AES Section Meeting Reports

Pacific Northwest - September 18, 2007

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The PNW Section met September 18, 2007, to hear about legal aspects of intellectual property (IP) from an audio perspective. The speakers were Kevin Jablonski and Toussaint Myricks, of the Axios Law Group in Seattle. About 26 attendees (including 12 AES members) met at the University of Washington Ethnic Cultural Theater in Seattle.

Kevin and Toussaint began with an overview of patents and copyrights, then trademarks and trade secrets. Kevin then spoke of design vs. utility patents, worldwide patenting and length of rights. Toussaint continued with details about the nuts and bolts of obtaining patents, including first inventor concepts and maintenance fees, then Kevin continued with some cautions about patenting.

Toussaint then explained copyright, which may be granted on the expression of an idea. He covered what a copyright is, rights conveyed by copyright, infringement of copyright, remedies for copyright infringement, and Fair Use exceptions.

After a short refreshment break, Toussaint continued further on copyrights, such as the need to fix it in a tangible form, the advantages of registering, and the duration. Slides showed the rights conferred by a copyright, and the monetary remedies for infringement.The discussion of "Fair Use" brought several questions on satirical use, and copying of music scores and books.

Kevin further discussed Fair Use with the landmark 1984 Sony vs. Universal Studios "Betamax case," where it was decided that it was legal for a user to videotape television shows for time shifting (later viewing). This was contrasted to the more recent audio file sharing Napster case - which was held to be different from the Sony case, mainly because Napster had much control over users and files. They were forced to stop. The later Grokster file sharing case resulted in a decision that Grokster was a clear expression to foster infringement, even though they had less control and didn't store any files. They were also forced to stop.

Recent Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) actions were discussed. RIAA sent letters to people they determined had illegally downloaded files, suggesting to settle for sums such as $3,000. In one such instance where a client received one of these letters, Kevin suggested they take the offer, as he felt they could be liable for $150,000 for each infringement.

He continued with information on the controversial U.S. Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998. While he noted it did have its strengths, there were also many criticisms.

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AES - Audio Engineering Society