Articles Posted in Copyright

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part dismissal of claims for resale royalties under the California Resale Royalties Act. The Act grants artists an unwaivable right to 5% of the proceeds on any resale of their artwork under specified circumstances. The panel held that plaintiffs' claims under the Act were covered by the 1976 Copyright Act and were expressly preempted. Therefore, the panel dismissed those claims. The panel held, however, that the 1909 Copyright Act had no express preemption provisions. Therefore, plaintiffs' claims under the Act were covered only by the 1909 Act and could not be expressly preempted. Furthermore, these claims were not preempted by conflict preemption. The panel reversed dismissal of those claims and remanded for further proceedings. View "Close v. Sotheby's, Inc." on Justia Law

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Experian compiled the Consumer View Database, which contains more than 250 million records, each pertaining to an individual consumer, which includes compiled pairings of names and addresses. The Ninth Circuit held that the name and address pairings were copyrightable as compilations but were entitled only to limited protection under the copyright laws. The panel held that Experian established that its lists were copyrightable but failed to establish that its copyright had been infringed because it did not establish a bodily appropriation of its work. Therefore, the panel affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Natimark on the copyright infringement claim. However, the panel reversed as to the state law trade secret claim, remanding for further proceedings. View "Experian Information Solutions, Inc. v. Nationwide Marketing Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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In May 2014, Defendants distributed the film Walk of Shame. Weeks earlier, SOYP sent letters to Defendants alleging that the film included elements copied from a screenplay, "Darci’s Walk of Shame," written by SOYP’s president, Rosen; that Rosen’s screenplay was sent to Banks, the star of Walk of Shame, in 2007; that Rosen met with Banks to discuss the project; and that Rosen wanted Banks to star in his movie, but Banks never replied after the meeting. SOYP sued, alleging copyright infringement. Several discovery disputes arose; SOYP filed eight motions to compel production of documents. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the rejection of the suit on the pleadings, finding no substantial similarity between the works. Defendants then moved for attorney’s fees and costs. Judge Morrow, who had adjudicated the merits, held a hearing, Before the hearing, she issued an unsigned tentative order awarding Defendants $314,669.75 in fees and $3,825.15 in costs. After the hearing, she issued a minute order stating that Defendants’ motion was granted in part and denied in part and that a final order would issue. Judge Morrow retired without issuing a final order. Judge Phillips issued a final order, awarding Defendants the amount stated in the tentative order. The Ninth Circuit affirmed, noting the court’s discretion under 17 U.S.C. 505, that SOYP’s subjective beliefs regarding its outcome were irrelevant, and that other factors did not outweigh the objective unreasonableness of SOYP’s litigating position. View "Shame on You Productions, Inc. v. Banks" on Justia Law

Posted in: Copyright, Legal Ethics

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for CoreLogic in an action brought under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Plaintiffs, professional real estate photographers, alleged that CoreLogic removed copyright management information from their photographs and distributed their photographs with the copyright management information removed, in violation of 17 U.S.C. 1202(b)(1)–(3). The panel held that section 1202(b) requires an affirmative showing that the defendant knew the prohibited act would induce, enable, facilitate, or conceal infringement. In this case, plaintiffs failed to make the required affirmative showing because they failed to produce evidence showing that CoreLogic knew its software carried even a substantial risk of inducing, enabling, facilitating, or concealing infringement, let alone a pattern or probability of such a connection to infringement. The panel affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiffs' discovery request and the award of fees. View "Stevens v. CoreLogic, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of judgment as a matter of law to Jay-Z and other defendants in an action brought by the heir to the Egyptian composer Baligh Hamdy, alleging copyright infringement in the song Khosara. Jay-Z used a sample from the arrangement in the background music to his single Big Pimpin'. The panel held that the heir to Hamdy's copyright may not sue Jay-Z for infringement based solely on the fact that Egyptian law recognizes an inalienable "moral right" of the author to object to offensive uses of a copyrighted work. The panel held: (1) that Egyptian law recognizes a transferable economic right to prepare derivative works; (2) that the moral rights the heir retained by operation of Egyptian law were not enforceable in U.S. federal court; and (3) that, even if they were, the heir has not complied with the compensation requirement of Egyptian law, which did not provide for his requested money damages, and which provided for only injunctive relief from an Egyptian court. View "Fahmy v. Jay-Z" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of copyright infringement claims brought by a monkey over selfies he took on a wildlife photographer's unattended camera. Naruto, a crested macaque, took several photos of himself on the camera, and the photographer and Wildlife Personalities subsequently published the Monkey Selfies in a book. PETA filed suit as next friend to Naruto, alleging copyright infringement. The panel held that the complaint included facts sufficient to establish Article III standing because it alleged that Naruto was the author and owner of the photographs and had suffered concrete and particularized economic harms; the monkey's Article III standing was not dependent on the sufficiency of PETA; but Naruto lacked statutory standing because the Copyright Act did not expressly authorize animals to file copyright infringement suits. Finally, the panel granted defendants' request for attorneys' fees on appeal. View "Naruto v. Slater" on Justia Law

