Sirius appealed the district court’s order denying its motions for summary judgment and reconsideration in regard to Flo & Eddie’s copyright infringement suit. The court certified a significant and unresolved issue of New York law that is determinative of this appeal: Is there a right of public performance for creators of pre-1972 sound recordings under New York law and, if so, what is the nature and scope of that right? The New York Court of Appeals answered that New York common law does not recognize a right of public performance for creators of pre-1972 sound recordings. In light of this ruling, the court reversed the district court’s denial of summary judgment and remanded with instructions to grant Sirius’s motion for summary judgment and to dismiss the case with prejudice. View “Flo & Eddie v. Sirius XM Radio” on Justia Law
EMI Christian Music Group, Inc. v. MP3tunes, LLC
Plaintiffs filed a copyright infringement suit against MP3tunes and its founder and CEO, alleging that two internet music services created by MP3tunes infringed their copyrights in thousands of sound recordings and musical compositions. The district court granted partial summary judgment to defendants, holding that MP3tunes had a reasonably implemented repeat infringer policy under section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), 17 U.S.C. 512. A jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiffs, but the district court partially overturned the verdict. The court vacated the district court’s grant of partial summary judgment to defendants based on its conclusion that MP3tunes qualified for safe harbor protection under the DMCA because the district court applied too narrow a definition of “repeat infringer”; reversed the district court’s grant of judgment as a matter of law to defendants on claims that MP3tunes permitted infringement of plaintiffs’ copyrights in pre‐2007 MP3s and Beatles songs because there was sufficient evidence to allow a reasonable jury to conclude that MP3tunes had red‐flag knowledge of, or was willfully blind to, infringing activity involving those categories of protected material; remanded for further proceedings related to claims arising out of the district court’s grant of partial summary judgment; and affirmed the judgment in all other respects. View “EMI Christian Music Group, Inc. v. MP3tunes, LLC” on Justia Law
TCA Television Corp. v. McCollum
In this copyright infringement suit, plaintiffs challenged the district court’s determination that defendants’ verbatim use of a portion of Abbott and Costello’s iconic comedy routine, “Who’s on First?,” in the recent Broadway play “Hand to God,” qualified as a non‐infringing fair use. The court concluded that defendants’ entitlement to a fair use defense was not so clearly established on the face of the amended complaint and its incorporated exhibits as to support dismissal. In this case, defendants’ verbatim use of the routine was not transformative, defendants failed persuasively to justify their use of the routine, defendants’ use of some dozen of the routine’s variations of “who’s on first” was excessive in relation to any dramatic purpose, and plaintiffs alleged an active secondary market for the work, which was not considered by the district court. The court concluded, however, that the dismissal is warranted because plaintiffs failed to plausibly plead ownership of a valid copyright. The court found plaintiffs’ efforts to do so on theories of assignment, work‐for‐hire, and merger all fail as a matter of law. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View “TCA Television Corp. v. McCollum” on Justia Law
Simmons v. Stanberry
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
Keeling v. Hars
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
Authors Guild v. Google, Inc.
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
Baldwin v. EMI Feist Catalog, Inc.
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
16 Casa Duse, LLC v. Merkin
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
Technomarine SA v. Giftports, Inc.
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
Authors Guild, Inc. v. HathiTrust
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