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So as many of you know I do some voice acting in my spare time. I have done it for a few folks. The most prominent amoung them is Pendant Audio Where I am list cast member on a few shows. However today I have news from another group I work with from time to time. Broken Sea audio is a similar sort of operation run by among others some folks in New Zealand. One thing to remember about the audio drama community is that we are an incestuous lot. Actors flow pretty freely between the various companies.

Anyways Broken sea got a bit of press today. They produce a Conan audio drama based on the Robert E Howard books. These books are in the public domain in New Zealland and here in the states. A company contacted them recently with a cease and desist. Conan Properties International LLC (aka Paradox Entertainment)Claims to own the world wide rights to the Conan stories and all related Intellectual Property.




In short they claim that if it is not public domain anywhere in the world then Broken Sea can't use it online.

I think my opinion on this can be summed up by a comment posted on boing boing about this.

"Conan Properties International LLC, what is best in life?"

"To crush your fans, see them driven before you, and hear the litigations of the lawyers."

Anyway the story got picked up by a few sources.

Go take a look.

http://www.boingboing.net/2009/02/25/conan-copyright-trol.html
http://www.sffaudio.com/?p=4128
http://www.cnet.com/8301-11455_1-10172086-10.html
http://www.agidoo.com/entertainment-2/conan-and-new-zealand%E2%80%99s-new-copyright-law-vs-broken-sea.html


Okay I have a reputation for being some who as Kristyn once put it "Could argue with a chair." I also can get into arguments with folks on stuff I don't believe just to see where the argument goes. Some people have asked me in the past if there was anything I truly believed in anything. You want to hear me go off on someone for something and here my real thoughts. Then it is the abuse of copyright law. I hate it. Pretty much with my whole body. The guy is dead for over 70 years now. How the frak can these twits claim ownership. Is it even owned by his family or something? He did not have kids or a wife. It is not like there is a widow depending on this for income.

This is just some company in Sweden who decided they make a butt load of money on the name and works of someone they had no involvement in at all. The other properties these guys claim to own are Other properties include Bran Mak Morn, Kull, Solomon Kane, Mutant, Mutant Chronicles, Warzone, Kult, Heavy Gear, and Chronopia.

It is nice to see some folks I deal with get some press, but this is not the preferred method. My only enjoyment in this is maybe it will bring enough attention to the fact these guys are doing this kind of crap that someone stands up tells them to bugger off.

Comments

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
the_magician
Feb. 26th, 2009 04:38 am (UTC)
I won't claim to be a copyright lawyer, or to disagree with your point, but since I too can argue with chairs :-)

Copyright Law is there for a reason, it gives the creator or owner of a creative work the right of control over that work for a period of time.

As such it has a value, so, for example, if you wrote a book you could sell your copyright to a corporation for a big pile of money now, and leave it to them to get as good a return as they can over the period of the copyright. If you got a million dollars, spent half of it this year and then, god forbid, died in an excess of fun in the middle of ComicCon next year ... well, the corporation would still own the copyright, and your estate would have whatever was left of your million dollars.

Twenty years from now and someone decides they are going to ignore the copyright and use your work for their own benefit (whether to make money or just because they like making audio plays) ... the copyright still belongs to the corporation, they paid good money for it, and they are being ripped off. And the defence is "well, the guy who wrote this is dead and won't be making any money off this..." doesn't really wash ... you made your money while you were alive and sold your rights to someone else.

I assume the estate of Robert Howard (or his publishers if they bought the copyright from him as part of his publishing contract) negotiated the best price they could at some point in the past ... and now the copyright belongs to MoneyGrubbingLawyers Inc. who paid money to the previous copyright holders. They have the right to make money by reprinting the works *and* by charging license fees to anyone that wants to use it, and to pursue people who steal their property (intellectual) through the courts, including penalties for that theft.

Different countries have different copyright length rules, and if a work is made available in those territories, then the owners are entitled to legal redress.

Of course here it gets fuzzy about what is legal on the internet and what isn't ... if there was a country out there that allowed, say, 16 year olds to make porn films, would there be a case against a company that made those films available worldwide, including into the US? ... If there was a country out there that, say, hated the US and the UK and declared that they did not sign up for interenational copyright, and someone in that country (North Korea, Russia, Iran, wherever) then started making MP3s of current albums and PDFs of current books available for cheap or free download, would that be legal/ok?

