The top 5 things New Media Rights thinks you should know about the public domain.

At New Media Rights we work to make the public domain more accessible. In celebration of copyright week here are the top five things you need to know about the public domain.

5. No new works will fall into the public domain in the US until 2019.

Due to extensions in US copyright law back in the 60’s and 70’s no new works will enter the public domain in the US until 2019. Notice we say the US here. In countries where the copyright term is life plus 70 years (such as Brazil and EU members) and life plus 50 (including Canada and New Zealand) works did fall into the public domain this year including  great works like The Little Prince and the classic painting “The Scream”.

4. Finding out if some works are in the public domain in the US may still cost you.

Works created between 1923 and 1964 fall into a grey area; they may be in the public domain depending on if their copyright was renewed 28 years from the date of the original copyright. Unfortunately, finding that renewal record will probably cost you. The only official records of renewal are held by the Copyright Office in Washington D.C.  Since, records before January 1, 1978 are not available online; the only way to gain access to these accurate and official records of copyright renewals is to either:

  1. Go to the Copyright office in person, in Washington D.C., and research their records using paper card catalogs OR;
  2. Pay the copyright office $200 an hour to search the copyright records for the original copyright and the renewal notice.

While the copyright office is actively seeking to digitize these records and make them searchable, given the budget cuts the office has faced in the past few years this will likely be a lengthy process.

3. Finding out what is in the public domain doesn’t always have to be hard.

New Media Rights has great guides to help you figure out when something falls into the public domain. We also have a guide that will help you find public domain and openly licensed works to use in your own creative works. We also have several YouTube videos that help answer commonly asked questions about the public domain.

2. You can put your work into the public domain.

Not sure you want your great grandchildren fighting over the rights to your independent film? Maybe you think your research would do more good to the world if folks could do whatever they wanted to do with it? Or maybe you’re worried about your work falling into obscurity? 

Although in the US copyright is granted from the moment of fixation, you can affirmatively put your work in the public domain for free! Although there a few different options for putting your work in the public domain, using the Creative Commons Public Domain Designation is one of the more straightforward ways and you can learn more about that option here!

1. Still have a question about the public domain? That’s what we’re here for!

If you have a question about the public domain you can contact us via our contact form here. You can also sign on to support Copyright Week’s four principles, including the importance of building a robust public domain, through the EFF here.


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New Media Rights to file comments supporting key Anti-Circumvention exemptions

We're taking part in Copyright Week, a series of actions and discussions supporting key principles that should guide copyright policy. Every day this week, various groups are taking on different elements of the law, and addressing what's at stake, and what we need to do to make sure that copyright promotes creativity and innovation. Today's theme is "Owners Rights" and the upcoming Copyright Anti-Circumvention Exemption Proceeding.

Comments to the Copyright Office's current Anti-Circumvention exemption proceeding are due February 6, 2015.  As in past years (2012, 2009), New Media Rights will be offering direct evidence of the creators and consumers we work with who rely on these exemptions.  Here's a brief preview of our comment.

One thing remains constant in the DMCA Anti-Circumvention exemption proceedings: an enormous output of time and energy by legal clinics, nonprofits, and others every three years in pursuit of broad range of worthy, but narrow exemptions.  Most of these exemptions discuss why a particular use is not otherwise illegal, and should be exempted from violating federal law under the Anti-Circumvention provisions.  We maintain that an elegant way to improve the provisions, and allow otherwise lawful uses without requiring such a tremendous use of resources, is to simply exempt all uses that are otherwise lawful.

In this proceeding we will be specifically arguing for the right of a) remix creators and filmmakers to circumvent technological protection measures to reuse video in fair use, as well as b) the right of  individuals to take control of the apps and services they use on their mobile devices.

Our 2015 comment will support expansions of these recommendations in important ways - including arguing that jailbreaking should also apply to tablets and that the bypassing of anti-circumvention technology should include Blu-Ray, as well as DVD and online sources.

Jailbreaking of smartphones and tablets

Jailbreaking is essential to ensure competition and innovation.  Jailbreaking enables alternative app marketplaces, which provide a safety valve to censorship by OS makers, wireless carriers, and device manufacturers, who use their gatekeeping power to control what apps and services we can access.  In addition, jailbreaking allows for increased customization that allows consumers to address security and privacy concerns instead of being forced to wait for the OS maker to address the issues.  These exemptions would allow consumers to continue to enjoy the benefits of jaibreaking their smartphones to lawful software, and extend these benefits to tablets. 

Accessing video to reuse footage from Blu-Ray, DVDs and online sources

This exemption is meant to allow creators, remixers, and vidders the ability to bypass DVD encryption technology to obtain high quality footage for the videos they create.  The exemption extends only to videos that fall within the bounds of fair use and thus, this exemption is not as broad as many copyright holders argue.  This exemption allows those who create and share videos that reuse existing content to defend themselves under fair use.  Our comment includes the stories of creators who represent the wide array of social, political, and cultural commentary that this exemption would protect.