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These consolidated appeals stemmed from a jury's finding that Pharrell Williams, Robin Thicke, and Clifford Harris, Jr.'s song "Blurred Lines," the world's bestselling single in 2013, infringed Frankie Christian Gaye, Nona Marvisa Gaye, and Marvin Gaye III's copyright in Marvin Gaye's 1977 hit song "Got To Give It Up." The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court's judgment. The panel held that "Got To Give It Up" was entitled to broad copyright protection because musical compositions were not confined to a narrow range of expression; the panel accepted, without deciding, the merits of the district court's ruling that the scope of defendants' copyright was limited, under the Copyright Act of 1909, to the sheet music deposited with the Copyright Office, and did not extend to sound recordings; the district court's order denying summary judgment was not reviewable after a full trial on the merits; the district court did not err in denying a new trial; the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting portions of expert testimony; the verdict was not against the clear weight of the evidence; the awards of actual damages and profits and the district court's running royalty were proper; the district court erred in overturning the jury's general verdict in favor of Harris and the Interscope Parties; the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the Gayes' motion for attorney's fees; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in apportioning costs among the parties. View "Williams v. Gaye" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's summary judgment for defendants and its order denying attorneys' fees in a copyright case alleging infringement of pornographic content. The panel held that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's safe harbor applied to defendants because the material at issue was stored at the direction of the users and defendants did not have actual or apparent knowledge that the clips were infringing. Furthermore, defendants expeditiously removed the infringing material once they received actual or red flag notice of the infringement, they did not receive financial benefit, and they had a policy to exclude repeat infringers. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion in not exercising supplemental jurisdiction over a California state law claim, and the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying an award of attorneys' fees to defendants. View "Ventura Content, Ltd. v. Motherless, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a copyright infringement action brought by renowned photographer Jacobus Rentmeester against Nike. Rentmeester alleged that Nike infringed a famous photograph he took of Michael Jordan when Nike commissioned its own photograph of Jordan and then used that photo to create the "Jumpman" logo. The panel held that, although Rentmeester plausibly alleged that he owned a valid copyright in his photo and a presumption that the Nike photo was the product of copying rather than independent creation, he failed to plausibly allege that Nike copied enough of the protected expression from his photo to establish unlawful appropriation. The panel explained that Rentmeester was entitled to protection only for the way the pose was expressed in his photograph, a product of not just the pose but also the camera angle, timing, and shutter speed he chose. In this case, Rentmeester's photo was entitled to broad rather than thin protection. Nonetheless, the panel held that the works at issue were as a matter of law not substantially similar, and thus the Jumpman logo was even less similar to Rentmeester's photo than the Nike photo itself. View "Rentmeester v. Nike, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's summary judgment in favor of defendant in an action under the Copyright Act, alleging that defendant infringed on plaintiff's pen and ink depiction of two dolphins crossing underwater. The panel applied the objective extrinsic test for substantial similarity and held that the depiction of two dolphins crossing underwater in this case is an idea that is found first in nature and is not a protectable element. The panel explained that when as here, the only areas of commonality are elements first found in nature, expressing ideas that nature has already expressed for all, a court need not permit the case to go to a trier of fact. View "Folkens v. Wyland Worldwide, LLC" on Justia Law