More on Digital Copyright Norms … and Twilight

Further to posting on how everyday Web 2.0 citizens relate to copyright law (and continuing my case study on Twilight-related IP issues), I have come across another example of where the popular understanding of digital legal rights is imperfect.  However, in this case, it looks like the copyright law – or something like it – worked in favor of the “little guy” (although in this case I suspect they were mainly little “gals” as they are Robert Pattinson fans).

To coincide with the release of the Twilight sequel (New Moon) a production company – Revolver Entertainment – released an unauthorized DVD documentary about one of the movie’s leading men, Robert Pattinson.  The documentary is called Robsessed.  The title of the DVD and some of the material originally posted on the DVD’s promotional website was plagiarized/copied from the Robsessed blog – an unauthorized fan blog about Robert Pattinson.

The bloggers apparently sent a cease and desist notice to Revolver and the offending material was later removed from Revoler’s blog.  The bloggers described their complaint in terms of “plagiarism” and also called it a “crime”.  It would seem to me that the actual legal complaint is about copyright infringement (assuming that the bloggers held copyright in the material they had posted) and potentially also TM infringement if their “robsessedpattinson.com” domain name and Robsessed fan club name could be regarded as TMs.  Not 100% sure if they’re sufficiently related to actual commercial activity to be TMs.

If the fan club does have TMs in the “Robsessed” name, they might conceivably be able to sue the makers of the documentary for TM infringement.  This would be worth more to them financially than the cease and desist notice re the material on Revolver’s website (which was a copyright infringement if anything).  But here we see the complainants aim being to retain credit for their own work – and not have some unauthorized company capitalize on their work, or on the work of the object of their fan interest (Robert Pattinson).  They did not seem to be concerned with seeking financial recompense for profits the DVD company had made using some of their intellectual property.

So to me this is another interesting example of where the realities of IP law don’t necessarily meet the social norms in the entertainment area.  But at least the fact that copyright law exists might have encouraged Revolver to remove the copied material – even if the cease and desist letter was framed in terms of “plagiarism” rather than “copyright infringement”.

3 thoughts on “More on Digital Copyright Norms … and Twilight

  1. Hello,

    Thank you for the insight into copyright law. The issue we had with Revolver was that they were taking our blog posts and posting them on their site like they wrote it.

    It would be like someone creating madisonians.net and copy/pasting all of your posts in their site. Including hot linking to your photo galleries. (eating away from your bandwidth). What is this called? Plaigirism? Copyright infringement? I don’t have copyright on the jokes I make on the blog 🙂

    We weren’t after monetary compensation/gain, after they stopped copying our blog and apologized that was enough for us. We have no ill will towards Revolver Entertainment.

    Thanks for the insight.

    Dr. Gozde G**** (32 years old, far from a teen)

  2. If they were cutting and pasting your blog posts, that is copyright infringement. Copyright protects the fixed literal expression of someone else’s original work against unauthorized reproduction.

    Plagiarism also refers to copying other people’s work without appropriate attribution, but it usually comes up in the context of things like honor codes at universities e.g. if a law student plagiarizes someone else’s work at my school it is a violation of our honor code and may go on the student’s permanent record.

    While you don’t generally “own” jokes in terms of the actual ideas that make the jokes funny, you do generally hold copyright in the fixed literal expression of the joke provided that it is your own original expression.

    Anyway, thanks for giving me something to post about. I’m really interested in how intellectual property law plays out in the blogosphere and your experience with Revolver – even though it was obviously upsetting to you – gave me a lot to think about.

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