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5-a-day: The Harlem Shake, cab drivers fight fakes and Tolkien controversy

James Nurton

Today’s IP news round up features inventor Trevor Baylis, Baauer and the Harlem Shake, New York City taxi drivers, an unpublished book on JRR Tolkien and talks about copyright reform

Where next for patent reform?

Trevor BaylisFollowing this week’s agreement on a European unified patent court, one inventor now says he wants a universal patent. Trevor Baylis, the man behind the wind-up radio, told the BBC he also wanted to see criminal penalties for patent infringement. It’s always interesting to hear the views of distinguished entrepreneurs such as Baylis, and of course they should be taken into consideration by policy makers. But let’s not forget that the patent system operates for society as a whole, not just inventors; other views are equally valid. Setting patent policy based on what inventors want would be like asking taxpayers to write tax laws, or bankers to decide financial regulation.

Dancing all the way to the bank

Harlem Shake YouTubeIf there ever was proof that it’s possible for copyright owners to make money online, this is it. A viral video featuring a song called “The Harlem Shake” is proving to be a cash cow for the man who holds the copyright in the song. Harry Rodrigues, also known as Baauer, registered his dance mix with YouTube’s Content ID System, which was created in 2007 in response to copyright owners’ many concerns. With Billboard reporting that “more than 4,000 Harlem Shake-related videos have been claimed by the content ID system, which makes for more than 30 million views as of last week”, and New York Magazine estimating that owners get around $2 per 1,000 YouTube views, Rodrigues will make a nice profit by the time the fad fades.

Driving fakes off the road

NYC taxiWhen trade mark owners warn of the potential dangers of counterfeits, the public doesn’t always want to listen. A fake Fendi bag or knock-off Louboutin might seem harmless enough, but reports of fake auto parts being sold to New York City taxi drivers may get the message across a little clearer. The FBI conducted a three-year probe into a counterfeit ring that was selling fake parts – many made in China – to taxi repair mechanics under the Ford, General Motors and Federal-Mogul trade marks, and arrested three men on Tuesday. Interesting to note that a suspicious garage worker called Ford directly, and the company then contacted the FBI.

Copyright questions: trouble over Tolkien

Thanks to @copyrightgirl on twitter for drawing our attention to a blog post by writer Daniel Grotta entitled “Why You Won’t Be Reading a New Tolkien Biography”. It’s a long story, which Grotta tells well (though of course we’re only getting his version of events). Essentially, he has decided not to publish a revised free e-book of his biography of Lord Of The Rings author JRR Tolkien due to copyright clearance concerns. One question it highlights is: is the 70-year period for copyright protection too long? I know a lot of people, even those who would describe themselves firmly as pro-copyright, who believe it is. But I can’t see it being shortened any time soon.

Copyright answers: QMIPRI seminar

Talking of copyright law, I’m looking forward to a lively discussion next Thursday on “Copyright Reform: How to Legislate in a Hostile Environment” at an event hosted by Blaca, the Centre for Commercial Law Studies and Queen Mary IP Research Institute. The title seems to assume that some sort of copyright reform is necessary, and that’s probably something most specialists would agree with. But the problems start when you talk about what, how and when. Tickets are £40. If you’re in London next Thursday, you may want to get along.


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