Monday, September 28, 2009

Copyright Consultant Reveals Little-Known Fact About the Future of Michael Jackson's Estate

Giving insight into why the struggle over Michael Jackson's estate may have been so fierce, Deeann D. Mathews, copyright consultant and author of The Freedom Guide for Music Creators, reveals a secret to the value of the estate of the late "King of Pop" -- recapture rights.

Most musicians believe that once they assign their copyright to a publishing company, they give up control for all time. But U.S. Copyright law includes a provision in which a songwriter or their heirs can "recapture," or regain full administrative control of their songs. Mathews says, "35 years after your work has been published, or 40 years after you've assigned your work to a publisher if publication has not happened, a five-year period begins in which you or your heirs can demand full control of your copyrights back. There is nothing a publisher can do but give you what you want, if you do it right."

The only catch: You must formalize your demand in writing two years before you want your song back. In other words, the latest you could file your demand is the 38th year after your work has been published, or the 43rd year after your work went to a publisher but was not published.

In the case of Michael Jackson, many of his early solo hits are now in the recapture period, including "Got to Be There" (1972) and "Ben." (1972). Jackson 5 hits in the recapture period include "Sugar Daddy" (1972), and the huge hit "Dancing Machine" (1973, re-released as a single in 1974). Next year, the Jackson 5's "All I Do is Think of You" and the solo "Take Me Back" will enter the recapture period (both released in 1975, 34 years ago). In five years, Jackson's hit "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" (1979) will enter the recapture period, and in eight years, everything on Jackson's mega-hit album Thriller (1982) will also enter the recapture period.

"The control of millions of not billions of dollars in assets would go from the music industry back to Jackson's heirs if they were to pursue these rights," says Mathews. "The takeaway for every musician should be this: you also can exercise similar control. If you're not happy with what your publisher is doing, or if you are happy but you think you can do better, get those letters of demand ready for that 35th year."

Deeann D. Mathews, award-winning composer, copyright consultant and author of The Freedom Guide for Music Creators, has helped a number of songwriters register and protect their copyrights, researched copyright status for songs in major projects, and educated music students on the basics of the music industry. For more information, visit Mathews' "Music Business a Go-Go" site at

Monday, September 14, 2009

Paper Offers 'How-To' Guide for Protecting Entrepreneurs' Big Ideas

Successful entrepreneurs turn big ideas into successful business opportunities, but how should they protect those ideas? A new paper from North Carolina State University offers a "how-to" guide on intellectual property protection, laying out the options for budding entrepreneurs as they consider how to move forward.

"Entrepreneurs often come up with ideas that can be protected, and this article lays out the pros and cons of various intellectual-property protections," says Dr. Stephen Schanz, a teaching associate professor of management, innovation and entrepreneurship at NC State and the author of the article. "Furthermore, the paper urges entrepreneurs to weigh the time, cost and effort involved in pursuing various intellectual-property protections."

The three protections outlined in the paper are patents, trade secrets and copyrights. Patents apply to inventions and devices. Utility patents provide legal protection of the idea for 20 years, dating from when the patent application is filed. However, when the 20 years are up, the information becomes part of the public domain. Trade secrets also apply to inventions or devices, but are protected internally, meaning that there is very little in the way of public protection. The benefit is that the idea never enters the public domain, so it can remain secret in perpetuity – a good example of a trade secret is the formula for Coca-Cola. However, if anyone else figures it out, they can legally market it themselves.

The third type of protection is a copyright. Copyrights protect unique expressions, such as music, art or design. These elements can be a significant component of marketable products, such as the sounds and images associated with popular video games.

"Determining which protections best suit your needs is not a ‘one size fits all' scenario," Schanz says. "The options you may want to consider will vary over time." For example, he says, "entrepreneurs in a young start-up company with limited capital and resources may want to go the trade secret route until they ascertain how it fits in their business plan. But, if they have determined that the idea is valuable, they should also take steps to ensure that – eventually – it can be patented." Schanz explains that if an entrepreneur discusses the idea with outside parties who have not signed non-disclosure agreements, the idea may no longer be patentable – it will have entered public domain.

"If, over time, the start-up company has more resources available - and the concept is commercially viable - it may want to pursue a patent," Schanz says. "The important thing is for the entrepreneur to weigh the risks and benefits of various options and make an informed decision. This paper should help entrepreneurs do that."

The paper, "Entrepreneurial Options for Protecting Intellectual Property," was published in the September issue of the Entrepreneurial Business Law Journal.

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Monday, September 7, 2009

Photographers File Objections to Proposed Google Settlement

The American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), joined by the Graphic Artists Guild, the Picture Archive Council of America, the North American Nature Photography Association, and several prominent individual photographers, has filed documents in opposition to the proposed settlement of the consolidated copyright infringement actions against Google instituted by the Authors Guild, Inc. and the Association of American Publishers, Inc. ASMP and the other trade associations represent thousands of photographers, graphic artists, and other copyright owners who assert that they were excluded from the process as well as from the proposed $125 million settlement.

Earlier this year, ASMP published a statement expressing concerns about the class action settlement between authors, publishers and Google, and indicated its intention to file objections. Since that time, the four professional associations have joined forces, working together to oppose the settlement which excludes photographers and graphic artists from millions of dollars in payment, as well as from participation in future revenues to be generated by Google under the proposed settlement. ASMP Executive Director Eugene Mopsik said, "ASMP believes that the proposed settlement has far-reaching consequences for the work product and livelihoods of creators of visual images. Through this filing, we hope to stop a settlement that would hurt our members and those of our sister organizations, and to participate in obtaining a fair and equitable solution."

According to the filing, the Proposed Settlement purports to serve both the public interest and the interests of the class members as well as Google, but it would, in fact, serve the financial interests of only a select few while irrevocably damaging the interests of others. ASMP General Counsel Victor Perlman said, "The vast majority of photographers and graphic artists, whose works have been and continue to be digitized by Google without authorization, and who have been members of the plaintiffs' class since June 2006, would neither receive compensation for past infringement nor any benefit going forward.” Perlman added, "The visual arts community has copyright interests at stake that are just as important as the copyright interests of authors and publishers that this Proposed Settlement is designed to protect.” The documents filed by ASMP will be available at

Founded in 1944, ASMP is the leader in promoting photographers' rights, providing education in better business practices, producing business publications for photographers, and helping to connect purchasers with professional photographers. ASMP has 39 chapters across the country and its 7,000 members include many of the world's foremost photographers. More information is available at

The Graphic Artist Guild promotes and protects the social, economic and professional interests of its members. More information at