Is In-Line Linking Illegal Now?

by Lee Gesmer on February 27, 2018

Is In-Line Linking Illegal Now?

It’s long been widely assumed that in-line linking is not a basis for copyright infringement. Following a recent decision by a Southern District of New York federal judge, that is no longer true.

Justin Goldman took a photograph of Tom Brady. Under the copyright laws, one of his  exclusive rights is the right of public display.

Goldman posted the photo to Snapchat. It went viral and was embedded in a tweet. A number of mainstream media publications posted the tweet by embedding the tweet into articles on their sites. Because the tweet was linked “in-line” (displaying content from one site within another via a link), none of the publications downloaded the image, copied it, or stored it on their own servers.

Is this copyright infringement? Specifically, did the embedded tweet violate Goldman’s right of public display?

SDNY judge Katherine Forrest held that it could, and granted summary judgment to Goldman on this issue, leaving for trial or later motions whether Goldman released his image into the public domain by posting it on Snapchat and whether the defendants have a fair use defense.… Read the full article

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

Reminder from SDNY - Trade Secrets Need To Be Kept Secret

A recent opinion from an SDNY federal district court reminded me of a client I represented many years ago. The company insisted that the core functionalities and user interface of its software program were trade secrets. A competitor had copied these, and the client asked my firm to commence a lawsuit for misappropriation of trade secrets.

An investigation showed that the client’s software was disclosed to prospective clients in one-on-one meetings and at trade shows without any requirement that a confidentiality or nondisclosure agreement be signed. Once a customer licensed the software an NDA was part of the sale, but before then it was not.

A secondary concern was that the software was used by hundreds of employees (via a site license), but these employees were not told that the software contained trade secrets – only the manager that signed the license agreement agreed to this. Was this sufficient to protect the trade secrets in the software?… Read the full article