Month: March 2013

Spain further targets piracy, illicit file sharing

Nosotros tambien, Madrid seems to be saying to Europeans and others around the globe concerned about copyright protections, joining, as previously discussed France. The national discussion on the Iberian peninsula also has turned to imposing fines and a Spanish crackdown on those who wrongly seek to capitalize on others’ intellectual property. In Spain, the regulatory measures are part of the “Lassalle Law,” with its three objectives: to provide “greater transparency” with groups that manage content rights; curtail piracy or “large-scale” downloading of entertainment and cultural content; and to offer a review of the right to make private copies of protected materials, including what constitutes correct or improper file-sharing. The “stick” that comes along with legal “carrots” will include fines of up to 300,000 euros (US $388,400). Spain has a reputation for laxity on intellectual property protections, skirting ever so near to getting on U.S. officials’ trade watch lists. In 2012, Madrid put in place its Sinde law, aiming to step up IP regulation, in part by taking it out time-consuming court cases and into the hands of a national commission. Despite these positives moves, the draft Lassalle Law, advocates say, will move Spain further along, tightening enforcement and closing loopholes in earlier regulation. Both the Sinde and Lassalle laws are eponymous for Spanish ministers who have pressed the respective...

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Can you legally re-sell your digital music?

While the Hollywood trades and local business publications only recently have taken note of the strength of the Entertainment Law and intellectual property offerings at Southwestern Law School, the vigor of the programs also can be visible online. And though the Biederman Blog is one of several active spots for the school’s students to tackle timely issues in Entertainment Law and intellectual property, let’s take a moment to highlight a couple of intriguing posts by colleagues over at Southwestern’s Law Commentator, specifically recent pieces by editor Addison Martinez and contributing writer Jonathan Evans. Martinez scrutinizes ReDigi, a company that finds itself in the midst of legal challenges as it seeks to create a marketplace for sales of preowned digital music — and to share its profits with the artists who originated the content. But who owns that music? As a neatly paired piece by Evans points out, customers currently purchase music online only after consenting to a legal thicket of terms, which would seem to some only a license to use content. Evans, however, concludes that purchasers own title to the sound recording, which, Martinez argues could pave the way for resales such as through ReDigi; the issue otherwise, Martinez notes, is for consumers to see ever more restrictive terms of use and sharply narrowed markets, as some industry giants already are proposing. Meantime, it’s worth a pause, too,...

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New York’s no country for Marathon studio suit

The Academy Award-winning film No Country For Old Men has turned out to be a bad investment for one film investor after a major movie studio made a $10-million error:  The Court of Appeals of the State of California has affirmed a judgment in favor of Paramount Pictures Corp, in a claim for breach of fiduciary duty brought by Marathon Funding LLC. Marathon entered into a contract with Paramount to invest in production and distribution of 14 movies, including No Country, the 2007 Best Picture-winner. The appellate decision makes for intriguing reading as it spells out details of a big picture’s millions in financing, including compensation for its stars and how legal errors get overlooked and then resolved. And, by the way, to add to the sting for the losers, they also got hit with defendant’s attorney fees — more than $690,000 with the recent ruling also offering glimpses of legal costs for cases like this.An accounting statement issued as part of the parties’ agreement included a $2-million deduction from Marathon’s account by Paramount to cover a $15 million pay-out to film star Tommy Lee Jones.  A drafting error by outside counsel, hired by Paramount, gave Jones $10 million more than what he should have received in box-office bonuses. Marathon argued that Paramount should not have charged it with the error and sued it for breach of fiduciary duty,...

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Taiwan rejects copyright for Japanese porn

The Japanese porn industry has suffered a significant legal setback, as prosecutors in Taiwan have declined to pursue copyright infringement claims against those accused of piracy: Officials in Taipei decided that porn is obscene, and, therefore, unworthy of copyright protection. Adult-movie producers from Japan had sought to halt rampant, unauthorized offshore use of their films and photos, threatening legal action in 2010 if Taiwan did not crack down on commonplace profiting by Taiwanese off the Japanese porn without permission. And, in an ironic twist, the Japanese threatened to pursue complaints that their material was being spread to the detriment of Taiwanese children’s health and welfare if officials in Tapei declined to pursue copyright infringement claims. There is a history between the parties. TorrentFreak reports, noting: “In 1999, Japanese porn producers launched a copyright infringement lawsuit against Taiwanese pirates in the hope of holding them accountable for profiting from their content, but the case proved counter-productive. The Supreme Court decided that since porn movies are obscene they should not be entitled to protection under copyright law. The Prosecutor’s Office saw no reason to challenge that ruling this week.” In their defense, the porn producers sought to liken their work to materials typically enjoying copyright protection, saying,  “…they had hired directors, actors and actresses, make-up artists and other professionals to make the films which express the directors’ ideas and the actors’ uniqueness and so their...

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Gibson fails to hit key notes in Viacom suit

Gibson Guitar Corp. has gotten the axe in federal court, with its Lanham Act and state claims against media giant Viacom dismissed.  A U.S. District Court in Los Angeles found that the legendary guitar-maker’s complaint failed to state specific acts and who did what, underlying its claims against each defendant, Viacom International, Inc., and John Hornby Skewes & Co. Ltd. (JHS). Plaintiff Gibson Guitar Corp. is a leading manufacturer of guitars and other musical instruments and owns the Flying V Body Shape Design Trademark, the Flying V Peg-Head Design Trademark and the word mark FLYING V.  Defendant Viacom owns the copyright to the cartoon character Sponge Bob Square Pants and has granted a license for defendant JHS, a British manufacturer, to advertise and sell products using the Sponge Bob Square Pants trademark.  Gibson claimed that defendants’ use of Sponge Bob Square Pants Flying V Ukulele violated the Lanham Act and provided the basis for several other claims against them in state law.  Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act protects trademarks from infringement likely to cause confusion among consumers.  In Viacom’s motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, it asserted the case should be tossed because there has been no use of the mark in commerce.  It argued that its license to JHS was for character-based music instruments for other countries, excluding the United States.  This jurisdictional requirement...

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