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
Rahn v. Bd. of Trs. of N. Ill. Univ.
Rahn, a white male who earned a PhD in Industrial Engineering from the University of Illinois, was hired as a visiting professor at NIU. His wife, Regina, was hired as a tenure-track assistant professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering for that same school year. During that year, a tenure-track assistant professor position opened up in the Department. Rahn applied. Despite her husband’s status as an applicant, Regina was a voting member of the search committee. She claims that one committee member stated that he would not hire a white man into the department if qualified minority candidates were available. After another applicant was hired, the Rahns alleged reverse discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 701 42 U.S.C. 2000e, and copyright infringement, based on use of teaching notes and slides. The district court granted the defendants summary judgment on all claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. That testimony did not support indicate that an evaluation metric was a subterfuge for eliminating Rahn on racial grounds. A university employer may properly preference academic experience; Rahn did not present evidence that such a preference was inconsistent with the initial description of the position and the preferred qualifications. View “Rahn v. Bd. of Trs. of N. Ill. Univ.” on Justia Law
Bell v. Taylor
Bell, a lawyer and photographer, alleged that three small Indianapolis business owners violated federal copyright laws and an Indiana theft statute by publishing on the internet a photo that he took of the Indianapolis skyline without his authorization. In August 2013, the district court set a deadline for filing motions for leave to amend the pleadings. Bell sought to amend his complaint (for a fourth time) eight months after the cut-off after learning that defendant Taylor had not actually used the photo at issue but had displayed a different photo belonging to Bell. The district court denied Bell’s motion, citing undue delay and his own carelessness. The district court granted defendants summary judgment on the damages issue, finding that Bell cannot demonstrate how they caused him financial harm and was not entitled to monetary recovery. The Seventh Circuit dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. Although the court purported to issue a “final judgment” after ruling on the summary judgment motion, it did so in error; the issue of injunctive relief was never adjudicated. Because Bell’s copyright claim was not entirely disposed of by the ruling, the judgment was not final. View “Bell v. Taylor” on Justia Law
How much of a photo do you need to alter to avoid copyright infringement? Hint: Cheshire Cat
Bloggers and artists often ask, “how much of a photo do you need to alter to avoid copyright infringement?” Five changes? Fifteen? The Seventh Circuit addressed the issue in the Kienitz v Sconnie Nation case recently. According to the court, Sconnie Nation made t-shirts displaying an image of Madison Wisconsin mayor Paul Soglin, using a photo posted on the City’s website that was authored by photographer Michael Kienitz.
The court looked to the Cariou v Prince decision, but complained that its approach to appropriation art looked only at whether a work is “transformative” and doesn’t fully address a copyright owner’s derivative rights under 17 U.S.C. Sect. 106(2). This court analyzes the market effect, looking to see if the contested use is a complement to the protected work (allowed) rather than a substitute for it (prohibited).
The photographer in this case did not claim that the t-shirt was a disruption to his own plans to license the photo for t-shirts or tank tops. He did not argue that demand for the original work was reduced.
And as for Fair Use factor three, the amount and substantiality of the portion used … the court wrote “Defendants removed so much of the original that, as with the Cheshire Cat, only the smile remains.” The original background is gone, its colors and shading are gone, the expression in the eyes can no longer be read, and the effect of the lighting is “almost extinguished.” “What is left, besides a hint of Soglin’s smile, is the outline of his face, which can’t be copyrighted.”
Chicago Bldg. Design, P.C. v. Mongolian House Inc.
CBD designs and builds restaurants. Its client, Mongolian House, wanted to renovate an upscale Chicago restaurant called “Plan B.” CBD designed the interior and in 2006 filed blueprints to obtain a “repair and replace” building permit. CBD completed the construction work in 2007. In 2008 a CBD employee visited the city’s offices on other business and chanced upon blueprints for Plan B that were labeled with another architect’s name. The city refused to provide a copy, saying the blueprints were exempt from disclosure. Mongolian House defaulted on payments to CBD. In 2009 the city issued a new building permit for Plan B based on the 2008 blueprints. In 2012 CBD sued, alleging copyright infringement and state-law claims. The district court dismissed the claims under the Copyright Act’s three-year statute of limitations, 17 U.S.C. 507(b), reasoning that CBD was on “inquiry notice” of a possible copyright violation when its employee happened upon the 2008 blueprints. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The Supreme Court recently clarified that the Act’s limitations period establishes a “separate accrual rule” so that “each infringing act starts a new limitations period.” CBD’s complaint alleges potentially infringing acts within the three-year look-back period from the date of suit. View “Chicago Bldg. Design, P.C. v. Mongolian House Inc.” on Justia Law
Kienitz v. Sconnie Nation, LLC
While a student at University of Wisconsin in 1969, Soglin attended the first Mifflin Street Block Party. Now in his seventh term as Mayor of Madison, Wisconsin, Soglin wants to shut down the annual event. For the 2012 Block Party, Sconnie sold 54 t-shirts and tank tops displaying an image of Soglin’s face and the phrase “Sorry for Partying.” Photographer Kienitz accused Sconnie of copyright infringement. Sconnie conceded starting with a photograph that Kienitz took at Soglin’s inauguration that it downloaded from the city’s website. The picture was posterized, background was removed, and Soglin’s face was turned lime green and surrounded by multi-colored writing. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendants, applying the fair use statutory defense to infringement, 17 U.S.C. 107. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, concluding that a shirt is no substitute for the original photograph; Kienitz does not argue that defendants reduced demand for the original work or any use that he is contemplating. Defendants removed so much of the original that, “as with the Cheshire Cat, only the smile remains.” What is left, besides a hint of Soglin’s smile, is the outline of his face, which cannot be copyrighted. Defendants chose the design as a form of political commentary, not for profit. View “Kienitz v. Sconnie Nation, LLC” on Justia Law
Klinger v. Conan Doyle Estate, Ltd.
