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Weekly Issues in the News

Google Books

Google Inc. and a group of publishers have agreed to a settlement over making digital copies of books. Google and the Association of American Publishers (AAP) said on October 4th that U.S. publishers can decide whether or not they want their books made available through Google. Google Books has allowed users to browse up to 20% of books in its library and then purchase the digital version through Google Play. Google has spent years scanning over 20 million books in partnerships with major libraries around the world. The Authors Guild responded by filing suit in 2005, alleging that Google violated copyright laws. Google settled the matter in 2008, agreeing to pay $125 to each copyright owner whose copyrighted books had been scanned, and to locate and share revenue with the authors who had yet to come forward. However, the Justice Department rejected the settlement. The Authors Guild stated that in spite of the publishers' settlement, it would continue with its fight. "Google continues to profit from its use of millions of copyright-protected books without regard to authors' rights, and our class-action lawsuit on behalf of U.S. authors continues," Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild said in a statement.


Steel Magnolias

Victoria L. White, the executive producer of the 1989 film Steel Magnolias, filed a lawsuit on October 1st against Lifetime Entertainment, A&E Networks and Sony Pictures Television, claiming that an upcoming TV movie based on the film is being made without permission or agreement for the underlying rights. The lawsuit was filed in the Superior Court of the State of California, Los Angeles County. In the complaint, White alleges to have been "shocked and dismayed" when she learned about the Lifetime project. White co-produced the film with Ray Stark, who died in 2004. The complaint states that White acquired rights to the movie when she entered into an agreement with Rastar Productions Inc., Stark's company, in 1989. In 1991 Sony acquired Rastar Productions. According to the complaint, there was a 1992 CBS movie based on the same material, and White was credited as a co-producer. The lawsuit says that the defendants told White that her rights to a TV version were limited to the 1992 TV movie. She claims that is not the case, and that she is entitled to royalties on all future TV versions. White believes that she is entitled to producing credit on the TV movie, and compensation of $5,000 per episode plus a $10,000 bonus, and a share of net profits. White has also asked the court to stop the release of the new Lifetime movie unless she gets a screen credit for her compensation.



YouTube recently added a more comprehensive appeals process that could help uploaders confronted with unjustified take-down notices in YouTube's Content ID program. Content ID is a program used by YouTube to automate the take-down process of unlicensed content. The program has been in place for four years, and YouTube said Wednesday that it has been used by more than 3,000 content owners, who have supplied the site with more than 300,000 reference files. YouTube announced the changes on its site stating:

"Users have always had the ability to dispute Content ID claims on their videos if they believe those claims are invalid. Prior to today, if a content owner rejected that dispute, the user was left with no recourse for certain types of Content ID claims (e.g., monetize claims). Based upon feedback from our community, today we're introducing an appeals process that gives eligible users a new choice when dealing with a rejected dispute. When the user files an appeal, a content owner has two options: release the claim or file a formal DMCA notification."

Adding the DMCA could help uploaders defend their use of material when it is covered by the fair use doctrine, and could help YouTube to convince more content owners to monetize. YouTube also said that it has improved its algorithms to detect false take-down notices, which could reduce the risk of automated mass take-downs.


California's Student Athlete Bill of Rights

Athletes enrolled in California's four-year institutions or higher education will be protected by the Student-Athletes Bill of Rights, effective January 1, 2013. This is the first law of this nature in the nation. The law applies to California universities that generate more than $10 million annually in athletics-related media revenue. Under the new law, if a student suffers a season-ending injury while participating in his or her scholarship program or exhausts his or her eligibility, the school must continue to provide benefits equivalent to that student's scholarship. Schools must pay the medical premiums for program-related medical claims for lower-income students and must pay the deductible amount for program-related injuries for any athlete. If an athlete requires ongoing treatment for a sports-related injury, the school must provide at least two years of that treatment or treatment covering insurance. The law also requires universities to provide specified financial and life skills workshops, including budget recommendations and time management skills. It directs universities to use their athletic media revenues to pay for complying with the law. Schools directly affected based on current revenue are Stanford, Berkeley, UCLA, and USC. NCPA President Ramogi Huma explained: "This is a great day for college athletes. California has acted to ensure that the players generating billions of dollars for its colleges are guaranteed basic physical, academic, and financial protections. No other state in the nation guarantees its college athletes these protections, and the NCPA will work to change that."



Bakers Footwear Group Inc., which operates 215 women's shoe stores in the United States, filed for bankruptcy protection on October 3rd. The company has been closing and selling stores, laying off staff and ending licensing deals. Bakers' weak sales pushed it into default on a $30 million secured credit facility it entered into with Crystal Financial LLC. Crystal agreed to lend the company $22 million to get it through its bankruptcy, according to documents filed in St. Louis's bankruptcy court. The loan requires that Bakers have a bankruptcy restructuring agreement in place by Nov. 2, or begin a process to find a buyer for the chain. Bakers has assets worth $41.9 million and debts worth $59.5 million, according to court documents.


Geisa Balla is an attorney practicing in New York, NY. She can be reached at geisa.balla@gmail.com.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 8, 2012 6:01 PM.

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