Derivative Works: Substance versus Medium

I know it’s Christmas Eve and probably the last thing anyone is thinking about is copyright law at the moment, but I can’t help it. I have copyright on my mind. I’ve just been re-reading the “Wind Done Gone” and “Harry Potter Lexicon” cases (great pre-Christmas reading!) and am having trouble getting my mind around why these works aren’t “derivative works” for copyright purposes, or at least why “The Wind…

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Defamation, Right of Publicity, and Celebrities Portrayed in Fiction

One question I keep getting asked – and I’m increasingly unsure of the answer – is why we don’t see more litigation or threats of litigation when popular fiction authors utilize fictional versions of real-life celebrities in their books. One example that springs to mind is “Old School” by Tobias Wolff in which the author creates a central role in the narrative for fictional versions of writers including Robert Frost,…

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Digital Book Distribution Models

Thinking more about the Apple e-book litigation, I couldn’t help but feel a little sympathetic to the book publishers who, at least on a first read of the facts, didn’t seem to have the first clue how to deal with Amazon or Apple when e-book readers started taking off commercially. I wonder if part of the problem for the publishing industry was that prior to digitization (and the release of…

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