Month: March 2014

Legal love for ‘Somebody:’ Usher, the Biebs

Out of all the legal troubles Justin Bieber has encountered in the past few months, well maybe the past year, he gets off the hook in at least one of them. The pop singer, who is now turning his fame from pop sensation into troubled-star (with legal run-ins over accusations of egg throwing, driving under the influence  and paparazzi smackdown)  can now be referred to as a copyright infringement victor. We can call this a thing, right? You know that song we could not get out of our heads, nor stop dancing to, as much as we wanted to because we were too old to be listening to Justin Bieber? Actually, there were probably a couple of Bieb songs of that order but the tune at legal hand would be Somebody to Love? Bieber and Usher, born Usher Raymond IV, were sued over it by two men who claimed the international stars ripped off their song. The plaintiffs were rap artist, Devin Copeland, whose stage name is “Devin the Dude,” and songwriter, Mareio Overton. They claimed that three versions of Somebody by Bieber and Usher infringed on their similarly titled song. Defendant’s three versions are Bieber’s and Usher’s collaboration (“Bieber accused song”), Usher’s own version (“Raymond accused song”), and a remix of the Bieber accused song. Sorry Plaintiff, but you don’t get a cool and dramatic name for your...

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Elves, trolls, IPs and real identities, oh, my

It’s not some kind of J.R.R. Tolkien scenario. But a federal district court effectively has united what netizens have termed trolls with some aggressive elves from the magical realm of Hollywood — and the judge has waved a wand and told both that their legal tactics with mass lawsuits against John Doe defendants need to get better or disappear. OK, Gandalf, this is a Hobbit-sized bit of good news for those who download entertainment surreptitiously but it surely will be displeasing to the wizards of content creation, including mainstream film-makers in Hollywood and porn shooters in the Valley. The latest developments start in in March 2013, when the makers of the box-office hit Elf Man sued 152 Doe defendants, identified only by an IP address linked to the online sharing of the movie. While a federal district court granted the elves’ motion to initiate discovery to unmask the IP address, U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik warned that “it is not clear that plaintiff could. . .  make factual contentions regarding an Internet subscriber’s infringing activities based solely on the fact that he or she pays the Internet bill.” Meaning because home wireless networks can support multiple computer devices, unmasking an  IP is not enough to prove infringement. His ruling, though it involved BitTorrent, a particular bane of Hollywood, is in keeping with what has come down from courts in...

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New legal poses for dispute over famous photo

Let’s click on the instant replay about a lawsuit filed by a photographer against Sports Illustrated, the subject of the photograph, Desmond Howard, and other companies the shooter claimed had used his photograph without permission. Just to jog your memory, back in 1991, photographer, Brian Masck, took a photo of Desmond Howard, then a University of Michigan star, posing as the Heisman Trophy during a Wolverine game against Ohio State University. Sports Illustrated used the photo in its publication, paid Masck $500, and credited him for the photo. Many years later, Nissan used the photo as part of an advertisement in Sports Illustrated, Fathead sold stickers of the photo, and Wal-Mart and Amazon sold posters and reproductions of the photo. The photo ended up becoming one of college football’s iconic images, yet Masck did not register it with the copyright office until 2011. Yes, we’re shaking our heads. But apparently Masck was told by his lawyer at the time that he did not need to register the photo. Last year, the court was unwilling to dismiss Masck’s unfair competition claims under the Lanham Act because it was not ready to conclude that his photo was an intangible. The court sought more arguments on the issue — and now that the guys in stripes, er robes, have blown the whistle, this legal play’s far from over. Instead, the court has...

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YouTube finds puerto seguro in rights case

In the copyright battles among television networks and Internet Service Providers, the Court of Appeals in Spain has found that YouTube is sheltered from liability by the hosting, safe harbor in Article 16 of the Spanish Information Society Services Act. YouTube cannot be enjoined generally to present future instances of infringing content being uploaded. In Telecinco v. YouTube, the court in Madrid found that for the safe harbor to apply, the provider must have a “mere technical, automatic, and passive nature,” implying that the provider “has neither knowledge of nor control over information which is transmitted or stored.” YouTube fulfills these criteria. The court ruled  (the case in Spanish) that YouTube is shielded because it lacks actual knowledge of specific instances of infringement. While Telecinco argued that the presence of its logo stamped on its content should suffice to indicate ownership and thus provide those potentially infringing on its material with actual knowledge, the court said requiring YouTube to hunt for such content would entail a general obligation for monitoring. The court declined to grant Telecinco an injunction to suspend YouTube’s carrying the copyrighted material, saying that “imposing such a general injunction would . . .  entail a duty of monitoring all contents on the platform, presently and in the future…” What path, then, does this leave for content creators in Spain? As with their American counterparts, they can, of course, pursue...

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Q-&-A: Prof. Warren Grimes on ABC v. Aereo

Professor Warren S. Grimes, an antitrust expert now widely quoted in the mass media about economic aspects of the television broadcast industry, sat down at the request of the Biederman Blog with editor Valerie A. Roque for a recent Q.-and-A. discussion of American Broadcasting Company v. Aereo, the pending U..S. Supreme Court case on TV and copyright that has generated considerable buzz and legal attention. Grimes authored a recently published an on-line Forbes editorial “Heel or Hero? Aereo and Television Distribution.”  Q. — What is Aereo? A. — Aereo is a firm that allows you to stream live-television broadcasts...

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