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Earlier this year Paramount Pictures and CBS Studios filed a lawsuit against the makers of the Star Trek inspired fan film, accusing them of copyright infringement.
The dispute centers around the well-received short film Star Trek: Prelude to Axanar and the planned follow-up feature film Anaxar.
The project is an idea from Alec Peters who started working on it half a decade ago. The short film turned in to a massive hit and quickly raised more than $100,000 through crowdfunding, and the follow-up feature raised another $638,000 on Kickstarter alone.
That’s a serious budget for a fan-art project and the success prompted the attention of both Paramount Pictures and CBS Studios, who filed their complaint at a California federal court last December.
Among other things, the Star Trek rightsholder claimed ownership over various Star Trek related settings, characters, species, clothing, colors, shapes, words, short phrases and even the Klingon language.
This week, Axanar productions and Alec Peters responded to the allegations put forward in the complaint (pdf). According to the makers of the fan film, several of the allegedly “infringing elements” are not protected by copyright to begin with.
In their reply the filmmakers argue that words and short phrases such as names, titles and slogans can’t be protected. This includes the popular phrase “beam me up” as well as several Star Trek related names.
“…the names Garth of Izar, Soval, Richard Robau, and John Gill are not protectable, and neither are the words Andorians, Tellarites, Romulans, Axanar, Archanis IV, Q’onoS, Nausicaa, Rigel, Andoria, Tellar Prime, Vulcans, Klingons, Terra, Starship Enterprise, Starfleet, Federation, Starships, Stardate, and Federation or the short phrase ‘beaming up’,” they write.
In addition, Axanar productions points out that Paramount and CBS can’t claim ownership of the Klingon language, which is nothing more than an idea according to the defendants.
“The Klingon language itself is an idea or a system, and is not copyrightable,” they write.
“The mere allegation that Defendants used the Klingon language, without any allegation that Defendants copied Plaintiffs’ particular expression of that language, is therefore insufficient to state a claim for copyright infringement as to any protected element.”
The defendants continue by stressing that the use of the Vulcan appearance and the Heat-Ray Phaser weapons are not unique to Star Trek. They are common appearances in nature and / or have been used in fictional works before.
“Vulcan appearance: a species with ‘pointy ears’ is not original to Star Trek, and has appeared in many fictional fantasy works depicting imaginary humanoid species predating Star Trek, including, but not limited to, vampires, elves, fairies, and werewolves, as well as in many animals in nature.”
“Phasers are also known as Heat-Ray weapons, which have existed in science fiction since H.G. Wells’ ‘War of the Worlds’ in 1898,” the complaint notes.
Besides the questions Axanar raises over the copyright protections, they also argue that the allegations aren’t specific enough, since it’s not specified which exact copyrights have been infringed.
“While Plaintiffs allege that they own ‘more than 700’ Star Trek television episodes, a dozen motion pictures, and four books, they still fail to specify which of those copyrights Defendants have allegedly infringed,” the write.
As a result, Axanar Productions asks the court to dismiss or strike the copyright claims in question.
While the UK continues its aggressive pursuit of those who run or even facilitate access to sites offering copyright infringing material, its efforts to deal with consumers of pirated content have been painfully drawn out.
With the provisions of the Digital Economy Act now somewhat of a distant memory, using force to deal with Internet subscribers has been largely overtaken by plans to re-educate the masses.
To that end the government-funded, rightsholder-supported Creative Content UK (CCUK) initiative has been trying to gather momentum since its somewhat subdued debut in December last year. Though various PR campaigns the project hopes to change the public’s attitude towards Internet piracy.
Currently CCUK is running “Get It Right from a Genuine Site”, a campaign that hopes to deter people from using sites like The Pirate Bay in favor of licensed services that ensure that creators are properly paid.
The campaign has been largely inoffensive and quite colorful thus far but has struggled to achieve mainstream exposure. However, the latest video in the “Get It Right” series hopes to change that with a properly “grown up” attempt at reaching out to would-be pirates.
Featuring bookseller Nic Bottomley and his real-life book store ‘Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights’, this Bookseller Association-supported video is a somewhat refreshing and calming anti-piracy short that’s a million miles away from “You Wouldn’t Download“.
Located in the beautiful city of Bath, the Emporium is a classic UK book shop and the video begins with its owner’s memories of repeatedly reading the Roald Dahl classic Fantastic Mr Fox. It’s warming stuff and a welcome change from the aggressive threats featured in other campaigns.
From the moment it begins it becomes clear that the aim of this short is to encourage the viewer to empathize with Bottomley, who together with his wife has built up a really decent book business over the past 12 years. And it works.
