Posts Tagged: "Copyright Litigation"

Litigating Copyrights: Is Registration required to get into Court?

While registration is required in order to file a lawsuit for copyright in federal court, there is currently a circuit split with regard to what part of the process must be complete in order to meet the “registration” standard.  According to 17 U.S.C. §411(b), “no civil action for infringement of the copyright in any United States work shall be instituted until preregistration or registration of the copyright claim has been made.”  The question that circuit courts seem to be divided on is whether “registration” is satisfied when a Copyright Registration is received, or when an application has been filed. On June 28, 2018, the Supreme Court agreed to weigh in. The case at issue is Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corporation v. Wall-Street.com, LLC, which arises out of the Eleventh Circuit.

Copyright and Tattoos: Who owns your ink?

As of 2012, one in five adults in the United States have at least one tattoo.  While some designs are simple, many are incredibly complex, original works of art.  However, since tattoos are designed to be permanent, and often placed to be seen, the question arises – who owns the copyright to that artwork? And how can, and can’t, the owner display it? Unfortunately, there are no cases to date that definitively answer the questions around copyright infringement and tattoos.  With a new case filed by a tattoo artist in April 2018, concerning a tattoo he placed on WWE wrestler Randy Orton, which appeared in the WWE 2K16, 2K17 and 2K18 video games, it is important to determine what we do know about whether tattoos can be copyrighted, and who owns what rights with regard to their use and reproduction.

Northern Florida District Judge Decides That Dentist’s Copyright Claims Have No Bite

On June 20th, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker of the Northern District of Florida issued an order on summary judgment which terminated Pohl v. Officite, a copyright infringement case, before it headed to trial. The order, which contains about as much legal precedent as it does puns and wordplay, reflects the judge’s determination that before-and-after images of dental work do not meet the threshold of creativity required to establish copyright protection for the photos.

Oracle America v. Google, Free Java: Fair or Unfair?

The Federal Circuit recently decided the case of Oracle America v. Google Inc. To “attract Java developers to build apps for Android,” Google copied the declaring code, but wrote its own implementing code for the 37 Java API packages. Id at 1187.  Previously, the Federal Circuit held that “[the] declaring code and the structure, sequence, and organization (‘SSO’) of the Java API packages are entitled to copyright protection.” .  On the other hand, the Federal Circuit also recognized that a reasonable jury could find that “the functional aspects of the packages” are “relevant to Google’s fair use defense.” In this key decision that has the potential to rock the software industry, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit rejected the jury verdict and found that “Google’s use of the 37 Java API packages was not fair as a matter of law.

Graffiti: Copyrightable Art, Illegal Activity, or Both?

While existing graffiti may indeed provide a tempting edge for a new marketing campaign, or as the backdrop for a great commercial, companies will need to decide if it is worth the legal or public relations risk.  If the original graffiti artist cannot be found, or is unwilling to allow their art to be used, it may end up being less expensive to start from scratch than to manage the fallout from an allegation of stolen artwork, damaged reputation, and a lawyer for the lawsuit that follows.

Judge Allows Zorro Copyright Claims to Move Forward Against Original Zorro Copyright Owner

On Friday, May 11th, U.S. District Judge Edward Davila entered an order deciding motions made in a copyright case involving competing musical productions based on the fictional story of the fictional folk hero Zorro. Judge Davila’s orders allows copyright infringement claims asserted by a writer who developed a Zorro musical in the 1990s to move forward against Zorro Productions, the entity which had licensed the Zorro character to entertainment companies going back to the late 1940s. This case is in the Northern District of California.

Seinfeld Moves to Dismiss Copyright Claims over ‘Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee’

In early February, a copyright complaint was filed in the Southern District of New York against comedian Jerry Seinfeld and a series of companies involved with the production and distribution of the web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. The plaintiff, director Christian Charles, claims that he created the proof-of-concept and pilot episode upon which the web series is based and that he has been shut out from the production, profits and royalties in violation of his copyright.

Iconic Michael Jordan Photograph Not Infringed – Ninth Circuit

The case is interesting, however, not just because it involved famous subjects – a “renowned photographer” (as the Plaintiff was described in the court’s first sentence), a famous brand (Nike) and one its most well-known logos (“Jumpman”), and a photo of one of the most famous people in the world (Michael Jordan) – although these items alone perhaps merit some attention. But for lawyers and those who deal with copyright protection in the business world, perhaps more interesting is the court’s explication of the classic copyright concept of the idea-expression dichotomy, as well as its holding that the photograph at issue, while not infringed, was entitled to broad protection.

