Posts Tagged: "U.S. Copyright Act"

Victory for Unicolors as SCOTUS Rules Innocent Mistakes of Law Can’t Invalidate Copyright Registration

In a 6-3 decision today, the U.S. Supreme Court held that Section 411(b) of the U.S. Copyright Act “does not distinguish between a mistake of law and a mistake of fact; lack of either factual or legal knowledge can excuse an inaccuracy in a copyright registration under §411(b)(1)(A)’s safe harbor.” The decision comes after Unicolors, Inc. petitioned the Court in January of last year, asking whether the Ninth Circuit erred in determining that Section 411 required referral to the Copyright Office on any inaccurate registration information, even without evidence of fraud or material error, in conflict with other circuit courts and the Copyright Office’s own findings on Section 411.

USPTO and Copyright Office Reports Attempt to Quantify Extent and Effect of IP Infringement by State Entities

On August 31, at the request of Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USTPO) provided a report to Congress analyzing infringement disputes between patent and trademark rights holders and states and state entities. The U.S. Copyright Office produced a similar, much lengthier report, also in response to a letter from Tillis and Leahy, studying whether there is sufficient basis for federal legislation abrogating State sovereign immunity when States infringe copyrights. The Senators’ letters were prompted by the March 2020 Allen v. Cooper Supreme Court decision. While the USPTO report came to no conclusions, the Copyright Office found that “the evidence indicates that state infringement constitutes a legitimate concern for copyright owners.”

Ninth Circuit Reverses Win for the Turtles’ Rights Owners Under California Law on Copyright for Public Performance

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Monday ruled that California common law on copyright protection does not include a right of public performance, reversing a partial summary judgment for Flo & Eddie, which controls the rights to the songs of the rock band the Turtles. The case began in 2013, when Flo & Eddie sued Sirius XM Radio, Inc. for playing the Turtles’ iconic pre-1972 recordings, such as “Happy Together” and “Elenore.” While AM/FM radio stations do not pay public performance royalties to sound recording owners, digital and satellite radio providers like Sirius XM must pay public performance royalties whenever they broadcast post-1972 music.

Eighth Circuit to Realty Companies: Try Fair Use Next Time to Legally Publish Floorplans

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit yesterday reversed a Missouri district court’s grant of summary judgment for a group of real estate companies relating to copyright infringement claims brought by an architect over floorplans. While the appeals court said that another defense might well be available to the companies, the text of the statute, the broader statutory context, and the legislative history all suggest that “floorplans” were not intended to be encompassed by Section 120(a) of the U.S. Copyright Act.

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.

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.

Google’s Fair Use Shell Game

Google has admitted it copied over 11,000 lines of Oracle’s creative Java code to build its Android smartphone platform, that it makes commercial use of the code it copied, and that it uses the code for the same purpose as Oracle and those who license its products. Now, Google wants the Supreme Court to hold that this is fair use under American copyright law. Stripping away the diversions that Google and its amici offer the Court, these are the core facts which show how extreme Google’s invocation of fair use in this case truly is…. As the October 7 oral argument date nears in Google v. Oracle, I’d like to build on the fair use discussion by Washington, D.C. attorney Terry Campo published in August to further analyze Google’s claims of fair use to excuse its copying. The company’s claims aren’t just insufficient, they’re undermined by Google’s own arguments.

Pursuing a Better Harmonization of Copyright Law and Communications Law

Until 1976, the worlds of American copyright and communications law operated largely in parallel universes. Under the U.S. Constitution, Congress is vested with the power “[t]o promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” This authority was first used in the enactment of the Copyright Act of 1790, with modern copyright law first reflected in the Copyright Act of 1909. That Act covered all published works exclusively under federal law, provided a copyright notice was affixed. In contrast, communications law has no specific constitutional mandate, with federal legislation first enacted in the early part of the 20th century. This was accomplished through the enactment of the Radio Act of 1927, followed by its successor, the Communications Act of 1934, which also included television broadcasting in its scope.

Google v. Oracle Perspective: Google’s Android ‘Cheat Code’ was to Copy Oracle’s Code

In two months, the Supreme Court will hear the oral argument in the long-running Google v. Oracle software copyright case. At issue is the availability of copyright protection for computer programs and in particular the copyright protection of code in Oracle’s Java platform, which Google admits it copied for its Android operating system without obtaining a license. Google also claims its commercial use of that code in competition with Oracle is protected under copyright law’s fair use doctrine, but that is a subject for another day. If adopted by the Supreme Court, Google’s arguments would undermine the Constitutional purposes and specific Congressional intent in enacting the Copyright Act, and along with them the fundamental incentives for new creative expression in software, a building block of so many consumer and industrial products. To better understand how, it helps to start at the beginning: Apple’s groundbreaking release of the iPhone.

Protecting Creative Works After Fourth Estate v. Wall-Street.com

In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court finally unequivocally answered the question about whether copyright owners need to receive a Registration Certificate from the Copyright Office before filing suit for infringement and thus resolved a difference of opinion among various regional circuit courts. (Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp. v. Wall-Street.com, LLC. Since this decision was issued, federal district courts have cited it in at least 63 decisions. What should artists, writers, and businesses do now to protect their creative work? How should attorneys alter the standard advice they give their clients? Let’s start with a review of what the ruling actually says.

Keeping Up with Copyright Infringement: Copyright, Celebrities, Paparazzi, and Social Media

Just two months after the end of her second copyright infringement lawsuit, fashion model Jelena Noura “Gigi” Hadid was sued for a third time, on September 13, for copyright infringement for posting paparazzi photos to her social media accounts without the license or permission of the photographer. Other celebrities, including Jennifer Lopez, Victoria Beckham and, most recently, Justin Bieber, have made news for the same situation. This trend falls into an interesting intersection of two significant tenets of law: a celebrity’s right of publicity in their own image and a photographer’s right to copyright their artistic work.

United States Ratifies Marrakesh Treaty to Increase Access to Works for the Visually Impaired

According to the World Blind Union, of the millions of books published each year, approximately only 1-7 percent are made available to those who are visually impaired. On January 28, President Donald J. Trump signed the documents for the United States to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled. The treaty was adopted in Marrakesh, Morocco in 2013. The goal of the copyright treaty is to increase access to printed materials for those with visual or other disabilities. The treaty is administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

Supreme Court Weighs Meaning of ‘Full Costs’ in Rimini Street v. Oracle USA Oral Arguments

On the morning of January 14th, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Rimini Street v. Oracle USA, a case that asks the nation’s highest court to decide whether the recovery of “full costs” in a copyright infringement suit as governed by 17 U.S.C. § 505 is limited to taxable costs under 28 U.S.C. § 1920 and 28 U.S.C. § 1821 or whether non-taxable costs can also be recovered. Much of the day’s discussion centered on the meaning of “full costs” and how that term had evolved under various revisions of U.S. copyright law, going back to the Copyright Act of 1831… Clement argued that Rimini Street’s interpretation of full costs renders both the word full completely superfluous and the first sentence of Section 505 without any meaning. “The better course [is] to say that ‘full’ means full, rather than nothing at all,” Clement argued.