Saturday, March 03, 2007

Throughout the Universe

Gref Victoroff of the law firm Rohde & Victoroff gave a workshop on "Intellectual Property Law for Digital Freelancers" today, which I heard about through LA Flash, a group for professionals and students that offers free and low-cost services to developers. The firm represents a range of properties, from the speeches of Jesse Jackson to the art from the estate of Alberto Vargus, and it also represents the collective bargaining interests of the Los Angeles chapter of the Graphic Artists Guild. Victoroff's practice has also defended clients against copyright infringement suits on free speech or artistic merit grounds. For example, the firm was involved in lining up expert witnesses to attest that brands have been incorporated into pop art for over a half decade, after Hiro Yamagata, with whom my husband has worked, was sued because he incorporated the logo of the Hard Rock Café into one of his works of art. Victoroff is also a prolific writer for media industry how-to manuals and wrote the chapter on sampling for the business handbook for musicians from Prentice-Hall.

Sadly, Victoroff was advising freelancers who wanted to protect their copyright claims against using any open source software or material from the creative commons in creating digital works, two causes dear to my free culture media philosophy. Victoroff's rationale for relying on existing intellectual property practices rested on the grounds that 1) the standard "derivative work and compilation" disclosure on the copyright form might become clouded without unambiguously licensed software and 2) creative commons licenses represented a "parallel universe" or "alternative universe" without a history of copyright and trademark decisions behind them in established case law and thus represent an unacceptable risk.

(The title of this posting reflects the fact that the Disney corporation not only claims rights "throughout the world" but also "throughout the universe" on its contracts.)

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