Are “Digital Actors” Protected By Copyright?

A company called Digicon Media, LLC has issued a press release, claiming that it has obtained a copyright registration for the “digital persona” of a “virtual Marilyn Monroe.”  Digicon appears to be claiming that the registration broadly covers the exclusive right to a digital representation of Marilyn Monroe’s persona or performance.

It seems to me that Digicon is grossly overstating its rights (at least its rights under copyright law).  Last time I checked, neither “digital actors” nor “digital personas” were classes of works protected by copyright.  Indeed, the registration cited by Digicon is a VA registration, making it likely that the registration covers a particular digital animation as an audiovisual work.  If so, the registered copyright (as opposed to any potential right of publicity issues) would not prevent others from creating their own digital animation featuring a virtual Marilyn Monroe, so long as the second animation was not substantially similar to Digicon’s animation (i.e., different clothing, movement, dialogue, etc.).

There are some other interesting points about the registration.  First, the registration claimant is not Digicon, but rather is an individual by the name of Peter F. Paul.  Mr. Paul is an interesting character in his own right, with a colorful personal background that includes jail time and several unsuccessful bids to wrest the rights to several Marvel Comics characters away from Marvel and Stan Lee.  Also of interest, the registration record notes that Copyright Office correspondence is part of the record.  I would imagine that the issues raised in that correspondence are very interesting, indeed!

Version Control Blues: Failure to Keep Copy of Registered Version of Source Code Dooms Copyright Infringement Claim

Creative Commons License photo credit: Sebastian Fuss
A recent First Circuit decision highlights the importance of keeping records of revisions to computer software in copyright infringement cases.  The court affirmed summary judgment against the plaintiff because the source code it used to prove infringement was from a later version of the software than the one registered.  The court reasoned that without comparison to the source code of the version actually registered, the plaintiff could not prove that the copied code came from the registered version. [Read more…]

District Court Applies Irrebutable Presumption Of Ownership From False Authorship Claim On Registration









In what can only be described as a stunning case of confusion between the Section 410 evidentiary presumption afforded certain copyright registrations and a fraud on the Copyright Office challenge to the underlying validity of a copyright registration, a court in the Central District of California refused to even consider a defendant’s challenge to the plaintiff’s copyright ownership merely because the plaintiff had obtained a registration falsely listing itself as the author of a fabric design.

[Read more…]

Copyright Registration Alert: Copyright Office Extends Interim Rule for Expedited Registration

The Copyright Office has extended its interim rule allowing (in limited circumstances) free conversion of a regular application to the expedited “special handling” track if the regular application has been pending without Copyright Office action for over six months.

The Copyright Office’s transition from an antiquated and byzantine “paper” processing system to a streamlined electronic system has been, well, interesting. . . .  One unintended consequence has been a backlog, particularly with respect to applicants who for whatever reason choose to still use the old paper application process.  In recognition of this issue, the Copyright Office issued an interim rule in 2009, allowing applicants caught in that backlog for over six months to convert a regular application to special handling status (meaning that the application will typically be acted upon within one week) with a waiver of the special handling fee.  Although special handing (if you choose it and pay the fee) is available upon a showing of compelling need due to (1) pending or prospective litigation; (2) customs matters; or (3) contractual or publishing deadlines, an applicant may only take advantage of the fee waiver upon showing that the applicant is about to file suit for copyright infringement.

This interim rule was set to expire on July 1, 2011, but the Office has now extended it for another year until July 1, 2012.

Here is the Federal Register notice: