Answer: Yes, a tweet can be protected by copyright.
This is a question that’s been in the news recently, after the text of a shirt worn by Frank Ocean and sold by an online retailer was discovered to have been copied from someone’s tweet without authorization.
Comments for the U.S. Copyright Office study of the “safe harbors” of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) were due February 21, and dozens of media and technology companies and organizations dutifully submitted filings. In what may be a first, however, a few dozen musicians also signed a video message that was submitted to the government on their behalf.
Unlike most such filings, which tend to consist of pages of anecdotes and arguments, the video — titled “YouTube Can Do Better” — couldn’t be much simpler. Over a half-minute of silence, white letters against a black background spell out “Dear U.S. Copyright Office,” then the names of the few dozen acts who endorsed the message, then “YouTube Can Do Better.” It doesn’t directly mention the Copyright Office’s study of the DMCA safe harbors. The list of acts is wide-ranging, including The Black Keys, Cee Lo Green, Evanescence, John Mellencamp, Rush, T Bone Burnett, and many more.
The Association of American Publishers (AAP) announced today that the former United States Register of Copyrights, Maria A. Pallante, will succeed Tom Allen who is retiring as President and CEO. Pallante, who will join AAP on January 17, 2017, is widely-known as an intellectual property expert with a distinguished record of public service.
“Maria is a creative, forward-thinking leader who has earned the deep respect of Members of Congress as well as intellectual property experts around the world,” said YS Chi, Chairman of the AAP Board of Directors. “The Board believes she is an excellent choice for President and CEO as she brings to AAP considerable expertise in many of the issues facing the publishing industry.”
Pallante headed the U.S. Copyright Office from June 1, 2011 – October 29, 2016. During her tenure, she administered an increasingly complex legal system of programs, practices, and regulations and assisted executive branch agencies with trade, treaties, and litigation. She was a key advisor to the U.S. Congress, working closely with lawmakers to evaluate the efficacy and balance of the Copyright Act and to address issues at the intersection of law, business, and technology. Pallante and her staff produced extensive policy studies, legislative recommendations, and strategic plans during the past few years, working with a vast stakeholder community and thousands of public comments.
Prior to her appointment as Register, Pallante held two senior positions in the U.S. Copyright Office: Deputy General Counsel (2007–2008) and Associate Register and Director of Policy and International Affairs (2008–2010). From 1999 to 2007, she was intellectual property counsel and director of licensing and branding for the worldwide network of Guggenheim Museums, headquartered in New York. Earlier in her career, she worked briefly for the Authors Guild and National Writers Union, respectively, and was in private practice in Washington, DC.
“I am deeply inspired by the values of the American publishing industry,” Pallante said. “Publishers promote literature, literacy, education, and research around the world, while advocating for free speech, creating jobs, and making considerable contributions to the global marketplace. It will be a privilege to represent these interests in matters of policy, trade and business.”
Pallante holds a law degree from George Washington University and a bachelor’s degree in history from Misericordia University, which also awarded her an honorary doctorate of humane letters.
Two weeks ago the The Association of Independent Music has issued an strong warning regarding a “serious counterfeit operation selling large numbers of CDs” using Amazon’s FBA (Fulfilled by Amazon) system:
“It appears that this product is manufactured in China, but is almost indistinguishable from the genuine article to the extent that even the legitimate manufacturer cannot tell without very close examination.
The RIAA did their own investigation with staggering results. The record label trade group placed orders on Amazon in a range of categories from new releases to greatest hits. Out of the 194 CDs delivered, 44 or 23% were counterfeit – including 18 CDs in orders fulfilled by Amazon itself, not a third-party vendor. If the order was for a “greatest hits” package, the percentage of counterfeits jumped to 78%.
Dr. Carla Hayden, the newly installed Librarian of Congress, removed Maria Pallante from the position of Register of Copyrights on Friday, Oct. 21. The move was sudden, resulting in the extensive speculation over the decision that we have seen since. Lost amid this speculation is the fact that Pallante served the nation well for nearly six years as an outstanding Register of Copyrights.
Over the course of my 30 years in Congress — and especially during my tenures as chairman and ranking member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet — I had the opportunity to work with several Registers, all of whom I relied upon for independent, expert counsel. As Register, Pallante continued that fine tradition, bringing a strong vision for the future of the Copyright Office and the American copyright system in the rapid technological advances of the 21st century….
