Thursday, March 31, 2011

Oprah: Don’t Try This In Paris!

A federal judge in Pennsylvania has tossed out a book author's $100 million lawsuit against Oprah Winfrey for violating the copyright in the political booklet, How America Elects Her Presidents.

The judge in this case ruled that the use of questions from the book (which Oprah supposedly read out loud in a quiz session with a whiz kid first grader, who got the answers right... btw) didn’t constitute infringement.


The copyrightable thing was the compilation, the arrangement of the facts in the book. But apparently, the author didn’t copyright the book as a compilation. The facts, themselves, weren’t copyrightable and the judge agreed that the facts were “not original.”

(Oprah is pictured above in a publicity photo for her OWN cable network.)

In a copyright infringement case from France involving Carla Bruni, chanteuse and French first lady, the outcome may be different. Bruni is suing a French newspaper for publishing an audio clip of her performance of a classic French song, in connection with the songwriter's recent death. Certainly a topical use.

However, that country and many European nations have stronger protections for artists, known as “moral rights.”

According to Wikipedia: Moral rights are distinct from any economic rights tied to copyrights. Even if an artist has assigned his or her copyright rights to a work to a third party, he or she still maintains the moral rights to the work.”

Moral rights were first recognized in France and Germany and were later included in the Berne Convention in 1928. These rights respect the creator’s rights to attribution, anonymity, and the maintaining of the integrity of the work.

Apparently the audio clip that was posted by Midi Libre was a “draft version” of the song. While that kind of use might be protected as a news item and “fair use” according to US law, the enhanced protections for artists in France make Bruni’s case a plausible one.

I would include a photo of her here, but I'm scared.


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