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Plaintiff filed suit against defendant, alleging copyright infringement claims under 17 U.S.C. 501. Plaintiff holds the copyright to a candid photograph of himself which he considers unflattering and embarrassing. Defendant copied the photo into several scathing blog posts she wrote about plaintiff and his business practices. On appeal, plaintiff challenged the district court’s grant of summary judgment to defendant, arguing that the district court erred in finding defendant was entitled to summary judgment based on her affirmative defense that her use of the photo constituted fair use under 17 U.S.C. 107. The court concluded that the three factors in the court’s fair use inquiry – the purpose and character of the work, the nature of the work, and the effect of the use on the potential market – weigh in favor of defendant; the amount and substantiality of the work is neutral; and after weighing all four factors, the court’s analysis tilts strongly in favor of fair use. Therefore, the district court did not err in granting summary judgment to defendant because every reasonable factfinder would conclude the inclusion of the photo in her blog posts constituted fair use. View “Katz v. Chevaldina” on Justia Law

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Yellow Pages Group (YPG) appealed from a $123,000 judgment against it in favor of Yellow Pages Photos (YPPI) following a jury verdict in a copyright infringement trial. YPPI cross appealed, raising several claims of error. The court concluded that YPG meets the requirement that it possess standing to litigate this controversy, as it has a concrete and actual interest in avoiding a judgment being entered against it on YPPI’s copyright infringement claim, an interest that will be directly affected by the outcome of this appeal; YPG can nonetheless assert its defense even though it was not in privity of contract with YPPI; the evidence supports the jury’s conclusion that Ziplocal breached its contract with YPPI by transferring YPPI’s photos to YPG; the court found no merit in any of YPG’s contentions that it was entitled to a judgment as a matter of law because the End User License Agreement (EULA) was an invalid contract; and there were sufficient facts at trial to support a finding of willful infringement based on YPG’s reckless disregard for the possibility that it might be infringing on YPPI’s copyrights. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court’s denial of YPG’s renewed motion for a judgment as a matter of law. In regards to the cross-appeal, the court concluded that YPPI’s arguments lack merit and thus do not warrant a new trial on damages. View “Yellow Pages Photos, Inc. v. Yellow Pages Group, LLC” on Justia Law

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Mannington Mills, Inc. appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Home Legend, LLC, that Mannington’s registered copyright in its “Glazed Maple” design was invalid. Mannington and Home Legend both sold laminate wood flooring. The copyright at issue in this case covers Mannington’s decor paper design called “Glazed Maple,” which is a huge digital photograph depicting fifteen stained and apparently time-worn maple planks. That appearance was only an appearance. In 2008, three Mannington employees created the Glazed Maple design not from aged planks but from raw wood. The team did not seek out an actual aged wood floor from which to create the design but instead “envision[ed what] a floor could look like after” twenty or thirty years, including the effects “age and wear and patina” might have on the planks. The United States Register of Copyrights registered Mannington’s copyright in its Glazed Maple design in November 2010. In September 2012, Mannington discovered that its competitor Home Legend was selling laminate flooring products with designs that it alleges were “virtually identical in every respect” to the Glazed Maple design. Mannington requested that Home Legend stop selling the allegedly infringing products. Home Legend responded by filing suit in the district court, seeking a declaratory judgment that Mannington’s copyright was invalid. Mannington counterclaimed for copyright infringement and moved for a preliminary injunction, a motion that the district court denied. At the close of discovery, Home Legend moved for summary judgment, arguing that Mannington’s registered Glazed Maple copyright did not cover copyright-eligible subject matter. The district court granted summary judgment to Home Legend on three alternative grounds. The Eleventh Circuit reversed, finding: Mannington owned a valid copyright, “even if the protection that copyright affords it is not particularly strong.” Because much of the expression in Mannington’s finished Glazed Maple design still reflected the uncopyrightable features of each plank, Mannington’s copyright gives it the limited protection of a derivative work. View “Home Legend, LLC v. Mannington Mills, Inc.” on Justia Law

