Ask Dr. Copyright

 Dear Doc:

With the New Year nigh, what fascinating copyright info do you have about the big illuminated sphere that drops in Times Square at midnight?

Tipsy and Frozen

Dear T&F:

Funny you should ask! The Doc was just perusing the website for the big event. On that site, we can learn many fascinating facts, such as that the “ball” is not, in fact, a sphere, but rather a geodesic spherical structure, 12 feet in diameter, weighing 11,875 pounds. The ball is covered with a total of 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles that vary in size, and range in length from 4 ¾ inches to 5 ¾ inches per side. It is lit by 32,256 LEDs (light emitting diodes) arranged into 672 LED modules of 48 LEDs 12 red, 12 blue, 12 green, and 12 white for a total of 8,064 of each color. This one is the seventh version of the ball, stretching back to 1904. (All of these facts are not protected by copyright, as facts never are!)

As for copyrights, the website and the Times Square ball are the property of Countdown Entertainment LLC, which helpfully explains: “Countdown also owns the copyrights, trademarks, trade names, and other intellectual and proprietary rights throughout the world associated with Countdown and the Site, which are protected by copyright, trade dress, patent, trademark laws and all other applicable intellectual and proprietary rights and laws.” The Doc thinks this may be overstating things a bit, but then, the Doc may have had a few glasses of champagne already (and don’t get the Doc started on the trademark issues of whether the California white sparkling wine he swilled may properly be called “champagne”!)

One question the Doc has is whether the ball may properly be copyrighted, since copyright protects expression and not function. Is the ball a sculpture? Is dropping it a performance, or just a means to signal the time? Is it actually dropped, or just lowered by a very powerful hoist system? Can someone take photos of the ball and use them commercially, unlike photos of the Eiffel Tower, which, under French law, may not be? Why would the Doc even care?

So if you have balls that need protection, you’ll find that the attorneys at LW&H are here to support them (uh, you). Give them a call after your hangover wears off, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Until next year,

The Doc

— Lawrence A. Husick, Esq.

*Originally posted on January, 19 2023