Tag Archives: intellectual property

From The “Law vs Ethics” Files: PETA Chooses To Harm An Artist On Behalf Of A Monkey Who Couldn’t Care Less, And Judges Think It’s An Amusing Legal Condundrum

“I’m baaaaack!”

When we last heard from  photographer David Slater, the U.S. Copyright Office had rejected his claim that he owned the  copyright for the famous series of selfies presumably taken unintentionally by a Celebes crested macaque.  In 2011,  Slater spent several days following and photographing a troop of macaques in Sulawesi, Indonesia, and the selfies were a lucky bi-product that quickly became a web sensation. Slater had asserted ownership over the photos, and had demanded that various on-line users, such as Wikipedia, either take them down or pay him as the copyright holder. The ruling of the Copyright Office was based on the theory that Slater had not taken the photo, so he was not the creator, and animals couldn’t own copyrights, so the photos were in the public domain.

Pop Ethics Quiz: Would it have been unethical had Slater simply released the photos without revealing that the selfies had been the lucky result of an  accident, snapped by the monkey wile it was messing around with his equipment?

About the Copyright Office’s ruling: I’m dubious. Slater owned the equipment, and had the sense to preserve the photos. A decision that if a photo is taken accidentally by a non-human or an act of God, the photographer who owns the equipment gets the copyright would have been fair.  Zapruder owned the film that inadvertently caught President Kennedy having his forehead shot off, and it made him rich. Slater’s claim just goes a step further: Zapruder left the street  to buy a hotdog, put his camera on on a trash can and asked a friend to “watch it,” and a dog turned the camera on, catching the grisly scene. So Zapruder doesn’t own the film anymore? Does that make sense to you?

Well, that was the ruling anyway. Then things got really ridiculous. Slater included the monkey selfies in a book, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)  brought a law suit against Slater on behalf of the monkey,which PETA claims is named Naruto, and asked that PETA be appointed to administer proceeds from the photos for the benefit of Naruto and other crested macaques in the reserve on Sulawesi. So PETA would suddenly be the de facto copyright holder. Continue reading

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Filed under Animals, Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Law & Law Enforcement, Quizzes

When Big Corporations Act Exactly As Bad As Bernie Sanders Says They Are..

Thank you city

Banking behemoth Citigroup is suing AT&T for using  “Thank You” in ads, because Citigroup claims that it owns the trademark on “THANKYOU.” See, it’s not enough that corporations want us to think of them when we go to a baseball game or maybe when we are wishing that our children never existed. They want us to think of them when we are being nice, too

No, this is not a hoax. I wish it were.

Law professor/blogger Jonathan Turley, who hates this as much as I do, has kindly provided links to other examples of this nauseating phenomenon (this , and this, yes, and this , don’t forget this, oh, and this nonsense , this ,this too ,here ,here ,another one here, here as well, and this), but this is really the last straw, or should be. Continue reading

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The Sixth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2014 (Part 2)

Rice and Janay

Ethics Corrupter of the Year

(Awarded to the unethical public figure whose prominence, popularity and success most corrupts the public’s ethical values)

Janay Palmer Rice, beloved punching bag of NFL star Ray Rice, who was caught on camera smooching with her man shortly after being cold-cocked by him in a hotel elevator, married him, and has repeatedly defended her husband, prompting confused female pundits to defend her. She is not only the embodiment of Rationalization #42. The Hillary Inoculation, or “If he/she doesn’t care, why should anyone else?”, she is also a good bet to get some young women killed by giving them a role model who stands for standing by your abusive man with the hard right hook.

Double Standard Of The Year

In a year of double standards, the treatment of soccer star (and accused child abuser) Hope Solo by her sport, feminists, the media and the public takes the prize. The standard, as I understand it, is that big, strong female athletes can beat up smaller, weaker family members with impunity, and it’s no big deal, but when a male athlete does the same, he is scum. Got it.

