3 Count: Steinbeck Battle

The Gripes of Wrath...

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1: Appeal in Lawsuit Over John Steinbeck Works Heads to Court

First off today, Rachel D’Oro at the Washington Post reports that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is set to hear an appeal in the battle over the estate of iconic author John Steinbeck.

In 2017 a jury awarded the author’s stepdauighter, Waverly Scott Kaffaga, more than $13 million in damages after they determined that Steinbeck’s son, Thomas Steinbeck, and his wife, Gail Steinbeck, had interfered with TV and movie deals that Kaffaga had tried to line up. According to Kaffaga, there had been heightened interest in remaking many of John Steinbeck’s classic works but the other heirs interfered with those deal, claiming that they had the rights alone and creating legal uncertainty.

However, Thomas Steinbeck’s estate (Thomas Steinbeck died in 2016) has appealed saying that the 1983 agreement between the parties violates his right under the “termination rights” clause of the Copyright Act of 1976. Further, they have alleged in the past that they never intentionally interferred with any deals and that Kaffaga wasn’t entitled to damages because, since the movies were never made, the amount lost was purely speculative.

2: Right to Secrecy Makes it Tough to Put Warnings on Piracy Websites

Next up today, Ryo Inoue at The Asahi Shimbun reports that, in Japan, a panel with in the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications has compiled a report that says a proposed system for displaying warnings on pirate websites may violate user privacy.

The system, which has been proposed by the Japanese government, would insert warning bars and labels on suspected pirate sites. However, according to the report, such a system would be difficult to do without violating the privacy rights of consumers as it would require monitoring user activity and springing into action when they see a customer visiting an alleged pirate website.

The same panel, however, noted that filtering suspected pirate websites does not raise the same piracy issues as it can be performed without checking an individual user’s connection. Considering that the warning system was seen as an alternative to a proposed site blocking regime, this may push Japan more toward site blocking rather than site warnings.

3: 123 Artists Speak Out in Support of Led Zeppelin in ‘Stairway To Heaven’ Song-Theft Case

Finally today, Scott Munro at Louder reports that more than 120 artists have signed on to an amicus brief in the Led Zeppelin Stairway to Heaven case saying that, if an earlier ruling in the court is allowed to stand, it could harm creativity in the music industry.

The case pits the famous band against the estate of songwriter Randy Wolfe, who performed with the band Spirit. According to the lawsuit, Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven is an infringement of the Spirit song Taurus. However, in 2016 a jury concluded that the songs were not substantially similar enough and rejected the case.

But when the case was appealed to the Ninth Circuit, the three-judge panel ruled that the jury was improperly instructed and that the case would have to be retried. However, Led Zeppelin appealed that ruling en banc and the court has agreed to listen to it with the full panel of 11 judges. That en banc hearing has inspired this particular amicus brief, which has been signed by 123 artists including musicians from Korn, Tool, Linkin Park and more.

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