Post Reply Can you please critique this letter to an author's estate?
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31 / M / Glendale, AZ
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Posted 3/12/17
I am asking for people’s input on the letter I will posting under the Answer button. Feel free to copy/paste and re-word so it sounds more professional. However, the spirit of the letter has to remain the same. However, the last 2 paragraphs are to be remained similarly worded.

Letter-
Attn: Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.
I am writing to inform you that several of you titles are being used in a manner that is illegal. First, I have to express how copyright is supposed to work in this country, as it is tied to that.

Stephen Carlise, J.D. (Copyright Officer of Nova Southeast University) wrote a 2/27/15 article called “Copying Is Not Creativity! Why Creative Artists Don’t Need the Public Domain” explains how copyright works (par. 17): “The first is to provide a monetary return to the author sufficient to incentivize the creation of the work. The second is that copyright allows for some copying of ideas, and even some expression, but prohibits slavish copying that does nothing to create new works of value that enhance our culture."

American copyright also has a social contract of sorts: the public does what Carlisle describes and the creator eventually has to let the work go into the public domain. By not letting the work expire, this equates to stealing from the public domain/public domain infringement. This involves TM a character that is public domain or has versions in the public domain (a sound, image, or name), retroactive copyright extensions, and copyright restoration. The TM of a character is noticeable with corporations and estates.

This is where my letter comes. You have many trademarks on various on many Burroughs characters and these acts as a perpetual copyright. There is also a 1st Amendment issue on the public being barred, outside of nominal fair use, to use the Burroughs stories in the title. They should be able but a character name in the title but include "original concept: [creators]" and "this version: [names]" on the title page.

So, what you are doing is illegal in the sense of it violating the Copyright Clause's mandate on limited times. While SCOTUS may not see as perpetual copyright, for all practical purposes it is. If you are to cry foul for someone uploading last year's movie onto YouTube ("copyright infringement"), you yourself have committed "copyright infringement" as well. That is, you are infringing against the Copyright Clause and public domain infringement.

So, why do this? You have obtained more than enough royalties. The point is that it's not really "public domain" (more like, semi-public) if an estate is still allowed to make money off it. Once all the Burroughs' Tarzan stories lapse its copyright here, you shouldn't be able to legally profit 1 cent from the work. That is, all trademarks on everything related to Tarzan should lapse and you cannot re-use them at all
."

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36 / M / UK
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Posted 3/13/17
I don't really follow what you are saying in your letter. Basically you are lecturing to them about an aspect of copyright law and then demanding that they relinquish their rights? You initially declare their actions as illegal and then say they shouldn't be able to profit legally from their actions. I'm confused - either it is illegal or it is not.

Sorry if I have misunderstood, but if I received a letter like that from a random member of the public I would just throw it in the bin. If the letter claims to be from a legal professional I would pass it to my solicitor to check, who would then throw it in the bin and charge me for the privilege.

If you are going to use this letter the first correction I would suggest (other than the you/your issue in the first sentence) is to tone down the first paragraph. I'd advise saying "that I believe to be in breach of copyright law" instead of "illegal" and for the second sentence "As you may be aware, under US copyright law..." Both these changes will increase the chances of your letter not being thrown in the bin on the first skim read.

You have said that you are not going to change the wording of the last two paragraphs but I would certainly reconsider using SCOTUS. If the reader is unfamilliar with the US legal system enough that warrants a lecture from you on copyright law then I doubt that they will correctly interpret what SCOTUS is. For all an uninformed reader would know, it could be a slogan for the Scottish Tourism board, "Scot Us!"


As a final point, I am curious about your motivation here. Why are you targeting this particular estate? I am sure that many corporate entities like Disney have similar properties on their books.
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31 / M / Glendale, AZ
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Posted 3/19/17
Because I think I have singled Disney too much on other internet forums about stuff like this and also going at the smaller fish.
@a similar thread (boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=821892&page=4), we got over 110 replies between 12:45PM (AZ time) yesterday and midnight (AZ time) and we are still growing.
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31 / M
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Posted 3/20/17

kadmos1 wrote:

Attn: Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.
I am writing to inform you that several of your titles are being used in a manner that is illegal. First, I have to express how copyright is supposed to work in this country, as it is tied to that.

Stephen Carlise, J.D. (Copyright Officer of Nova Southeast University) wrote a 2/27/15 article called “Copying Is Not Creativity! Why Creative Artists Don’t Need the Public Domain” explaining how copyright works (par. 17): “The first is to provide a monetary return to the author sufficient to incentivize the creation of the work. The second is that copyright allows for some copying of ideas, and even some expression, but prohibits slavish copying that does nothing to create new works of value that enhance our culture."

American copyright is also a social contract of sorts: the public does what Carlisle describes and the creator eventually has to let their work enter the public domain. Not letting the copyright expire equates to stealing from the public domain/public domain infringement. This includes trademarking (TM) a character that is public domain or has versions in the public domain (a sound, image, or name), retroactive copyright extensions, and copyright restoration. The TM of a character is noticeable with corporations and estates.

This is where my letter comes in: You have trademarks on many Burroughs characters and these act as a perpetual copyright. There is also a 1st Amendment issue on the public being barred, outside of nominal fair use, from use of the Burroughs stories in the title. They should be able but a character name in the title but include "original concept: [creators]" and "this version: [names]" on the title page.

So, what you are doing is illegal in the sense that it violates the Copyright Clause's mandate on limited times. While SCOTUS may not see this as a perpetual copyright, for all practical purposes, it is. If you are to cry foul for someone uploading last year's movie onto YouTube ("copyright infringement"), you yourself have committed "copyright infringement" as well. That is, you are infringing against the Copyright Clause and public domain.

So, why do this? You have obtained more than enough royalties. The point is that it's not really "public domain" (more like, semi-public) if an estate is still allowed to make money off it. Once all of Burroughs' Tarzan stories lapse their copyright you shouldn't be able to legally profit from the work. That is, all trademarks on everything related to Tarzan should lapse and you cannot re-use them at all
."

Adjusted some wording and typos.

Content-wise, your letter is a non-starter, even setting aside its rather patronizing tone. The most likely response you'll get (should they bother writing one) is simply that they're taking perfectly legal advantage of existing laws to benefit Burroughs' estate, as they are dutifully obligated to.

You might disagree with their practices' legality, but U.S. courts have quite consistently ruled otherwise. If you desire change you'll need the laws themselves to be changed. There is, quite literally, no incentive for them to do anything differently than they have been.
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