Whatever the basis for Dr. Hayden’s decision to remove Register Pallante, we should not overlook that Maria Pallante served the Copyright Office, the Library of Congress, the Congress and the nation with rare vision, dedication and fairness. We can only hope that her successor has those qualities in equal measure.
[Editor Charlie sez: This is a must-watch speech from Graham Henderson, a long-time supporter of artist rights from his base in Toronto.
David says: “This is amazing. Graham Henderson is amazing. Canadian musicians have much better advocates than we US musicians have here in DC. In fact what have our advocacy groups in DC ever accomplished? I mean seriously!”]
On November 1, Music Canada’s President and CEO, Graham Henderson, delivered a moving address to the Economic Club of Canada on the erosion of creators’ rights in the digital age, and what can be done to re-establish a fair working environment.
Canada’s cultural industries were well represented with attendees from Sony Music Canada, Warner Music Canada, Universal Music Canada, The Motion Picture Association of Canada, the Writers’ Union of Canada, SOCAN, CIMA, CMPA, The Screen Composers Guild of Canada, the Ontario Media Development Corporation, Canada’s Walk of Fame, Ontario’s Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, Re:Sound, and TD Music. Guests from Ryerson University, OCAD, Humber College, CGC Education, Colleges Ontario, and York University represented the education sector. MPPs Monte McNaughton, Lisa MacLeod, Rick Nicholls, Lisa Thompson and Steve Clark were also in attendance.
We were happy to have been joined by local musicians as well, including Miranda Mulholland, Amanda Martinez, Caroline Brooks of the Good Lovelies, Murray Foster, Alysha Brilla, Jay Douglas, Sonia Aimy, and Sally Shaar of Ginger Ale & The Monowhales.
The Economic Club of Canada’s President and CEO, Rhiannon Traill, who took on the role five and a half years ago with vision and passion, introduced Graham’s address. Rhiannon thanked Graham for the support he has shown for the Economic Club of Canada and for her as President and CEO, and praised Graham as a champion for Canadian culture.
“You’re about to hear a very important speech, and I am really, really proud to be hosting it,” she said. “Graham is an advocate, he is an innovator, he is a collaborator, a bridge builder, a visionary, and a truly great Canadian dedicated to advancing and protecting our country’s music, arts, and culture.”
Below is the full video of Graham’s speech, titled The Broken Promise of a Golden Age: How creators got squeezed out in the digital era, and what can be done to restore their rights.
There’s a massive infringer hiding in plain sight. That’s a tactic that worked from the Case of the Purloined Letter to Osama Bin Laden–worked for a while, anyway.
So who is this massive infringer? Pirate Bay? mp3skull? YouTube-mp3? No–it’s Facebook. That’s right. Facebook, the property that every band is told they must be on, the property to which the entire global music industry drives millions of fans every minute of every day, the property that live streams music as a business line–isn’t licensed and is hiding behind the DMCA.
The dilemma that Facebook has created is one based on bait and switch. First, they invite artists into the platform with the promise that being on Facebook will open up new vistas of audience engagement with the implication of untold riches.
What Facebook don’t tell artists is that Facebook intends to get that music for free and also datamine the artist’s fans, sell the artist’s name as an advertising keyword, and generally do everything Facebook can to capture the fan. Even if the fan was already on Facebook, the music increases the fans engagement with the platform.
Unlike Amazon and Google, music isn’t even a loss leader to get consumers to buy other stuff. For all their problems, Amazon and Google do get at least some licenses and do pay royalties. Facebook won’t even pay the pathetically low royalties that these two massive Wal Mart level commoditizers pay, and Facebook doesn’t even recognize the rights of the very artists and songwriters whose names they sell out the back door for advertising keywords.
The other part of the dilemma is that Facebook can help artists reach an audience, assuming the artist broke the cardinal rule of marketing–don’t get dependent on these online platforms because when the switch comes, you’ll be trapped. Don’t have your only or even primary online presence be Facebook, because Facebook will own your fans.
This isn’t to say that Facebook doesn’t provide a valuable service, it does. But Facebook needs to properly articulate the bargain they want to make. If the deal is you get access to our platform at no charge and in return we let you pay us to boost your post or other fee based methods of engaging with your fans–but you have to give us your music for free–then say that up front.
There are many artists and especially songwriters who just can’t believe that Facebook pays nothing for music. And not only doesn’t but refuses to even engage on a negotiation.
This failure makes Facebook one of the biggest infringers. You would think that the government would be leading the charge against these people, right?
You would think.