We also argue that it is necessary to allow circumvention to provide access to higher quality footage, which is both demanded by viewers and necessary to communicate a creator’s message.  Many of the already legal methods to obtain the footage – including screen capture or analog capturing – are deficient. 

As more content becomes available solely online, it becomes more important for internet users and creators to be able to lawfully repurpose and reuse this source of material.  There is an enormous amount of content not currently available on DVD.  To ensure the basic right to post videos regarding current social events or hotly debated political topics, it is essential allow this exemption to legally access the most up-to-date footage.  Having to wait for the material to come to DVD would cause many videos to be stale or wholly irrelevant.

Our comments will also include support for a filmmaking exemption as well as ask for other key expansions in exemptions particularly important to the clients we serve.  In sum, our comment represents our direct experience with numerous individual examples that rely on critical exemptions.  The exemptions will not only benefit consumers and creators, but are in harmony with the spirit, purpose, and law of the Copyright Act.  

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New Media Rights joins CyberTECH and others for Data Privacy Day 2015

New Media Rights is proud to announce we’ll be joining CyberTECH, Securing Our eCity and leading privacy experts for Data Privacy Day 2015: Securing the Internet of Things Masters on January 28, 2015. This event will bring together security and privacy experts from around the nation to address privacy concerns surrounding the growing Internet of Things to provide a clearer understanding of the perceptions and potential threats that will affect the collection, management and safeguarding of private information about individuals and organizations.

Learn more about Data Privacy Day 2015 and to find additional events near you here.

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Top 5 mistakes startups make with their privacy policies

Privacy policies are a critical pre-launch step for many web based companies. But not all privacy policies are created equal. Here are the top five common mistakes we see startups make with their privacy policies.

5.    The company doesn't have a privacy policy.
Collecting information from your users without a privacy policy is remarkably risky. In some states it may even be illegal depending on the type of website you operate. For example in California, commercial websites that collect personally identifiable user information which includes information that is commonly collected by commercial websites like names, emails and addresses are required to have a privacy policy.  Even if you’re not in a state that requires your website to have a privacy policy, privacy policies are still helpful for setting consumer expectations regarding your use of their data.

4.    The company copy and pasted (insert big companies name here) privacy policy as their own.
While most major companies do employ very good privacy law attorneys to write their privacy policies, these policies are tailored for that company’s specific needs. Copying and pasting their privacy policies as your own use can lead to a whole host of problems. While some problems, like forgetting to replace their business name with your business name, hurt you more from a business and customer trust perspective. Other problems, like making promises to do things you don’t do and can’t actually do (i.e. removing user data in a set period of time), could be legally actionable. So while having a privacy policy is important, it’s even more important to have a privacy policy that fits your company’s specific needs.

3.    The privacy policy violates the privacy laws of the state in which the company is located.
Privacy law is a bit of a moving target and laws vary significantly from state to state. Certain state laws even contradict other states laws. However, as a rule of thumb it’s a very good idea to make sure you comply with any relevant federal privacy laws as well as the privacy laws of the state(s) where your business is located.  If you’re not sure what laws you need to comply with, we highly recommend consulting an attorney in your area.

2.    Consumers can’t find the privacy policy on the website.
It’s not just enough to have a privacy policy that is tailored to your company; your customers also need to be able to find it, understand it, and agree to it. Legal standards can vary as to what kind of notice is sufficient. It’s often a good best practice to make sure your privacy policy is linked (in a working link), in a legible font in the header, footer or other highly visible part of your website.  To ensure your users have agreed to your privacy policy, wherever users will be giving you their personal information it’s a good idea to clearly link to your privacy policy on that form above the send button to ensure that users have a chance to read it before they submit information.

1.    The privacy policy makes a promise the company can’t keep.
The number one rule of writing a good privacy policy is to only make promises you can actually keep. Making promises that sound privacy conscious that you can’t actually keep lulls your users into a false sense of trust and when that trust is broken it can be a PR nightmare. It can also be a legal nightmare. For example, the Federal Trade Commission can bring legal action against companies who misled their users about their privacy practices.

And as important as this rule is, it can also be the hardest to comply with because making truthful statements in your privacy policy doesn’t end with the drafting of your policy. It means making sure you keep that information up to date as your data collection practices change. It means making sure that your marketing and business teams understand what promises the company made so your advertising and business practices are in line with your privacy policy. Unfortunately, lack of communication between these teams is so common it’s become a business cliché.  But despite the cliché, making sure you only make promises you can keep in your privacy policy is the number one rule when it comes to privacy policies and the number one mistake we see startups make when it comes to privacy policies.

Are you making any of these common privacy policy mistakes? Make it your new year’s resolution to get your privacy policy in shape! If you have questions about your privacy policy or privacy law in general, feel free to reach out to New Media Rights via our contact form.

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Our 2014 accomplishments!

Whether you’ve joined us as a Student or an Open Internet Defender we're stronger than ever thanks to support from individuals like you!

Please consider joining our community of supporters by making a donation and help us continue to fulfill our mission to:

  • Provide free and dramatically reduced fee one-to-one legal services to underserved creators and innovators that need specialized help with Internet, intellectual property, media, and technology law
  • Defend the Open Internet and push for badly needed copyright reform.
  • Create high quality legal educational materials and to educate the next generation of lawyers.

With your support we’ve done this and more in 2014 by:

In 2015, with your support we plan to:

  • Continuing to provide free and dramatically reduced fee one-to-one legal services to  400+ underserved creators and innovators.
  • Release a ground-breaking new legal educational tool to help creators.
  •  Sponsoring and organizing more than 12 workshops and community events throughout the San Diego region and throughout the United States about digital rights.
  • Working on policy initiatives to encourage the FCC to adopt real Net Neutrality measures.
  • Participating in the Copyright Offices 1201 hearings to make sure creators can access the materials they need to create and we can all make modifications to the technologies we own without risking criminal charges.

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November Newsletter: Giving Tuesday--Night Owl Edition

New Media Rights


This Giving Tuesday, December 2, New Media Rights is running a one-day, 24-hour fundraiser where your donations will be matched dollar for dollar up to $10,000. So mark your calendar now and please pledge to give now by sending the dollar amount you want to pledge

Without your continued support, we can't do work like like helping local San Diego filmmaker Bill Perrine with his latest documentary film It’s Gonna Blow: San Diego's Music Underground 1986-1996.

Your donations help ensure we have the resources to reach a wide variety of clients to provide critical legal services, like the services we provided to Bill.
This year, we have a unique opportunity to double your impact to New Media Rights on Giving Tuesday. But there’s a catch. We’ll be competing will all of the other wonderful programs at California Western School of Law for that $10,000 match on a first come, first matched basis.
That means in order to maximize your impact we are asking
donors to give at 12:00am PST on December 2nd. As an added bonus, the first person to make a donation on Giving Tuesday at the Open Internet Defender Level or above will get a T-shirt from Bill Perrine’s latest documentary, It’s Gonna Blow.

Steps to help us rock Giving Tuesday:
Step 1:Pledge to give now by sending the dollar amount you want to pledge
Step 2 Click here to add a reminder to your calendar to give to New Media Rights on Giving Tuesday or join the facebook event!
Step 3: Don't forget to give on Giving Tuesday!
But wait?!? Why Should you give on Giving Tuesday?
By giving on Giving Tuesday, you can double your impact, and help us to do more great work like the work we did this year.
Thanks to your continued support we:

See a full list of our accomplishments for the year and our exciting plans for next year here!

All the best,

Art Neill, Teri Karobonik, and the New Media Rights team


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New Media Rights Sponsors Startup Weekend San Diego MEGA: Web / Mobile / Maker

New Media Rights, proudly announces our sponsorship of Startup Weekend San Diego MEGA: Web / Mobile / Maker, beginning November 14th at San Diego’s new downtown library. The event is a weekend-long, hands-on experience where innovators and aspiring technology entrepreneurs can hear from industry experts whether their startup ideas are viable.  New Media Rights' sponsorship of the event includes an offer of free legal services for the winning team.

Startup Weekend San Diego is just one of the ways New Media Rights supports the next generation of innovators creating jobs for the San Diego region, and developing technologies to help improve the world.  New Media Rights works directly with technology startups, creators, and internet users every day in San Diego, offering free and reduced fee legal services on internet, media, and technology law matters.

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PRESS RELEASE: President Obama urges the FCC to adopt real net neutrality


November 10, 2014

Contact 619-591-8870,

New Media Rights welcomes President Obama's statement supporting real net neutrality

New Media Rights is pleased to announce that this morning President Barack Obama urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reclassify the Internet under Title II. In plain language, the President came out in support of real net neutrality, the principle that says Internet service providers (ISPs) should treat all internet traffic equally. New Media Rights has been advocating for reclassification in our recent Open Internet comments  to the FCC (and our reply comments) as well as in our letter to the President and his Office of Science and Technology Policy. We thank the President for his support of Title II reclassification and encourage the FCC to adopt the President's position. Here's the President's statement.

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Put a mugshot on it? Things to think about before using mugshots on commercial products.

At New Media Rights we’ve received a surprising amount of contact forms related to using mugshots on commercially sold items. Although we cover whether mugshots are in the public domain here, this blog post tailors that information a bit more specifically for people who may want to put a mug shot on something and sell it.

