laudable effort to reduce wasted electronic gear (not just chargers, although that's certainly the face of the effort), will require portable devices to use USB-C. Apple can just bloody well be unhappy; I'm old enough to remember having to buy the correct floppy disks.

    I also remember driving on the left side of the road in the UK, which stubbornly refuses to conform to world standards. Sort of like US civilian expression of dates refuses to conform to world standards.

  • "New" taxes (no, they're not "new," they're merely "rolling back previous reductions") might soak the rich a little (registration-wall). At least until their lawyers and accountants find more loopholes.
  • Speaking of "even-handed application of existing law," consider publisher mistreatment of libraries for e-book sales. Yes, "sales"… because noninteractive content doesn't meet the requirements for being "licensed material." Unfortunately, nobody is really asking very loudly whether labelling ebooks as "you get a license, not an owned copy" isn't itself an abuse of monopoly power… most especially not the source of this article, which I chose only because it's not behind a paywall.
  • Copyright, and in particular music copyright, has some bizarre hangovers from nineteenth-century photography littered throughout it. When photographs first became copyrightable, copyright ownership was reified as persisting in the physical image-taking medium that was in the camera (the slide/negative/plate). Whoever had the legal ownership of that medium owned whatever copyright interests there were. Once musical recordings became an issue (even before White v. Apollo Music), the same principal was applied. Thus, we get to the "divided copyright" today that depends on who has "legal" and physical possession of the "master recordings." This leads to the excrutiatingly obvious dodge of rerecording one's own back catalog because there's a dispute between the recording artist and the owner of those master recordings. (I'm very, very carefully not inserting myself into the merits of the dispute(s)… or recording(s). Look, it's originating in Nashville, meaning that the probability of one side being absolutely free of chicanery is somewhat lower than the probability that I'll be named to the federal bench in the next round of nominations.)

    Which sure as hell leads to interesting questions about composer crediting, both the obvious ones raised in this article and the subtler ones arising in popular music. For example, how many "cover versions" actually properly, fully, and prominently credit the composer, let alone equally with the performer, in popular music? (Example: How many people think Jeff Buckley "wrote" "Hallelujah"?) And, lurking in the background in other areas, there are some ghostly echoes that presage the last sausage on this platter; cue the creepy music…

  • At long last, we get to the slasher. I know, the suspense has been killing you. But this is more of a Three Stooges tale than an actual horror film, or perhaps Laurel and Hardy Meet the Statue in the Park.

    The short version is that Freddy Krueger has been reclaimed by his writer from the producer. This resulted from the writer — a freelancer — issuing a § 203 notice; the producer defended "but it was a work for hire by an employee within the scope of his duties" ("see? union? therefore employee!" is probably a too-generous way to summarize the argument; from this opinion, there was legal malpractice at every stage, all the way back to the initial relationship). The Second Circuit said "not so much," rejected that defense, and affirmed that the notice was valid.

    Keep in mind that the critical relationship began after the effective date of the 1976 Act, so if the bar had been doing its job, there would have been notice and seminars and sample contracts and so on adapted to the new law. The text of the new law had been fixed for a year and a half before it went into effect. Even at 1970s publishing pace, that would have been enough time even if the first drafts of § 203 (and § 304(c)) hadn't been in wide circulation for a couple years, and the first drafts of § 101 for longer than that. It was malpractice for providers of legal advice to rely on "the way things had always been" as definitive.

    Unfortunately, the opinion in Horror, Inc. v. Miller, No. [20]18–3123 (2d Cir. 30 Sep 2021) (PDF) has its own flaws, its own blind spots regarding "changes in law" — to name an obvious one, consider that the ABC test of Dynamex, which applies in California and increasingly across the nation, was a largely post-1980s response precisely to abuses and evasions encouraged by the thirteen-factor "common law" test "endorsed" by the IRS in the 1980s and relied on in Reid… but no longer relied on by the IRS. Under the ABC test, this case comes out much closer and probably differently. (Aside: California employment firms are desperately asserting that the ABC test applies only to wage-and-hours disputes, but it doesn't despite the apparent caveats in Dynamex itself; at minimum, it applies also to workers' compensation and employment discrimination suits, and not just due to California law. The film industry really doesn't want to get into workers' compensation for mere scribblers…)

    In any event, a "proud" film franchise has been slashed to ribbons as a franchise by its creator… who was the scriptwriter, not the producer. Nearly from beyond the grave. I look forward to a 2023 blockbuster that will get a direct-to-streaming release: Friday the 13th Part LXIV: Freddy Passes the Bar.