Can You Afford to Sue for Copyright Theft?

Writers, artists, designers, photographers and many small businesses are effectively unable to sue for copyright infringement because of the very high costs of litigation in federal court. To remedy this, bills have been proposed from time to time to give special treatment to small copyright claims so that creativity is protected for everyone and not just big corporations.

The Copyright Office will be holding public hearings in November 2012 with respect to small copyright claims. Additional information is available at

If you or an organization to which you belong want to testify with respect to these potential reforms, the deadline for requests to participate in the public hearings is Thursday, October 25, 2012.

Solace for a Retreating Napoléon?

“Can you imagine the terrible retreat from Moscow, stumbling men in uniforms of rags freezing by the thousands while the emperor sips champagne in his cozy tent?”—from A Floating Life by Tad Crawford

Napoléon visited the caves of Moët and Chandon to stock up on champagne before his campaigns, including the catastrophic attack on Russia. The disparity of treatment between the emperor and his soldiers fueled Tolstoy’s desire to write War and Peace. The photograph of the caves is by Giulio Nepi [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

Does Baseball Have a Role in Murakami’s Creativity?

This blog post is part of a series exploring why Haruki Murakami’s “mesmerizing fantasies offer a tonic to a culture overly enmeshed in the realities of the day to day.” In my last post I discussed the remarkable fact that Murakami’s epiphany, his realization that he could be a novelist, came at a baseball game.

The circumstances of the epiphany were quite specific. Murakami was enjoying a beer and rooting for his favorite team, the Yakult Swallows, who were playing the Hiroshima Carps. In the bottom of the first inning, with the Swallows batting, Dave Hilton, an American, hit a double to left field. At that moment Murakami realized he could write a novel.

To drink a beer and watch a ball game are pleasures. So, for Murakami, a starting point for his fiction is a place of pleasure. It is also, as I pointed out in my last post, a place removed from everyday concerns and realities. In the particular case of Murakami, it’s interesting and appropriate that an American batter drove the double to left field. Murakami is a writer of the East and West. His fictions are set in Japan, but the influences on his characters are frequently western.

Dave Hilton was born in Uvalde, Texas, on September 15, 1950. Picked in the 1971 draft, he played four seasons for the San Diego Padres before playing three seasons in Japan for the Yakult Swallows and Hanshin Tigers. So Hilton was very much like Murakami, a model for Murakami in the sense that his origin in the west did not prevent him from having success in the east. In fact, 1978 was the year that the Yakult Swallows won the league championship and then the post-season championship.

Murakami remembers him “as the leading hitter that year.” After Murakami’s first novel won the Gunzõ Newcomers Award for 1979, Murakami secured Dave Hilton’s autograph and thought of the ball player as “a lucky charm”. In a way, the ball park and the beer might be thought of as the containing space and the intoxicating beverage in a ritual of creative initiation. The Texan’s double provided the stimulus to open Murakami to unexplored and immensely productive inner vistas. And, once the Yakult Swallows won the championship that year, how could Murakami fail to win the Gunzõ Newcomers Award the year after?

Meiji Jingu Stadium in Shinjuku, Tokyo, is the home field of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows. The photograph is by ROG [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia

Do You Worry about Legal Issues when Selling Art?

This blog post discusses some legal questions that arose when an artist wanted to use discarded New York City subway cards to make a limited edition of forty decks of customized playing cards. With a museum store interested in selling the decks of cards, the artist became concerned over several potential legal issues.

The artist asked for helpful resources and also answers to the following questions: (1) Should the deck of cards be copyrighted? (2) For buildings depicted on the deck of cards, would licenses be necessary from the owners of the buildings? (3) Should the Metropolitan Transit Authority be contacted to license the use of the discarded cards that had been taken from trash receptacles and transformed?

I answered as follows: (1) The card decks don’t have to be copyrighted because the artistic additions to the cards automatically have copyright from the moment the artist creates those additions. While not strictly necessary, the artist would be wise to put
copyright notice on the deck to protect the added artistic elements. In addition, the artist might want to register the deck with the Copyright Office. (2) Buildings in general don’t have copyright or trademark protection so the artist would be free to use images of buildings and wouldn’t need to get a license from the owner of a building. (3) The
subway cards are simply physical objects. Even if they had a copyright notice (which the Metropolitan Transit Authority did not place on the original cards), the purpose of that notice would be to prevent the production of cards that looked like subway cards. Since
the artist is using real cards, there shouldn’t be a problem.

In addition, the artist might want to do some simple documentation with the museum or other parties who receive the decks for sale. This might be a bill of sale or a consignment agreement, depending on the deal. And the artist might consider how to guarantee the limited edition is limited. For example, the artist might want to give a certificate of limitation. Good resources would be Legal Guide for the Visual Artist and, for negotiation checklists and forms on a CD-ROM, Business and Legal Forms for Fine

From A Floating Life

“These elephants have learned to hate people,” Pecheur said, “They attack without provocation.”
“Where?” I asked.
“Wherever there are wild elephants. In the last year, there have been almost a thousand attacks.”
“There’s no explanation?” I asked.
“I think they fear extinction. They’re fighting back.”
“But . . .”
“Futile?” The model maker gave a grim smile. “What else can they do?”

The photograph of this elephant is by Geir Kiste [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons. It is at

For further information about elephant attacks on people, see “Elephants Attack as Humans Turn Up the Pressure” (National Geographic), “An Elephant Crackup” (The New York Times),
and the various Youtube videos such as