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As Live 8 threatens to overwhelm the news this week, Own It brings you a globally aware IP round-up.

4 July 2005

Kicking off this week's Own It round-up is the US Supreme Court decision to allow file-sharing networks to be sued if they promote illegal downloading. Previously, US file-sharing sites had been able to rely on a 1984 judgement regarding Sony Betamax video recorders (remember them?) that meant they escaped liability if there was significant legal use of the technology.  

This changed last week when the Supreme Court held that if any device (including software) was distributed “with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright” the distributor could be liable for any resulting copyright infringements.

The decision is good news for the entertainment industry as it means it can potentially sue just a few companies that make and distribute file-sharing software rather than trying to recover from the millions who file share illegally. However, the judgement leaves a large grey area over just what will constitute “promoting” copyright infringement. The BBC has more.

Moving now to the UK, a three-year row between legal music download sites and an alliance of musicians, composers and music publishers has been referred to the Copyright Tribunal.

The dispute concerns the amount of royalties paid to artists by the likes of Apple iTunes, Napster and Yahoo! when their music is downloaded. The artists, represented by the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society (MCPS), want a bigger cut from downloads than the 6.5% they currently receive from CD sales. MCPS argues that the costs of online music distribution are lower than those for CDs and wants artists to take 12% from every download. The download sites have refused to budge and have referred the matter for mediation.

Own It reckons the MCPS has a strong case here but predicts download royalties will get nudged up to 7% – 8% rather than the hoped for 12%. Read more in The Times.

Finally, efforts by the European distributors of Mexican lager Corona to register a lemon wedge in a beer bottle as a trademark were dismissed last week by the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The ECJ held, in line with an earlier decision by the Court of First Instance, that such a practice was insufficiently distinctive to be capable of constituting a trademark. Had the application been successful it would have meant that only Corona beer could be sold in bars and restaurants with a slice of lemon wedged in the bottle. Thanks to this judgement,  any beer can still come tainted with citrus fruit. Read the case report here.

Until next week, adios amigos.

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