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Posts in Copyright

‘We Want Action’: Rightsholder Reps Address Platforms in IP Subcommittee Hearing, as DMCA Reform Draft Looms

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Intellectual Property held its last hearing of the year on reforms to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) today, three days before Subcommittee Chairman Thom Tillis (R-NC) is set to release a discussion draft of a DMCA reform bill he has said will contain “revolutionary changes to online copyright law.” Tuesday’s hearing included representatives of YouTube and Facebook; Twitter refused to participate, and Tillis recently published a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey expressing his disappointment with the decision.

Tillis Targets Criminal Streaming Services with ‘Protecting Lawful Streaming Act’

On Thursday, December 10, U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, released text of bipartisan legislation titled the “Protecting Lawful Streaming Act of 2020” (the Act).  The Act would punish commercial, for profit streaming piracy services that willfully and for commercial advantage or private financial gain offer to the public illicit services dedicated to illegally streaming copyrighted material. The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), John Cornyn (R-TX), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Coons (D-DE), Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), and David Perdue (R-GA).

Tillis Report Sums Up Senate IP Subcommittee’s Work on U.S. IP and Innovation

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Intellectual Property Chair, Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC), who was re-elected to a second term this November with about 49% of the vote, last week released the Subcommittee’s 116th Congressional Report. According to the report, Tillis held over 90 stakeholder meetings in 2019 and over 50 meetings in 2020, when discussions had to be moved to a virtual format due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tillis has also held 17 Senate hearings since January 2019 on topics ranging from USPTO oversight to reform of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and led or co-sponsored 11 intellectual property (IP)-related bills.   

This Week in Washington IP: Tech Antitrust During Biden, ADR for Copyright Small Claims and Cybersecurity in State and Local Governments

This week in Washington IP news, Senate committees will convene a series of business meetings, including one by the Senate Judiciary Committee to look at a proposed bill that would create an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) pathway for resolving copyright small claims. The Senate Environment Committee will also discuss a proposed legislative draft designed to restore American dominance in nuclear energy in part by supporting the licensing of advanced nuclear energy technologies. Elsewhere, the Brookings Institution will host a pair of events exploring the impacts of smart machines on the American labor force as well as the future of antitrust policy in the tech sector during the Biden Administration.

U.S. and EU Copyright Law Developments Reviewed at INTA Annual Meeting

Last week, during the International Trademark Association’s (INTA’s) all-virtual 2020 Annual Meeting & Leadership Meeting, panelists Naomi Jane Gray, Axel Nordemann and Catherine Zaller Rowland discussed perspectives in Copyright Law in a session titled “Hot Topics in Copyright: The New and Controversial Landscape.” In particular, the panelists discussed United States and European perspectives on 1) mash-ups, politics and parody, 2) Liability for Platforms and Service Providers, and 3) Useful Articles.

Copyright for Choreography: When is Copying a Dance a Copyright Violation?

Recent news reports about choreographer JaQuel Knight’s efforts to copyright some of his iconic dance routines, such as Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies,” are a reminder that such works face steep hurdles when it comes to qualifying for protection. From ballet to breakdance and Swan Lake to Saturday Night Fever, dance is part of every culture—and a surprisingly frequent source of intellectual property conflict. While works of dance clearly are eligible for copyright protection under Section 102(a)(4) of the Copyright Act, determining which dances meet the standard—and which have two left feet—has been tricky and has resulted in a number of high-profile disputes in recent years. However, a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in an unrelated copyright dispute may provide important guidance in subsequent dance-related copyright litigation.

As Biden Presidency Nears, Concerns Over Return to Obama-Era IP Politics Loom Large

As of the time of publication, the Associated Press had called 264 electoral college votes for Joe Biden in the 2020 Presidential Election. While many states are still counting and legal challenges have been filed by the Trump Administration in several of them, all signs indicate that Biden will likely be inaugurated President on January 20, 2021.What this means for IP will take months to parse. It is no understatement to point out that concrete details on IP policy are lacking on Joe Biden’s presidential platform. A site-specific search for intellectual property (e.g., “intellectual property” site:joebiden.com) returns only seven results on Google Search, the top two of which are links to the Limited License and Terms and Conditions pages for Biden. Similar results occur when running site-specific searches for “copyright” and “trademark” instead of “intellectual property.” Without question, the Biden campaign cares about protecting its own IP.

Skidmore Seeks a Second Chance at SCOTUS in Led Zeppelin Copyright Case

On October 30, Michael Skidmore, Trustee for the Randy Craig Wolfe Trust, filed a petition for rehearing of the denial of its August 6 petition for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court. In the original petition, Skidmore requested that the Supreme Court review a March judgment of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit siding with Led Zeppelin in a long-running case examining whether the opening notes of the band’s legendary song “Stairway to Heaven” infringed the song “Taurus,” written by Robert Wolfe of the band Spirit, a contemporary of Led Zeppelin. Skidmore brought the original suit in 2014. In the petition for rehearing, Skidmore claims that the “Ninth Circuit’s en banc opinion herald[ed] the ‘death of music copyright,’ just as happened to literary copyright before it.”

