Author: Mary P. Ray

A problematic ruling on password sharing

This guest post was contributed by a blog alumna, and a newly graduated Southwestern juris doctor, who notes that she would have weighed in on this topic sooner, except she was studying and sitting for the most recent California Bar exam. The Internet went into a tizzy early last month when United States v. Nosal came down from the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Blog after blog (after blog) proclaimed that this opinion made it illegal to use another person’s Netflix account. Earlier this year, this blog posted on this topic so how did the situation change? Bottom...

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Legal phasers fired to protect Klingon language

vubpu’ jon nuchpu’. jonbe’ tlhInganpu. That translates to “Cowards take hostages. Klingons do not.” The Language Creation Society, based in Ridgecrest, Calif., has declared war. The group, as Randazza Legal Group PLLC, has filed an amicus brief to speak up on behalf of the Klingon language, which is under fire as part of the lawsuit Paramount Pictures Corp. v. Axanar Productions Inc. The brief, liberally sprinkled with the language spoken by characters like Commander Worf (actor Michael Dorn) from the long-running hit TV and movie franchise, Star Trek, essentially argues that no one can copyright a language, even one that has been entirely artificially created. In their continuing mission to explore strange new worlds and protect their copyrights, CBS and Paramount sued Alec Peters and his crowdfunded production Axanar late last year in a Los Angeles federal court. The studios seek damages for direct, contributory and vicarious infringement as well as an injunction to stop production. Let’s translate what’s going on here–minus the requisite insults, (as described in the video above by a German lecturer on Klingon in a promotion for a video game): A contested, crowdfunded movie As discussed in a recent article on this blog, crowdfunding is a hot new way to raise money for a project that could not normally get made through the traditional channels. Individuals who want to support the project can donate small amounts towards the...

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Will cable boxes go bye-bye, content increase?

Is it time to say goodbye to cable companies’ set-top transmission boxes, the monthly charges that come with them, and a possible entertainment content choke point? The FCC has approved a Notice of Proposed Rule Making to allow consumers to access cable and cable programming through other means, not just cable companies’s set-top boxes. The FCC had released a fact sheet in January that detailed the reasoning behind this shift. The agency says that “99% of pay-TV subscribers are chained to their set-top boxes,” that they pay “on average $231 in rental fees annually” per household, and that these new rules will “tear down anti-competitive barriers and pave the way for software, devices and other innovative solutions.” Like what? Seeking greater access The FCC says it plans to create a new framework to permit audiences to access their subscription services however they wish. For instance, there is a Time Warner Cable app on the Roku digital media player that would allow users to access all of their paid Time Warner content through the Roku player. These are they types of new access possibilities that the FCC seeks to foster. The agency has identified “three core information streams” that cable and satellite companies must give to those creating new devices or apps. Service discovery: Information about what programming is available to the consumer, such as the channel listing and video-on-demand lineup,...

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Court orders rapper to stop rolling with luxe TM

  Robert D. Davis, a rapper who on stage partly went by the moniker Rizzy and more, won’t be rolling any longer with references to a luxe automobile brand. That’s because a federal judge in New Jersey has ruled in favor of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Ltd in a trademark infringement and dilution action against Davis, aka “Rolls Royce Rizzy.” The court barred Davis from using “Rolls Royce” as his stage monkier and from employing the company’s registered “RR” logo on his website and on t-shirts. How did the rapper get run over with this decision? Default judgment Plaintiff Rolls filed an unopposed motion for default judgment, partially granted by the federal court. U.S. District Judge Kevin McNulty entered a default judgment on the claim of trademark dilution and unjust enrichment. The court found that Rolls had a clearly established, distinctive mark that is well known. Meantime, the judge said that Davis had begun using the mark after it was famous, and the rapper blurred and tarnished it. How? The judge pointed to, as plaintiffs complained, “an advertisement for an event ‘hosted by Rolls Royce Rizzy,’ entitled ‘Call of Booty,’ which features a scantily-clad woman and advertises a ‘Booty Shaking Contest.’” The judge also frowned on the mark’s links to Davis’ “hit singles” with profane titles. Based on that information, the court found that plaintiffs had met the final element to...

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Dancing baby spins again, now for more fair use

Oh, that baby never seems to stop dancing, does he? The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, en banc, has released an amended opinion and dissent in the “Dancing Baby” case aka Lenz v. Universal Music Corp, which this blog has posted plenty about previously. For a quick recap, this case involves plaintiff Stephanie Lenz, who nine years ago posted a 29-second video on youtube.com of her then infant son dancing to Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy. Universal, which owns the song’s copyright, then used Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s take-down procedures to seek video’s removal.  The two parties have gone at in court ever since, resulting last year in the appellate opinion finding that a rights’ holder must make “a good faith inquiry” as to whether content would qualify under the Copyright Act’s fair use exception before requesting a take-down. In its original opinion, the appellate judges included a limit that the “consideration of fair use need not be searching or intensive,” and that “implementation of computer algorithms appears to be a valid and good faith middle ground for processing a plethora of content while still meeting the DMCA’s requirement’s to somehow consider fair use.” The judges sought to explain some of the process that rights holder must perform before seeking a take-own, as well as limiting the scope of their required inquiries. But in amending their opinion, the appellate judges have removed both...

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