Author: Brittany A. Stone

Aereo decision: a ‘narrow textual analysis?’

Professor Warren S. Grimes, who helped write an amicus brief in support of defendant Aereo in American Broadcasting Cos. et al v. Aereo Inc., kindly  followed up on his recent Q-and-A with  Biederman Blog editor Brittany A. Stone about the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in this much-watched, much-discussed case: BB: I understand you were involved in filing an amicus brief in the Aereo case, on the side of Aereo.  Were you surprised at the result? WG: As part of the Southwestern Amicus Project headed by Prof. Michael Epstein, I assisted third-year law student Andrew Pletcher in drafting an amicus.  Pletcher was the primary draftsman, but he received guidance from me, from Prof. Epstein, and from others. [See video below]  We were disappointed in the result, but there is never any certainty in litigation, particularly in a hotly contested case of this sort.  One surprise for me was that in the 6-3 decision, the three justices who dissented were [Antonin] Scalia, [Samuel] Alito, and [Clarence] Thomas, justices that I would not necessarily have predicted would side with Aereo.  Both the majority and the dissent, however, were focused on a narrow textual analysis of copyright legislation, not on the broader competition and policy issues addressed in our amicus brief. Essentially, the majority opinion conceded some ambiguity in the statutory language, but sought to discern what Congress would have intended had they confronted...

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Pay that funky law bill, appellate court decrees

A botique Seattle law firm that provided considerable legal representation for musician George Clinton now also has brought the funk, winning an appellate decision that will see masters of the song writer’s recordings sold to satisfy big debts he owes to his one-time counsel. After long battles among Clinton, Hendricks & Lewis, and Warner Bros. Music, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has affirmed a ruling allowing for the sale of the masters, resolving one of the main issues in the case: the decision to allow works made-for-hire to be sold to pay debt. This was permitted only because the copyright had been voluntarily transferred by Warner Bros. prior to this battle. Because Hendricks & Lewis showed that Clinton owed $1.7 million, the firm asked the court to force the sale of his recordings: One Nation Under a Groove, Hardcore Jollies, Uncle Jam Wants You, and The Electric Spanking of War Babies, to pay up his account. The appellate judges obliged this, reckoning that it might not have under others circumstances. Appellate Judge Morgan Christen, writing for the three-member panel, allowed the sale under Section 201(e) protection of U.S. copyright law, deeming a work that previously has been voluntarily transferred is not accorded protection of involuntary transfer of protected works. Further, because Clinton wrote these pieces while working for Warner Bros., the company, in fact, is...

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‘Beasties’ win battle to preserve a legacy

The Beastie Boys recently won a $1.7 million lawsuit against Monster Energy drinks for the company’s 2012 use of a mash-up consisting of five Beastie Boys songs. DJ Z-Trip gave Monster permission to use his mix, which contained the copyrighted songs. Although there have been many music infringement cases that specify how many bars can be “borrowed” legally (which really is not accurate, and the higher the similarity, the more likely an infringement will be found), this litigation boils down to a key fact: DJ Z-Trip had no authority to sell a mix of copyrighted material without consulting the band for permission to use their music further. Beside infringing on the Boys’ music, the energy drinks’ music video at the end projected an image that said “RIP MCA,” looking very similar to Monster’s logo, which the band felt qualified as an endorsement by the late artist. But  Adam “MCA” Yauch in his will specified that his name could not be used for promotional purposes. His following was great and his legacy was cherished by many. Two members of the band, Adam “Ad Rock” Horovitz and Michael “Mike D” Diamond filed suit for $1 million each in damages as well as $1 million for the purported endorsement. Monster maintained it made an innocent error and thought it had the right to use the music in its video. After the suit progressed, opposing counsel...

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It’s elementary, Sherlock, claim’s too quixotic

Modern lore, especially courtesy of movies and television, is filled with many different depictions of that famed Baker Street detective Sherlock Holmes and his Boswellian companion, Dr. John Watson. And while actor Nigel Bruce may have fleshed out Watson as a flabbier character than an army medic recently returned from the rigors of campaigns in India or Afghanistan, cinephiles, especially, would be hard pressed to envision a portly Sherlock. So were lawyers for the Estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of these classic characters, in trouble already in arguing before one of the famed appellate jurists of this day about a “round” late-career Holmes and Watson, deserving of more than a century’s worth of copyright protection? Yup. In his typically crisp and acerbic fashion, U.S. District Judge Richard Posner, writing for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, has just shredded a novel argument that copyright on a literary creation should be extended just because characters change and develop over time. This keeps the Sherlock Holmes canon, of course, in the public domain. The judge, whose opinions are oft-cited and are known for their sharp prose, dipped into his legal lexicon to describe the defendant-appellant’s legal theory in this copyright case with the same term he used to describe the war on drugs, dubbing both “quixotic.” Ouch. He also remarked about counsel’s futile attempt to persuade...

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Hollywood’s sky-high over shot at drone filming

What’s the buzzing high above? It may be unmanned aircraft systems aka drones skittering around or it also  just may be the rising film industry chatter about prospects for using the high-tech devices in new ways in Hollywood — this all triggered by statements from the Motion Picture Association of America and and the Federal Aviation Administration that seven media companies formally have requested federal approval to shoot television and movie footage from the air with the craft that earned their wings, so to speak, on recent and distant battlefields. (Thanks to variety.com for the drone image.) What’s with the sudden whoosh of activity in this sky-high film making regulatory area? Strap on those seat belts and watch this monitor:   Petitions for FAA exemption Seven media companies, the FAA said, had worked with the MPAA to petition for exemption from existing U.S.drone  regulations, citing their capacity to deal with: pilot certification requirements, safety, and public interest concerns. That the firms acted in concerted fashion to get out from under federal rules as they now stand is clear from their petitions, visible online, in which they talk in almost standardized fashion about filming drones not exceeding certain altitudes, not exceeding certain dimensions and weights, and operating under strict control of trained and licensed personnel. Neil Fried, MPAA senior vice president, confirmed the industry group’s support, saying in a statement...

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