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NYT's Richieri at Penn Law Addresses Copyright Challenges in Digital Age

March 29, 2011

Kenneth A. Richieri, senior vice president and general counsel of the New York Times CompanyBy Sophie Jeewon Choi C’13

Kenneth A. Richieri, senior vice president and general counsel of the New York Times Company, opened the Penn Intellectual Property Group’s 4th Annual Symposium on Copyright Law on March 22 with a keynote address that offered a practical perspective on copyright issues for news and information providers. Richieri addressed an audience of faculty, students, attorneys and community members gathered in Penn Law’s Levy Conference Center. 

According to Richieri, news and information providers face a unique situation in protecting their copyrights because of the ambiguous distinction between the facts they report and the expressions they use. “Copyright protects expression, not facts,” he explained. “Creative works, things like novels, movies [and] songs, receive the highest protection because they’re one hundred percent expression.”

News providers also face a new challenge with the development of digital media. “The Internet world has severely changed the economic play in a very material sense,” Richieri said, adding that the changes are in large part due to the nature of Internet search engines. “For news articles, this generally means headlines, and the first sentence or so, limited to 40, 35 characters,” he said. Because the search results are considered informative, such headlines are not protected by copyright and are considered a fair use case.

The growing use of “apps” and user interfaces complicates the issue further. “Apps are often designed to allow the user to change his or her experience,” Richieri pointed out. “The changes can be relatively simple, like fonts or something like that, or more complex, like organization or presentation.” Richieri emphasized, “[Such changes] have very serious economic consequences.” For clients looking for guidance in developing apps given the complex copyright environment, he said “there is no easy or uniform answer.”
Following the keynote address, the Symposium included three panel discussions. The first discussion, moderated by Penn Law Professor R. Polk Wagner, was titled “Music Licensing and Distribution.” Panelists Bruce Rich, a senior partner at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP who heads the firm’s IP & Media practice, Jeff Farmer, in-house counsel and vice president of Legal Affairs at Lime Wire LLC, and Roger Cramer, counsel to Selverne & Company PLLC, explored contemporary copyright issues in the music industry in the face of changing technologies. They covered a wide range of issues, including the protection of artists and the streaming and downloading of music online.

The second panel, titled “Open Source and Derivative Works,” was moderated by Penn Law Professor Christopher S. Yoo and focused on copyright issues surrounding software development. The panelists included Van Lindberg, associate at Haynes and Boone, Aaron Williamson, counsel at Software Freedom Law Center, and J. (Jay) T. Westermeier, counsel at Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garret & Dunner LLP. They spoke of the unresolved discourse on the open source movement and copyrights of adapted work.

Penn Law Professor Shyam Balganesh moderated the final panel, “Copyright and Authors,” with panelists Nina Paley, author, director, cartoonist, and an artist-in-residence member of, and Marcia Paul, a partner at Davis Wright Tremaine LLP who concentrates on media and intellectual property litigation and counseling. Drawing on their professional experiences, the two panelists shared their perspectives on copylefts and the necessity of copyright laws.

Attorney John Papianou, who attended the Symposium, said of the discussions, “I thought [Nina Paley’s] challenging the copyright laws was very interesting.” Charlene Kwuon, an online cartoonist and writer, also commended the final panel. “I thought it was great that they were actively pitted against each other,” she said. “It made the arguments for or against copyrights feel very active.”

Coy Burcell, a corporate and health law attorney in the audience and the associate director of Penn’s Office of Research Services, said, “I thought they were all great presentations. They were all interesting. I think it’s remarkable to get the different panels and the speakers to all come to this event.”

Flickr: Penn Intellectual Property Group Symposium: Copyright Law in the 21st Century Pictures