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Copyright Case Opinion Summaries

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While a student at University of Wisconsin in 1969, Soglin attended the first Mifflin Street Block Party. Now in his seventh term as Mayor of Madison, Wisconsin, Soglin wants to shut down the annual event. For the 2012 Block Party, Sconnie sold 54 t-shirts and tank tops displaying an image of Soglin’s face and the phrase “Sorry for Partying.” Photographer Kienitz accused Sconnie of copyright infringement. Sconnie conceded starting with a photograph that Kienitz took at Soglin’s inauguration that it downloaded from the city’s website. The picture was posterized, background was removed, and Soglin’s face was turned lime green and surrounded by multi-colored writing. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendants, applying the fair use statutory defense to infringement, 17 U.S.C. 107. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, concluding that a shirt is no substitute for the original photograph; Kienitz does not argue that defendants reduced demand for the original work or any use that he is contemplating. Defendants removed so much of the original that, “as with the Cheshire Cat, only the smile remains.” What is left, besides a hint of Soglin’s smile, is the outline of his face, which cannot be copyrighted. Defendants chose the design as a form of political commentary, not for profit. View “Kienitz v. Sconnie Nation, LLC” on Justia Law

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Oracle filed suit against SAP alleging that TomorrowNow, an enterprise software company recently acquired by SAP, was engaging in systematic and pervasive illegal downloading of Oracle’s software. SAP stipulated to liability and the parties went to tri…

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Clinton is a musician, bandleader, and touring performance artist. H&L, a law firm, represented Clinton in in 2005-2008, billed Clinton $3,341,650, received $1,000,578 in payment, and wrote off $600,000 of the remaining balance. This left $1,779,756.29 due. H&L initiated arbitration. Clinton did not participate; the panel ruled in favor of H&L. The district court confirmed the award of $1,675,639.82, plus interest plus $60,786.50 in attorney fees. H&L pursued collection, including garnishments, levies, and liens across the country. Clinton’s attorney declared that they created a financial “stranglehold” so that Clinton “[c]an’t pay his taxes … it is going to affect… his ability to make a living at 72 years old.” A year later, Clinton sued H&L for legal malpractice. H&L asserted counterclaims and sought an order authorizing the sale of master sound recording copyrights to satisfy its judgments. The district court appointed a receiver and authorized the receiver to use the copyrights to satisfy the judgments. Amending its earlier order, the Ninth Circuit affirmed. Under Washington law Clinton’s copyrights in the masters were subject to execution to satisfy judgments against him. Section 201(e) of the federal Copyright Act does not protect Clinton from the involuntary transfer of his copyrighted works. Clinton could raise claims of fraud on the court and judicial estoppel for the first time on appeal, but the claims were meritless.

View “Hendricks & Lewis PLLC v. Clinton” on Justia Law

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Debtor, a managing member of Twister’s Iron Horse Saloon, appealed the bankruptcy court’s order determining that a debt arising from a civil judgment in favor of appellees for copyright infringement was excepted from discharge under 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(6)…

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IPG challenged the distribution of royalties from a royalty fund managed by the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress, which provides payments to copyright holders when they are statutorily obligated to license their work to third parties. IPG’s …