Copyright Infringement

Monday, July 20, 2015

Huge Federal Court Victory for Online TV Streaming

With the ever changing nature of the entertainment industry, conflicts in the application of static laws and regulations abound. 

Cable broadcast companies sued for an injunction against TV streamer FilmOn for redistributing broadcasters' copyrighted programming. Federal judge George W. Wu ruled that, regardless of precedent, according to statute 111 of the Copyright Act there is no expressed distinction between cable broadcast and internet broadcast in the statute's permission for compulsory licensing. The judge acknowledged the ground-shaking nature of the ruling and its potential effects on the television industry, and therefore immediately authorized the case for appeal in the United States 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Broadcast companies such as Fox confirmed their intent to appeal and remain confident that the ruling will be overturned. 

If the ruling is upheld, online TV streamers will be entitled to the same rights as cable companies, and will obtain compulsory licensing so long as they pay royalties. Cable companies will also have to compete with the much lower prices of online competitors. 

The future of television programming and our modern notions of broadcasting hangs in the balance of the coming appellate battle.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Estate of James Dean Files Suit Over "@JamesDean" Twitter Account

In the past, the term "cybersquatting" may have only referred to the use of trademarks in internet domain names without permission, but may expand beyond web address names to include social media accounts.

The estate of long-deceased actor and icon James Dean has filed suit against the social networking site Twitter and one or more of its users, alleging infringement of trademark and likeness rights. A fan of the actor created the Twitter account "@JamesDean" back in 2009, with a goal of sharing their love of the Hollywood icon with the Twitter community. In question is whether using both the name and image of the long-deceased actor who starred in the movies "Rebel Without a Cause," "Giant" and "East of Eden" violates trademark and likeness rights as well as Twitter's "impersonation policy."

The site's "impersonation policy" states that "Twitter accounts portraying another person in a confusing or deceptive manner may be permanently suspended under the Twitter Impersonation Policy."  

The Federal Anti-Cybersquatting Piracy Act covers the unauthorized use of celebrity names when it comes to Web domains but not Twitter user names. In its complaint, James Dean, Inc. claims that it requested that Twitter remove the "@JamesDean" account numerous times before filing suit. The lawsuit, James Dean, Inc., et al v. Twitter, Inc., et al, alleges that Twitter allowed a user to create an account with the handle, or user's account name, "@JamesDean" during or prior to September 2012 without permission.

It alleges trademark infringement under §§ 32(1) and 43(A) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1114(1), 1125(a); and false endorsement under § 43(A). In addition, the suit claims violations of the right of publicity under both Indiana and common law, unfair competition, and unjust enrichment. As per the lawsuit, James Dean Inc. wants Twitter to "give" the @JamesDean account back to the estate.

If you are a member of the Miami entertainment community and think you may have a trademark infringement case, contact the law office of Manos & Associates, P.L. online or call 305-341-3100 to contact an attorney and musician who knows the entertainment world. Your first consultation with an intake specialist can determine if we can help you, and it's free of charge. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Google Scores Big Success in Its Dispute With Viacom

The legal climate for intellectual property owners in infringement disputes may have just become more challenging.

The federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1996 was passed in part as a response to the increasing complexity of protecting copyrighted material in the age of the internet, file sharing and the ease of copying digital material. The law criminalized numerous acts associated with the copying, production and dissemination of copied material and placed the onus on preventing copyright infringement on, among others, internet service providers (ISPs). Specifically, it required that ISPs take action to halt copyright infringement upon notification by a copyright holder that infringement has occurred.

Relying on the “Safe Harbor” provision of the DMCA, Viacom filed suit against YouTube owner Google in 2007 claiming that Google “had built its [YouTube] business by hosting tens of thousands of copyright-infringing videos” owned by Viacom without authorization. The closely observed lawsuit was thought by some to have hinged on the following legal point:

  • In YouTube’s earlier years, an estimated 75 to 80 percentof the content posted on the site was copyrighted material. With such a high rate of infringement, Viacom asserted that YouTube “must” have been aware of infringement and must have willfully ignored “red flags.”

Despite the rationality to Viacom’s claim, a New York federal court determined in April of 2013 that “the burden of showing that YouTube knew or was aware of the specific infringements of the works in the suit cannot be shifted to YouTube to disprove." In other words, Viacom did not prove specific infringements and YouTube did not have to. Summary judgment was awarded to YouTube. Armed with the summary judgment, Google settled the case with Viacom under terms that remain private but may have been highly advantageous to Google.

As this case illustrates, proving infringement and recovering compensation for losses are difficult. If you feel a company has infringed on your or your firm’s intellectual property rights, it is important to obtain legal assistance from a firm with a track record of success in civil litigation. To speak with an experienced copyright infringement and intellectual property attorney in Miami, call 305-341-3100.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Law Professor and Record Company Settle on YouTube Video Copyright Lawsuit

If you live in the greater Miami area and are on either side of a copyright or trademark infringement suit, contact our office for a consultation. We will determine if we can help you in your pursuit or defense of legal action.

Most people involved in copyright cases aren't actually copyright attorneys themselves, but recently an attorney and copyright activist was named as the defendant in an infringement case out of Massachusetts.

Australian record company Liberation Music filed a lawsuit against Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig accusing him of copyright infringement for using a song by the Liberation-represented band Phoenix in one of his YouTube videos. Ironically enough, the video showcased one of Lessig's lectures about the fair use of copyrighted work. A legal doctrine known as fair use entitles people to use clips of certain copyrighted material for purposes of education and satire, among other things.

"If I'm using it for purposes of critique, then I can use if even if I don't have permission of the original copyright owner," Lessig said, as reported by NPR.

YouTube took the video down, prompting the law professor to counter-sue the label because of the way they went about notifying him of the alleged infringement: through an automated system.

In filing the suit, Lessig was hoping to send a message that the automated way of relaying alleged violations of copyright is often "used as an excuse to silence legitimate speech," he said in a statement issued through his attorneys at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group.

Lessig, who is vocal in his criticism of these automated notices, hopes his suit will set a precedent that convinces copyright holders to put actual human lawyers in charge of all things copyright-related, rather than send automated takedown messages regarding material a person may be within their rights to use.

NPR quoted Lessig as saying "Too often copyright is used as an excuse to silence legitimate speech. I've been fighting against that kind of abuse for many years, and I knew I had to stand up for fair use here as well. Hopefully, this lawsuit will send a message to copyright owners to adopt fair takedown practices — or face the consequences."

Lessig proved triumphant in his battle against the label- the opposing parties recently settled, with Liberation Music agreeing to pay Lessig for any harm caused as a result of the lawsuit/takedown. The label also agreed to amend its policies on issuing takedown notice.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Fair Outcome Following Alleged Trademark Infringement

Any business that owns a valuable patent, trademark or other intellectual property has likely taken considerable risk or expended a considerable sum to obtain it. When another business decides that it, too, can profit from the property or material without permission or a license, it’s important to take action to:

  • Protect your property
  • Obtain any compensation owed by law

A recent case in South Florida illustrates that, in the case of blatant trademark infringement, legal action can bring both a fair outcome and a high-value result.

For years, booth holders at the Fort Lauderdale-based Swap Shop flea market allegedly served as a source for counterfeit luxury items, including Coach purses, handbags and other items. Earlier this year, Coach responded to the alleged trademark infringement by filing a lawsuit not against alleged sellers and makers of the knock-off goods but against Swap Shop owners Preston and Betty Henn. The Henns, Coach claimed, “willfully turned a blind eye” to vendors illegally selling counterfeit Coach products on their property.

After just two days in court, the Henns capitulated and agreed to a settlement that included a $5.5 million payment to Coach due no later than December 27, 2013. For its legal efforts Coach obtained intellectual property protection, sent a message to other would-be trademark infringers and won a high-value sum that will significantly boost its 2013 bottom line.

The attorneys of the law office of Manos &Alwine, P.L., applaud the outcome of this lawsuit. Coach expends vast sums annually designing, marketing and distributing its coveted products. It deserves compensation from any party complicit in trademark infringement.

