Copyright

Led Zeppelin, Spirit and a Bustle at the Ninth Circuit

The U.S. copyright community will look back on 2018 as an important year for music copyright law. Appellate decisions in music copyright cases are rare. However, this year we’ve seen two important opinions from the Ninth Circuit. In March the Ninth Circuit upheld a jury verdict that found that Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke’s 2012 recording of “Blurred Lines” infringes Marvin Gaye’s 1976 composition of “Got To Give It Up” (see my blog post, “Blurred Lines at the Ninth Circuit,” here).

Now, in October, the Ninth Circuit has issued an opinion in Randy Wolfe’s copyright case against Led Zeppelin.* The jury in that case found that Led Zeppelin’s 1971 recording of Stairway to Heaven did not infringe Wolfe’s composition copyright in the 1968 song Taurus (recorded by Spirit).** However, the appeals court found that the judge made several errors during the trial, requiring that the case be retried.*

*[note] Randy Wolfe (aka Randy California) died in a drowning accident in 1997, and his estate is represented by a trustee named Michael Skidmore, the named plaintiff in the case.

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Disney v. Redbox, Redux

by Lee Gesmer on September 28, 2018

Disney v. Redbox, Redux

Can Disney prevent a commercial business – in this case Redbox – from reselling Disney’s movie download codes?

At first the answer was “no.”

My earlier post on this case* highlighted the California federal district court’s February 2018 opinion concluding that the language on Disney’s box-top packages failed to create a contract that would prevent Redbox from purchasing and reselling Disney movie download codes. However, I predicted that “Likely, in the future Disney will correct its ‘box-top license’ to make it legally enforceable . ..”

*To get the background facts of this case please read the initial post

Disney did just that when it released its Black Panther combo packs. Disney’s new packaging states that “Digital code redemption requires prior acceptance of licence terms and conditions. Codes only for personal use by recipient of this combination package or family member.” A warning elsewhere on the package states that “The digital code contained in this package may not be sold separately and may be redeemed only by the recipient of this combination package or a family member.… Read the full article

Supreme Court To Decide Whether Copyright Office Action on Registration Required Before Suit

The Supreme Court accepts appeals of very few copyright cases. In the last 20 years it has decided only 14 copyright cases, and most of those involved narrow, highly technical issues of copyright law.

However, the Copyright Act (which contains 150,000 words or 250 pages of single-spaced text), is mostly a law of technicalities.

One of these technicalities arises out of the fact that copyright registration is a precondition to filing a copyright infringement suit. However, the Copyright Act is not entirely clear on what this means: must a copyright plaintiff obtain registration from the Copyright Office (or, in rare cases, a denial, but in any case a decision on its application) before it may file suit for copyright infringement? Or, is it enough that the plaintiff has filed an application for infringement, permitting the suit to proceed while the application waits to be acted on by the Copyright Office, a process that typically takes about eight months?… Read the full article

Disney v. Redbox: Misuse It and Lose It

by Lee Gesmer on May 10, 2018

Disney v. Redbox: Misuse It and Lose It

It’s rare to see a court conclude that a copyright owner has engaged in copyright misuse, but that’s the position in which Disney Enterprises, Inc. finds itself in its copyright case against Redbox Automated Retail, Inc.

The case is convoluted, since it involves both contract and unusual copyright law issues.

Disney sells  “combo packs,” which include video disks containing Disney movies and a piece of paper containing an alphanumeric download code. The download code can be used to stream the movies online. The cover of the combo pack boxes state that the “codes are not for sale or transfer.”

Redbox began purchasing Disney combo packs and, disregarding the warning on the boxes, disassembled the packages and sold the download codes in its kiosks.

Disney filed suit and asked the court for a preliminary injunction ordering Redbox to cease reselling the download codes. The court denied Disney’s motion (link to February 2018 opinion).… Read the full article