Copyright Law Memo Assignments – Spring 2012

Each memo assignment for Copyright Law – Spring 2012 will be posted here approximately two weeks before the memo is due. Time in class will be set aside to discuss questions relating to each assignment.

For students who want to know more about the writing assignments for this course, this is a link to the memo assignments from Spring 2010. That link includes links to the best memos written in response to the first assignment from that version of the course.

Assignment Three

[Note to all:  A complete copy of the Viacom v. YouTube opinion is available here.]

From: Senior Partner
To: Junior Associate
Date: April 20, 2012
Re: Client Advisory Requested – Viacom v. YouTube

As I am sure you noticed, the Second Circuit released its opinion the other day in Viacom v. YouTube. Because our firm represents a lot of entrepreneurs and startups working on social media websites and services, what the court says in that case regarding secondary liability for copyright infringement, and the so-called “safe harbor” of Section 512, is of crucial interest to them and to us.

I know that other courts have issued rulings regarding these things, particularly Veoh in the Ninth Circuit. Can you please track down a copy of the Viacom case and put together a brief client advisory memo (four pages, maximum) that assesses the significance of its copyright and safe harbor features, in light of other existing law? My plan is to add a couple of words of my own and then distribute the memo directly to our clients.

You are free to dispense with the usual Facts/Issue/Brief Answer format of a legal research memo if you wish. Just be sure to include enough background on the facts and relevant law so that the memo stands on its own as your statement of what the law is today and what our clients should and should not do as a result. What is new, what is not, what is settled, what is not, and what strategy or strategies are affected by the court’s ruling.

Thank you.

Rules and Guidelines for Assignment Three

To the extent that these rules may appear to conflict with general advice regarding memos that appears in course-related webpages, these rules take precedence.

This is an “open” problem, meaning that there are no limits on the resources that you may bring to bear on your work. Among other things, you may consult with your classmates and other human beings. If you discuss the merits of the assignment with anyone, however, you must disclose that person’s identity on or in your memo. Write the names of any student “consultants” at the top of the first page of the memo.

Use your own name in the “From” field. The memos are not anonymous.

Format

Memos must be typed or printed using a computer. Each memo, including any attachments, must be not longer than four [4] typewritten or printed pages, double-spaced, with 1″ minimum margins on all sides. (“To,” “From,” “Re,” and “Date” headings may be single spaced.) You do not need to include a comprehensive statement of the facts. A factual summary may be helpful, however, in framing and presenting the analysis of the memo. No footnotes are permitted. The following font must be used: Twelve [12] point Times New Roman.

Grading

Memoranda will be graded based on form, format, and writing quality as well as on content. The assignments are designed so as not to have any single correct or even best solution. Each problem may present a range of issues that the memorandum should identify, analyze, and solve in a creative way.

Due date

The work product prepared for this assignment must be turned in not later than Wednesday, May 9, 2012, at 12 noon. Memos should be delivered by email to the Registrar of the School of Law:  lawreg@pitt.edu. Please do *not* email memos directly to Professor Madison. Memos may also be turned in via hard copy either to Ms. Melissa Shimko, in Room 314, or handed personally to Professor Madison. Memos slipped under anyone’s door are not acceptable. There were be no extensions or exceptions to this deadline. Memoranda that do not conform to the format instructions above, or that are turned in late, are subject to grade reductions.

Assignment Two

[Note to all: This assignment is based on real events and real people. You should assume that there is no agreement in place that supersedes the original agreement referred to below between Fleming (the author) and Eon Productions (the motion picture producer).]

To: Junior Associate
From: Senior Partner
Re: Bond. James Bond.
Date: March 25, 2012

We represent Eon Productions, which owns the rights to adapt Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels and stories into feature films. The founders of Eon, Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, obtained those rights in Eon’s name via an agreement with Ian Fleming back in 1961. The agreement assigned the rights to make feature films based on all present and future Bond novels and stories written by Fleming, other than Casino Royale. As I am sure you know, those rights remain extremely valuable. Eon is currently completing production of Skyfall, the latest Bond film starring Daniel Craig. It has additional Bond motion pictures in the works.

Our client just sent over a copy of a letter that it received at the very end of December 2011 from a lawyer who claims to represent the surviving grandchildren of Ian Fleming. The letter asserts that the grandchildren are exercising their statutory rights under the Copyright Act to terminate any and all agreements to transfer copyright interests in James Bond. The letter states that this notice is timely because the first James Bond novel, Casino Royale, was published in 1953.

The client would like an immediate work-up of all possible defenses and related arguments that will mitigate or eliminate this threat to the Bond franchise. Let’s assume for present purposes that Fleming did in fact have grandchildren and that the letter in fact comes from at least some of them.

Rules and Guidelines for Assignment Two

To the extent that these rules may appear to conflict with general advice regarding memos that appears in course-related webpages, these rules take precedence.

