Copyright and Digital Tech Updates

The news rushes past with not enough time for comment.  Items that caught my eye in the last week include:

The owners of a multiplex in Colorado claim that they foreclosed on the copyrights to Ingmar Bergman’s films in order to satisfy an unpaid judgment in their favor.  Whatever the plaintiffs own in the US, they should have a difficult time establishing any rights beyond American borders.

“Unlimited download” services appear to be the next big Strangelovian thing for the music industry.  This isn’t news, exactly, but I’m nagged by the possibility that we are witnessing continued evolution in the character of demand for popular music.  It’s likely that someone has looked into this, but is it possible that the current shifts in the recording business are traceable not to digitization but to the bundling that accompanied the rise of the album format?  To what extent does loading up your iPod with thousands of tracks resemble collecting stacks and stacks of 45s?  To what extent is the phenomenon simply and fundamentally different?  Does anyone else remember sitting around with your friends and playing records — meaning those same 45s — for and with each other?  You can listen to someone else’s iPod.  But — for better or for worse — it’s just not the same.

Morgan Library to Digitize Gutenberg Bible.  We await word on whether the Library will assert copyright claims over the resulting images.  The British Library, for example, has posted digital versions of two Gutenberg bibles and asserts copyright over both.  Given the roles that Gutenberg and movable type played in the development of both the modern publishing industry and public access to information, the copyright issues here are fraught with irony.

Richard Prince has been sued.  Prince is the photographer (or visual artist, or appropriation artist, depending on your taste, and his) who photographs the work of other photographers.  (I blogged about the practice in 2007.)  Should the legality or legitimacy of Prince’s work depend on whether the objects of his art are commercial photographs (that was the controversy in 2007) or not (that’s the case now)?  Is there a meaningful difference between the two, in art terms or in legal terms?  Here’s a link to the current lawsuit, filed by Patrick Cariou, whose work is not commercial.