Fair Use: Yes or No?
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1M ago
Trick photograph of man with two heads (1901)  Dear Rich: I have a new, unique book soon to be published about judging the quality of art. Every image in the book, from ancient to contemporary art,   is aesthetically critiqued, often with diagrams. There are no variables. It is consistent throughout. From everything I've researched, all the images in the book should come under fair use. What are your thoughts? I believe this is a simple yes or no question.  Polar interrogatives work well in psychology tests, congressional hearings, and wedding vows, but they're not suit ..read more
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The Enchanted Copyright History of Nature Boy
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1M ago
Frank Sinatra with eden ahbez (ahbez did not capitalize his name  believing that "only God and infinity deserved capitalization.")  Dear Rich: I wrote a poem using the entire song "Nature Boy" with the lyrics interspersed between my words, sort of a running narrative. Do I need permission to publish it in a book or other written form, or a video wherein the entire poem is recited?  Yes, you would need permission to use all the lyrics from "Nature Boy." The song was first published in 1948 and the estate of the songwriter, eden ahbez (1908-1995), claims&n ..read more
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Matricide, Movies and Salinger
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4M ago
Dear Rich: I have written a play and movie script around a public matricide. I gained access to years of diaries, photos, and scrapbooks through a university's special collections library. The entire collection was placed on the curb for the trash collector in 1973 or 1974 but was then rescued and given to the library. I have read that the "change of ownership" of this collection is considered a publication. Is that correct? Included in the collection is an undated typewritten poem by the daughter-murderer (who died in 2007), probably written 1944-1949. Plus, there were threatening lette ..read more
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Kick It! Marital Arts, Choreography, and Copyright
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5M ago
Dear Rich: I am writing a martial arts mobile phone app. The app includes text describing the martial arts movements and choreography illustrating the moves. The martial arts forms have been relatively unchanged since the 1970’s. From what I can tell, the movements have been treated like they are in the public domain, without copyright or trademark notices. Is this accurate? The various martial arts schools use combinations of choreographic moves called "forms" or "kata" that date back centuries. So, most of what you want to use is in the public domain due to old age, and you can pe ..read more
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Does Copyright Notice Protect a Website?
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8M ago
Dear Rich: Does putting "Copyright 2023" at the bottom of page pages protect it from site visitors who download an image or narrative content? Placing a copyright notice on your website is like sticking a "Keep off the grass" sign on your front lawn. People who respect your property rights will stay off, and those who don't ... you'll just have to chase them away. The copyright notice doesn't add any new weapons to your copyright arsenal (although it used to be very important). Unless you're willing to follow up on the theft of your website with a threatening letter (or better yet, have you ..read more
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Chinaware Designs to Needlepoint Patterns: Problems Getting Permission
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9M ago
Dear Rich: I am adapting needlework-like designs used in pottery/chinaware by creating patterns for needleworkers. Much of the chinaware was produced in the 1800's but some as late as the 1960s. I have sought and received permission where possible, but not in all cases because the companies no longer exist. What are the laws covering those designs for which I cannot get permission?  We think you will be fine using your Chinaware designs, but our answer depends on the following factors: Do you need permission? You don't need permission for designs produced before 1928 as they are in the p ..read more
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Use Frida's Paintings? (Yes!) Use Frida's Name? (Maybe)
Dear Rich Blog
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10M ago
Frida Kahlo age 12 (1919) Dear Rich: I'm filming a romantic comedy in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and refer to the artist Frida Kahlo in two scenes and show a photo of one of her paintings (self-portrait) hanging on the wall. Do I need permission to use her name and photo of her self-portrait?  You don't need permission to refer to Frida Kahlo in your film's dialogue. Free speech guarantees your right to reference a historical figure. More importantly, deceased figures cannot be defamed or have their privacy invaded (the two common basis for lawsuits involving the use of real ..read more
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Can They Back Out of the Deal?
Dear Rich Blog
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1y ago
Our favorite negotiation text Dear Rich: I’ve been negotiating a license agreement with a company that specializes in branding cleaning products for supermarket and boxstore chains. The negotiations have been going on for two months, and we’ve agreed on the basic terms and the royalties and on most of the “back-end” issues, but we’re hung up on who owns the rights to improvements. The company is talking about canceling the deal. Can they legally back out at this point?  As a general rule, the licensor can withdraw an offer at any time before you formally accept. Wi ..read more
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Are Ads in Old Magazines Protected by Copyright?
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1y ago
Dear Rich: I am working on a book project which would use advertisements from a major U.S. corporation that were published in a popular U.S. magazine between 1918 and 1962. The magazine itself was copyrighted, but the ads do not contain any copyright markings, so my understanding is that the ads would have entered into the public domain. The advertisements are most likely in the public domain. It's true that the 1976 Copyright Act expressly requires that advertisements in magazines have separate copyright notices. But your advertisements (1918-1962) are subject to the 1909 Copyright Act ..read more
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Bobbleheads and Baseball Cards: Does Pairing Make it Less Risky?
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1y ago
Bo Jackson photo by Chris Putnam (altered) Dear Rich: I’m trying to figure out if I can pair a sports card displayed with a piece of matching bobblehead art featuring celebrity/athlete likenesses for sale in a limited offering (maybe 100-250 of each). I know selling celeb art is risky business but what happens when it’s paired with something of value that is perfectly legal to sell like a card. For example, I made a Christmas-themed bobblehead of Bo Jackson inspired by his 1990 scorecard. Would the bobblehead alone be considered transformative art? Selling an infringing item wi ..read more
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