Posts in Copyright

Good Faith Doctrine and NFTs – How a Bored Ape NFT Dilemma May Present Unique Copyright and Contract Issues

Can something called a “Bored Ape” be embodied in a non-fungible token (NFT) and be associated with smart contracts? How could this present unique and challenging issues regarding copyright law? Over the course of the last two months, the general public has tracked what started out as a phishing scam involving actor Seth Green’s NFT from the Board Ape Yacht Club. It then evolved into a public quest to regain the NFT and the rights to develop a broadcast program based on the character depicted in the digital image. The trials and tribulations related to Seth Green’s efforts to ultimately regain his “lost” NFT made for interesting media clicks. It also raised awareness to copyright issues that are yet to be fully resolved. Seth Green may rest easy knowing he is again the rightful owner of his Bored Ape NFT, but the legal community should not be as quick to move on.

Senators Urge Copyright Office to Reject DLC Request for Delayed Payments to Songwriters

A bipartisan group of senators on Friday sent a letter to Shira Perlmutter, Register of Copyrights and Director of the U.S. Copyright Office, expressing their concern about a letter sent by the Digital Licensee Coordinator (DLC) to the Office requesting that any obligation of DLC member companies to make retroactive royalty payments to copyright owners as a result of an imminent decision be delayed. The letter clearly stated that the senators are opposed to any concessions to DLC companies that would extend the timeline for payments to songwriters.

Petition Asks SCOTUS to Clarify Takings Clause in Context of Copyright Infringement

Following a denial of rehearing en banc by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in February, publishing company Canada Hockey L.L.C., doing business as Epic Sports, and Michael Bynum, a sportswriter and editor, have now filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court in their appeal of a copyright case against both Texas A&M University and a pair of school officials. The petition claims the Fifth Circuit’s decision leaves copyright holders “at the mercy of state infringers.” In their petition, the plaintiffs argue that the Fifth Circuit’s ruling affirming the Southern District of Texas’ dismissal of copyright claims over Texas A&M’s unauthorized reproduction of portions of Bynum’s manuscript on the nearly 100-year history of the famed “12th Man” tradition at Texas A&M erred in failing to find constitutional violations of both the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause and due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. The Texas ruling followed the U.S. Supreme Court’s March 2020 decision in Allen v. Cooper, which declared that Congress’ abrogation of state sovereign immunity under the Copyright Remedy Clarification Act was unconstitutional.

‘All I Want for Christmas’ Copyright Suit Is Probably More ‘Fantasy’ Than ‘Heartbreaker’

Headline-grabbing copyright infringement complaints are nothing new – especially recently. Robin Thicke, Ed Sheeran, and Dua Lipa have all faced copyright infringement lawsuits seeking eye-popping damages claims. At a quick glance, the $20 million lawsuit filed this month by Andy Stone against Mariah Carey, co-writer Walter Afanasieff, and Sony Music is just one more in a string of these cases. But a closer look at the Complaint, and a comparison of the 1989 Vince Vance & The Valiants song, “All I Want for Christmas is You,” with Mariah Carey’s 1994 song of the same name, raises more questions than answers.

Top Gun Copyright Lawsuit—A Real Dog Fight or Destined to Flameout?

On June 6, Paramount Pictures got its tower buzzed for copyright infringement in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California over the blockbuster film of the summer, Top Gun Maverick. According to the allegations in the complaint, in 1983, author Ahud Yonay wrote a magazine story about the real-life exploits of two naval fighter pilots entitled, “Top Guns.” Paramount allegedly secured the “exclusive motion picture rights to Ehud Yonay’s copyrighted story” and in 1986 released the motion picture Top Gun. Fast forward a few decades. In 2018, Yonay’s heirs (Plaintiffs in this action who are both Israeli citizens) allegedly served Paramount with a notice “terminating” the original assignment of the motion picture rights to Paramount. Paramount apparently took the position that the purported termination was ineffective and, over the Memorial Day weekend, launched Top Gun Maverick to critical acclaim at the box office (and to the delight of millions of fans of the original 1980s classic).

Thaler Pursues Copyright Challenge Over Denial of AI-Generated Work Registration

On June 2, Dr. Stephen Thaler filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. naming as defendants both the United States Copyright Office (USCO) and Shira Perlmutter, in her official capacity as Register of Copyrights and Director of the USCO. The complaint marks the start of a new phase of Thaler’s attempts at obtaining a copyright registration for “A Recent Entrance to Paradise,” an AI-generated work that is the output of Thaler’s AI system known as Creativity Machine. Thaler is requesting the district court issue an order that would require the USCO to set aside the Review Board’s decision and reinstate the application for registration of the work. Thaler is also seeking an award of reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs. The case is Stephen Thaler v. Shira Perlmutter and The United States Copyright Office (1:22-cv-01564) (June 2, 2022).

