Saturday, November 15, 2014

Ghostwriting Troubles!!!

Ghostwriting is not a recent development, but it has been very much in practice since the days of Mozart. The Classical Era Composer was known for having ghostwritten music for wealthy patrons. Political leaders have been exploiting this avenue, along with many Executives and celebrities; who do not prefer to invest much of their time in relating to the public en masse, the lives they lead.

Recently, the erstwhile Chancellor of West Germany and the reunited Germany, Helmut Kohl, got into a legal tussle with his former Ghostwriter Heribert Schwan. After the fall out between Kohl and Schwan (publication of 3 books together), the ghostwriter has published "Vermachtnis: Die Kohl Protokole", recording many direct quotes of Kohl. Mr. Kohl had decided against the publication of the fourth book. 

Kohl in his interviews with Schwan had made very direct comments about the present German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and Mikhael Gorbachev too.

The former Chancellor has been successful in obtaining an injunction against any further printing of the book, which include the quotes of Kohl as recorded in the previous interviews with Schwan. The court has gone ahead in supporting Kohl's claims holding the ghostwriter's act to be an unlawful infringement of confidentiality, since the book has been published against the express wishes of his.

This is not the end of the tale, let's see how the story unfolds.

- Bagmisikha Puhan

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Orphan Works

Copyright protected work for which the rights holder(s) is/are positively indeterminate and cannot be contacted, is said to be an Orphan Work. Even when the author is known, but there is lack of sufficient details to contact him or her, the work falls into this domain. A copyright holder’s sudden demise might also lead to the work slipping into the category of Orphan Works, when the inheritance cannot be established.

The fact that the owner of the copyrighted work cannot be reached makes it very difficult to obtain his permission for the use of the work, mere digitization becomes impossible. The use can only be warranted by Fair Use Exceptions.

The respective Governments have taken steps towards extending the accessibility of these works to the general public for these works to maintain their successful circulation and some have also taken steps to guarantee the payment of royalties for use of such works.

The latest news in this regard, is the UK IPO’s licensing scheme for Orphan Works. The IPO intends to maintain a register of works which can be licensed out to Applicants upon payment of royalties. The register will also enable the authors to check if any of their works have been labeled as Orphan Works under the system. The IPO also retains the power to deny the Applicants licenses where the proposed use is deemed to be inappropriate, or on any other reasonable ground.

The EU rules, in place, have already allowed the libraries, museums and universities, among other institutions, to digitize “Orphaned Works” from their respective collections, only after a diligent search has been carried out for determining the owners of the works. It is only time which shall determine the success of the scheme which the UK IPO has intended to move ahead with, and similar frameworks being adopted by other IP regimes across the globe. 

- Bagmisikha Puhan