This is an “open” problem, meaning that there are no limits on the resources that you may bring to bear on your work. Among other things, you may consult with your classmates and other human beings. If you discuss the merits of the assignment with anyone, however, you must disclose that person’s identity on or in your memo. Write the names of any student “consultants” at the top of the first page of the memo.

Use your own name in the “From” field. The memos are not anonymous.

Format

Memos must be typed or printed using a computer. Each memo, including any attachments, must be not longer than four [4] typewritten or printed pages, double-spaced, with 1″ minimum margins on all sides. (“To,” “From,” “Re,” and “Date” headings may be single spaced.) You do not need to include a comprehensive statement of the facts; instead, you may refer to the factual background in my memo to you. A factual summary may be helpful, however, in framing and presenting the analysis of the memo. No footnotes are permitted. The following font must be used: Twelve [12] point Times New Roman.

Grading

Memoranda will be graded based on form, format, and writing quality as well as on content. The assignments are designed so as not to have any single correct or even best solution. Each problem may present a range of issues that the memorandum should identify, analyze, and solve in a creative way.

Due date

One hard copy of the work product prepared for this assignment must be turned in not later than Monday, April 9, 2012, at 3:00 pm. Memos may be turned in either to the Registrar’s Window or to Ms. Melissa Shimko, in Room 314, or handed personally to Professor Madison. Electronic (e-mailed) copies are not acceptable. Memos slipped under anyone’s door are not acceptable. There were be no extensions or exceptions to this deadline. Memoranda that do not conform to the format instructions above, or that are turned in late, are subject to grade reductions.

Assignment One

[Note to all: The following hypothetical is mostly fictional. The sculpture to which the hypothetical refers is real, as are its creator and the circumstances of its production and installation. All other features of the hypothetical are imagined, and no similarity to actual facts is intended or should be inferred.]

To: Junior Lawyer
From: Senior Lawyer
Date: February 10, 2012
Re: Moving Sculpture

Our client is Stanford University. Last year it completed a new campus for its Graduate School of Business, now named the Knight Management Center. Among the art works installed at the Knight Management Center, on an outdoor wall, is a movable sculpture titled “Monument to Change as it Changes.” The short question that I need you to answer is this: Is the sculpture a copyrightable work of authorship?

The background is this: The sculptor, Peter Wegner, assigned his rights to Stanford. Stanford plans to license footage of the sculpture in motion to various producers of videos and film. Those producers have insurance companies, and those insurance companies are not willing to insure the resulting videos and film unless the producers can determine to a certainty that they have obtained all necessary copyright clearances. The fact that Stanford acquired its rights from the sculptor is not enough; Stanford needs to be sure that the sculptor had a valid copyright to assign. (If he didn’t, then other people could distribute copies of the sculpture in video form without clearing the rights with Stanford, and the video and film producers would have unexpected competition.)

Please put together a four-page memo that analyzes the copyrightability of the sculpture; be sure to include any gaps or problems in your reasoning. To help you out, I’ve included links to a couple of online stories about the sculpture and to a YouTube video that shows the thing in action.

I need your written analysis not later than Friday, February 24, 2012.

YouTube video:

Rules and Guidelines for Assignment One

To the extent that these rules may appear to conflict with general advice regarding memos that appears in course-related webpages, these rules take precedence.

This is an “open” problem, meaning that there are no limits on the resources that you may bring to bear on your work. Among other things, you may consult with your classmates and other human beings. If you discuss the merits of the assignment with anyone, however, you must disclose that person’s identity on or in your memo. Write the names of any student “consultants” at the top of the first page of the memo.

Use your own name in the “From” field. The memos are not anonymous.

Format

Memos must be typed or printed using a computer. Each memo, including any attachments, must be not longer than four [4] typewritten or printed pages, double-spaced, with 1″ minimum margins on all sides. (“To,” “From,” “Re,” and “Date” headings may be single spaced.) You do not need to include a comprehensive statement of the facts; instead, you may refer to the factual background in my memo to you. A factual summary may be helpful, however, in framing and presenting the analysis of the memo. No footnotes are permitted. The following font must be used: Twelve [12] point Times New Roman.

Grading

Memoranda will be graded based on form, format, and writing quality as well as on content. The assignments are designed so as not to have any single correct or even best solution. Each problem may present a range of issues that the memorandum should identify, analyze, and solve in a creative way.

Due date

One hard copy of the work product prepared for this assignment must be turned in not later than Friday, February 24, 2012, at 3:00 pm. Memos may be turned in either to the Registrar’s Window or to Ms. Melissa Shimko, in Room 314, or handed personally to Professor Madison. Electronic (e-mailed) copies are not acceptable. Memos slipped under anyone’s door are not acceptable. There were be no extensions or exceptions to this deadline. Memoranda that do not conform to the format instructions above, or that are turned in late, are subject to grade reductions.