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VMG filed a copyright infringement suit against Madonna and others, alleging that the producer of the song “Vogue,” copied a 0.23-second segment of horns from an earlier song, known as “Love Break,” and used a modified version of that snippet when recording “Vogue.” The district court granted summary judgment to defendants and awarded them attorney’s fees under 17 U.S.C. 505. VMG appealed. The court agreed with the district court’s application of the longstanding legal rule that de minimus copying does not constitute infringement and that a general audience would not recognize the brief snippet in “Vogue” as originating from “Love Break.” The court rejected VMG’s argument that Congress eliminated the de minimis exception to claims alleging infringement of a sound recording. The court recognized that the Sixth Circuit held to the contrary in Bridgeport Music, Inc. v. Dimension Films, but found Bridgeport’s reasoning unpersuasive. The court held that the de minimus exception applies to infringement actions concerning copyrighted sound recordings, as it applies to all other copyright infringement actions. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to defendants. In regard to the attorney’s fees, the court concluded that the district court abused its discretion. A claim premised on a legal theory adopted by the only circuit court to have addressed the issue is, as a matter of law, objectively reasonable. The district court’s conclusion to the contrary constitutes legal error. View “VMG Salsoul, LLC v. Ciccone” on Justia Law

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VMG filed a copyright infringement suit against Madonna and others, alleging that the producer of the song “Vogue,” copied a 0.23-second segment of horns from an earlier song, known as “Love Break,” and used a modified version of that snippet when recording “Vogue.” The district court granted summary judgment to defendants and awarded them attorney’s fees under 17 U.S.C. 505. VMG appealed. The court agreed with the district court’s application of the longstanding legal rule that de minimus copying does not constitute infringement and that a general audience would not recognize the brief snippet in “Vogue” as originating from “Love Break.” The court rejected VMG’s argument that Congress eliminated the de minimis exception to claims alleging infringement of a sound recording. The court recognized that the Sixth Circuit held to the contrary in Bridgeport Music, Inc. v. Dimension Films, but found Bridgeport’s reasoning unpersuasive. The court held that the de minimus exception applies to infringement actions concerning copyrighted sound recordings, as it applies to all other copyright infringement actions. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to defendants. In regard to the attorney’s fees, the court concluded that the district court abused its discretion. A claim premised on a legal theory adopted by the only circuit court to have addressed the issue is, as a matter of law, objectively reasonable. The district court’s conclusion to the contrary constitutes legal error. View “VMG Salsoul, LLC v. Ciccone” on Justia Law

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VMG filed a copyright infringement suit against Madonna and others, alleging that the producer of the song “Vogue,” copied a 0.23-second segment of horns from an earlier song, known as “Love Break,” and used a modified version of that snippet when recording “Vogue.” The district court granted summary judgment to defendants and awarded them attorney’s fees under 17 U.S.C. 505. VMG appealed. The court agreed with the district court’s application of the longstanding legal rule that de minimus copying does not constitute infringement and that a general audience would not recognize the brief snippet in “Vogue” as originating from “Love Break.” The court rejected VMG’s argument that Congress eliminated the de minimis exception to claims alleging infringement of a sound recording. The court recognized that the Sixth Circuit held to the contrary in Bridgeport Music, Inc. v. Dimension Films, but found Bridgeport’s reasoning unpersuasive. The court held that the de minimus exception applies to infringement actions concerning copyrighted sound recordings, as it applies to all other copyright infringement actions. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to defendants. In regard to the attorney’s fees, the court concluded that the district court abused its discretion. A claim premised on a legal theory adopted by the only circuit court to have addressed the issue is, as a matter of law, objectively reasonable. The district court’s conclusion to the contrary constitutes legal error. View “VMG Salsoul, LLC v. Ciccone” on Justia Law

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Albert Brumley, author of the gospel song “I’ll Fly Away,” assigned the song’s 1932 copyright to a company. The company subsequently became the property of his son, Robert. Albert died in 1977. Albert’s widow also executed an assignment to Robert. During the term of a copyright, an author may use, assign, sell, or license the copyright, 17 U.S.C. 201(d), but songwriters and their descendants may terminate the songwriter’s assignment of a copyright to another party, Sections 203, 304(c). In 2008, four of Brumley’s six children filed notice to terminate the assignment to their brother, Robert. The copyright was then generating about $300,000 per year. The district court and Sixth Circuit affirmed their right to terminate the assignment, rejecting arguments that the song was a “work made for hire,” which is not eligible for termination, 17 U.S.C. 304(c); and that Albert’s widow relinquished any termination rights. View “Brumley v. Brumley & Sons, Inc.” on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-Appellant BWP Media USA, Inc. d/b/a Pacific Coast News and National Photo Group, LLC (“BWP”) appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendant-Appellee Clarity Digital Group, LLC n/k/a AXS Digital Media Group, LLC (“AXS”). BWP owned the rights to photographs of various celebrities. In February 2014, BWP filed a complaint alleging that AXS infringed its copyrights by posting 75 of its photographs without permission on AXS’s website, “Examiner.com.” Rather than hiring a centralized writing staff, the content generated on Examiner.com was created by independent contractors, called “Examiners,” all over the world. Because it was a group of Examiners that posted the infringing content on Examiner.com, AXS asserted it was protected under the DMCA’s safe harbor provision. .” AXS asserted it was protected from liability by the safe harbor provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) and moved for summary judgment. The district court agreed. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit also agreed and affirmed the district court. View “BWP Media USA v. Clarity Digital Group” on Justia Law

