Is the NFL Committing Copyright Infringement?

Over the course of the past week, several photographers brought a lawsuit against the NFL, Replay Photos, Getty Images and the Associated Press for copyright infringement. The photographers involved in the lawsuit allege that the companies used their intellectual property without obtaining proper licenses and permissions. According to the article, the photographers are suing for damages for copyright infringement, damages for vicarious and contributory copyright infringement, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty.

In his book, The Future of Ideas, Lawrence Lessig states, “Every society has resources that are free and resources that are controlled. Free resources are those available for the taking. Controlled resources are those for which the permission of someone is needed before the resource can be used.” He goes on to explain, “A resource is free if one can use it without the permission of anyone else or if the permission needed is granted neutrally.” In the case of copyright infringement brought against the NFL and the other companies listed, the photos and intellectual property in question were not free resources. They required permissions and licenses in order to be used, yet the companies still used them without obtaining these necessary permissions. The NFL, Associated Press, and Getty Images allegedly used these controlled resources with blatant disregard to the legal processes necessary to obtain permission for their use.

This creates a huge problem for creative professionals like photographers and designers, because they make a living by selling permissions and temporary licenses to use their intellectual property. Rather than working a set amount of hours each week and receiving a steady paycheck, creative professionals survive off of selling the rights to their photos, designs, etc. When companies like the NFL and the Associated Press use these items without purchasing the rights, it robs the original artist of the money they are entitled.

I believe Kant and Milton would agree with me on this. Kant suggests that the majority of people go through life without ever having a truly original thought. They spend their lives piggy-backing off of the ideas of others. He encourages people to, “Dare to know!” and, “Have the courage to use your own understanding.” I believe if Kant were to comment on the case of copyright infringement against the NFL, he would side with the photographers. If the NFL wanted to use someone else’s photos rather than creating something themselves, they should have paid for the permission to do so. If they didn’t want to pay to use someone else’s work, then they should have taken the time to go out and create the images themselves.




• (Milton)

• (Kant)

• (Lessig)


Even the President isn’t free of Copyright Infringement (Revised)

Copyright infringement happens repeatedly throughout the world in all media aspects. Most of the cases are a matter of opinion and not all black and white. A case that quickly comes to mind when thinking of copyright infringement is one during President Obama’s first campaign. The “Hope” poster quickly became one of the most identifiable campaigning tools for the campaign and followed quickly with a copy infringement

scandal quickly after. The design and poster themselves were produced by the famous street artist Shephard Fairey.  Though the artist produced the work itself it was independent of Obama’s campaign, but had the approval (Art Beat). A copyright infringement case soon came into play once the Associated press revealed that the true photographer was the AP freelancer Mannie Garcia. The link below shows a contrast between the original photograph and Fairey’s poster. Although the Hope poster was designed and edited by Fairey, his work was based off the photograph taken by Mannie. What really made this case, in my opinion, not so black and white was the popularity of the poster versus the popularity of the photograph. Thousands of photographs are taken everyday of the President and can be easily found on a variety of websites. If an artist takes an original work and puts their own “flair” on it, does it not become a completely different work then the original entirely? I believe that every work that an artist does is independent of all works before it. Regardless of what a song, poem, or in this case a poster is based on, that work itself is the only work that comes into play. Greed is the driving emotion behind another artist wanting to claim the work that spun off from it. Although I do believe some credit should be given to the “original” artists, recognition should be as far as it goes.  Lessig, I feel, would agree with me, “Why would we burden the creative process—not just film, but generally, and not just the arts, but innovation more broadly—with rules that seem to have no connection to innovation and creativity?” (Lessig 4)A true artist in any area should only hope to get their work out there, and feel honored that another artist would use their work not just solely just in the fact that they thought it was special and unique enough to use, but also the fact that the artists are helping the original work “improve” and become more well known.

In relation to Kant and Milton, I believe that they would disagree. Milton and Kant seem to operate along the lines of that if a product is a spin off of an original work, it creates problems. Where I disagree is does it not help the world intellectually rather than holding us back? The point of growing intellectually is development, which, in black and white, could be seen as making original products better. Yes, that does leave little room for our own ideas; however, in the 21st century I feel that there is little room for truly original work in the basic sense of the world. “Original” though is so loosely defined. “Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed nonage. Nonage is the inability to use one’s own understanding without another’s guidance.” (Kant). In ways I do agree with Kant that the idea is not original since Fairey, did not take the photo however, I feel that the originality lies in the way Fairey manipulate the photo itself therefore making an original piece into yet another original piece.

            In the end Fairey and the AP Press settled in a private settlement, but there was a part including the split of the profits that the work generated (99 designs).  Every person has their own opinions on copyright. And as Milton states “when God gave him reason, he gave him freedom to choose, for reason is but choosing” (Milton). The result of the case was necessary to settle with the AP press, but in the future the covering of the original work should be done in such a manner that it have no true tie back to the original owner.

(the case itself)




Vanilla Ice on “Ice Ice Baby” vs. Queen/Bowie’s “Under Pressure” UPDATED

It’s become a ridiculous thing that people now think they can own whatever idea comes to their head and everything that may possibly be similar to it. In Lawrence Lessig’s book, The Future of Ideas, he states, “I would say to an 18-year-old artist, you’re totally free to do whatever you want. But–and then I would give him a long list of all the things that he couldn’t include in his movie because they would not be cleared, legally cleared. That he would have to pay for them. [So freedom? Here’s the freedom]: You’re totally free to make a movie in an empty room, with your two friends.” Basically the point he’s making is that you’re originality can only be based solely on what comes out of your head with practically no outside sources. He proclaims this is in a sarcastic manner because no one can form thoughts and ideas without even the slight influence of another person’s impact to start from. If humans did not build ideas off of each other then there is no way that we could have the comforts of life like we do now. As a human race we have a constant need to always improve and yearn for the next step in life, but without the ability to use the create minds of others in addition to our own we are handicapped.

An example where this ridiculous idea is portrayed is the case of Vanilla Ice vs. David Bowie/Freddie Mercury. The one hit wonder Vanilla Ice was sued for having a similar baseline in his song “Ice Ice Baby” and not crediting David Bowie and Queen from their song Under Pressure for it. Vanilla Ice, clearly not the most intelligent man to enter the world of hip hop, states in response to the lawsuit that,”We sampled it from them but it’s not the same bassline. It goes ‘ding ding ding di di ding ding… ding ding ding di di ding ding.’ That’s the way theirs goes. Ours goes ‘ding ding ding di di ding ding… DING… ding ding ding di di ding ding.’ That little bitty change — it’s not the same.” This case never made it to court, although rumor has it that the copyright owners of Under Pressure threatened an extreme legal suit but instead and settled with Vanilla for an undisclosed sum. The fact that people can now claim certain beats of music seems to be hilarious in my eyes. What happened to freedom of speech? I understand there has to be somewhat of a limit on copyright infringement so that people can correctly be recognized for the work they do but even Milton states in the Areopagitca that, “…When a man writes to the world, he summons up all his reason and deliberation to assist him; he searches, meditats, is industrious, and likely consults and conferrs with his judicious friends; after all which done he takes himself to be inform’d in what he writes, as well as any that writ before him.” In my personal opinion I don’t think Vanilla Ice meant to rip off David Bowie and Queen by using a tune similar to there’s, I believe he was simply inspired by it to produce a hit that he truly felt he could call his own.

Milton clearly states that other people and influences are importance when it comes to original ideas and such. On another note, Immanuel Kant also mentions in his piece “What is Enlightenment” that “It is more nearly possible, however, for the public to enlighten itself,” which coincides with the point that we need influences in our lives to procreate ideas in ourselves. In the instance of this lawsuit however, Kant would be on Vanilla Ice’s side because he was going into the unknown based off of someone else’s original thoughts. Kant believed that people should not be penalized with this kind of restriction because without this kind of progress, people will become lazy. In his time period they were trying to emerge from the dark ages, where monarchs and rulers basically told people what they could and couldn’t think or produce. Times are different now, people (at least in most countries) have free speech, are independent, and are completely capable with feeding off one another’s opinions without fear of never moving forward. After looking at all the opinions of these famous authors, I believe that that the solution is to take less restrictions on ownership rights to creativity and encourage people to never stop improving our world.

(Information on the case)




-Maddy Johnston

Copyrights and Wrongs

Richard Derderian

September 5, 2013

ENGL 382

Copy Rights and Wrongs


There are a litany of copyright and patent infringement stories that can be found online.  You can find large and small cases, or general or specific cases, but you will definitely not find a shortage of these cases with one Google search.  While going through various articles regarding infringement, I was very interested to find an article regarding Red Box.  Founded in 2002, Red Box did not become the booming business it has become today until a few years ago.  And, of course, with the growth of any business comes law suits.

In June 2013, a man by the name of James Satchell filed suit against Red Box for apparently violating a patent that he filed and received in 1998.  The source, WFSA, reported that Satchell’s son stated that, “Any vending machine that dispenses physical items and transactions using swipe cards, over the Internet are basically infringing on the patent.”  (WFSA)  The statement by Satchell can be tied back to “The Future of Ideas” by Laurence Lessig, in which Lessig quotes Davis Guggenheim; “if any piece of artwork is recognizable by anybody . . . then you have to clear the rights of that and pay” (Lessig 3)  Though this quote is taken in the context of film production, it can be applied here as well in the respect that Red Box featured a piece of patented intellectual property of another person’s in their product, and therefore, they are liable for it.  Another good quote from Lessig regarding film further clarifies why Satchell is filing a suit against Red Box.  “[A]lmost every piece of artwork, any piece of furniture, or sculpture, has to be cleared before you can use it”

Since Satchell’s patented idea is being used by a now multi-billion dollar company, one has to believe that this supposed violation is very damaging if indeed Satchell did patent the idea he claims that Red Box is using, despite the fact that Satchell never really made any money off of it.  This can be tied into Immanuel Kant’s article titled “What is the Enlightenment?” in which he talks about people being too reliant on the ideas of others to get through their lives thinking on their own.  This quote may be a bit of a stretch but I think it is a good way to see what’s going on with this Red Box dispute from a somewhat abstract perspective.  People are always trying to come up with fresh ideas in this tech-driven world, but it is getting tougher and tougher to come up with original ideas, so tweaking old ideas and bending them into something that looks original is what many people in today’s world do.  People make little changes to older ideas in order to create new ventures and companies, but when we get to reliant on tweaking old ideas, we find that   “it is very difficult for the individual to work himself out of the nonage which has become almost second nature to him. He has even grown to like it, and is at first really incapable of using his own understanding because he has never been permitted to try it.” (Kant)

Whether or not James Satchell wins his suit, it is clear that he had a patent for what Red Box is using.  If Red Box used his idea but changed it in order to use it then maybe nice guys do finish last.  I guess that is why God made us the way we are, sneaky, selfish, and money hungry.  But take this quote from John Milton’s “Areopagitica”, in which he explains that good things would not be praised if God had made Adam an artificial human being.  He speaks of virtue and how our reason gives us the power to decide to commit actions, whether they be good or bad.

“If every action which is good, or evill in man at ripe years, were to be under pittance,

and prescription, and compulsion, what were vertue but a name, what praise could be

then due to well-doing, what gramercy to be sober, just or continent? many there be

that complain of divin Providence for suffering Adam to transgresse, foolish tongues!

when God gave him reason, he gave him freedom to choose, for reason is but choosing;

he had bin else a meer artificiall Adam, such an Adam as he is in the motions. We

our selves esteem not of that obedience, or love, or gift, which is of force: God

therefore left him free, set before him a provoking object, ever almost in his eyes

herein consisted his merit, herein the right of his reward, the praise of his abstinence.

Wherefore did he creat passions within us, pleasures round about us, but that these

rightly temper’d are the very ingredients of vertu?”  (Milton)


Works Cited:





Do they really need more money?

By Brock R

675,000 was the number that a man by the name of Joel Tenenbaum had to pay out to a number of record companies for illegally downloading 30 songs. Tenenbaum realized how much drastically worse this case could have been as the record labels could have charged him well into the millions for stealing their work, which in my opinion is absolutely outlandish. It is nearly inconceivable how much money record companies make off of their artists not to mention the artists themselves who make millions on their televisions appearances and tours. The way that music is evolving now is that it is being produced in a manner that everyone can hear the music, making downloading music as simple as operating a Microsoft Word program. Artists don’t literally make money from their albums and songs anymore but the degree of access to their music is not slowing their success in the slightest. They hardly make money on their albums and physical song tracks anymore as most of the revenue comes from the sell out shows or the special musical performances like at the VMA’s or special television spots. Another vessel that is great is Youtube, anyone and everyone can access pretty much any music they want, which is another vessel for these artists to share their creativity.

This example of copyright infringement is one in which companies are simply just being greedy and just plain immoral in my opinion. The case of Tenenbaum, according to ABC news, was only the second national case of an individual going to trial for downloading illegal music. The way that Kant speaks about enlightenment and freedom to express I feel really ties into this issue of music distribution quite well. He makes the statement that “a public can achieve enlightenment only slowly. A revolution may bring about the end of a personal despotism or of avaricious tyrannical oppression, but never a true reform of modes of thought. New prejudices will serve, in place of the old, as guide lines for the unthinking multitude” (Kant). The public has latched onto an idea of music for the masses, downloading everything for free when they see fit even though the tyrannical oppression, i.e. the music industries, still can pose a threat. However, it means little as Kant says as this mode of thought has moved from the public to the artists themselves, leaking albums and songs for free in order to get more fame and recognition. In playing the devils advocate Milton argues about how the soul is poured into literature and to steal a piece of this is to steal someones legacy, specifically he remarks “When a man writes to the world, he summons up all his reason and deliberation to assist him; he searches, meditats, is industrious, and likely consults and conferrs with his judicious friends; after all which done he takes himself to be inform’d in what he writes” (Milton). Milton makes a good point here, I feel to steal knowledge and represent it as one’s own is a grievous misuse of judgement. However songs merit no knowledge, it is entertainment, and as such I feel it needs to be treated differently. There is creativity and knowledge and labor that goes into these songs of course, but they are paid to do this, and often times artists have a staff of writers to write their songs, so who are you really stealing from? Where is the line drawn? I feel like to define these lines is to put people in harms way unnecessarily. Lesig, in his book “The Future of Ideas”, he argues that people who wish to make movies and produces films of their own wish to have a rich and realistic perspective for the audience to enjoy. However, in order to do that they must clear permission with everyone who owns a specific product that might appear in that movie such as a coke or a type of vehicle. This is similar to Tenebaums in the sense that a company with their product in a movie should be thrilled for the free advertising that they receive rather than trying to go after that film studio or person for copyright infringement. Lesig, Kant, and Milton all sort of veer in the same direction as to how copyrighting should be exercised. That is, to express ones ideas, as one wishes, and in doing so come up with new ways to express ones ideas to the world. The owners of the ideas must always be protected as Milton more strongly advocates, but all in all the public as well as authority figures must be open to the ever changing mode of thought, and not resist it.

Spotify v. Ministry of Sound

In current copyright infringement debacles, Ministry of Sound, a dance music record label is in the process of suing Spotify, a free music-streaming application. MoS feels that they are being unfairly denied compensation for their compilation albums of other music art’s songs. MoS adamantly claims that what they “do is a lot more than putting playlists together”, (which is in fact the only thing they do) but they feel that Spotify user’s ability to chop their album order is an infringement on their “research” and puts their “intellectual property” at stake.  As defined by MoS, their recycling of other artist’s original work should be considered as original, which is just absurd.  Spotify has paid for the rights to use the songs MoS has recycled already, which makes MoS’ lawsuit seem arbitrary and like a jostling for money rather than a legitimate concern for copyright infringement. This lawsuit will address whether the order of the songs can be copyrighted because as of now, no such law exists. The only similar lawsuit previous to this (concerning football league fixture list orders) was overturned on appeal by the High Court. (Good work on that one y’all.)

Kant would agree that “a large degree of civic freedom appears to be of advantage to the intellectual freedom of the people”, there is an importance of intellectual freedom over intellectual property. If MoS has the right to pick apart other artist’s work, then Spotify users should have the right to pick apart MoS’, and not only is it a right, but it is an “advantage” and “civic freedom” to do so (according to Kant). In accordance to Lessig, denying Spotify users right’s to disassemble MoS’ compilation album order, will cause the constraints to “instead be burdens created by law—by intellectual property as well as other government-granted exclusive rights.” Instead of creating a law that would be beneficial to the majority of society, copyright infringement laws constricting the dismantling of fixture lists such as compilation albums would be disadvantageous to intellectual property. Milton has stated clearly that “no Book, pamphlet, or paper shall be henceforth
Printed, unlesse the same be first approv’d and licenc’t” in accordance with some regulation. Spotify has clearly, fairly, and justly received permission to the rights of all the songs MoS has recycled previous to MoS’ compilation album release. It would be illogical to require Spotify to receive permission to allow playlists to be made from a record label that doesn’t even own the original songs on the album.

