A Copyright Battle for the Ages

Aug 22, 2014   //   by Bruce Mason   //   Weekly Market Update  //  No Comments

Without much news and with little fanfare, the Dow Jones Industrial Average crept back above 17,000.  Geopolitical jitters sent the Dow lower from mid-July to early-August.  At its lowest, the Dow fell 4.5% to 16,368, from its all-time high on July 16th.  Investors, with few alternatives and a still accommodative Federal Reserve, helped the market melt higher these past few weeks.

Despite rising markets, there remains a considerable amount of uncertainty around the world.  Russia threatened further sanctions against the West as the rhetoric continues to heat up.  Specifically, they may impose restrictions or ban vehicle imports from Western countries if the U.S. and EU impose additional sanctions on Moscow.  However, it is worth noting the new ban would not apply to foreign automakers’ production inside of Russia.  Ford, Volkswagen, Renault, Toyota and Hyundai all have production facilities inside the country.  In addition, the situation in Iraq against ISIS is bleeding over into Syria now with President Obama suggesting today we could expand airstrikes into Syria in the near future.  And lastly, there was yet another breakdown in the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas which could reignite hostilities in that part of the Middle East.  We are somewhat protected from the direct effects of these various crises.  Peripherally, trade could be impacted and oil prices could rise.

In company news, we learned this week that Starbucks plans on bringing back its pumpkin spice latte as early as late August.  This is an unusual move for the company since this drink is a Fall/Christmas favorite among patrons.  It is unclear what precipitated this move.  Another significant announcement is that Microsoft’s ex-CEO, Steve Ballmer, will be stepping down from the company’s board.  Having been ousted as CEO, one can only imagine how difficult it must have been to participate in meetings that undoubtedly exposed his failed strategies.  Before you feel too sorry for Mr. Ballmer, it should be noted he is the 51st richest person as calculated by Forbes with a net worth around $21 billion.  Much of that wealth is still tied up in Microsoft.

In economic news, we heard from the Chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, who was speaking at the annual Jackson Hole economic summit.  In a nutshell, she is determined to stick to her game plan.  With the end of quantitative easing in sight, debate is now shifting to when the central bank should begin to hike interest rates.  According to Mrs. Yellen, the economy is getting closer to full employment and stable inflation.  However, she also made clear that labor market indicators tracked by the Fed suggest the decline in the unemployment rate overstates improvement in the labor market.  Regardless, sentiment remains for the first rate hike to happen mid-2015.  The market yawned on this news.

And finally we arrive at the story of the week.  I’ve been following the plight of a British professional wildlife photographer, David Slater, who has been embroiled in a legal battle this past month.  He was on a photography assignment trying to capture some pictures of the endangered crested black macaque.  After setting up his gear on a tripod, the monkeys took interest and started snapping pictures of themselves.  Of the hundreds of pictures the monkeys took, several turned out amazing.  The pictures went viral and before Mr. Slater could stop it, they were popping up everywhere.  He claimed he was the rightful owner of the pictures and asked various websites to take them down.  However, Wikimedia refused to take down the pictures on the grounds that he didn’t own the rights to the images.  Today the U.S. Copyright Office ruled against the photographer.   Since the act of creating something involves more than simply pushing a button, the U.S. Copyright Office felt the pictures couldn’t be copyrighted.  If you would like to read more about this story or see the pictures, click here.  Now you know.

August 22, 2014

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