Tag Archives | Copyright

Scholarship Winners 2016

unc_medialawThe UNC Center for Media Law and Policy has awarded $6,000 in scholarships to three law students working in unpaid or underpaid internships in the field of media law and policy this summer.

These are the scholarship winners and where they are working:

Varsha Mangal is a legal intern in the Office of General Counsel of the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, D.C.

Chanda Marlowe is spending half of her summer working for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in San Francisco and the other half working for the Future of Privacy Forum in Washington, D.C.

Rachel M. Rice is working in the business affairs office of Broadway Video, a global entertainment and media company.  She is located in Los Angeles.

Congratulations to our wonderful students!


UNC media law graduate publishes in Communication Law and Policy

Pic 2UNC media law graduate Kevin Delaney has had an article published in Communication Law and Policy.  The article is “Balancing in Light of the Purposes of Copyright: Whether Video Music Lessons Constitute Copyright Infringement.”

The article addresses the question of whether it is a violation of copyright law for an individual to create and upload to the Internet a video music lesson in which the creator teaches viewers how to play a copyrighted song. The article argues that the defense of fair use should protect creators of video music lessons from liability in a copyright lawsuit, and specifically that video music lessons further the objective of copyright law – to promote learning.  The article says, in part, “Because video music lessons promote copyright’s aim of creating a more informed populace, our copyright laws should encourage – not detract – from the creation of such works.”

This is the citation for the article: Kevin Delaney, Balancing in Light of the Purposes of Copyright: Whether Video Music Lessons Constitute Copyright Infringement, 20 Comm. L. & Pol’y 261 (2015).

Kevin wrote the article for a course in the UNC School of Law called Copyright and the Music Industry in the Fall of 2014.  In May he graduated from UNC’s dual-degree program, earning a master’s in mass communication and a J.D.  He now works for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

Congratulations, Kevin!




A UNC Student’s Summer Experience at the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse, a Project of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society

Berkman Center LogoLet me start by saying that I really like information. Numbers, lists, facts, data, trivia. I like them all. I’m an information junkie. I also happen to love the First Amendment. Given this, it’s not surprising that I was so excited to spend this past summer interning with the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society. Chilling Effects collects threats to free expression online, mostly in the form of DMCA take-down notices and similar intellectual property infringement claims, although Chilling Effects receives notices of other threats to free speech as well. All of that information is compiled into a searchable database. Being able to work with Chilling Effects, to explore this database, and to see “under the hood” was a great way to combine my interest in data with my passion for the First Amendment.

The summer was jumpstarted with a joint project involving myself and the two other Chilling Effects interns. Our task was to track down questionable trademark infringement claims in the database. We sorted through hundreds of these claims, looking to see if the people who filed them had concerns beyond trademark infringement — for example, someone whose real issue might be closer to a defamation claim than a trademark claim, but the latter might more quickly and effectively take down the content in question, since defamation claims can be costly to pursue and difficult to win. In other words, we scoured the database looking at potentially fraudulent trademark infringement claims that were being used to stifle free expression online. Once we wrapped up our search we worked with Jeff Hermes at the Digital Media Law Project to turn our findings into content for a presentation he was giving. One of the best parts of summer at the Berkman Center was a project like this one because I got to work with the other interns, all of whom were passionate, curious, and eager to spend the summer researching and working on a variety of Berkman projects.

On top of working with these great people, interns attended weekly presentations by leaders in the technology and policy fields. One week we got to hear from NYU privacy scholar Helen Nissenbaum, who spoke about transparency and privacy issues in accessing online court records. Earlier in the summer many of us attended a book launch for ReWire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection by Ethan Zuckerman of the MIT Center for Civic Media. But perhaps the most fun “intern hour” was an interactive demonstration of Google Glass. We might have looked ridiculous, but we loved being among the first to check out this new wearable computing technology.

The summer flew by. When news broke about the NSA’s PRISM program, I started reading everything I could about the issue and turned my research into a blog post featuring a timeline of Edward Snowden’s leaks and related news about the program. The best part about the blogging for Chilling Effects was that I got to use the Chilling Effects database to add color, facts, and figures to the stories that were already out there. For example, when Twitter released it’s annual Transparency Report in July, I combined their reported data with information stored in the Chilling Effects database. By layering the Chilling Effects’ data on top of Twitter’s, it was easy to start to see the bigger picture for how Twitter handles attempts by countries to censor tweets or account holders.

My summer internship at the Berkman Center gave me the opportunity to work with an area of the law that I am passionate about and introduced me to dozens of new friends and peers who are equally excited about the future of technology, law, and policy. It was by far the most exciting and memorable summer I’ve had and it was an honor to work with some of the world’s leading tech and policy thinkers. Summer 2014 Berkman Center internship applications just opened up and are being accepted until February 16.  If you’re interested applying you can find more information on the Center’s Internship page here.


District Court Enjoins FilmOn X

filmon_logoLast Thursday, September 5, the District Court for the District of Columbia issued a preliminary injunction against FilmOn X, a for-profit company that streams broadcasters’ content—without permission—over the Internet to subscribers. The injunction prevents FilmOn X from operating in nearly every jurisdiction in the country and serves as a major setback for the company founded by billionaire Alki David. The ruling is the latest plot twist in a drama playing out between broadcasters and companies that retransmit their content over the Internet without consent.

The District Court found the preliminary injunction warranted after concluding the plaintiffs (that is, the broadcasters who initiated the suit) would be likely to succeed in their claim that FilmOn X violated their right to perform copyrighted works publicly. The ruling is in stark contrast to a nearly identical case (WNET v. Aereo, Inc.) the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled on last April. The Second Circuit held that Aereo, a company that operates a similar service to FilmOn X, transmitted “unique copies of broadcast television programs” that are sent to single users at their direction, not to the public at large. Thus, the Court of Appeals ruled that Aereo’s service does not violate the public performance right.

FilmOn X, much like Aereo, uses “minute” antennas to capture the television signals broadcasters are required by law to transmit over-the-air for free. Once captured, the company retransmits the signals over the Internet to subscribers, who have the option of watching content live or (if using the company’s DVR service) at a later time.

By devoting a dedicated antenna to each subscriber, FilmOn X contended that it sent private transmissions over the Internet and thus did not violate the public performance right. Unlike in Aereo, however, the District Court did not find the argument persuasive.

Central to the court’s ruling was its interpretation of the “transmission clause,” located in § 101 of the Copyright Act of 1976. Under the transmission clause, a work is performed “publicly” when it is transmitted “by means of any device or process, whether the members of the public capable of receiving the performance or display receive it in the same place or in separate places and at the same time or at different times.” In concluding that the transmit clause applied to FilmOn X, the court wrote:

FilmOn X transmits (i.e., communicates from mini-antenna through servers over the Internet to a user) the performance (i.e., an original over-the-air broadcast of a work copyrighted by one of the Plaintiffs) to members of the public (i.e., any person who accesses the FilmOn X service through its website or application) who receive the performance in separate places and at different times (i.e. at home at their computers or on their mobile devices). FilmOn X violates §§ 101 and 106(4) of the 1976 Act, meaning that Plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits of their copyright infringement claim.

Under the District Court’s ruling, FilmOn X is enjoined from operating its service in every jurisdiction excluding the Second Circuit, where the decision in Aereo serves as controlling precedent.

Many commentators believe it will ultimately be up to the Supreme Court to decide the legality of services like FilmOn X and Aereo.

We’ll keep you posted on the developments. Until then, here is the link to the District Court’s ruling.

Kevin Delaney is a 2L at the University of North Carolina School of Law and a second-year master’s student at the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication.