Fair Use

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.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

'Dumb Starbucks' Labels Itself Parody Art to Escape Legal Repercussions

A potential copyright infringement case emerged in California last week when a very familiar looking storefront popped up in a  a Los Feliz shopping center. The name of the new coffee shop? Dumb Starbucks. The names of the products for sale at Dumb Starbucks are almost indistinguishable from those sold at the "real" Starbucks, except that all of the menu items are preceded with the word "dumb." For example, people can order a "Dumb Frappuccino" or a "Dumb Blond Roast."

Is it legal for a store to claim a name that's almost identical to that of an existing business?

According to a Fact Sheet posted inside the Dumb Starbucks, the establishment is lawful thanks to "parody law": "By adding the word 'dumb,' we are technically making fun of Starbucks, which allows us to use their trademarks under a law known as 'fair use.'"

The sheet also stated: "Although we are a fully functioning coffee shop, for legal reasons, Dumb Starbucks needs to be categorized as a work of parody art ... But that's for our lawyers to worry about. All you need to do is enjoy our delicious coffee!"

Apparently the satirical version of Starbucks had more pressing problems than a possible copyright lawsuit: the Los Angeles Department of Public Health ruled to close the shop to the public earlier this week because it was operating without a public health permit.

It wasn't until Monday that Comedy Central star Nathan Fielder came out as the man behind the creation of the imitation coffee chain.

Contact a Miami Copyright or Trademark Infringement Lawyer Today

The attorneys at the Miami office of Mano Alwine, P.L. have vast experience litigating disputes over copyright or trademark infringement, and will fight to protect the rights of the entertainers and businesses we represent. Contact us by filling out this short form or call us at 305-341-3100 for a free consultation to determine if we can assist you.





Wednesday, November 7, 2012

'Flight' gives rise to interesting fair use dispute

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

Denzel Washington's Miami fans might not have realized it, but when they went to see Washington's new thriller "Flight," they were actually watching the subject of a very interesting intellectual property debate.

In case you have not seen the movie, Washington plays a character who struggles with alcohol and drinks at inappropriate times, like when he is behind the wheel.

One of the drinks Washington's character consumes in Budweiser. Earlier this week, Anheuser-Busch asked Paramount Pictures to digitally erase the Budweiser trademark from future copies of 'Flight.'

In a statement, Anheuser-Busch said it does not condone irresponsible use of its product and doesn't like that it is being depicted in connection with unhealthy drinking.

Now, usually, the use of a trademarked image in a film is considered fair use, meaning it is a reasonable and fair use of work without the author's permission. However, it's a case-by-case analysis, since a condition of fair use is that the use in question not impede the rights holders' ability to earn money and doesn't constitute more of a "use" than is necessary to accomplish the original objective.

As applied to this film, then, does negatively portraying Budweiser impede Anheuser-Busch's economic interests and is Budweiser used more extensively than necessary to accomplish the objective of showing that Washington's character is an alcoholic?

In any event, Anheuser-Busch has asked for the logo to be removed, but hasn't made any legal moves yet. That likely says something about how it perceives its chances of filing suit over this issue.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter, "Anheuser-Busch Asks Paramount to Remove Budweiser From Flight," Daniel Miller, Nov. 6, 2012


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