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Borrowing a Stairway to Heaven: did Led Zeppelin rip off a riff?

Originally posted in The Conversation by Nicolas Suzor and Eleanor Angel.

More than 40 years after the release of Stairway to Heaven, English rock band Led Zeppelin are facing allegations that its iconic guitar riff was stolen from Taurus, a song released in 1968 by the American rock band Spirit.

The two riffs are clearly similar: they share a four-bar instrumental guitar passage with similar harmony, tempo and stylistic features. Businessweek has created a short game where you can test your skill at telling the two apart.

But is this enough for Spirit to demand a share of the credit – and the royalties?

Current awareness seminar: copyright law reform, 15 May 2014

The QUT Intellectual Property Program hosts a seminar series to provide current awareness for IP practitioners and students, as well as career discussions for students interested working in intellectual property.

The next event is a discussion of current issue in copyright reform, covering important topics such as the recent Australian Law Reform Commission report on copyright, international developments in copyright law including WIPO treaties and the mooted Trans Pacific Partnership, and recent significant decisions.

Free-riding, cooperation, and ‘peaceful revolutions’ in copyright (post-print draft)

I have a new article in press with the Harvard Journal of Law & Technology. I’m interested in comments on the post-print draft. Abstract:

Modern copyright law is based on the inescapable assumption that users, given the choice, will free-ride rather than pay for access. In fact, many consumers of cultural works – music, books, films, games, and other works – fundamentally want to support their production. It turns out that humans are motivated to support cultural production not only by extrinsic incentives, but also by social norms of fairness and reciprocity. This article explains how producers across the creative industries have used this insight to develop increasingly sophisticated business models that rely on voluntary payments (including pay-what-you-want schemes) to fund their costs of production.

Seminar: Practicing IP Law: A Career Discussion

We are delighted to announce a new series of discussions aimed at giving assistance to students interested in career opportunities in the intellectual property field, and to provide awareness about current events in IP. The series will help QUT students understand what it takes to be an IP professional, what jobs are available in the field, and give guidance on how to network effectively in IP. It will also provide awareness of current cases and law reform issues of relevance to students interested in IP and hoping to work in the field.

This week, we have a panel discussion on practicing IP law, with speakers who have practiced as patent and trade mark attorneys, and as IP barristers and solicitors.

What: “Practicing IP Law: A Career Discussion”

Baidu’s perfect paradox: free speech and the right to censor

Originally posted on The Conversation, by Suzannah Wood and Nic Suzor.

China’s biggest search engine has a constitutional right to filter its search results, a US court found last month. But that’s just the start of the story.

Eight New York-based pro-democracy activists sued Baidu Inc in 2011, seeking damages because Baidu prevents their work from showing up in search results. Baidu follows Chinese law that requires it to censor politically sensitive results.

But in what the plaintiffs’ lawyer has dubbed a “perfect paradox”, US District Judge Jesse Furman has dismissed the challenge, explaining that to hold Baidu liable for its decisions to censor pro-democracy content would itself infringe the right to free speech.

GoldieBlox would beat the Beastie Boys rap in court

Originally published in The Conversation

This week, a US toy firm withdrew a viral ad that used a parody of a song by the Brooklyn hip hop greats the Beastie Boys, after the band challenged the company’s right to use their tune in a commercial.

The toy company, GoldieBlox, has now re-released the ad without the parody song. It looks a lot like a victory for the Brooklyn rappers, right?

It’s not. And here’s why.

Google Books wins ‘fair use’ but Australian copyright lags

Originally published in The Conversation

Australia wants to foster innovation in a digital economy, but our copyright laws discourage businesses from investing in new technologies and make it harder for individuals to access the knowledge upon which innovation is based. Yesterday’s US decision in the Google Books case shows why US copyright law is much more supportive of innovation than ours.