You know a fair few authors ... if there was a company on the internet offering free audio books (or PDFs) of their works but with no permission and no fee to the author or his/her publishers, would you be ok with that?
technoir
Feb. 26th, 2009 05:05 am (UTC)
Let us remove from the discussion the notion of equivalency to stealing a work from a living author. It is not equivalent. A living author would be able to advise as to their wishes, seek redress, or at the end of the copyright period seek to renew ownership. The countries that letter mentioned, they all have laws such that the copyright is expired in them. Robert E Howard is public domain in England, Canada, New Zealand and America.

The copyright law is there to protect the rights of the creator. It has always been it's purpose. "for the encouragement of learning" was the original intent. The first laws were put in place to protect the art creator. In the past 30 years it has changed. The copyright is supposed to end. It is a variable but it is usually so many years after the death of the creator. It is supposed to pass into public hands after that time and for good reason.

How much of classic literature would not be available if companies like this one had their way. Are we accept the claims of some company in say some third world nation that claims ownership forever of the world wide rights to Sherlock Holmes? No, of course not. But companies like this one are essentially trying to do this.

They need to be stopped. We need to use copyright as it was intended. For the preservation of the CREATORS rights. I might have some sympathy with these guys if were the family. At least there is some notion of it going to the interest of the creator. There is none of that in this. This is a public domain work in most of the countries it is distributed. Are we to ban all films that criticize china because it is illegal in china? That is essentially the result of your argument here. If it is illegal in one country it is illegal everywhere?

the_magician
Feb. 26th, 2009 06:13 am (UTC)
The copyright law is there to protect the rights of the creator. It has always been it's purpose. "for the encouragement of learning" was the original intent. The first laws were put in place to protect the art creator. In the past 30 years it has changed. The copyright is supposed to end. It is a variable but it is usually so many years after the death of the creator. It is supposed to pass into public hands after that time and for good reason.
No arguments with that, but it still leaves out the creator's right to sell or bequeath that copyright to whoever he (or his beneficiaries/executors) wants.

Any or all of the copyright owner’s exclusive rights or any
subdivision of those rights may be transferred, but the transfer
of exclusive rights is not valid unless that transfer is in
writing and signed by the owner of the rights conveyed or
such owner’s duly authorized agent. Transfer of a right on a
nonexclusive basis does not require a written agreement.
A copyright may also be conveyed by operation of law and
may be bequeathed by will or pass as personal property by
the applicable laws of intestate succession.


I might have some sympathy with these guys if were the family. At least there is some notion of it going to the interest of the creator.
The creator, or his family/heirs/interests have already been paid in advance. If you want to reduce the value of a copyright sale for all current and future authors by saying that it has a very limited (or zero) lifespan independent of the author, then you will be depriving authors of a major source of income. As a potential copyright purchaser, I am going to guess how much I can make from owning the copyright over the next, say, 50 years. I will then offer the creator sum less than that. The creator can then decide it's not enough, or say "thanks for the cash, I can use it to buy a house/pay medical bills now and leave you to figure out how to make money out of my work". If you reduce that 50 years to, say, 10, then the purchaser may think it will not be worth as much to them and so offer the author less.

The reason for copyright existing beyond the death of the creator is in part because it is "property" and has value, but as you rightfully say, only for a period of time.

There are international copyright conventions (Berne, UCC etc.) which seek to harmonize and protect copyright internationally. Part of that is agreeing that there is a limit to copyright length ... though that limit can vary from country to country.

There is much classic literature that is not available because of just and valid copyright law ... and some comes out of copyright every year (though potentially in different years in different countries ... Europe is in the middle of revising music copyright for performers because there's a fair amount of recorded music that had 50 year protection from date of publication, and some of those artists are still alive and about to lose their royalties)

Are we accept the claims of some company in say some third world nation
Like "8484 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 870, Beverly Hills, CA 90211" you mean? :-)

Part of international copyright conventions is that they are reciprocal, but make some allowances for variations between countries ... if your putative 3rd world country that allows unlimited copyright held the owner of the Conan copyright, then they would not be part of the internatonal copyright agreements, but might still pursue you in their local courts for breach of copyright *if* your products were made available in their country.

The BBC handles this everyday by blocking access to iPlayer for many programmes to sites with non UK IP addresses. It is sufficient for courts to agree they are not providing their video and audio recordings outside the UK and so are not violating their copyright licensing. NBC and Hulu do the same, blocking Saturday Night Live and other US shows from being seen/downloaded in the UK. Pandora blocked all UK users a year ago for the same reason.

(continued)
the_magician
Feb. 26th, 2009 06:13 am (UTC)
By all means demand back from the creator or his heirs (or the Internal Revenue!) the money they received for selling the rights and then I will have no objection to the works being removed from copyright. But as the Howard family are benefitting from this copyright (even if only indirectly) then I believe your point fails.

But as long as the works are legally in copyright and there is ho attempt to prevent the sale/reception of the audio recordings in territories where the copyright has not yet expired, then that is a problem.

If it is illegal in one country it is illegal everywhere? no, that's not my argument. My argument is that if you know it to be illegal in a country and you provide (sell or free) to someone in that country, then it is an illegal act. Broken Sea just have to say "sorry, this recording is only availble to users in the following countries" (or "not available in the following countries") and they are fine. It's what Amazon does and it sails on happily.
technoir
Feb. 26th, 2009 06:30 am (UTC)
Amazon has that option. They have the resources to set up their system that way. A Small website runner who literally does it all on donation and sells nothing can't afford to maintain the tech to do that.

What is more, they should not have to. The copyright has expired in most of the countries actually listening to these works. It certainly has expired in the us which has a 70 year limit on copyright. The limits are there for a really really good reason. Things should be part of our collective heritage to do with as we please as long as the creators rights were seen to. These guys have no leg to stand on. They are just being bullies. They have a bank roll and lawyers and they can use that to scare people into complying. Broken Sea probably can't afford a lengthy legal battle when they are making no money on it to begin with.

I am sorry but you are just wrong on this. The rights of the creator are not being seen to here. The rights of the public are not being respected either. This is not similar to Hulu or BBC as they do not limit their viewership due to legal concerns but licensing concerns. They want companies in other countries to pay for their content. This really is just a case of perceptions of copyright being used in an abusive, stupid, not legally supported and unfair manner.
the_magician
Feb. 26th, 2009 06:50 am (UTC)
If I may continue?
they do not limit their viewership due to legal concerns but licensing concerns.

If you don't think a license document is a legal document, then I think we can stop here. It's covered by contract law, duh.

The rights of the public are defined by the laws in each country. You are saying that because it is legal in the US, it must be legal in every other country. That's bullying.

If Iceland (as a made up example) wants to make it 100 years after an author's death, and the Icelandic people have voted for their government to create such laws. Then that's the copyright period in Iceland. If you then make copyrighted goods available to people in Iceland, you need to pay the copyright holder (or at least get their permission).

The letter, as you have quoted it in your original posting, does not claim it is illegal in the US.

They want companies in other countries to pay for their content.
Well, surely that's the point of copyright? If the BBC, Robert Howard or technoir create something, then part of copyright is the right to restrict copying and to profit from the creative work. And licensing is one way that a creator/owner permits others to use their work. This often includes geographical restrictions. So NBC don't let me watch Saturday Night Live, in spite of no UK broadcaster showing it at the moment. Pandora stops me listening to music because their license (from the rights holders) blocks them from using it outside the US.

With copyright expiring in the US, that means the audio can be freely distributed in the US without problems. But if Broken Sea continue to make it available to countries where the copyright hasn't expired, then that *is* a problem

And your first point, that a small company can't afford to follow the law, I can't believe you said that.
technoir
Feb. 26th, 2009 01:45 pm (UTC)
Re: If I may continue?
But these are all related to benefiting the content creators and providers TODAY! The royalties get paid to actors, writers, musicians today based on these websites. IN other words it is being used to benefit the existing CREATORS! That is how copyright works! Sure the record companies benefit more but the copyright in principal is still doing what it is supposed to there.

Your original contention was that they are restricting access to different countries due to the possibility it might be illegal in those countries. That is not why they are doing it. They are doing to get more money out of those countries. Licensing and illegal are two different things.

It is illegal to provide porn in several countries. However none of those content providers restrict themselves from providing the porn there. The governments do instead. They block the access. That is the analogy that would apply here. Broken Sea audio is doing nothing illegal in any of the countries that it's owners are producers are in. The majority of the countries involved say the copyright has expired and the works are public domain. If it is in fact not the law in Sweden or whereever, then that is the country which would feel this is an illegal act to distribute. It should be incumbent on the country to block it if they feel it is illegal to distribute in there country.

