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Creaky Copyright

I’m still recovering from yesterday’s amazing sports thriller — not Tiger’s 18th hole birdie to force a U.S. (golf) Open playoff with the man known here in Pittsburgh as “Greensburg’s Rocco Mediate” (his full, official, legal name) — but Turkey’s spectacular come-from-behind 3-2 win over the Czech Republic.  (Hats off, by the way, to Czech fans of goalkeeper Petr Cech, whose error led directly to the second Turkish goal, for wearing headgear in support of their hero.  Cech suffered a skull fracture in a match 18 months ago and now plays with a soft helmet.)

So it’s all I can do this morning to note three copyright stories in two pages of the New York Times business section, all of which add up to little more than the weary sense that copyright is creaking this morning.

In Canada, the private broadcaster CTV stole a march on CBC and its flagship Hockey Night in Canada program by purchasing the rights to the theme song used on the program for 40 years.  A dispute between the composer (and her agent) and CBC had been brewing (NPR’s story last week is particularly entertaining), so in a sense this is nothing out of the ordinary.  The affection that Canadians feel for the song, however, apparently cannot be overstated, making me wonder whether the thing should be owned at all.  The whole affair reminds me of Professor Robert Brauneis’s recent tour-de-force on the copyright status of Happy Birthday to You.  My wonderment is merely rhetorical; there is no reason to doubt the copyright status of the hockey theme.

Closer to my U.S. home, the Associated Press is reportedly considering “guidelines” for using its (copyrighted) articles in blogs, in the wake of its much-commented on challenge to the Drudge Retort.  Formal journalism’s love affair with proprietary rights is fascinating and disappointing.  According to the Times,

Mr. [Jim] Kennedy [vice president and strategy director of The A.P.] argued, however, that The Associated Press believes that in some cases, the essence of an article can be encapsulated in very few words.

“As content creators, we firmly believe that everything we create, from video footage all the way down to a structured headline, is creative content that has value,” he said.

But he also said that the association hopes that it will not have to test this theory in court.

I don’t wish a lawsuit on anyone, but in my sunnier moments I think that the A.P. *should* sue someone.  This is a copyright question only in form.  At long last, we might have an opportunity to correct the mistake that is International News Service v. Associated Press.

And I’ll close with this pointer to the report of the proposed parody of Clement Hurd’s children’s classic Goodnight Moon, titled “Goodnight Bush.”  Will the owners of the rights in Goodnight Moon have the good sense to pass on a copyright/trademark challenge to this obviously non-confusing, obviously non-substituting political speech?

Portugal had nothing to play for yesterday, so its listlessness against the Swiss might be excused.  Still:  Hup, Holland, Hup!

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