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BMI and others filed a copyright infringement action against Evie’s Tavern and its owner (collectively, appellants), alleging that appellants publicly performed six copyrighted works without a license despite numerous cease and desist letters and phone calls. On appeal, appellants challenged the district court’s grant of summary judgment and contend that there are material issues of fact in the chain of title for each of the five titles at issue. The court concluded that the district court properly granted summary judgment in BMI’s favor on each of the five titles at issue; because the district court properly granted summary judgment in BMI’s favor on each title, any error in granting summary judgment to other appellees was harmless; the district court did not need to make a finding as to whether appellants’ infringement was innocent or willful to grant summary judgment or to award statutory damages within the default range; the district court’s decision considered all of the appropriate factors, its damages determination was plausible, and thus the award of statutory damages was not an abuse of discretion; the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining the award of attorneys’ fees; and the district court adequately evaluated the eBay Inc. v. MercExchange, L.L.C. factors and it did not clearly err in awarding a permanent injunction. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment and award of damages, attorneys’ fees, and a permanent injunction. View “Broadcast Music, Inc., et al. v. Evie’s Tavern Ellenton, Inc., et al.” on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, three publishing houses, alleged that members of the Board of Regents at GSU infringed their copyrights by maintaining a policy which allows GSU professors to make digital copies of excerpts of plaintiffs’ books available to students without paying plaintiffs. The district court found that plaintiffs failed to establish a prima facie case of infringement in twenty-six instances, that the fair use defense applied in forty-three instances, and that defendants had infringed plaintiffs’ copyrights in the remaining five instances. The district court found that defendants were the prevailing party and awarded them costs and attorneys’ fees. The court declined to address defendants’ Eleventh Amendment argument; the court held that the district court did not err in performing a work-by-work analysis of individual instances of alleged infringement in order to determine the need for injunctive relief; however, the district court did err by giving each of the four fair use factors equal weight, and by treating the four factors mechanistically; the district court should have undertaken a holistic analysis which carefully balanced the four factors; the court found that the district court abused its discretion in granting the injunction and the related declaratory relief; the district court erred in designating defendants as the prevailing party and awarding fees and costs to defendants; and therefore, the court reversed the judgment, vacated the injunction, and remanded for further proceedings. View “Cambridge University Press, et al. v. Albert, et al.” on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, as representative of the estate of his father, filed suit against several entities with whom his father, Ronald Louis Smith, Sr., recorded music in the late 1970s. The estate alleged infringement of Smith’s copyright in a musical composition entitled “Spank,” along with a claim for breach of contract and a claim seeking a declaration of the validity of copyright transfer terminations the estate filed under 17 U.S.C. 203. Where a publisher has registered a claim of copyright in a work not made for hire, the court concluded that the beneficial owner has statutory standing to sue for infringement. The court held that the estate has adequately alleged facts to support its statutory standing to sue for infringement of the “Spank” copyright. Because the district court concluded that amendment of the complaint would be futile because the estate lacked statutory standing, the district court abused its discretion in denying leave to amend the complaint. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court’s denial of the estate’s motion to amend the complaint. View “Smith, Jr. v. Casey, et al.” on Justia Law

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Miller’s is a restaurant with a location in Boynton Beach, Florida, and Boynton Carolina is its competitor. At issue was whether Miller’s has common law trademark rights in the term “ale house” and trade dress rights in the interior decoration of its restaurant, and if so, whether Boynton Carolina violated Section 43 of the Trademark Act of 1946 (Lanham Act), 15 U.S.C. 1125(a), and the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 106, when it adopted a name, decor, and a floor plan similar to Miller’s own. The court held that the district court did not err in finding Miller’s trademark infringement claim barred by issue preclusion, in finding Miller’s trade dress not to be inherently distinctive, and in finding Miller’s and Boynton Carolina’s floor plans not to be substantially similar. View “Miller’s Ale House, Inc. v. Boynton Carolina Ale House” on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the district court’s order granting defendants’ motion for summary judgment, and denying as moot plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff alleged that defendants infringed its copyright of “Acidjazzed Evening,” a Sound Interface Device (SID) file. The court concluded that the district court erred by granting Defendant Mosley’s motion for summary judgment. However, because plaintiff failed to produce substantially probative evidence that it complied with statutory prerequisites prior to filing this action, the court affirmed. View “Oy v. Mosley, et al” on Justia Law