Ninth Circuit says ‘Blurred Lines’ Infringed Marvin Gaye’s ‘Got To Give It Up’

On Wednesday, March 21, 2018, a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the song Blurred Lines infringed the copyright in Marvin Gaye’s song Got To Give It Up. See Williams v. Gaye, No. 15-56880. Affirming most of the decision of the district court, the Ninth Circuit also held that the award of actual damages and infringers’ profits, and a running royalty, were all proper. The panel did, however, reverse a piece of the district court ruling, finding that the district court erred in overturning the jury’s general verdict in favor of certain parties because the defendants waived any challenge to the consistency of the jury’s general verdicts.

Fixing Our Broken Small Claims System with the CASE Act

If our legal system worked properly, it would be easy enough for her to file for copyright infringement. But under our current claims system, high litigation costs make it almost impossible for authors, writers and artists to protect their livelihoods in court. Independent creators are frequent victims of piracy and other forms of copyright infringement. But without the resources of a record company or publisher, pursuing small claims is financially impossible… Fortunately, there’s a bipartisan policy fix pending in Congress. It’s called the CASE Act (H.R. 3945), and it creates a system that makes pursuing small claims financially and logistically feasible.

Where Does Blockchain Fit in Digital Rights Management?

The lawsuit is the latest example of content creators chasing down a third party that does not directly infringe content but rather facilitates infringement through a combination of its own hardware and third-party software… Currently, the increasingly proposed solution for safeguarding digital information is blockchain technology. Blockchain is being implemented in various industries to solve inefficiencies in areas from identity protection to supply chain management… To understand blockchain technology as a potential solution to the problems posed in the digital rights management space, one must first understand what the technology is and how it operates.

Not So Blurred Lines

Some IP commentators love to hate the Blurred Lines music copyright decision. A primary critique has stoked unnecessary fear in musicians that the decision blurs the line between protectable expression and unprotectable style or genre. Much of the animosity, however, is based on misunderstanding or misconstruing the law or facts. This post clarifies this aspect of the case to show why the district court decision was reasonable and should be affirmed in the current appeal at the Ninth Circuit.

The Unimagined Consequences of Star Athletica’s ‘Imaginative Separability’ Test

Like other opinions in the IP arena, the Supreme Court’s decision in Star Athletica v. Varsity Brands has created a new legal rule with limited practical guidance that will inevitably lead to less predictability in an already-murky area of copyright law.  Its new “imaginative separability” test for copyright eligibility for useful articles, such as footwear, clothing, and furniture, may be so easy that few designs will fail to qualify.  Yet, ultimately, Star Athletica may have the unimagined consequence of making copyright protection less desirable for qualifying designs. For those who seek the benefits of the Court’s undeniable expansion of potential copyright protection for useful designs, a bit of caution may be the appropriate response.

Bruno Mars, Warner Music Named Defendants in a Copyright Lawsuit Over Social Media Photo

On November 20th, both Peter Gene Hernandez, the American singer-songwriter-producer who goes by the professional name Bruno Mars, and New York City-based Warner Music Inc. were named as defendants in a copyright case filed in the Southern District of New York by Burbank, CA-based photographer Catherine McGann. The lawsuit targets Mars’ social media use of a photograph of himself taken by McGann when Mars was performing as an Elvis impersonator as a child.

Creators of This Is Spinal Tap sue Vivendi for $400M over breach of contract, declaratory judgment of copyright reversion claims

On Thursday, October 19th, the creators of the 1984 rock band mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap filed a second amended complaint against French mass media company Vivendi SA (EPA:VIV) in the Central District of California. The lawsuit, which includes trademark and copyright claims, alleges that Vivendi and its subsidiaries provided fraudulent accounting to the plaintiffs which resulted in greatly reduced royalty payments over the course of decades. The plaintiffs, which include the movie’s director Rob Reiner as well as performers/co-creators Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer and Michael McKean, are seeking more than $400 million in compensatory and punitive damages from Vivendi and Universal Music Group.