Uncivil U.S. Official of the Year

Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs and the top American diplomat in Europe, was caught saying in a viral Youtube video saying “Fuck the EU.”  Now that’s diplomatic. Of course, she wasn’t fired, because she works for the Obama Administration

The Jesse Jackson Award 

(For the Year’s Worst Amateur Diplomat)

mo_selfie_lg

First Lady Michelle Obama, who helped her husband make the U.S. look weak and ineffectual (he needs no help), by engaging in this ridiculous effort at hashtag diplomacy. Those kidnapped girls were never found, and Boko Haram, the Nigerian terrorist group that took them, I learned today, just killed a reported 2000 more victims. Time for another sad picture, Michelle!

Most Unethical Sports League

The NFL, last year’s winner, was even more unethical this year, with the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson fiascos, Commissioner Roger Goodell showing no innate instinct for right and wrong and both the league and its teams making up rules and policies according to talk show calls, polls and wet fingers in the air. Meanwhile, it’s still making billions paying young men to lobotomize themselves. What a great sport.

Sports Cheat of the Year

Alex Rodriguez, suspended Yankee star, had denied, denied, denied, threatened to sue Major League Baseball and the union, and insisted that he had not, as an investigation had determined, used performance enhancing drugs supplied by Biogenesis. Then, just as his season-long suspension was lifted, it was revealed that A-Rod had, under oath, admitted using steroids from 2010 to 2012.

Annual Sports Ethics Controversy That Gets Worse Every Year

Steroid cheats (like Rodriquez) and their fitness for admission to Baseball’s Hall of Fame

Unethical Lawyer of the Year

Michael Fine, the Ohio lawyer who allegedly hypnotized female clients in order to sexually molest them.  Runner Up Alexa Van Brunt. She didn’t do anything unethical; she just advocates ethics rules that would eliminate the core of legal ethics, proving that she doesn’t understand her own profession.

Unethical Judge of the Year

judge_mccree

Wade McCree, the handsome devil pictured above (he circulated this selfie), who, presiding over a felony child-support case, conducted a secret sexual relationship with the woman seeking support from the defendant. This was just the latest of his embarrassments.  Runner up: Texas District Judge Jeanine Howard, who handed down a stunningly lenient sentence of probation and 250 hours of community service at a rape crisis center for a man who confessed raping a 14-year old girl at her school.

 

Unethical National Broadcast Journalist Of The Year

CNN’s Carol Costello. She was biased, smug and incompetent all year long, but reached her nadir when she gleefully played a recording of Bristol Palin explaining to police how she had been assaulted, saying to her viewers, “You can thank me later.” She refused to apologize on the air, or to Palin. Continue reading

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Filed under Animals, Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Jumbo, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Race, Sports

Ethics Quiz: The Macaque’s Selfie

Macaque

The wonderful photo above has gone viral on the web, and is also causing serious debate among intellectual property lawyers. The weird tale is as follows:

Wildlife photographer David Slater was visiting a national park in North Sulawesi to photograph the wildlife. His subject was a group of crested black macaques, and when he left his camera unattended, the primates took advantage of the opportunity. Apparently attracted by the reflection and the noise the camera made when activated (the implications of the macaques doing this because they were interested in photography are too disturbing to contemplate, so I won’t),  one macaque took hundreds of photos of itself. Most were blurry and out of focus, just like the pictures my dad took, but a few were superb selfies that would have Ellen DeGeneres eating her heart out.

Wikimedia took the clear images off of Slater’s website, adding them to its collection of royalty-free graphic, and sending them all over the web as a result.  Slater now demands that the images be taken down or that he be paid for them. While Wikimedia argues that either the monkey owns the copyright for the photos or nobody does, the photographer claims that being the owner of the camera, and the artist who created the circumstances under which the macaque was inspired to release his inner Richard Avedon, he alone is the owner of the photographs.