Placing the financial burden on a small company for accommodating the laws which do not apply to them is ridiculous. Am I to be expected to uphold Talmudic law just because my work is available online? How is that my responsibility? It would be different if the law in the countries the company has any production elements in supported Conan Properties International LLC. If it was still under copyright in the UK, New Zealand, or the US which all have elements involved in the production, then they would have some basis for asking Broken sea to quit. They would be within their rights. They would still be idiots. Fan productions enhance the community around an IP and make it more valuable but they would be within their rights. That is not the case though. It is public domain and they are betting on their lawyers to keep a small group from opposing them.

They are just wrong all the way around.

the_magician
Feb. 26th, 2009 02:59 pm (UTC)
Re: If I may continue?
Grin, you're using CAPITAL LETTERS again :-) and lots of exclamation points!!!

but these are all related to benefiting the content creators and providers TODAY! The royalties get paid to actors, writers, musicians today based on these websites. IN other words it is being used to benefit the existing CREATORS! That is how copyright works! Sure the record companies benefit more but the copyright in principal is still doing what it is supposed to there.

not sure what the "these" in the first sentence refers to. Copyright is there for the benefit of creators, I don't think I ever disagreed with that. What's your point in this first paragraph?

Your original contention was that they are restricting access to different countries due to the possibility it might be illegal in those countries. That is not why they are doing it. They are doing to get more money out of those countries. Licensing and illegal are two different things.
Who are "they" in this first sentence? The lawyers aren't restricting anything. They are saying if you break a country's copyright law, they are ready and waiting to pounce. You break the law, you pay the price. Whether BrokenSea are breaking the law if someone in such a country downloads the recording, I really don't know, probably depends on the law in that country.

Legal is a broader term than licensing, but if I buy a license to sell hotdogs/starmaps/whatever for a geographical location and then sell them elsewhere, I'm breaking my license/contract and that's a legal matter. The contract is legally binding. But the original subject wasn't about licensing as there was no license offered or purchased for the Conan material, so this is an unfortunate red herring, my apologies.

Porn legality is rarely about copyright, so a red herring. Next.

Sweden paragraph: it is rarely the country's job to enforce copyright, they leave that to the copyright holder's lawyers, as in this case. I can download all sorts of copyright stuff off bittorrent and the UK government barely notice until the RIAA or equivalent bring their lawyers in. It's still illegal for me to make those copies. However the RIAA are trying to get the laws changed to make it a stronger criminal offense to break copyright, and that worries me tremendously.

Talmudic law is another red herring, next.

The BBC told people to stop providing Tardis knitting patterns. It was a fan production and there weren't competing commercial products available. But if you believe in the principle of copyright/intellectual property, then you need permission from the copyright/rights holder(s).

If something is in copyright in a country, then it is not in Public Domain *in that country*, a fact you keep dismissing, because if it is PD in the US, the UK and Canada, then the other countries can go take a running jump, right?

If you will accept that it may be illegal *to download* this material in some countries, and so it is the potential "customers" of Brokensea that are actually breaking the law in those countries where the piece is still in copyright, then I'm happy to agree that it is stupid to go after the distributor when it is the customer who is doing something illegal.

However the law may be more complex than you and I think it should be ... the bundle of copyright laws, international conventions etc. mean I can't tell if BrokenSea would be liable under the DMCA if a recording they made was downloaded in a foreign country and didn't contain the copyright information (title 17, chapter twelve, section 1202 (c)(3)) for example.

So I've come around to agreeing that if someone downloads something that violates copyright in the country they are in, then it is the downloader that should be taken to court ... however this can (as in that DMCA section) mean that the person making the material available could be considered to be "publishing" it (or some similar term) and again the individual countries may have laws about what is and isn't allowed.

The UK has some laws about what may or may not be made available over the internet (some of which are legal in the US) and so could apply for the extradition of people from another country who make that material available to UK residents. Other countries will have their own laws.






technoir
Feb. 27th, 2009 12:19 am (UTC)
Re: If I may continue?
Now that i am not at work allow me to retort. You have successfully actually ignored almost all of my points. That takes work.