Arthur Conan Doyle published his first Sherlock Holmes story in 1887 and his last in 1927. Because of statutory extensions of copyright protection culminating in the 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act, American copyrights on the final stories will not expire until 2018-2022. The copyrights on the other 46 stories and four novels have expired, making them part of the public domain. Klinger is co-editor of an anthology: A Study in Sherlock: Stories Inspired by the Sherlock Holmes Canon (2011). Klinger’s publisher, paid the estate $5000 for a license. Klinger decided to create a sequel: In the Company of Sherlock Holmes. The estate learned of the project and threatened to prevent distribution of the book. Klinger obtained a declaratory judgment that he is free to use material in the 50 Sherlock Holmes stories and novels that are no longer under copyright, but may use nothing in the 10 stories still under copyright that has sufficient originality to be copyrightable. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, first rejecting an argument that the court had no subject-matter jurisdiction because there was no actual case or controversy, then rejecting an argument that copyright on a “complex” character, such as Holmes or Watson, whose full complexity is not revealed until a later story, remains under copyright until the later story falls into the public domain. The Constitution, Art. I, section 8, authorizes copyright protection only for “limited Times.” The estate sought “near-perpetual copyright” in seeking 135 years of protection for the character of Sherlock Holmes. View “Klinger v. Conan Doyle Estate, Ltd.” on Justia Law
Conrad v. AM Cmty Credit Union,
Conrad, the “Banana Lady,” a self‐employed singer and dancer, performs in a giant banana costume. After performing a “singing telegram” at a credit union trade association event, she sued, charging infringements of intellectual property rights. Although Conrad claims that she stated that her performance was not to be recorded, except for “personal use,” photos were posted on websites. The district judge dismissed, finding most of the claims precluded by an earlier Wisconsin state court suit, also dismissed. The judge rejected a claim of copyright infringement, over which federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction, on the merits. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, first questioning Conrad’s copyright on the costume, because similar costumes are a common consumer product. The performance was not copyrightable, not being “fixed in any tangible medium of expression,” 17 U.S.C. 102(a). While she has the exclusive right to create or license reproductions of and derivative works from works that she has validly copyrighted, 17 U.S.C. 106(1), (2), it is unlikely that the photos and videos were derivative works. The Act forbids unauthorized recording of a musical performance, 17 U.S.C. 1101(a), and unauthorized display of copyrighted musical or choreographic work, section 106(5), but she did not cite either provision. The court noted Conrad’s “incessant filing of frivolous lawsuits” and suggested that the lower courts “consider enjoining her from filing further suits until she pays her litigation debts.” View “Conrad v. AM Cmty Credit Union,” on Justia Law
Swift v. Medicate Pharm., Inc.
Swift, Schaltenbrand, and Siddle entered into an informal partnership arrangement to operate a mail-order pharmacy, divide the profits from that business, and eventually sell the book of customers to another pharmacy. After some initial success, the partners began taking profit distributions that far exceeded agreed‐upon percentages. Swift eventually filed lawsuits against Schaltenbrand and Siddle. The district court listened to 14 days of testimony before ruling against Swift on most of his claims. The court invalidated a copyright registration that Swift’s marketing company obtained for a logo used by the partnership, finding that Swift knowingly misrepresented a material fact in the application to register a copyright in the logo. The Seventh Circuit affirmed in part, agreeing that Swift failed to prove Schaltenbrand and Siddle breached their obligation to provide him with a share of profits. Swift waived fraud claims by declining to include them in the final pretrial order. The district court erred by invalidating the copyright registration without first consulting the Register of Copyrights as to the significance of the inaccurate information. The Copyright Act requires courts to perform this “curious procedure” before invalidating a registration based on a fraud on the Copyright Office.
Neri v. Monroe
Neri designed a glass sculpture that Architectural Building Arts (ABA) installed in the ceiling of the entrance to Hughes’s Madison condominium. Sager designed lighting for the area. With Hughes’s consent, Ferguson took photographs of the project; two include the sculpture. ABA put copies of the photos on its web site, in a newsletter, and in an application for an architectural award. Sager posted them on her web site; Ferguson posted them to his Flickr page. Neri claimed that the uses violated her copyright. A magistrate judge dismissed on the ground that Neri did not register her copyright, as required before litigation to enforce a copyright, 17 U.S.C. 411(a). Neri submitted a collection of photographs and obtained a certificate of registration. The court concluded that the application was defective and the certificate invalid. The Seventh Circuit vacated, noting the requirements of 37 C.F.R. 202.3(b)(4)(i)(B). The submission had a single title and Neri claims copyright in each of the sculptures represented by the photos and in the collection as a whole. There was no basis for the court’s conclusion that Neri’s submission was not in an “orderly form,” based on an apparent conclusion that only a single document can be orderly. View “Neri v. Monroe” on Justia Law