Bottomley’s tone is superb and doesn’t sound ‘preachy’ at all, and it’s genuinely nice to hear a little about what it’s like to run his shop and help out customers. But of course, that’s only possible if the public spends money with him and by extension, those writing the books.
“You know that when you buy a book from a high street book shop, or a book or an ebook from a legitimate website, that the creator of that content, in other words the writer of the book or ebook, has been properly rewarded for their work,” Bottomley tells the viewer.
But while it’s easy for those who grew up with mountains of real books to have the utmost respect for what Bottomley has achieved, it’s questionable whether his story will resonate so clearly with the ‘downloading generation’. Real books and real book shops are indeed beautiful, but increasingly digital downloads are taking over, with products like Kindle Unlimited (the Netflix of books) a more attractive proposition for those on the go.
Still, it’s hoped that booksellers of all kinds will get behind the initiative and spread the word that supporting writers (and sellers) is the right thing to do.
“We need to help the creative community to invest in creating more of content, and the development of new artists and writers and ideas as a result,” says Bookseller Association CEO Tim Godfray.
Finally, it will be interesting to see to what extent publishers, writers and book sellers will be supported when UK Internet service providers finally begin to send out warnings to alleged pirates in the months (years?) to come. The scheme has already been hugely delayed and thus far there has only been discussion of music, movie and TV show downloaders being targeted.
Also problematic is the manner in which ebooks are shared online. While torrents are the preferred method for larger files, books are much more likely to be distributed via hosting sites and forums. This kind of sharing cannot be tracked, so the education component is even more critical for the book sector.
With hundreds of million of active users, Instagram is often asked to remove copyrighted material being shared on its servers without permission.
If rightsholders submit a takedown request, Instagram swiftly takes the infringing content down. At least, that’s what it is supposed to do.
A new lawsuit filed in a California federal court suggests that Instagram’s takedown procedure is not always as effective as it should be.
This week Wisconsin-based photographer Jennifer Rondinelli Reilly filed a complaint (pdf) against Instagram in which she accuses the service of hosting or linking to one of her works without permission.
The work in question is an image of red lips and a microphone, which was registered at the U.S. Copyright Office in 2013. The image in question is used on several occasions, including in the profile below.
One of the alleged infringing uses
After discovering the unauthorized use of her work the photographer sent Instagram dozens of DMCA takedown requests. However, according to the complaint Instagram failed to take action in response.
“Reilly sent DMCA notices to Instagram regarding the Infringing Uses on January 26, 2016, January 27, 2016, January 28, 2016,” the complaint reads.
“Reilly never authorized the Infringing Uses,” the complaint states, adding that the images are still present on the site. “Instagram has not removed or disabled access to the Infringing Uses.”
At the time of writing several of the reported images have been removed. However, the profile picture shown above is still present and the same is true for other copies of the image on Instagram.
To resolve the matter, Reilly requests a permanent injunction against the service, as well as statutory damages for the alleged losses she has suffered.
This is not the first time the photographer has gone after a social network. A few months ago she filed a similar lawsuit against Twitter. This case was dismissed not much later, but it’s unclear if both parties reached a settlement out of court.
A few weeks ago Reilly also sued Buzzfeed for copyright infringement and the case is still ongoing.
With millions of unique visitors per day KickassTorrents (KAT) has become the most-used torrent site on the Internet, beating even The Pirate Bay.
The site also has a very active community of torrent aficionados from all over the world. On March 30, staff and members come together to celebrate their beloved pastime on ‘Happy Torrents Day‘.
“Five years ago we realized that what our users do on KickAssTorrents, what they believe in and enjoy, needed celebrating. A day to give back to them what they give to us,” KAT administrator Mr. Black tells TorrentFreak.
“Every torrent community is different and individual in its own way but we all believe in freedom of sharing and of course share one of the most important things in common. Torrents.”
Happy Torrents Day
The event was initially started by KAT administrator Mr. Pink in 2011. It began as a small celebration, but over the years it has turned into a recurring tradition with many thousands of people participating.
Last year more than 115,000 registered users checked in. The number of uploads also increased significantly on Happy Torrents Day, well above the 4,000 torrents that were added on an average day that year. This year, the KAT team hopes to break this record.
“Torrents Day in 2015 took us to just short of 6,000 torrents uploaded… 5,775 to be exact. But due to the users we have gained and the services provided we are expecting to well exceed these numbers,” Mr. Black says.
If everything goes according to plan Torrents Day 2016 is expected to drive a lot of traffic to the site and perhaps set several new records. Judging from the discussion already going on, there’s definitely plenty of interest for this young tradition.
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