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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, the author of “Point Break Live!”, filed suit against defendants, asserting claims for copyright infringement, breach of contract, and tortious interference with contract. At issue on appeal was whether an unauthorized work that makes “fair use” of its source material may itself be protected by copyright. The court held, for substantially the reasons stated by the district court that, if the creator of an unauthorized work stays within the bounds of fair use and adds sufficient originality, she may claim protection under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 103, for her original contributions. The court also rejected defendant’s challenges to the district court’s jury charge. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View “Keeling v. Hars” on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, authors of published books under copyright, filed suit against Google for copyright infringement. Google, acting without permission of rights holders, has made digital copies of tens of millions of books, including plaintiffs’, through its Library Project and its Google books project. The district court concluded that Google’s actions constituted fair use under 17 U.S.C. 107. On appeal, plaintiffs challenged the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Google. The court concluded that: (1) Google’s unauthorized digitizing of copyright-protected works, creation of a search functionality, and display of snippets from those works are non-infringing fair uses. The purpose of the copying is highly transformative, the public display of text is limited, and the revelations do not provide a significant market substitute for the protected aspects of the originals. Google’s commercial nature and profit motivation do not justify denial of fair use. (2) Google’s provision of digitized copies to the libraries that supplied the books, on the understanding that the libraries will use the copies in a manner consistent with the copyright law, also does not constitute infringement. Nor, on this record, is Google a contributory infringer. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View “Authors Guild v. Google, Inc.” on Justia Law

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This appeal involves a dispute over the copyright in the musical composition “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.” Plaintiffs filed suit seeking a declaration that either a notice of termination served on EMI in 2007 or another such notice served in 2012 will, upon becoming effective, terminate EMI’s rights in the Song. The district court granted summary judgment to EMI, holding that its rights in the Song will subsist through the entire remaining copyright term – which, under current law, is scheduled to expire in 2029 – pursuant to a 1951 agreement that plaintiffs are powerless to terminate. The court concluded, however, that EMI owns its rights in the Song not under the 1951 Agreement but instead under a subsequent contract executed in 1981; and that the 2007 Termination Notice will terminate the 1981 Agreement in 2016.  Accordingly, the court concluded that plaintiffs are entitled to a declaratory judgment in their favor. The court reversed and remanded. View “Baldwin v. EMI Feist Catalog, Inc.” on Justia Law

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Defendant, a film director, producer, and editor, appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of plaintiff, a film production company, on its copyright and state-law claims related to the film entitled “Heads Up.” At issue was whether a contributor to a creative work whose contributions are inseparable from, and integrated into, the work maintain a copyright interest in his or her contributions alone. Determining that the court had jurisdiction over the merits of the appeal, the court concluded that, on the facts of the present case, the Copyright Actʹs, 17 U.S.C. 102, terms, structure, and history support the conclusion that defendantʹs contributions to the film do not themselves constitute a ʺwork of authorshipʺ amenable to copyright protection. The court concluded that a directorʹs contribution to an integrated ʺwork of authorshipʺ such as a film is not itself a ʺwork of authorshipʺ subject to its own copyright protection. Therefore, defendant did not obtain and does not possess a copyright in his directorial contributions to the finished film. The court agreed with the district court that in this case, plaintiff was the dominant author of the film and concluded that plaintiff owns the copyright in the finished film and its prior versions, including the disputed ʺraw film footage.ʺ Finally, the court disagreed with the district court’s conclusion that defendant’s interference with plaintiff’s planned screening and post-screening reception constituted tortious interference under New York law. Rather, the court concluded that the undisputed material facts require judgment as a matter of law in defendantʹs favor. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded with instructions and for the district court to reexamine its award of costs and attorneyʹs fees, and for such other proceedings as are warranted. View “16 Casa Duse, LLC v. Merkin” on Justia Law