Protecting Intellectual Property in Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality (“AR”), along with Virtual Reality (“VR”), is rapidly growing in prominence and will be transformative to the way we live, work, learn and play. Both AR and VR will undoubtedly bring a whole set of novel IP issues for individuals, companies, IP practitioners and the courts. Like any new technological area, such as cyber law for the nascent internet technology in the early 1990s, many legal issues need to be addressed and many more are yet to be discovered as this area evolves.  

‘Russian Doll’ Copyright Infringement: Beware What’s in the Background

In the winter of 2014, Leah Bassett rented her Martha’s Vineyard home to Joshua Spafford. He seemed like a nice guy, quiet and well-dressed. Joshua listed his employer as “Mile High Media.” Mile High then used the home to shoot several adult videos. Leah, the homeowner, didn’t know that they were going to use her home in this way. She was upset when she learned what they had done, but in the end, she got her revenge thanks to copyright law.

Doing Business in Russia After the Ukraine Invasion—Justifications and Risks

As horrifying images continue to flow from Ukraine, politicians in the United States and Europe find themselves increasingly pressured to expand economic sanctions against Russia. On April 6, 2022, the White House announced a prohibition on new investment in Russia by any U.S. person. This move has undoubtedly been a factor in the stunning exodus of U.S. companies from the region, as it leaves management teams in legal limbo as to whether maintaining current facilities—or even repairing equipment—could be considered a prohibited “investment.”

California Court Holds Pinterest’s Display of User-Uploaded Works Near Ads are Protected by DMCA Safe Harbor

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California this week ruled that the safe harbor provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) protects Pinterest from a photographer’s claim that the platform infringed his copyrights by displaying his works alongside advertisements in the form of “promoted pins.” Harold Davis, an artist and professional photographer, claimed that Pinterest infringed 51 of his copyrighted works. In one example, Davis’ work, “Kiss from a Rose,” was displayed next to a promoted Pin for an art print called “White Tea Roses by Neicy Frey,” which Davis contended constituted unauthorized commercial use of his work.

USPTO Issues Update on Relations with Russian Patent Office

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced today that certain intellectual property (IP)-related transactions are now authorized in Russia, following publication by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of General License No. 31. The authorized transactions include the filing and prosecution of any application to obtain a patent, trademark, or copyright, as well as renewal and maintenance fees.

The Emperors’ New Codes: Understanding IP Community Ambivalence Toward Digital Assets

The rise in the value of crypto currencies in just three years to $3 trillion is vexing to businesses, investors and IP professionals who are struggling to understanding where they fit in. The ascendance of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) as an asset class also has caught practically everyone off-guard. Many intellectual property owners believe that these blockchain-based disruptions have created opportunity, while others see a darker and more impermeant scenario. People want to know if NFTs and distributed ledgers are good for IP rights and creators – a self-proclaimed boon to innovation and access – or are they a passing storm?

USTR Suspends Review of Ukraine, Remains Concerned with China in Latest Special 301 Report

The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) released its annual Special 301 Report today, which identified 27 trading partners of the United States as being either on the “Priority Watch List” or “Watch List.” This means that “particular problems exist in that country with respect to IP protection, enforcement, or market access for U.S. persons relying on IP,” according to the Report. While the Priority Watch List is shorter this year, the USTR continues to highlight concerns about China, particularly with respect to recent statements made by Chinese officials about the role of IP in achieving Chinese market dominance.

CJEU Upholds 2019 EU Copyright Directive

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has rejected a legal challenge to Article 17 of Directive 2019/790 on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. (Case C-401/19 Republic of Poland v. European Parliament and Council, ECLI:EU:C:2022:297.) The challenge was brought by the government of Poland. It argued that Article 17 of the Directive, which concerns the liability of online service providers for copyright-infringing content uploaded by users, infringed the rights to freedom of expression and information. The rights to freedom of expression and information are guaranteed in Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU.

Robots and IP: Protecting Faces, Expressions and Vocalizations

Preventing others from copying your robot’s AI-driven face, expressions and vocalizations requires a comprehensive intellectual property strategy. That’s one of the takeaways from a pending dispute between robot makers as described in Digital Dream Labs, LLC v. Living Technology (Shenzhen) Co. (pending in the Western District of Pennsylvania). The case involves plaintiff DDL, which owns registered copyrights in desktop humanoid-vehicle hybrid robots called COZMO and VECTOR (see below left and middle), and defendant Living.AI, whose headphone-wearing, skateboard riding, humanoid robot called EMO (below right) is alleged by DDL to infringe its copyrights. Both companies reportedly deployed AI software on their robots that selects graphical animations and sounds to output based on the robot’s reactions with its environment and user.