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The Copyright Licensing Office (CLO) provides assistance, services, tools, and resources to the faculty, staff, and students of Brigham Young University to successfully navigate the challenging landscape of copyright.


The mission of the BYU Copyright Licensing Office is to ensure compliance with copyright laws by providing education and training, assuring effective licensing practices, resolving unauthorized use of copyright protected materials, and remaining current with copyright law and policy developments.

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Dec 20, 2017

BYU Suggests Reform to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act

This week, Brigham Young University submitted comments to the U.S. Copyright Office in the hopes of influencing revisions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The submission marks the first time BYU has participated in the rulemaking process conducted by the Copyright Office every three years to consider exemptions to the DMCA’s prohibition on circumventing access controls placed on copyrighted works, like the encryption technologies used on DVDs and Blu-ray discs.

Copyright law provides certain educational exemptions that allow, for example, instructors and students at non-profit educational institutions to show copyrighted works in the course of face-to-face teaching activities. But under the DMCA, for instructors and students to take advantage of the educational exemptions, they have to use licensed decryption technology, such as DVD players and Blu-ray players, in order to play films in class. But, this type of technology is aging out at many universities, and licensed optical drives (aka disk drives) are getting increasingly phased out on common market models of personal computers.

In response to this technological development, BYU suggests that an exemption to the DMCA be expanded to allow nonprofit educational institutions to circumvent technological protection measures solely for uses that qualify under the educational exemptions. This would include copies of a legally purchased motion picture on a computer storage device or a server. For example, if an instructor has an old DVD of a clip he or she would like to show to a class, but there are no DVD players available, BYU suggests that the instructor should be able to use software to get a copy of the clip off of the DVD in order to show it in the classroom.

This type of storage would enable instructors to queue up multiple segments from motion pictures as part of a lesson, or add some custom instruction to the video playback to enhance its educational quality, for example. Without this ability, if instructors want to use different clips out of several full-length works, they may be required to switch out multiple DVDs or Blu-rays and navigate through menus to get to, in some cases, a ten second clip from a single disc.

Currently, the DMCA has exemptions for educational uses like the one above, but these exemptions distinguish between courses that focus on film and media studies and other types of courses. BYU argues that this distinction has no basis in copyright statute and suggests that the educational exemptions did not mean to limit motion picture playback to film courses alone.

See the entirety of BYU’s DMCA Comment here.

Dec 12, 2017

States’ Sovereign Immunity Challenged in Texas A&M Case

Bynum v. Texas A&M Univ. Athletic Dept., 17-cv-00181 (S.D. Tex.)
By Shelise Rupp

In early January 2017, author Michael Bynum filed suit against Texas A&M University’s Athletic Department as well as its 12th Man Foundation for alleged copyright infringement of an unpublished book that he was then writing on the original 12th man. On May 17, 2017, Texas A&M filed a motion to dismiss, citing (among other things) lack of jurisdiction.

Defendants allege that the court lacks jurisdiction, an argument that has been used before. The theory is that public universities enjoy sovereign immunity from copyright infringement suits under the Eleventh Amendment of the Constitution.

However, Congress passed the Copyright Remedy Clarification Act (CRCA) in 1990 with the express intent to remove the copyright infringement immunity of any State or its actors. Despite this, multiple federal courts around the nation have found CRCA to be unconstitutional.

For example, in Chavez v. Arte Publico Press, a federal appeals court held in 2000 that CRCA was unconstitutional because of “deficiencies” in its legislative history. The most significant of these was the fact that, at the time CRCA was passed, there were no more than seven reported incidents of state-perpetrated copyright infringement. This, the court stated, meant that there was no real injury in need of remedy.

Despite this history, Bynum now argues that there is indeed an existing injury congruent to the remedy created by CRCA. His research shows that to date there are 152 cases in which state actors have been sued (unsuccessfully) for copyright infringement. Bynum hopes that this substantial increase in cases since CRCA was enacted in 1990 will be enough to tip the scale in favor of the abrogation of state sovereign immunity for copyright infringement.

Nov 29, 2017

Is Pirates of the Caribbean Pirated?

Alfred v. The Walt Disney Co., 17-cv-02729 (D. Colo 2017)
By: Casey Mock

Two writers claim that The Walt Disney Company copied their script to produce the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise.  The writers, A. Lee Alfred II and Ezequiel Martinez, Jr., claim that Disney willfully infringed their original copyrighted expression of an original screenplay that they submitted to the company for possible production and was entitled Pirates of the Caribbean. In the complaint, the writers allege that they submitted the screenplay to Disney while working on another project for them, the ultimately never produced Red Hood.  The writers claim that when Disney informed them they would pass on the project, Disney did not return their screenplay for over two years, contrary to industry practice.

For further evidence, the claim cites an experience when the writers were in Disney producer Brigham Taylor’s office and saw their script on the coffee table.  When they asked if it was to be discussed, “they were quickly ushered out of the office to wait . . . . When they returned to the office, a short time later, all materials that had been on the coffee table had been moved and the meeting ended abruptly.” At the time the original screenplay was returned to the writers, Disney was already in production of the film Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.

The complaint does mention that in 2000, Taylor informed the two script writers “that the idea of a film based on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride had been suggested over the years and that [Disney] had considered making a film based on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride recently.” The writers claim that the screenplay that was submitted is substantially similar in total concept and feel of the works of the Pirates franchise through the plot, theme, dialogue, mood, setting, pace, sequence.  The screenplay owners are suing for actual damages of willful copyright infringement and have requested a jury trial.