If your business is involved in a trademark dispute or other commercial dispute in Miami, Fort Lauderdale or elsewhere in South Florida, contact one of our business dispute attorneys to discuss your concerns. Our team of commercial litigation attorneys has resolved hundreds of trademark and contract disputes involving licensed material, unfair competition, insurance, entertainment law, distribution agreements and more. We represent both plaintiffs and defendants and have achieved numerous six- and seven-figure outcomes both in and out of court. To contact us, call 305-341-3100.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Sony asks judge to dismiss copyright infringement suit over 'Midnight in Paris'

By Pankaj Ladhar

"Midnight in Paris" was Woody Allen's most successful movie of all time, but at least one entity was not pleased with it -- the estate of William Faulkner, which sued Sony Pictures over a quote in the film. The resulting lawsuit is a good chance for Miami readers to understand the doctrine of "fair use"

The nine-word quote Faulkner's estate alleges was improperly used comes from Faulkner's 220-page 1954 novel "Requiem for a Nun." Faulkner's estate is claiming that Sony Pictures should have asked (and paid) for permission to use the quote. Since it didn't, Faulkner's estate believes it infringed on Faulkner's copyright.

Read more . . .

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

With 'Girl on Fire,' Did Alicia Keys infringe on someone else's copyright?

There are probably quite a few fans of Alicia Keys here in Miami. For years, the singer has consistently impressed critics with her richly textured songwriting and deeply felt lyrics. Her recent single "Girl on Fire" has reached No. 12 on the Billboard charts and is being used in an ad for American Express.

However, that same single is the subject of a copyright infringement suit.

In 1962, Earl Shuman wrote a song called "Lonely Boy." It achieved its greatest success when it was recorded by Eddie Holman, who called the song "Hey There Lonely Girl."

In the middle of "Girl on Fire," Keys sings what seem to be a few bars of "Hey There Lonely Girl." This was first noted by an entertainment writer on the website Showbiz 411.

Shuman seems to have read that blog post and decided to file suit. Shuman's lawsuit actually quotes the Showbiz 411 blog post extensively.

Now, it is not at all uncommon for modern artists to re-record past hits, or to borrow melodies, chord progressions and even snippets of old songs. However, they usually pay for the rights to use the past work and it seems in this case that Keys and her label, Sony, did not make that effort. Perhaps that is because they do not see "Girl on Fire" as borrowing from "Hey There Lonely Girl."

Whether Shuman is successful remains to be seen. Listen to "Girl on Fire" here and "Hey There Lonely Girl" here and let us know in the comments if you think Keys borrowed too much of "Hey There Lonely Girl."

Source: The Hollywood Reporter, "Alicia Keys sued over 'Girl on Fire': Is It Based on a Blogger's Ear?" Eriq Gardner, Dec. 17, 2012

Friday, November 2, 2012

Copyright infringement suit against Angelina Jolie forges ahead

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

Angelina Jolie's directorial debut, "In the Land of Blood and Honey," did not do much at the box office. But Miami residents might be hearing about it again soon because a lawsuit filed against Jolie by an author who claims she unlawfully used his book as the basis of her film nears its start date.

Jolie, her film's distributor and the film's production company were sued by Croatian author James Braddock in December. He claimed that "In the Land of Blood and Honey," a drama about refugees in the war-torn Balkans, used his 2007 book "The Soul Shattering."

The defendants tried to have the suit dismissed, but to no avail. Attorneys for the defendants have said they plan to ask for summary judgment, which means they will ask a judge to agree that the plaintiff cannot prove the required elements of his claim.

Jolie has said she did not base "In the Land of Blood and Honey" on "The Soul Shattering," but rather on her work with the United Nations and Bosnia. Her claim is that "In the Land of Blood and Honey" was created independently and any similarities between the two works are pure coincidence and, therefore, are not actionable.

If the case makes it to trial, it will be a very complicated lawsuit. Discovery would have to take place in both Europe and the U.S. and getting a busy star like Jolie to participate might be hard.

Our law firm works on intellectual property matters such as this. If you want to know more about the sort of cases we take, you could visit our website, which is accessible by the link in the previous sentence.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter, "Angelina Jolie 'Blood and Honey' Lawsuit Heats Up as Lawyers Fight Over Private Information," Eriq Gardner, Oct. 31, 2012

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Does 'Good Time' infringe on other singer's copyright?

