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WoT Pilot: We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know

WoT Pilot: We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know

By on Feb 10, 2015 in Fiction, Film, News | 0 comments

Did you hear about the stealthy “pilot” for a tv series based on the much-acclaimed Wheel of Time series? Probably, as blogs on several geek and nerd/science and entertainment sites have spent time on the subject. Aside from the general surprise at a rather low-budget production for such a big property (airing without fanfare, in the middle of the night, as paid programming), is there much else to talk about? Well, there were two added twists: the nature of the production & broadcast are believed to have been a gambit to retain rights to the property by Red Eagle Entertainment, while author Robert Jordan’s wife appears to have commented that she was not aware of any such official project. This is all made very interesting by two additional twists: in 2008 it was reported that Universal Pictures paid a large amount of money for the film and television rights to the property, with Red Eagle handling the potential production, and the rights were set to revert back to the original owners as of this Wednesday (02/11/2015). This latter sort of clause has a history, notably with several contracts Marvel Comics engaged in before their eventual success in the film industry, allowing the owner of a work to regain property it has licensed to other parties if those parties don’t do anything with it. Who Is Red Eagle? A few of the articles I linked to give much more information, but here is a summary. Red Eagle, the company that optioned the film rights for the first novel back in the early 2000s (I have seen the year 2000 mentioned several times, but cannot find confirmation of that particular year), has been the source of numerous disappointments when it comes to the Wheel of Time property. There were short-lived comic book series, promises of videogames followed by mishandled crowdfunding initiatives or missed opportunities, and even Jordan himself wrote scathingly of the company before he died. But Can They Even Do That? Maybe. And it seems more likely than a few people are making it out to be, unless the people in charge of Red Eagle are far more foolish than they seem (yes, even given the above). Until we find out more about the relationship of any production agreements or...

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Sherlock Holmes & The Case For Public Domain

Sherlock Holmes & The Case For Public Domain

By on Nov 3, 2014 in Announcements, Fiction, News | 0 comments

As an attorney with clients concerned about protecting creative works, I am a big fan of copyright law. I especially appreciate the original intent of the law; to encourage the addition of new creative works to our society’s culture, including derivative works, by granting creators a limited window of exclusive rights to the work’s use. You might even say I am pretty enthusiastic about making sure clients protect themselves and defending those rights for clients. Over the last 75 years or so, however, there have been many changes to how the legislature and some courts approach copyright law. This has gone on to the point where many people seem to believe that the sole purpose of copyright law is to protect the creator’s exclusive rights, and the intended benefits to society as a whole are forgotten or misrepresented as being the fractional economic bump from a handful of financially successful works. It’s that change in the public understanding that made seeing Judge Posner‘s opinion in Leslie S. Klinger v. Conan Doyle Estate, Ltd. this past June so refreshing, and as today the Supreme Court officially refused to hear the appeal by the Doyle estate I thought I’d talk about why. The case revolved around an author named Leslie Klinger (well known by some as being responsible for annotated works like The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, which sits handsomely on my shelf, and The Annotated Sandman) who was co-editor on an anthology of new Holmes fiction in 2011. At that time he paid the Doyle estate a licensing fee, but when it came time for a sequel anthology Klinger insisted that it was not necessary and eventually asked a federal court to issue a declaratory judgment that would support his position. The Conan Doyle Estate took the position that, while obviously many of the Sherlock Holmes works were old enough to fall into public domain, the works still protected by copyright  (ten published post-1923) were so informative to the character that even the public domain elements should be off-limits. Judge Posner wrote: More important, extending copyright protection is a two-edged sword from the standpoint of inducing creativity, as it would reduce the incentive of subsequent authors to create derivative works (such as new...

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Copyright & Games: Is the Law Changing?

Copyright & Games: Is the Law Changing?

By on Sep 16, 2014 in Announcements, Boardgames, Fiction, RPGs, Videogames | 0 comments

Short Answer: Nope   Over the last year or so I’ve seen a number of people reacting to a few intellectual property cases in the videogame world with interest. Often the gut reaction is to condemn one company or another, sometimes taking aim at both for different reason, and every so often there are folks who wonder aloud if this is going to be the case which changes the general rule that games are not protected under copyright law. The short answer in pretty much every instance is that, no, games are not going to suddenly slide under that umbrella. Why? Because Section 102 of the Copyright Act says that the law protects: “…original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.” And goes on in 102(b) to specifically exclude: “…any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is describe, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such a work.” Games are generally pretty bound up in and defined by the elements listed above, which means that while the language describing rules, the art, or the background fiction might all be original expressions you can protect under copyright law there is no room for simple ideas or what the courts might describe as mere functional elements. That said? If you want to know more, read on.   Long Answer: No, But…   Well the law is always changing, because court decisions are part of the law, and in this arena there have been a large number of decisions over the past few decades. There is a recent case that highlights how the line between the protectable expression of an idea and a functional procedure may not be as clear as people would like it to be. In DaVinci Editrice S.R.L. v.  ZiKo Games, LLC, et al. the federal judge on the case recently issued an initial opinion in response to various motions by the parties, and in crafting her opinion Judge Rosenthal draws on a large body of existing case law to argue about where system crosses over with original expression. Some...

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Vampire Creator Returns Via Kindle Worlds

Vampire Creator Returns Via Kindle Worlds

By on Feb 20, 2014 in Fiction, News | 0 comments

LJ Smith was the original writer for the popular series of Vampire Diaries novels, starting back in 1991, but in 2011 was fired by her publisher over a dispute as to what should happen in one of the stories. Considering that she was working the entire time under a somewhat extensive work-for-hire contract, meaning that Alloy Entertainment owned the property and works in their entirety because she was brought on to create the series for them, the series continued on without her even though it still had her name attached. Well, with Amazon dipping its toes into the world of fan fiction by letting people sell stories set in specially approved properties, it turns out that LJ Smith had an interesting opportunity. Yes, for those of you jumping ahead, the original creator and author of the Vampire Diaries novels is now writing and selling Vampire Diaries fanfiction [thanks to The Daily Dot for this one] in addition to her other projects. They’re also in the Top 5 Kindle Worlds sales at the moment, and the top two spots in the Teen section. I know that I’ve seen original authors accused of writing fan fiction in their own worlds before, but finishing the a trilogy as she originally planned instead of the direction the publisher took it (and getting 35%, IIRC, of the money from the sales) after getting fired? That’s new, at least for the Age of eBooks (having been recently reading about the glory days of printing piracy, I would be shocked if similar situations hadn’t popped up during that period). Anyone have additional thoughts or information? !!3 by Jūlija Mazhora on Flickr, available via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY...

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