Friday, March 29, 2013

Copyright Chief Finally Urges Congress to Revamp the Copyright Act

Apparently, recognizing that the Copyright Act is in a need of a complete makeover, the Register of Copyrights, Maria Pallante, told a House congressional subcommittee that Congress should redo the Copyright Act.  The Copyright Act has struggled to keep pace with the new technology and the realities of artistic expression.  Recall that the White House announced that Americans should be able to unlock their mobile phones in order to allow them to freely move among any of the carriers.  The White House's announcement came in response to the Copyright Office stating that unlocking a mobile phone could subject someone to civil and criminal penalties.  Of course, that position by the Copyright Office created an outcry to reform the Copyright Act. 

Of the three areas of intellectual property, the Copyright Act seems the most out of step with its goal of encouraging creative expression.  Of course, Ms. Pallante wants to strengthen the enforcement capabilities of the Copyright Act.  I understand that position, but I would caution that there needs to be some common sense inserted into the equation.  Indeed, even Ms. Pallante seemed to understand this need for a more "balanced approach" to copyright enforcement.  For example, while sharing a song with another would subject the sharer to the statutory damages for copyright infringement, there should be some acknowledgement that, by sharing that song, the sharer may be actually providing a benefit to the artist. 

Consider this scenario:  Jane Doe hears a song by Band X that she absolutely loves.  Ms. Doe logs in to her iTunes account and searches for additional songs by Band X (she purchases additional songs by Band X and others similar to the sound of Band X by way of iTunes' suggestion features).  In her enthusiastic state about Band X, she sends the song to her good friends, John Roe.  John loves the song and he also searches and purchases additional Band X songs from iTunes.  In this scenario, while Jane Doe technically infringed Band X's copyright, it does not make sense to enforce the statutory damage amount because she actually provided a benefit to Band X and other bands by purchasing additional music.  The same holds true for sharing the song with John who makes additional purchases.  I would hope that under this scenario, Congress can find a way to rework the Copyright Act to more accurately take in the facts of the case.

Now, do not get me wrong, I am not saying that the Jane Does of the world should be given free rein to steal the creative expression of a band or other artist, but there should be some mechanism for allowing the punishment to fit the "crime."  Given the current state of Congress, I am fairly certain that any sweeping common sense re-configuring of the Copyright Act is not even close to coming to fruition.  I hope I am wrong. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Naming Rights for Buildings Is Taking a Whole New Turn

I am sure everyone has heard about the recent spate of naming (and re-naming) rights being bought and sold for various sporting venues. There is Emirates Stadium in London.  The HP Pavilion (aka the "Shark Tank") in San Jose (home to the San Jose Sharks).  There is the Coliseum (home to the Oakland Raiders and Oakland A's), PETCO Park (home of the San Diego Padres), AT&T Park (home to the San Francisco Giants), and the list goes on.  As many fans know, the names seem to change like the weather.  For example the soccer facility in Carson, California is changing its name from the Home Depot Center to the StubHub Center.

However, these companies have nothing on the fashion companies in Italy.  Apparently, the latest trend for these fashion companies is to invest in rescuing historical monuments in Italy.  Fendi is sponsoring the renovation of the Trevi Fountain.  Tod's donated several million dollars to rehabilitate Rome's Colosseum, Gucci donates half of its museum's ticket sales to preserve the city of Florence's art.  Prada is funding a six-year restoration of an 18th Century pallazzo in Venice.  Diesel is spending millions to restore Venice's Rialto Bridge.  Brunello Cucinelli is paying $ 1.4 million to restore the Arch of Augustus in Perugia.

To hear these companies put it, their brands received a boost to their reputations through Italy's reputation for beauty, elegance, and craftsmanship.  The idea is to give back to Italy's reputation when Italy's economy is such that Italy cannot maintain these historic treasures as it should.  Just as interestingly, the companies are not plastering their brands all over these historic treasures.  Instead, they receive their recognition in a small, fairly unobtrusive way.  For example, Fendi will have a small plaque installed near the Trevi fountain for four years acknowledging Fendi's donation.  Similarly, Tod's will see its logo on tickets sold to the Colosseum. 

This is an interesting take on branding.  It is definitely subtler and not so "in your face."  It is also an opportunity for these companies to "give back" to the treasures which helped make their brand, as well as making a statement to customers about their "ethics" or "ethos."  It also is an acknowledgement as to the growing inter-connectivity of "history" and "business."  I, for one, sure hope that these companies (and many more) continue to give back to the historical landmarks of the world--and, receive a huge boost in their good will for their efforts.