It’s Friday, I’m in Love (With Copyright Law)

You’re no doubt one of the multi-millions who’ve seen Rebecca Black’s viral video Friday.  Or the “Bob Dylan” cover.  Or the Colbert-Fallon cover.

Anyway, you’ve probably seen it in one form or another.

Writing for The Hollywood Reporter, Aaron Moss (partner at Greenberg Glusker) provides a thorough analysis of the copyright issues surrounding the song itself and a brewing legal dispute between Black’s family and Ark Music Factory.  Over the course of the article, Moss cites the following rights/licenses implicated by Black’s viral video and its subsequent marketing:

  • copyright in the sound recording
  • copyright in the composition
  • mechanical license
  • digital phonograph delivery license
  • synchronization license
  • master use license
  • public performance license (in the composition)
  • digital public performance license (in the sound recording)

Confused yet?  You’re probably supposed to be.  As Moss puts it in the section explaining that the copyright in the sound recording and the copyright in the composition are two completely separate rights:

This rather unintuitive concept, by itself, has been enough to pay countless lawyers’ salaries over the years.

Or as Moss notes as an aside when explaining the concept of digital performance licenses:

As a result of the way copyright law has developed — which is to say, ad hoc, aimlessly, in fits and starts, and with plenty of lobbyist influence…

I highly recommend reading Moss’ entire piece.  It’s a good reminder of just how convoluted contemporary copyright law is and just how many actors (artists, session musicians, engineers, label personnel, etc.) may have to agree in order to exploit an existing song in a new way.

Dodd to head MPAA

Despite an explicit pledge to not become a lobbyist, former U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd [Wikipedia backgrounder] announced today that he will head the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA):

“I am truly excited about representing the interests of one of the most creative and productive industries in America, not only in Washington but around the world,” said Senator Dodd. “The major motion picture studios consistently produce and distribute the most sought after and enjoyable entertainment on earth. Protecting this great American export will be my highest priority.

“In several important ways, taking this step represents a continuation of my work in the Senate, from advancing the interests of children and families and creating and safeguarding American jobs to the protection of intellectual property and the expansion of international trade,” said Senator Dodd. [emphasis added]

A lot of outlets are covering this story, including tech outlets (like Wired) and political papers (like The Hill).  However, I was particularly intrigued by the juxtaposition of coverage in The Atlantic and The Hollywood Reporter.  The Atlantic wondered exactly how Dodd was qualified for this new job:

It’s a little bit hard to understand how Dodd’s connections throughout Connecticut, Washington, and the banking industry will prepare him for his new role, but perhaps the entertainment industry knows a different Dodd than us financial reporters.

The Hollywood Reporter suggests at least part of the answer:

While Dodd does not have a lot of experience in Hollywood, he is known to have many friends in show business, and has supported the MPAA on key trade, piracy and other issues. He was also author of banking law last year that included a section sought by the MPAA and others to stop plans for a futures market in movies.

I would add Dodd is qualified to head the MPAA because he can deliver what everyone wants when they hire a lobbyist:  something from the government.  Frankly, the content of Dodd’s work during his years in the Senate doesn’t matter; his contacts do.

I guess it was too much to expect “[t]hat Dodd would forgo a trip through Washington’s ‘revolving door'”.  Looks like he’s going to be able to break out his “thick Rolodex” after all.

Update 3/2/2011: TechDirt picked up the story this morning.