Copyright

Blurred Lines At The Ninth Circuit

by Lee Gesmer on February 14, 2018

Blurred Lines At The Ninth Circuit

Copyright law is confusing, but music copyrights take it up a notch. Often, judges and jurors with no background in a music genre are asked to determine whether two works are “substantially similar” after being subjected to esoteric analysis by musicologists who present arguments that even a trained musician might find hard to follow.

However, whether Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke’s 2012 recording of “Blurred Lines” infringes Marvin Gaye’s 1976 composition of “Got To Give It Up” presents issues of copyright law that are challenging even by the arcane standards of music copyright law.

A quick recap: in 2015 a California jury found that Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke’s (“Williams”) recording of Blurred Lines infringed the copyright in the composition of Got To Give It Up, and awarded Marvin’s Gaye’s heirs over $7 million in damages. The judge reduced this damages award to $5.3 million, but awarded a “running royalty” of 50% of future songwriter and publication royalties, which over time could be millions more.… Read the full article

The Copyright Workaround and Reputation Management: Small Justice v. Ripoff Report

If you were asked why copyright law exists you probably would respond along the lines of “to give authors and artists a financial incentive to create new works, and to protect the integrity of their works.” It’s unlikely you would respond, “to give someone the ability to manage their online reputation and remove defamatory online reviews.”

Yet, in a bizarre case that has wound its way through the courts of Massachusetts for the last six years, that is exactly what attorney Richard Goren attempted to do. Ultimately, Goren was unsuccessful, but only after years of litigation, culminating in an appeal to the First Circuit Court of Appeals, the highest federal court in Massachusetts.

Background. I first wrote about this case in 2014, and the facts are described in detail in that post. In short, a person named Christian DuPont (about which the case record discloses little beyond his name) published two posts on RipOffReport defaming Goren.… Read the full article

Failure to Put Infringing and Infringed Work in Evidence Dooms Copyright Case

I was surprised when I read the Ninth Circuit’s recent decision in Antonick v. Electronic Arts, Inc. (9th Cir. Nov. 22, 2016). In that case the plaintiff alleged copyright infringement against EA* based on copying of computer source code for the John Madden Football game, but failed to introduce the source code into evidence, choosing instead to rely solely on expert testimony to prove copying.

*[footnote] Technically speaking, this was a breach of contract case. However, the contract between Antonick and EA stated that Antonick would receive royalties on the sale of any “derivative work”, as that term is defined under U.S. copyright law. As a result, the parties and the courts applied copyright law to determine whether EA had breached its royalty agreement with Antonick.

This was an enormous risk, and it doomed Mr. Antonick’s case. The Ninth Circuit panel held:

Antonick’s claims rest on the contention that the source code of the Sega Madden games infringed on the source code for Apple II Madden.

Read the full article

The U.S. Copyright Office has issued a new rule that has important implications for any website that allows “user generated content” (UGC).  This includes (for example), videos (think Youtube), user reviews (think Amazon or Tripadvisor), and any site that allows user comments.

In order to avoid possible claims of copyright infringement based on UGC, website owners rely on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (the “DMCA”). However, the DMCA imposes strict requirements on website owners, and failure to comply with even one of these requirements will result in the loss of protection.

One requirement is that the website register an agent with the Copyright Office. The contact information contained in the registration allows copyright owners to request a “take down” of the copyright owner’s content.

The Copyright Office is revamping its agent registration system, and as part of this process it is requiring website owners to re-register their DMCA agents by the end of 2017, and re-register every three years thereafter.… Read the full article