The Ray Charles Found. v. Robinson

Reversing the district court’s dismissal for lack of jurisdiction, the panel held that the Ray Charles Foundation, the sole beneficiary of Ray Charles’s estate, had standing to challenge the validity and effectiveness of notices of termination of copyright grants conferred by Charles to the predecessor of Warner/Chappell Music.

The panel held that the Foundation had Article III standing and that the suit was ripe. The panel held that the Foundation did not have standing to challenge the termination notices as a beneficial owner. Nonetheless, the Foundation was a real party in interest because the termination notices affected its right to royalties, and its claims fell within the statutory zone of interests. Accordingly, it had standing to sue to challenge whether the underlying works were works made for hire and thus not subject to the termination provisions of 17 U.S.C. §§ 203 and 304(c). The panel remanded the case for further proceedings.

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Independent Producers Group v. Library of Congress

Under the Copyright Act, cable systems may retransmit over-the-air broadcasts of copyrighted material so long as they pay compulsory royalty fees for using that copyrighted material. The Librarian of Congress supervises the process of collecting, allocating, and distributing those fees. As part of the process, the Copyright Royalty Board – which is appointed by the Librarian of Congress – conducts regular proceedings to determine how to distribute royalty fees. Independent Producers Group, known as IPG, represented several copyright owners in the 2000-03 royalty fee distribution proceeding. According to IPG, the Board erred in determining IPG’s royalty fees in the sports programming and program suppliers categories. IPG now appeals. We affirm the Board’s determination as to IPG’s royalty fees in those categories.

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16 Casa Duse, LLC v. Merkin

The defendant appeals from a September 27, 2013, judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Richard J. Sullivan, Judge) granting summary judgment to the plaintiff on its copyright and state‐law claims related to a film entitled Heads Up, dismissing the defendantʹs counterclaims, and awarding the plaintiff costs and attorneyʹs fees.  Because we agree that the plaintiff owns the relevant copyright interests, we conclude that the district court properly granted summary judgment to the plaintiff on its copyright claims and properly enjoined the defendant from interfering with the plaintiffʹs use of the work in question.  We conclude, though, that the defendant, not the plaintiff, was entitled to summary judgment on the plaintiffʹs claim for tortious interference with business relations under New York law.  The judgment of the district court is therefore:  

AFFIRMED in part, REVERSED in part, and REMANDED.

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Copeland v. Bieber

Musician Devin Copeland (“Copeland”), together with his songwriting partner, appeals the dismissal of his copyright infringement claim against recording artists Justin Bieber and Usher Raymond IV. Copeland alleges that three recorded songs by the defendants, each titled “Somebody to Love,” infringe upon his copyright over his own, earlier song of the same name. The district court granted the defendants’ motions to dismiss on the ground that no reasonable jury could find Copeland’s song and the defendants’ songs sufficiently similar to give rise to liability for infringement. We disagree, and therefore vacate the district court’s order and remand the case for further proceedings.

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Dash v. Mayweather, Jr.

In this copyright infringement case, Anthony Lawrence Dash (“Dash”) alleges that Floyd Mayweather, Jr. (“Mayweather”), Mayweather Promotions, Mayweather Promotions LLC, Philthy Rich Records, Inc., and World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. (“WWE”), (collectively “Appellees”), violated his copyright by playing a variant of Dash’s copyrighted music during Mayweather’s entrance at two WWE events. Dash appeals from the district court’s grant of summary judgment on the issue of his entitlement to damages under 17 U.S.C. § 504(b). For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

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Kelly-Brown v. Winfrey

On appeal from judgment entered pursuant to an Order dated March 6, 2012 by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Paul A. Crotty, Judge) granting Defendants-Appellees’ motion to dismiss. Plaintiff is the owner of a motivational services business named “Own Your Power Communications, Inc.,” and has a registered service mark in “Own Your Power.” Defendants published a magazine cover, hosted an event, and built a section of a website all utilizing the phrase “Own Your Power.” Plaintiffs bring suit alleging trademark infringement under the Lanham Act. The District Court held that the defendants’ use of the phrase “Own Your Power” constituted fair use and also held that plaintiffs’ claims failed because she failed to meet the threshold requirement of showing use as a mark. We disagree with the District Court’s holding that the defendants have demonstrated fair use and also with its holding that plaintiffs are required to make a threshold showing that defendants’ used “Own Your Power” as a mark in order to state a claim for trademark infringement. We therefore VACATE the judgment of the District Court with respect to plaintiffs’ trademark infringement, false designation of origin, and reverse confusion claims and REMAND for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion. The District Court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiffs’ counterfeiting, vicarious infringement, and contributory infringement claims on separate grounds, and we AFFIRM with respect to these claims.

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Copyright Ruling Rings With Echo of Betamax

By EDUARDO PORTER

Before Napster and LimeWire, before Megauploads and the Pirate Bay, media companies’ epic struggle against copying, piracy and generally losing control over their creations can be traced to a legal fight more than 30 years ago over a device that has long since passed on to the great trash heap in the sky: the Sony Betamax.

When the Betamax videocassette recorder hit American living rooms in 1976, consumers, for the first time, could tape their favorite TV shows and watch them later. Hollywood hated it.

“The VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone,” Jack Valenti, the garrulous head of the Motion Picture Association of America, told Congress.

The Supreme Court almost bought the argument that because it was illegal to copy shows without the copyright holder’s consent, the Betamax must be an accessory to crime. At the last minute, however, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor changed her mind. In a 5-to-4 ruling in 1984, the technology survived.

Full story.


Columbia Pictures Industries v. Fung

The panel affirmed in part and vacated in part the district court’s judgment in favor of film studios, which alleged that the services offered and websites maintained by the defendants induced third parties to download infringing copies of the studios’ copyrighted works.

Affirming the district court’s summary judgment, the panel held that under Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc. v. Grokster Ltd., 545 U.S. 913 (2005), the defendants were liable for contributory copyright infringement on an inducement theory because the plaintiffs established (1) distribution of a device or product, (2) acts of infringement, (3) an object of promoting the product’s use to infringe copyright, and (4) causation in the defendants’ use of the peer-to-peer file sharing protocol known as BitTorrent.

The panel held that the defendants were not entitled to protection from liability under any of the safe harbor provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, including safe harbors provided by 17 U.S.C. § 512(a), (c), and (d) for transitory digital network communications, information residing on systems or networks at direction of users, and information location tools.

The panel nonetheless rejected the argument that inducement liability is inherently incompatible with protection under the safe harbors. Reversing and modifying in part the district court’s permanent injunction, the panel held that certain provisions of the injunction were too vague to meet the notice requirements of Fed. R. Civ. P. 65(d), and certain provisions were unduly burdensome.

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Mattel, Inc., et al v. MGA Entertainment, Inc.

MGA’s claim of trade-secret misappropriation was not logically related to Mattel’s counterclaim; we therefore reverse the district court’s holding that MGA’s counterclaim- in-reply was compulsory. Because the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding fees and costs under the Copyright Act, we affirm that award.

While this may not be the last word on the subject, perhaps Mattel and MGA can take a lesson from their target demographic: Play nice.

AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART AND REMANDED.

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