Google v. Oracle: The High Court Holds the Future of IP in Its Hands

In what many regard as the intellectual property case of the century, the United States Supreme Court has—on October 7, 2020—presided over oral arguments in Google v. Oracle. The decade-long dispute between two of Silicon Valley’s behemoths centers on Google’s unauthorized use of 11,500 lines from Oracle’s Java APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) declaring code in its Android operating system. Given the global ubiquity of smartphones, roughly three-quarters of which use the Android operating system, the financial stakes have never been higher. As we await the outcome of the October 7 proceedings, there are important questions to contemplate, including the uncertain impact of Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. In particular, can the attorneys for Google convincingly argue that the unauthorized use of the JAVA APIs’ declaring code is justified? It may be justifiable if these particular API packages are not copyrightable. On the other hand, if Google accepts Oracle’s claim of copyright protection, can Google then assert a fair use defense for its use of 11,500 lines of declaring code?  

Trademarks are for Sellers: Banksy Store Created for Trademark Defense Fails to Protect ‘Flower Thrower’

One of street artist Banksy’s most iconic images—a mural sprayed on a Jerusalem building of a protester preparing to hurl flowers—failed to win trademark approval from the European Union in September because the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) doubted the sincerity of his attempt to merchandise the image. Banksy had hoped that the trademark would prevent unauthorized use of the image by a greeting card company, Yorkshire-based Full Colour Black. Famously private, the artist elected the unorthodox strategy of seeking trademark protection. The EUIPO said the artist’s company, Pest Control, had filed the mark in order to avoid using copyright laws, which would have required him to reveal his true identity—something he has managed to keep hidden for more than 15 years. (There are many theories about Banksy, including the possibility that he is a “we,” not a single individual but a team of street artists or artisans assisting him.) A copyright also would have limited the term of coverage.

Unexpectedly Active IP Legal Market Bucks Recession Trends and Boosts Outlook

At the onset of the U.S. COVID-19 pandemic in early March 2020, the legal community immediately became concerned about its economic prospects. Particularly in the intellectual property (IP) legal community, bad memories from the 2007-2009 mortgage crisis and Great Recession surfaced, and fears of losing clients, billable hours, and jobs mounted. However, due to a variety of factors, the legal market has been unexpectedly resilient and, in many ways, has thrived during these extremely uncertain times.

‘Myspace Laws in a Tik Tok World’ – Tillis asks Amy Coney Barrett about Patent Eligibility and Copyright Law

This afternoon on Capitol Hill, Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Chair of the Senate Intellectual Property Intellectual Property Subcommittee, had the opportunity to question Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trump’s nominee for the United States Supreme Court. During his time, Senator Tillis spent several minutes speaking with Judge Barrett about her views on both patent and copyright law.

Voices, Copyrighting and Deepfakes

Jay-Z recently tried to have a YouTube video removed for copyright violations. When YouTuber Voice Synthesis used an open-source program, Tacotron 2, to digitally impersonate Jay-Z’s iconic voice saying different things or singing songs, his entertainment agency Roc Nation LLC claimed that the YouTuber “unlawfully uses an AI to impersonate our client’s voice” and infringe on Jay-Z’s copyright. Roc Nation’s assertion of copyright protection via YouTube’s copyright strike system begs the question: with ever-evolving AI, are voices copyrightable? 

Justices Look for Reassurance That the Sky Won’t Fall When They Rule in Google v. Oracle

Google and Oracle each got to have their say in U.S. Supreme Court today, when eight justices heard oral argument in the closely-watched battle between the two tech giants. The questioning revealed some strong skepticism of Google’s arguments, but also potent fear that a ruling for either side might upend industry practices in computer programming. Both sides claim that a ruling for the other will harm innovation.  The High Court agreed to hear Google’s petition for a writ of certiorari last year. The Court is considering the questions: 1) Whether copyright protection extends to a software interface; and 2) Whether Google’s use of a software interface in the context of creating a new computer program constitutes fair use.

House Judiciary Committee Steps into Copyright Reform Debate

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing titled “Copyright and the Internet in 2020: Reactions to the Copyright Office’s Report on the Efficacy of 17 U.S.C. § 512 After Two Decades.” House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) began by explaining that the purpose of the hearing was to examine whether Section 512, a key provision of copyright law that guides how copyright and parts of the internet interact with each other, has fared well in today’s digital age. Six witnesses at the hearing presented the Committee with their views on the Copyright Office’s report and recommendations, and the majority concluded that Section 512 is out of balance. The topic is one that the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Intellectual Property has been examining all year.