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Copyright Case Opinion Summaries

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TechnoMarine holds various trademark and copyright registrations for its word mark, logo, and watch dial. At issue in this appeal was whether a prior litigation between TechnoMarine and Giftports resolving claims of trademark infringement and other unf…

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David Richison began a payroll processing company in the 1990s in Oklahoma with his niece and nephew, Shannon and Chad Richison. The company was called “Ernest Group, Inc.” and did business under the name “Paycom Payroll.” David wrote two software prog…

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The Copyright Act of 1976 gives a copyright owner the “exclusive righ[t]” to “perform the copyrighted work publicly,” 17 U.S.C. 106(4), including the right to “transmit or otherwise communicate … the [copyrighted] work … to the public, by means of any device or process, whether the members of the public capable of receiving the performance … receive it in the same place or in separate places and at the same time or at different times,” section 101. Aereo sells a service that allows subscribers to watch television programs over the Internet. Aereo’s server tunes an antenna, which is dedicated to the use of one subscriber, to the broadcast carrying the selected show. A transcoder translates the signals received by an antenna into data that can be transmitted over the Internet. A server saves the data in a subscriber-specific folder and streams the show to the subscriber, a few seconds behind the over-the-air broadcast. The owners of program copyrights unsuccessfully sought a preliminary injunction, arguing that Aereo was infringing their right to “perform” their copyrighted works “publicly.” The Second Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding that Aereo performs the works within the meaning of section 101 and does not merely supply equipment that allows others to do so. The Court noted that the Act was amended in 1976 to make the law applicable to community antenna television (CATV) providers by clarifying that an entity that acts like a CATV system “performs,” even when it only enhances viewers’ ability to receive broadcast television signals. Aereo’s activities are similar; it sells a service that allows subscribers to watch television programs, many of which are copyrighted, virtually as they are being broadcast. That Aereo’s system remains inert until a subscriber indicates that she wants to watch a program is not critical. Aereo transmits a performance whenever its subscribers watch a program. The Court stated that when an entity communicates the same contemporaneously perceptible images and sounds to multiple people, it “transmit[s] … a performance” to them, regardless of the number of discrete communications it makes and whether it makes an individual personal copy for each viewer. Aero subscribers are “the public” under the Act: a large number of people, unrelated and unknown to each other. View “Am. Broad. Cos. v. Aereo, Inc.” on Justia Law

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In 2001, ASC and Paragon entered into a contract to develop and support computer software for the Chicago Tribune. This software, called the “Single Copy Distribution System” (SCDS) would allow the Tribune to manage and track newspaper deliveries and subscriptions. Tensions emerged and Paragon terminated the contract in 2003. ASC successfully sued Paragon in Ohio state court, obtaining a declaration that ASC was the sole owner of the SCDS. In federal court, ASC alleged copyright infringement, trademark infringement, breach of contract, conversion, tortious interference with a business relationship, unjust enrichment, and unfair competition based on Paragon’s alleged copying of the SCDS software to use in its DRACI software, developed in 2004 for another newspaper. After eight years of litigation, the district court granted summary judgment to Paragon on all claims. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, stating that ASC had never submitted any evidence identifying the unique protectable elements of SCDS, and that there was insufficient evidence to generate even an implication that DRACI is substantially similar to SCDS. View “Automated Solutions Corp. v. Paragon Data Sys., Inc.” on Justia Law

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Musical artist George Clinton appealed the district court’s order appointing a receiver and authorizing the sale of copyrights in an action against his former law firm. The firm obtained judgments against Clinton for past-due attorneys’ fees and sought an order authorizing the sale of master recordings that Clinton recorded with the group Funkadelic (the “Masters”) to satisfy the judgments. The court concluded that Clinton’s copyrights in the Masters were subject to execution to satisfy judgments entered against him; Section 201(e) of the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 201(e), does not protect Clinton from the involuntary transfer of his copyrighted works; the district court did not abuse its discretion by appointing a receiver to manage or sell ownership of these copyrights; Clinton may raise claims of fraud on the court and judicial estoppel for the first time on appeal, but both claims are meritless; and Clinton failed to raise his preemption, Erie Doctrine, and Due Process Arguments in the district court. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View “Hendricks & Lewis PLLC v. Clinton” on Justia Law