The pron example is actually does apply. The providers do not have to have to stop providing their websites based on the legal restrictions in individual countries. The only time they are worried about jurisdiction is if the laws in the country they are producing or hosting the content takes issue with them. This is how is with copyright. The law that applies is in the countries which the shows are produced. I used New Zealand, UK, Canada, and the US for examples because those are the countries which people working on these shows are from. They are actually involved in the production of the content.

Therefor those are the countries the copyright law actually applies in. In those countries, broken sea is within their rights. Conan Properties International is using litigation extortion to get their way. They have no legal standing. But they can afford the lawyers and the small fan operation can't.

The media they produce is containing the proper copyright info. They say who wrote it. They say who produced the audio. That's all that is required with public domain works which the Conan stories are.

If I wanted to publish the stories I could. There is no law saying I can't. These guys could threaten to sue me but in the end they have no legal grounds. I may do that. I may go to the EFF and ask them if they want a test case to produce a legal challenge to bloody the nose of these bullies.

If CPI is concidered the holder in say Iceland and I am publishing in the us, then they have no grounds. In the US it is public Domain. Am i to be held responsible for someone who takes my free content and takes it to a country that finds it illegal? No of course not.

Morally and legally these guys just fail. They are completely lacking an grounds in either category.

Now they could have maintained their illusion of actual authority buy ignoring this fan group as most fan groups are ignored. No one is making money on it after all. CPI was loosing no money. They could have let it go and let it foster new love in a classic. Who knows they could have supported it and used it as a chance to sell some product they are involved in like Age of Conan.

Instead they chose to do the stupid and honestly they deserve to be called on the carpet for it. I will rail at and when I can, fight stupid crap like this. The abuse of copyright hurts our individual rights. It hurts our access to classic works. It stifles artistic endeavors. It taints the creative process. It has loss it's focus. The purpose was supposed to protect content creators. When ever it is being used for other purposes we should fight and change it.

I guess you can tell, but i feel pretty passionate about this. The general lack of understanding and outright wrong thinking on it make me angry. Abusers of it make me livid.
the_magician
Feb. 27th, 2009 12:39 am (UTC)
Re: If I may continue?
I think you missed the bit where I agreed with you at the end of my last posting?

I'm too tired and depressed at the moment to read the rest of your new reply above, so I'll stick with
"if it is public domain where they made the recording, then if someone else downloads it in a place where it is still in copyright, then it's not your/my/the recording company's problem."

bored now, sleep well!
(Deleted comment)
technoir
Feb. 26th, 2009 05:09 am (UTC)
Pretty much every country in the letter has laws that make Conan public domain right now. I really want Broken sea to fight it out in courts though it being a fan organization they have no money to do so. They stopped offering until they can get some sound legal advise.

The funny notion is these guys are getting money from mythic for licensing the IP of Conan to them. It would be real funny if it got shown that it was public domain in court. Those negotiations following would be interesting.
the_magician
Feb. 26th, 2009 06:18 am (UTC)
The copyright owners appear to be in California :-)

Copyright on the internet is enforced regionally all over the place ... as I just pointed out in my other reply, NBC, hulu.com, pandora, the BBC, Amazon etc. all block downloads and sales to certain other countries for copyright and licensing reasons.

If there are countries where this material is still in copyright, then just don't sell (or give away) the material to people who say they live there (validate it by IP address, the way that the above companies do) and then there's no problem.

And of course The Pirate Bay are currently in court in Sweden (again) for their p2p tracker :-)
the_magician
Feb. 26th, 2009 06:55 am (UTC)
Just to reiterate
In short they claim that if it is not public domain anywhere in the world then Broken Sea can't use it online.


Not the way I read it. They will "enforce the copyright of all stories not in the public domain" (so if they are in the public domain then it's ok) "in any territory where your products are available". So if it's not in the public domain in, say, Indonesia, as long it's not available to Indonesia, then there's no problem (of course blocking Indonesia might be a technical problem but then I'm sure they have friends who understand how to do a lookup on an IP table and pop up a "sorry" dialog if an Indonesian computer tries to do a download)
the_magician
Feb. 26th, 2009 07:03 am (UTC)
But in the near future it's all going to fall apart anyway as copyright is going to become unenforceable at the individual level so it will be just companies suing each other for a while.

:-)
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