Everyone in Miami has heard the mega-selling duet "Good Time" by Carly Rae Jepsen and Owl City. Now, one person has heard the song and thinks she recognizes it-- because it was hers.

Jepsen, Owl City (a.k.a. Adam Young) and their publishing companies have been hit with a copyright infringement lawsuit over "Good Time." The plaintiff is an Alabama singer-songwriter who thinks "Good Time" bears too much similarity to her 2010 single "Ah, It's a Love Song."

"Ah, It's a Love Song" was licensed to MTV, but it never reached the same heights as "Good Time," which was used to promote the London Olympics and has played on "Parks and Recreation" and in the trailer for the upcoming children's film "Hotel Transylvania."

The lawsuit against Jepsen and Young points out that there are similarities between the two songs with respect to timbre, rhythmic construction, melodic contour and pitch sequence. The songs are not similar with regard to lyrics, key or theme.

Jepsen and Young have not commented on the suit.

Copyright infringement suits like this are one way artists who believe their work has been unlawfully copied seek recovery for the work they think has been infringed upon. This is one of the areas of law that we practice.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter, "Carly Rae Jepsen, Owl City's Adam Young Sued for Allegedly Stealing 'Good Time,'" Eriq Gardner, Oct. 30, 2012

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

That's bananas: Velvet Underground, Warhol Foundation fight over copyright

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

For many people, Andy Warhol is synonymous with Pop Art. His brightly colored and deliberately blurred images of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and Campbell's soup cans are nothing short of iconic. But who owns the rights to his famous image of a banana?

You might think the answer would be obvious -- he does -- but the plot thickens.

The band The Velvet Underground commissioned Warhol to do the cover art for its 1967 debut album. The album and its cover art, a brown-spotted yellow banana on a plain cream background, became famous.

Now, The Velvet Underground has sued The Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts, alleging it violated a copyright held by the band when it licensed the banana image for use on iPad and iPhone cases and sleeves. It also claimed the foundation was violating the band's trademark because the banana image is accepted as symbol for the band.
Recently, a judge threw out the copyright portion of the lawsuit. It seems that the band's dealings with Warhol back in the 1960s were too murky and indistinct to permit The Velvet Underground to assert ownership of the copyright to the banana image.

However, the trademark portion of the case will be allowed to go forward.

The lesson to be learned here is twofold.

First, it pays to make sure all your Ts are crossed and Is are dotted when dealing with intellectual property assets. You don't want problems to arise later.

Second, it makes good business sense to see everything as a potential asset. It seems fair to assume that neither Warhol nor The Velvet Underground thought the banana image would become so famous. But if they had realized its potential, either party might have acted with greater care to firm up its claim to the image earlier on and thus benefitted from its ownership years later, when it became very valuable.

Source: The New York Times ArtsBeat, "Portion of Suit Over Warhol's Velvet Underground Banana Is Discarded," Dave Itzkoff, Sept. 11, 2012

Monday, January 2, 2012

The most pirated film of 2012 was...wait, what? That one? Really?

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

In our last post, we told Miami readers which TV shows people were illegally downloading. The list probably was not too surprising. After all, most of us have heard of "Game of Thrones" and "Dexter," the two shows that topped the most-pirated list.

But when we look at movies, the results are a little more surprising.

Yes, mega-blockbusters like "The Avengers," "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol" and "The Dark Knight Rises" made website TorrentFreak's most-pirated list, but the movie that came in at No.1 was one you probably have never heard of: "Project X."

"Project X" was a low-budget comedy about three high school friends who throw a party that spins out of control. It was illegally downloaded 8.72 million times.

One theory for the film's popularity is that it was based on a real-life news story out of Australia, so many Australian film fans downloaded it because it wasn't playing in Australia yet.

Another theory is that it appeals to younger viewers, who are more likely to pirate material, whereas the other films on the list were aimed at older viewers, who are perfectly comfortable buying a movie ticket.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter, "'Project X' Most Pirated Film of 2012," Philiana Ng, Dec. 28, 2012

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