And so the argument stands: is it fair that “music fans can enjoy the fruits of Ministry of Sound’s curatorial expertise without paying the label a cent”? Or should Spotify be “liable for allowing its users to make these playlists”? The decision is up to the court, and whether or not they rule that playlists can be protected by copyright. It seems the majority of writers online do not see this particular form of intellectual property isn’t justified in being considered for copyright infringement since the MoS record label does not own the rights to the songs they are including in their compilation albums.

Copyrights and copywrongs – Jeff L.

Music is one of those very few things in the world that I feel has the legitimate power to bring the world together. Ever since around 1999, thanks to the creation of Napster, music has become incredibly accessible, which I feel is a huge positive in a world often filled with negatives. Basically what Napster did, was make it possible to download music from all over the world, right to your computer by creating a space where users could stream songs from other users without having to pay (Wikipedia). Obviously this creation cause a bit of an uproar in the music industry and forced what would be come a landmark copyright case.

On the one hand, I can easily understand how A&M Records, Inc. felt justified in taking legal action against the creation of Napster. Basically, giving away music via a “peer-to-peer” style of downloading, for free, is like stealing from musicians without them ever knowing they were robbed. A&M Records, Inc made their case because what Napster was doing, did indeed infringe upon the copyright laws that are in place to defend artists (Kenneth D. Crews) This is because in theory, the creator of a song should get money for the purchase, and use, of that particular song. Unfortunately with how big of a role music has taken in kids lives today, the idea of paying for every song that somebody wants would leave most people, especially college kids, flat broke. The creators of Napster did what they did, in an attempt to make music more accessible. Instead of listening to the law and allowing themselves to remain stuck in their own self imposed nonage, as Kant would call it, they had the courage to make a decision on their own! Just like Kant said, the public will likely enlighten themselves if they get enough freedom to think and find information, especially because there will always be some independent thinkers that go against the grain and help the enlightenment move along (i.e. Napster Creators, Edward Snowden, etc). The problem with that is that getting “enough freedom” is a difficult thing to do. I mean how much freedom is enough? How do you go about getting that much? According to Kant enough freedom can be simply put as, “The public use of one’s reason must be free at all times, and this alone can bring enlightenment to mankind.” I think that this demonstrates how what the creators of Napster did, was use their right to reason.

On the other hand; however, I feel as if copyright law should only be applicable on ideas, information, etc, that is not related to or capable of the betterment of the human race. This idea is similar to the poem at the start of Aeropagitica that says, “This is true liberty when free born men, Having to advise the public may speak free.” In a situation where people are capable of giving useful advise/knowledge to the public, they should be able to do so freely. Music, from Mozart to Tupac, is undoubtedly capable of bettering humanity. Lets be honest about what is really at stake when it comes to illegally downloading music… Nothing. It’s easy for me to say this though, because I am not a musician losing money by these free downloads, but it seems to me that law suits like the Napster case just make musicians seem focused on the lesser of the two results of their music.

The way that I justify this in my mind is that if i were a musician and I had to choose between getting paid for the regulated control of my music via the internet, or having my music readily available for download instantly, all over the world, I think the answer would be rather obvious. Why not allow yourself to be even more accessible? For 99 cents a song? No thanks.

Most people that I read about on the internet feel that this case was very important in establishing the stance of our government and musicians on the way music should be managed, but I feel strongly against that. Music leads to many things but one important thing is the creation of new music. Being able to freely listen to the creations of brilliant musicians all around the world certainly makes me think that better music will continue to be produced. Its not like these musicians are not still going to be making money. I think copyrights in regards to music should remain the same when it comes to putting them in movies, commercials, etc because like i said above, these uses of music will not better humanity. I would love to say that music we download, is “our” music because we compiled, in theory, a completely unique set of a music into one place. Sadly, the law would not agree as Lessig says midway through chapter 1- “To the lawyers who prosecute the laws of copyright, the very idea that the music on “your” CD is “your music” is absurd. “Read the license,” they’re likely to demand. “Read the law,” they’ll say, piling on. I really like what Lessig says in regards to innovation’ “Innovation makes enemies of all those who prospered under the old regime.”(Lessig, Chapter 1) I think that it plays into the Napster case very well because what Napster’s creation really did, was redefine the way that music was distributed.

Works Cited

The Future of Ideas, by Lessig.

Napster on Wikipedia

Napster Case Summary, by Kenneth D Crews

What is Enlightenment, By Kant