A word of caution upfront, putting a mugshot on any commercially sold items raises some serious legal questions. If you’re serious about starting a business like this you should consult with an attorney since this blog only raises some of the issues you may need to look out for and is NOT legal advice.

Copyright law protects creative works including, believe it or not, mugshots. But the exact copyright status of mugshots from different law enforcement agencies is a bit more complex.

In general mugshots taken by federal law enforcement agencies(such as federal prisons and the FBI) are in the public domain and are not protected by copyright law. This is because a photo taken by a federal employee as part of their work for the federal government is in the public domain and not protected by copyright law.

However, for mugshots taken by state law enforcement the mugshots may or may not be in the public domain since state, city and other local entities can make their own decisions on whether or not to release mugshots and other photos taken by their employees into the public domain. In addition, some states may chose to restrict access to some mugshots under certain circumstances for reasons unrelated to copyright law.

For photos that are under copyright and access is not restricted, depending on your use of the photo, fair use may apply. However, for commercial use in particular we strongly recommend seeking out legal counsel before you release your product commercially to ensure you have a strong fair use argument.

Right of publicity & privacy laws
Even if the mugshot you intend to use is in the public domain(or your use is fair use) there are still other legal issues to consider. Approximately half of all US states have right of publicity laws. Although statues vary significantly from state to state, they are designed to prevent unauthorized commercial use of a person’s image, name, and likeness, although some are expansive enough to cover things like the sound of a person’s voice. Thus in some states, when mugshots are used commercially in certain ways they may violate a person’s right of publicity.  Keep in mind that some states, like California, even extend this right after death.

Also, just because your state doesn’t have a law called “right of publicity” doesn’t necessarily mean your state doesn’t have a law that would prevent a mugshot from being used commercially. Sometimes that kind of law may be part of the states privacy laws or even unfair competition laws.

These are just a few of the legal issues that come up when using mugshots commercially on products. If you are seriously considering putting mugshots on products and selling them, we highly recommend seeking out an attorney to advise you on the full array of legal issues that may arise from this type of business.

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Copyright & Fair Use Workshop for Filmmakers and Video Creators - A Doculink sponsored event in Los Angeles Saturday November 8

Update! Here's the video from that event!


New Media Rights' Executive Director Art Neill is speaking in the Los Angeles area Saturday November 8, 2014 about Copyright, Fair Use, Music Licensing, and Creative Commons at 1:30pm at the Glendale Public Library.  If you're in the LA area come on out and say hello!  The event is sponsored by Doculink and the Glendale Library, Arts and Culture Department.

Here's the details from Doculink, and a flyer for the event is attached below as a pdf.

Please RSVP to Colleen Stratton if you're planning on attending.

On Saturday, November 8th, Doculink, in conjunction with Glendale Library, Arts and Culture Department, will present: "WHAT'S FAIR ABOUT FAIR USE AND COPYRIGHT? - HOW FAIR USE AND COPYRIGHT LAW AFFECT DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKING AND ONLINE VIDEO CREATORS"

Attorney Art Neill of New Media Rights will give a workshop on how Copyright law both restricts and empowers documentary filmmakers and other video creators. We'll cover key legal issues in filmmaking, including

The basics of copyright law, including how it protects your work, and how it restricts what you can do with others' work

  • How to reuse video footage and images under fair use (Fair Use permits use of copyrighted works without permission under specific circumstances)
  • When and how to get a license for music, footage, and other materials
  • How to properly use openly licensed (Creative Commons) materials

DOCULINK is a community for documentary filmmakers who share information, leads, ideas, and a commitment to support each other's growth as nonfiction filmmakers.

Art Neill is an attorney and the founder of New Media Rights in San Diego and practices public interest law in the areas of internet, intellectual property, and communications law. He is an adjunct professor of law at California Western School of Law in San Diego where he teaches Internet & Social Media Law (primarily focused on Internet, Intellectual Property, licensing, and online publishing law).

DATE and TIME: SATURDAY, November 8th, 1:30 pm-4:30 pm,

FOOD: Potluck.  As aways, please bring snacks and drinks to share!

LOCATION:  Glendale Central Library

222 E. Harvard St., Glendale CA 91205

818 548-2030

The event will be held in the AUDITORIUM on the SECOND floor.

Receive 3 hours FREE parking across Harvard at the Marketplace parking structure WITH VALIDATION at the Loan Desk.
Metered parking is available on the west side of the building in Lot #10 and on Harvard Street.
Handicapped parking is available at the front of the building.

Please RSVP to Colleen Stratton
Feel free to pass this invitation along to other people who might be interested.   Hope to see you all there!

Doculink flyer revised.pdf2.19 MB

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