Can you state the difference between an idea and the expression of that idea? Don’t worry if it doesn’t slip off your tongue. This distinction is one of the most difficult areas of copyright law but far from academic because copyright law doesn’t protect ideas, but it does protect expressions of ideas. And this distinction remains key to technology copyright cases.
The following is a guest blog post by Harmony Groves Kessler, a solo practitioner assisting individuals, small businesses, and attorneys with legal issues in criminal defense, business contracts/transactions and public agency law in northern California. She is the former Mayor of Arcata, California, where she served a four-year term on the City Council.
Updated March 18, 2014: The Beastie Boys and GoldieBlox have settled the suit. As part of the settlement, GoldieBlox will no longer be able to use its parody of the Beastie Boys’ song and will publish an apology to the band.
Updated January 3, 2014: Although GoldieBlox removed the song “Girls” from its video, the Beastie Boys sued GoldieBlox for copyright and trademark infringement, among other claims, seeking an injunction, damages, and lost profits based on the toy’s massive increase in sales, which they believe are the direct result of the video.
A creative rewrite of the Beastie Boys’ iconic song “Girls” recently stirred up trouble for a toymaker with good intentions.
How do you protect what’s yours from those who would completely ignore copyright protection? This is a question the family of famed Beat generation icon Neal Cassady has asked itself, as illegally copied photographs of Neal float around the Internet and the world. One way to get greater protection is to register the copyright. Taking this extra step is the difference between being able to sue for infringement and having to sit there and take it.
In addition to direct copyright infringement and inducement of infringement, there is a third type of copyright infringement, “contributory infringement,” which is becoming more of an issue in the electronic world. As one Web-hosting company recently learned the hard way, Internet service providers are more frequently being found liable for contributory infringement based on the infringing activities of their users — think Napster.