Category Archives: current events

This Week on The Web 2009-08-30

The things that happened around the web this week – maybe you already read about them, maybe you need to again.

I also realized that many of you might have no idea what you’re seeing below.  Sorry.  These are “tweets”, 140 maximum character messages sent via Twitter.  Within the Twitterverse individual users follow others and have followers (think of it like overlapping Venn diagram circles).  To read a tweet, you have to wade through a bit of jargon used to make the most of the 140 character limitation.  “RT” for example, is shorthand for “Re-tweet” and the @____ is the username of some other individual on Twitter.  Combined together, then, “RT @_____” means that someone else wrote a tweet that I found important and I now want to forward along to my followers.  The URL’s are then also shortened by shortening services like bit.ly to make the most of the character limitation, too.  Lastly, you might see “hash” identifiers “#______” which are ways to tag tweets of a particular flavor for easy searching later.

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My Lego Love is Fast Fading

I’ve loved Lego since I was a little kid.  I haven’t really counted, but I’m guessing I still have (in large crates in my garage) somewhere around 300+ Lego sets of varying size.  There’s something about allowing your creativity to roam that really interests me.  And as a company, the Lego Group has also been of keen interest from an intellectual property perspective ever since they started becoming sticklers about calling Lego blocks “Lego Bricks and Toys”.  But I think they’ve crossed the line recently with a “rejection” preventing the mock-rock group Spinal Tap from including a Lego-brick-based stop-motion video on their latest DVD.

I use the word rejection in quotes in the prior sentence because I don’t think that the Lego Group had any rights on which to make their claim.  Per the article, Lego Group claimed copyright over the figures themselves (known in Lego parlance as a “minifig”) whereas Spinal Tap’s IP lawyer clearly states that they weren’t intending to show the Lego Group’s logo or use the word Lego anywhere in the DVD.  Copyright protects written and visual works embodied in a tangible medium of expression.  So I’m trying to figure out how the Lego Group thinks that they have a copyright over the minifigs themselves.  I just don’t see it.  Even from a search at the US Copyright Office, what I see are a slew of Lego registrations over the various books, stories, videogames and logos.  I also see one deemed a “sculpture”, which I can only assume is a large version of one of the Lego minifig.  But then the copyright would only cover that sculpture itself – not necessarily every little conceivable permutation of Lego minifig made possible by the myriad tops, bottoms, heads, hair and accessories available.

But even assuming that Lego holds a copyright in the general design of a Lego minifig, would the use for this DVD not qualify as fair use?  I’m not sure it would – it’s parody, but not of Lego… it’s for profit… it “takes” the entire work.  OK.  Fair use is out.  (Which blows Spinal Tap’s attorney’s idea away, too.)

So if the minifig IS registered, yet is distributed 4 billion times (per their company profile)… without any kind of licensing document attached to it… by a company that zealously protects its intellectual property rights… leads me to believe that even the Lego Group knows that they’re on shaky ground.  [Interestingly enough, their company profile also tells the story about the company receiving a patent for their “Lego System” in 1958 – which would have long since expired.  In the US, usually (but not always), intellectual property is protected by only one type of protection.  You don’t get to gain a copyright after your patents run out.  Either it’s a tangible, useful good… or it’s a work of art.]

All in all, I think Spinal Tap gave up WAAAAAAYYYY too early on this one.  What’s next?  Do recording artists need the permission of their guitar manufacturers (which, btw, are covered by copyright by some designers) to play their guitars in their videos?  Of course not.  The guitar manufacturer still holds copyright – but they gave UP the right to restrict where it was played in order to sell the guitar.  Same is true for the Lego Group.

Anyone else wanna’ weigh in on this?

Jeff Gordon on Supply Excellence

Justin Fogarty from Supply Excellence e-mailed last week and asked me (and some others as well) about what we thought would be the biggest supply chain risks in a recovery.  He was kind enough to think that my response on “Instant Amnesia” warranted a guest post on Supply Excellence.  Thanks to Justin for the opportunity!

Library of Congress

I visited the Library of Congress about a year ago on a quick trip to DC.  I figured that stopping by the Library to see if the Software Licensing Handbook was actually on a shelf wouldn’t hurt (yes, it’s a little egotistic, but everyone needs a boost every now and then).  The process to actually browse the stacks, however, is fairly involved.  You have to obtain a Library of Congress reader card.  This involves payment of a fee and a photograph which eventually results in a hard plastic ID card.  Taking the card to the librarians enables you to retrieve a book to sit and read.  But when I asked the librarian for a copy of the Software Licensing Handbook, they didn’t have one on the shelf.  I was crestfallen.

Only then did I make my way to the Copyright Office to inquire about the process.  Part of the official copyright process is to file a registration certificate with the Registrar of Copyrights at the Library of Congress.  The form, two original copies of your work and the filing fee arrive in Washington, D.C. and meet with the scrutiny of an office filled with submissions from around the globe.  The individual reviewer who is going to finish your paperwork and send you back a registration certificate is also part of the process who determines whether your particular work is worthy of storage on the shelves of the Library.

The Registrar’s office explained to me that they simply have so many things come in the door that not everything is actually kept (they add about 10,000 items per day, though).  They were extremely gracious, however, in attempting to look up my book.  And they were very soft-shoed about trying to let me down gently that it hadn’t been selected for inclusion in the collection.  In fact, they told me that in many cases, the materials are sent around DC to other offices – Congressmen/women’s office, Legislative Affairs offices, even the US Supreme Court… all depending upon the subject matter of the particular work and the potential relevance to any matters currently being discussed.

I took being dismissed with grace.  But I had to admit to myself that part of the reason that I wrote the Software Licensing Handbook was to provide a resource for the future – something that I could always say I contributed to the greater knowledge of the population.  My goal, essentially, was to have the book in the Library’s collection – forever more a part of history.  It is therefore with great pride (and yes, even humility now that I understand the scope of the work at the Registrar’s Office), that I am able to say that the second edition of the Software Licensing Handbook is now a part of the permanent collection at the Library of Congress.  If you don’t already have a copy, get your LoC Reader Card on your next trip to DC and check it out for a little light reading.

Jeff Gordon Quoted on SpendMatters Today

Today’s edition of SpendMatters discusses merger and acquisition issues as they relate to software licensing.  Jason Busch was kind enough to seek my opinion on the matter and through my long and winding response, he pulled out the best nuggets.

At the end of the day, the time to think about M&A-related stuff is when you’re entering into each relationship… not when the vendor announces they’re getting bought or sold.

This Week on The Web 2009-08-09

The things that happened around the web this week – maybe you already read about them, maybe you need to again: