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Posts Tagged: "U.S. Copyright Office"

Federal Circuit Will Soon Hear Case that Threatens the Statutory Presumption Afforded Copyright Registration

On January 13, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) will hear oral argument in SAS Institute, Inc. v. World Programming, Ltd., a copyright infringement suit with far-reaching consequences for American creativity. SAS is a North Carolina-based software company, well known for its highly successful analytics software. World Programming, Ltd (WPL) is a British software company that, by its own admission, set out to “clone” SAS’s creative and popular software. The litigation that followed has been lengthy and stretched from North Carolina to the U.K. and back. While WPL largely prevailed in its home court, the litigation in North Carolina resulted in a verdict that WPL engaged in fraud and unfair and deceptive trade practices. The litigation in North Carolina did not decide the copyright infringement issues, so SAS was forced to file a separate suit, this time in Texas. But the judge in that case made a critical error, which is now on appeal.

Right-to-Repair: Building Back Worse

A recent recommendation by the U.S. Copyright Office allowing for the bypassing of technological protection measures (TPMs) in medical devices for purposes of repair, maintenance and service has been adopted and immediately put into effect. This is bad news for patient safety. At a time when we’re loudly and publicly debating the relative merits of the Build Back Better Act, the U.S. Copyright Office’s announcement, deep inside the Federal Register and written in very user unfriendly dense government jargon, landed not with a bang, but with a whimper. On purpose. Hiding in plain sight. This terrible ruling offered without a comment period or any other appeals mechanism, will have a profoundly negative impact on America’s public health.

The Year in Copyright: From Google v. Oracle to the Takings Clause

One of the greatest attributes of copyright law is the never-ending abundance of exciting new developments, including those in Congress, the courts, and at the Copyright Office. On the surface, copyright seems straightforward in that it advances the public good by securing property rights to authors. But underneath this simple veneer lies centuries of debate about how best to balance the rights of authors with the public interest, where each distinct issue presents a veritable rabbit hole of metaphysical distinctions. For the copyright connoisseur, keeping up with the latest events can be an exhausting endeavor, though the thrill of solving new puzzles makes it intellectually rewarding. Thankfully, one need not be a member of the copyright cognoscenti to appreciate the major developments in copyright law this past year. From the Supreme Court’s decision in Google v. Oracle to the implementation of a small copyright claims tribunal to attempts to rein in state infringements, 2021 has certainly provided many wonderful events worth highlighting.

Live, Work and Play in a Legal Metaverse: Preparing for a New Online Existence

Companies spend billions and invest heavily in technologies that offer greater telepresence and enable an individual’s digital life. Will humans interact with each other via avatars in a three-dimensional virtual space?  The “Metaverse” has ramifications for everything people do to live, work and play together digitally. The Metaverse is a digital shared space where everyone can seamlessly interact in a fully immersive, simulated experience. The Metaverse increases the permeability of the borders between various digital environments and the physical world. In the Metaverse, you can interact with virtual objects and real-time information. A place where people join together to create, work, and spend time together in an environment that mixes what is virtual and what is real.

Justices Express Frustration Over Question Presented in Unicolors v. H&M, But Lean Toward Preserving Copyright Registrations

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument today in Unicolors v. H&M. The case asks the Court to decide whether the Ninth Circuit properly construed the language of 17 U.S.C. § 411 relating to whether courts must have evidence of intent to defraud before referring copyright registration validity questions to the Copyright Office. While the questioning seemed to favor Unicolors overall, at least one Justice today asked why a change in the question presented at the merits stage of the briefing shouldn’t result in the case being dismissed as having been “improvidently granted.”

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.”

Controlled Digital Lending Thwarts Democratic Process and Rights of Authors

One of the latest controversies in copyright law concerns the practice of controlled digital lending (CDL) by libraries. The idea is simple: Libraries take the physical books on their shelves, digitize them, and then share the digital copies with members of the public. Under the CDL theory, there is no permission needed to make the digital copies, nor is permission needed to share them publicly. The theory instead posits that all these things are perfectly legal—and presumably they have been legal for decades, though people are just now starting to notice. If this sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is. Ultimately, the CDL theory is really just the CDL fantasy. It’s an example of wishful thinking by supposed do-gooders who have figured out yet another way to give away other people’s copyrighted works for free. Except, this time, it at least comes with the fig leaf of a library.