As you might expect, copyright law is unclear on the issue of lower primate selfies, an art form that was not anticipated as the law evolved. I don’t care about that: today’s Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz is about fairness:

Should Slater have full ownership of the macaque’s creations?

Continue reading

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Filed under Animals, Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Uncategorized

Concept Stealing Or Creative Evolution? “The Trip To Bountiful” Controversy And The Ownership Of Conceptual Innovation

"Pay up! Timothy Wilson owns that color!"

“Pay up! Timothy Wilson owns that color!”

The late playwright Horton Foote’s gentle drama (all of his dramas are gentle, come to think of it) “The Trip To Bountiful” is being revived on Broadway, and is stirring up the kind of nasty controversy he would have detested. (You probably know Foote better as the screenwriter who brilliantly adapted “To Kill A Mockingbird” into the classic movie it became.) The production has an all-black cast starring Cicely Tyson, and some are arguing that director Michael Wilson stole the idea of presenting Foote’s tale as the story of an African American family.They also claim that he owes Timothy Douglas, the professional director who first staged the play this way (in Cleveland, in 2011) public acknowledgment, and possibly compensation. Alisa Solomon lays out the theatrical ethics controversy here, and explores many related issues, including the murky distinction between colorblind casting and non-traditional casting.

As an ethicist and a professional stage director, I have a simple and direct answer for what Solomon seems to believe is a complex question: Baloney. Continue reading

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When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Unethical, As A School Board Ponders The Profits of Child Labor

child laborWe learn about how seriously our institutions take their ethics when money gets scarce. States suddenly decided that ol’ devil gambling wasn’t so bad after all, once they realized that lots and lots of poor, desperate people without a lot of mathematical skills would fork over billions they needed to buy food with or save to move out of the ghetto in the hope of becoming a tycoon. I’m sure as soon as states realize that their legislators don’t have the guts to make the wealthy and powerful pay for lousy schools, more and more of them will get into the drug dealing business, like Colorado, and let the lives, families and businesses destroyed by the inevitable results of legal pot and cocaine become collateral damage.

Somewhere in between those irresponsible and cynical policy decisions way come ideas like this one, from the Prince George’s County Board of Education (in Maryland.) There is a new proposed policy in the perpetually corrupt Washington D.C. neighbor to make all work products created by teachers or students the intellectual property of the County, not the individual who created it: Continue reading

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Indians, Pirates, Greeks, Intellectual Property, and Political Correctness

The always understated Robert Newton as Long John Silver. You owe his estate a quarter every time you say “Arg!”

Here I am banging my forehead with the palm of my hand for not realizing that all of the rhetoric flying around about how horrible it is that people in the U.S. can get away with denigrating religions would spark yet another round of political correctness applied to team names and mascots. Perhaps this was inevitable when a vestige of an earlier controversy along these lines invaded the Elizabeth Warren-Sen. Scott Brown race: some of Brown’s staff were seen doing the old Atlanta Braves “tomahawk chop” to mock Professor Warren’s beneficial delusion that she is a bona fide Native American. The political correctness police were all over this one, though the logic, as in a lot of political correctness, was strained: doing a famous fake Indian gesture to mock a fake Indian political candidate is an insult to…real American Indians? Even after the real Cherokees have announced that Warren’s pretensions of affirmative-action worthy Native American status is offensive to them? I’m afraid  those who are empowered by being offended are just too creative for me—I don’t get it.

Nor do I get an earnest essay by  Paul Lukas on the ESPN website, titled “Time to Re-think Native American Imagery.” I am on record as believing that the assault on Native American symbols and imagery for school and team names is just more cynical power-mongering by convenient victims, with the exception of the Washington Redskins, the one team with an undeniably racist name that ought to offend everybody. Still, it is obvious that the political correctness thugs will keep chipping away, counting on their persistence and the eventual bureaucratic shrug (“Oh, what the hell—it’s only a name. Let’s just give them what they want!”) to give them a victory–whereupon they will find something else to be offended about.  Continue reading

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