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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 unfair business practices, and stemming from earlier conduct, bars the present suit of TechnoMarine over similar conduct that occurred after the settlement of the earlier suit. The court concluded that res judicata did not bar the trademark and other unfair business practice claims that arose after the original settlement agreement between the parties; the court affirmed the dismissal of the complaint on the alternative basis that TechnoMarine failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted where TechnoMarine failed plausibly to plead its claims for trademark infringement, false designation of origin, trademark dilution, tortious interference, unfair competition, or copyright infringement; and the court affirmed the district court’s denial of TechnoMarine’s request to amend its complaint because TechnoMarine failed to indicate how further amendment would cure its pleading deficiencies. View “Technomarine SA v. Giftports, Inc.” on Justia Law

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This appeal concerned the HathiTrust Digital Library (HDL). At issue was whether the HDL’s use of copyrighted material is protected against a claim of copyright infringement under the doctrine of fair use. Plaintiffs appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants and dismissal of their claims of copyright infringement. The district court also dismissed the claims of certain plaintiffs for lack of standing and dismissed other copyright claims as unripe. The court held that three authors’ associations lacked standing to bring suit on behalf of their members and were properly dismissed from the suit and the remaining four authors’ associations do have standing to bring suit on behalf of their members; the doctrine of fair use allowed defendants to create a full-text searchable database of copyrighted works and to provide those works in formats accessible to those with disabilities; and claims predicated upon the Orphan Works Project are not ripe for adjudication. Therefore, the court affirmed as to those issues. The court vacated the judgment, in part, insofar as it rests on the district court’s holding related to the claim of infringement predicated upon defendants’ preservation of copyrighted works and remanded for further proceedings. View “Authors Guild, Inc. v. HathiTrust” on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, an architect, and the company through which he does business, filed suit asserting that he created then licensed numerous designs for colonial homes to two construction companies and that these companies and their contractors infringed his copyright in these designs by using them in ways the licenses did not permit after the licenses had expired. Plaintiff also alleged that defendants’ actions violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), 17 U.S.C. 1202(b). The district court dismissed plaintiff’s claims against some defendants, granted summary judgment in favor of the remaining defendants, and granted attorney’s fees to two defendants. The court affirmed in part and held that (1) any copying of plaintiff’s designs extended only to unprotected elements of his works, and (2) plaintiff failed to plead a violation of the DMCA. The court vacated in part and held that the district court misapplied the incorrect legal standard in awarding attorney’s fees, remanding for the district court to apply the correct standard. View “Zalewski v. Cicero Builder Dev., Inc.” on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against publisher Wiley under the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. 101 et seq., based on Wiley’s publication of textbooks containing eight of plaintiff’s photographs. The district court concluded that the applicable three-year statute of limitations barred none of plaintiff’s infringement claims because plaintiff, exercising reasonable diligence, did not discover the infringements until fewer than three years prior to bringing the suit. Nonetheless, the district court granted Wiley’s motion for summary judgment as to several of the infringement claims on the ground that plaintiff had failed to register the relevant photographs with the Copyright Office prior to instituting suit pursuant to section 411(a). The court held that copyright infringement claims did not accrue until actual or constructive discovery of the relevant infringement and that the Act’s statute of limitations did not bar any of plaintiff’s infringement claims; the court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment dismissing plaintiff’s claims relating to the Narcoleptic Dog and Dinamation photos where the district court acted within its discretion to partially deny plaintiff leave to amend his complaint; the court discerned no error in the district court’s denial of Wiley’s motion for remittitur or a new trial; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to alter the jury’s award of statutory damages. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View “Psihoyos v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.” on Justia Law

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Swatch filed suit against Bloomberg for copyright infringement after Bloomberg obtained a copy of a recording of a conference call convened by Swatch to discuss the company’s recently released earnings report with invited investment analysts. Bloomberg used the sound recording without authorization and disseminated it to paying subscribers. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Bloomberg based on Bloomberg’s affirmative defense of fair use pursuant to the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 107. After balancing the fair use factors, the court concluded that Bloomberg’s use was fair use. The court granted Swatch’s motion to dismiss Bloomberg’s cross-appeal where Bloomberg lacked appellate standing and the court lacked appellate jurisdiction. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court and dismissed the cross-appeal. View “Swatch Group v. Bloomberg” on Justia Law