Supreme Court Grants Cert in Unicolors v. H&M to Consider Whether Section 411 Includes Intent-to-Defraud Requirement

On Tuesday, June 1, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a petition for writ of certiorari filed by fabric designer Unicolors seeking to challenge the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s ruling last May that reversed a jury verdict finding Swedish multinational clothing firm Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) liable for copyright infringement. The district court eventually entered a judgment awarding more than $500,000 to Unicolors. The case will ask the nation’s highest court to decide whether the Ninth Circuit properly construed the language of 17 U.S.C. § 411 in determining that the district court was required to refer Unicolors’ copyright registration to the U.S. Copyright Office because it contained inaccurate information with no evidence that the inaccurate information contained any indicia of fraud or material error regarding the work covered by the copyright registration.

Copyrights Help SMEs Bring Their Ideas to Market – Especially if They’re Registered

Discussion around intellectual property strategies for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) often focus chiefly on patent and trademarks. But the benefits of copyright to a small business should not be underestimated. Copyrights protect the expression of ideas in works that are tangible. Copyrightable subject matter is very broad—all “original works of authorship, fixed in a tangible medium” are protected immediately from creation. The U.S. Copyright Office lists these categories as subject to copyright protection: literary works, musical works, performing arts, visual arts, other digital content (including computer software code), motion pictures, photographs, sound recordings, and architectural works. 17 U.S.C. Section 102.

The New Copyright Small Claims Board Presents Problems for Copyright Owners and Small Businesses

Creative people need a quick, efficient and inexpensive way to recover damages for copyright infringement. They need a place to submit their charge of infringement and collect damages. Until recently, their only option was to bring a lawsuit in a federal district court; a process that is complicated, expensive and time-consuming. The Copyright Alternative in Small Claims Enforcement Act of 2020 (CASE Act) gives them another option, but it is problematic. It is also a problem for small businesses, which are at a disadvantage because the act benefits copyright trolls. It creates a new efficient vehicle for copyright trolls to prey on your clients.

Mechanical Licensing Collective’s $424.4 Million Unmatched Royalty Collection Highlights Music Modernization Act’s Limited Liability Compromise

On February 16, the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC) – a nonprofit organization designated by the U.S. Copyright Office to administer blanket mechanical licenses to eligible streaming and download services in the United States –announced that it had received a total of $424.4 million in unmatched royalties accrued by 20 digital service providers (DSPs), including Spotify and Apple Music, during a three-year transition period under the terms of the Music Modernization Act (MMA). The transfer of unmatched royalties enables these DSPs to qualify for limited liability provisions under the MMA. At the same time, usage data submitted by DSPs associated with the accrued unmatched royalties is expected to help the MLC identify copyright owners for distributing royalty payments, the first of which are expected to be distributed this April.

Library of Congress to Establish Public Advisory Committee on Copyright Office Modernization

The U.S. Library of Congress, in a February 3 Federal Register Notice, responded to a December 2019 request by members of Congress to establish an advisory committee focused on copyright modernization efforts. The Notice announced the creation of the Copyright Public Modernization Committee and urged interested stakeholders to apply as volunteer members.

Copyright Office Updates to Third Edition of Compendium of Practices Focus on Registration Refusals, Intervening SCOTUS Case Law

On January 14, the U.S. Copyright Office published in the Federal Register an update to the agency’s Third Edition of the Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices. The updates to the draft revision, which was first released in May 2019, include several changes based on public comments asking for clarification on several points of legal interpretation as well as major copyright decisions issued by the U.S. Supreme Court since the Third Edition’s last revision in 2017. Since issuing the public draft in May 2019, the Copyright Office received 24 public comments and the focus of most of these comments seems to have been aimed at language in the Third Edition’s 2019 draft giving greater discretion to agency examiners regarding registration refusals due to application deficiencies. Some commenters were concerned that this additional discretion would result in fewer opportunities for applicants to cure defects in their applications for copyright registration. Several changes in the recent Compendium update are intended to address these concerns, including the replacement of references to “deficiencies” with “variances,” which is defined as conflicting information pre

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.