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AES Section Meeting Reports

Pacific Northwest - April 17, 2012

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Summary

The PNW Section took another semi-regular look at the legal aspects of the audio world from IP attorney Kevin Jablonski, of the law firm Graybeal, Jackson in Bellevue WA. The meeting took place April 17, 2012 at the Art Institute of Seattle. About 15 AES members and 6 non-members attended.

Kevin is not only an attorney, but holds an Audio Production degree from the Art Institute, a BSEE degree from Gonzaga University, and plays in local bands. He is a past committee member of the PNW Section.

He started with a review of what intellectual property law covers in the USA, explaining the principles, and giving example cases. A lot of what ifs and debates came from the audience. He covered:
1-Patents - an original non-obvious idea/invention getting 20 years of protection. He didn't discuss this much, but it is a very active area in technology licensing.

2- Copyright - to protect your expression of an idea, and you don't need to register your song, although any damages won may differ. The expression does need to be fixed in tangible media, i.e. recorded/printed etc. Current protection is for 75 years after the author dies, with differences for works for hire and corporations.

Certain rights are conveyed with a copyright, and many concepts were discussed. For example, a phone directory with a few fake names thrown in makes an ordinary non-copyrightable list of facts/data into an original expression. Fanfiction works may technically be a violation, but are usually not challenged. Software copyrights and "work for hire" was discussed and argued. It's a myth that mailing something to yourself is legal proof.

A famous case of a copyright violation was the Chiffons song (He's So Fine) vs. George Harrison (My Sweet Lord) which ended up failing the "substantially similar" test by being too similar. Other discussions included modern versions of traditional songs, artists and record deals/contracts, and different copyrights for writers and performers.

3- Trademark Law - to protect goods/services in 46 classes of business. One example was Apple Inc (formerly Apple Computer) vs. Apple Records in the music business. In general, a trademarked word itself and/or a stylistic logo are different things, and it's smart to get both.

4-Trade Secrets - like the recipes for Coke and KFC, secret customer lists, and the like. This was contrasted to publicly patenting something.

5- Right to Publicity - your name, likeness, image, but you pretty much need to be famous. One case noted were two characters from the TV show, "Cheer." Statues of them had been placed in a certain airline's lounges, but had to be changed to generic characters after a lawsuit. Also discussed was someone taking your photo in public, and the laws vary. Facebook notably claims they own any photos place on it. Singers that had unathorized "soundalike" commercials were mentioned.

After a break, door prizes provided by Bob Moses were awarded:
Genelec Acoustitape wavelength tape measure - Rob Baum
Renkus-Heinz keychain bottle opener - Michael Heavener
CDROM AES 45th Conference on Applications of Time-Frequency Processing in Audio March 2012 - Nathan Hasbargen
Neumann graph paper pad - Dan Mortensen
Genelec tote bag - Greg Mauser
DVD of AES PNW tribute to Frank Laico - Paul Colvin, Elizabeth Marston

And from Steve Turnidge , audio CDs mastered by Steve, Tom Laramee's "Woke Up Today" - won by Kisha Kalahiki, Steve Macatee


Resuming the presentation, Kevin spoke about interesting legal items in the news.

A new law, the America Invents Act of 2011 was enacted. It includes:
- as of March 16, 2013, the USA changes to "first inventor to file" for patents rule instead of the old "proving first to invent."
- no more false marking lawsuits, where one can't sue for labeling a product with an expired patent number. This was apparently quite a lucrative field.
- creation of micro-entity status (very small companies or individuals) with reduced filing fees
- creation of a USPTO satellite office in Detroit, and maybe others to come.


Also discussed was:
-Authors Guild vs. Google (who wants to digitize all books) - a settlement was reached, but a court rejected it for not addressing orphan works. It's still up in the air.

-Termination - a new law, where artists can reclaim the rights to their work after 35 years after law of 1976 (which took effect 1978). This does not apply to works for hire. This could be very interesting in 2013 (1978 + 35 years).

-And several other cases involving copyright technicalities.

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