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Consumer Health Information sued Amylin Pharmaceuticals,alleging copyright infringement. 17 U.S.C. 101, concerning patient-education materials Consumer Health developed for Amylin’s use in marketing its diabetes drug Byetta. The parties’ contract, executed in 2006, unambiguously assigns the copyright to Amylin. Consumer Health alleged that the contract was induced by fraud or economic distress and sought rescission. The district court dismissed the suit as untimely. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Consumer Health assigned the copyright to Amylin in 2006 but did not file this suit until 2013, several years too late under either a four-year limitations period that applies to claims for contract rescission under California law, or under the Copyright Act’s three-year statute of limitations, 17 U.S.C. 507(b). Consumer Health’s cause of action accrued when the contract was executed; at that point Consumer Health knew that Amylin owned the copyright, and the limitations clock on a suit to reclaim ownership started ticking. View “Consumer Health Info. Co v. Amylin Pharma., Inc.” on Justia Law

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Halo, a Hong Kong company that designs and sells high-end modern furniture, owns two U.S. design patents, 13 U.S. copyrights, and one U.S. common law trademark, all relating to its furniture designs. Halo’s common law trademark, ODEON, is used in association with at least four of its designs. Halo sells its furniture in the U.S., including through its own retail stores. Comptoir, a Canadian corporation, also designs and markets high-end furniture that is manufactured in China, Vietnam, and India. Comptoir’s furniture is imported and sold to U.S. consumers directly at furniture shows and through distributors, including in Illinois. Halo sued, alleging infringement and violation of Illinois consumer fraud and deceptive business practices statutes. The district court dismissed on forum non conveniens grounds, finding that the balance of interests favored Canada and that Canada, where the defendants reside, was an adequate forum. The Federal Circuit reversed. The policies underlying U.S. copyright, patent, and trademark laws would be defeated if a domestic forum to adjudicate the rights they convey was denied without a sufficient showing of the adequacy of the alternative foreign jurisdiction; the Federal Court of Canada would not provide any “potential avenue for redress for the subject matter” of Halo’s dispute. View “Halo Creative & Design, Ltd. v. Comptoir des Indes Inc.” on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, twenty-three professional football players, filed a putative class action against the NFL, claiming that films produced by NFL-affiliate NFL Films violated the players’ rights under the right-of-publicity laws of various states as well as their rights under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125. Twenty plaintiffs settled, but appellants elected to opt out of the settlement and pursued individual right-of-publicity and Lanham Act claims. The district court granted summary judgment for the NFL. Applying the three Porous Media Corp. v. Pall Corp., factors, the court agreed with the district court’s conclusion that the films are expressive, rather than commercial, speech and that the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 301(a), therefore preempts appellants’ claims. The court also concluded that appellants’ claim of false endorsement under the Lanham Act fails as a matter of law because appellants provide no evidence that the films contain misleading or false statements regarding their current endorsement of the NFL. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View “Dryer v. National Football League” on Justia Law

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Tyrone Simmons, a writer and performer of hip hop music, filed suit against hip hop producer William C. Stanberry, Jr., rapper 50 Cent, and various corporate entities involved in the production and distribution of the 2007 song, “I Get Money.” Simmons alleged that in February 2006 he purchased from Stanberry an exclusive license to a beat and that Simmons therefore owns the right to bar all others from using the beat. Simmons further alleged that 50 Cent’s recording of his song employing that beat was publicly released in 2007, violating Simmons’ copyright. The court concluded that Simmons’ complaint is barred by the statute of limitations because Simmons, although aware of defendants’ acts of infringement, waited more than three years to sue. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the complaint. View “Simmons v. Stanberry” on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Savant Home, Inc., a custom home designer and builder, held a registered copyright to a floor plan of a three-bedroom ranch house (“Anders Plan”). Savant built a model house embodying that plan in Windsor, Colorado (“Savant house”). In June 2009, Ron and Tammie Wagner toured the Savant house and hired builder Douglas Collins and his firm, Douglas Consulting, LLC (jointly, “Collins”) to build a house. Collins, in turn, contracted with Stewart King to design the house. After Collins and Mr. King completed the Wagners’ house, Ms. Wagner hired them to build a second house. Savant sued Collins for copyright infringement, contributory copyright infringement, civil conspiracy, trade dress infringement, and other claims, alleging defendants copied the Anders Plan by building the two houses. The district court granted Defendants summary judgment on two grounds: (1) Savant failed to offer evidence of inherent distinctiveness or secondary meaning and (2) no reasonable jury could find a likelihood of confusion. Savant appealed. After review, the Tenth Circuit agreed with the district court as to the first ground and therefore did not address the second. View “Savant Homes v. Collins” on Justia Law