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Preview: LexisNexis® Mealey's™ Copyright Legal News

LexisNexis® Mealey's™ Copyright Legal News

Headline Copyright Legal News from LexisNexis®


Adult Site Owner's Petition Over Vicarious, Direct Copyright Infringement Denied
WASHINGTON, D.C. - In its Dec. 4 order list, the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari to the operator of an adult website that had appealed a Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that a usenet provider was not liable for direct or vicarious infringement of its copyrighted images due to a lack of volitional conduct (Perfect 10 Inc. v. Giganews Inc., et al, No. 17-320, U.S. Sup., 2017 U.S. LEXIS 7259).

Copyright Plaintiff Partly Prevails In Dispute Over Streaming TV Content
MIAMI - A Florida federal judge on Dec. 11 entered summary judgment on behalf of a producer of Colombian television and its distributor, amid allegations that a defendant created a website to stream the plaintiffs' copyrighted content in the United States without permission (Caracol Television S.A., et al. v. TVmiaInternational Corp., et al., No. 16-23486, S.D. Fla., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 204575).

Adult Film Firm May Subpoena ISP For File Sharer's Identity
SAN DIEGO - An adult entertainment firm has sufficiently established a prima facie copyright infringement case against a John Doe online file sharer, a California federal magistrate ruled Dec. 7, granting the plaintiff's motion to conduct expedited discovery on the Doe's internet service provider (ISP) to identify the defendant for litigation purposes (Strike 3 Holdings LLC v. John Doe, No. 3:17-cv-02312, S.D. Calif.).

Heightened Standard Applied To Fraud-Based Lanham Act Claims
CHICAGO - Allegations of copyright infringement and common-law trademark infringement survived a motion to dismiss Dec. 21, but an Illinois federal judge deemed dismissal of the remainder of the complaint - including causes of action for unfair competition and false advertising - warranted (VitalGo Inc., et al. v. Kreg Therapeutics Inc., et al., No. 16-5577, N.D. Ill., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 210362).

Copyright Claim To Proceed In South Carolina Federal Court
CHARLESTON, S.C. - A copyright infringement plaintiff on Jan. 2 not only defeated a defense motion for summary judgment but also prevailed on its request for sanctions when a South Carolina federal judge agreed that a defendant failed to comply with two interrogatories (Sinclair and Associates of Greenville, LLC v. CresCom Bank, et al., No. 16-465, D. S.C., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 303).

Copyright Claims Over Chanukah-Themed Party Accessories Survive In Part
NEW YORK - In a Dec. 8 ruling, a New York federal judge found that although menorahs and dreidels depicted on Chanukah-themed paper cups and plates are "indisputably unprotectable," a comparison in a copyright infringement case of competing cups and plates shows that the items share "virtually identical expressions of those" unprotectable features pursuant to Fisher-Price, Inc. v. Well-Made Toy Mfg. Corp., 25 F.3d 119, 124 (2d Cir. 1994) (King Zak Industries Inc. v. Toys 4 U USA Corp., No. 16-9676, S.D. N.Y., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 202784).

9th Circuit Affirms: Subaru Did Not Infringe Copyright, Trademarks
SAN FRANCISCO - In a Dec. 12 ruling decided without oral argument, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld a California federal judge's dismissal of copyright and trademark infringement allegations stemming from Subaru of America Inc.'s use of "Share the Love" as a slogan in television advertisements (Marilyn Mintz v. Subaru of America Inc., No. 16-3384, 9th Cir.).

6th Circuit Remands Refusal To Unmask Blogger In Copyright Case
CINCINNATI - In what it deemed an issue of first impression, a divided Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Nov. 28 held that a general presumption in favor of unmasking anonymous defendants exists when a judgment has been entered in favor of a plaintiff (Signature Management Team LLC v. John Doe, No. 16-2188, 6th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 23974).

9th Circuit Reverses As 'Unreasonable' Fee Award In Copyright Case
SAN FRANCISCO - In a Dec. 19 holding, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld a California federal judge's denial of summary judgment on copyright infringement claims but vacated and remanded an award of attorney fees on behalf of a prevailing defendant (Anthony Johnson v. Storix Inc., No. 16-55439, 9th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 25682).

9th Circuit Upholds Fee Award In Favor Of Copyright Defendants
SAN FRANCISCO - Two sons of the late concert promoter Bill Graham were properly ordered by a California federal judge to reimburse the attorney fees incurred by four copyright infringement defendants, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Dec. 13 (Alexander Graham-Sult, et al., v. Nicholas Clainos, et al., Nos. 15-17204, 16-16768, - 17083, 9th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 25187).

Music Publisher Sues For $1.6 Billion For Unpaid Songwriter Royalties
LOS ANGELES - A music publishing firm on Dec. 29 sued Spotify USA Inc. for $1.6 billion in California federal court, asserting that the online music-streaming provider has failed to obtain proper licenses to cover royalties to songwriters who hold the copyrights in the compositions for songs that Spotify users have streamed billions of times (Wixen Music Publishing Inc. v. Spotify USA Inc., No. 2:17-cv-09288, C.D. Calif.).

News Service Asks High Court To Decide If Copyright Suit Requires Registration
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A news content provider argues in a Dec. 13 brief that a copyright infringement suit may be filed for an unregistered work if a copyright application has been filed for the work, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to resolve a circuit split on the matter (Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp. v. LLC, et al., No. 17-571, U.S. Sup.).

Photographer, Publisher Debate Copyright Pleadings Standard In 2nd Circuit
NEW YORK - With a Feb. 2 oral argument date approaching, the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has been fully briefed by a photographer who alleges that a license to use his copyrighted pictures was exceeded and a publisher that says the infringement claim against it was properly dismissed for failure to plead with specificity (Michael Yamashita, et al. v. Scholastic Inc., No. 17-1957, 2nd Cir.).

Criminal Copyright Infringement As A RICO Predicate Act: The Makings Of A District Court Split
By Scott P. Ceresia I. Criminal Copyright Infringement and Civil RICO The impact of a party in a civil litigation asserting a claim under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO") can hardly be overstated. Courts warn that the mere assertion of a RICO claim, with its quasi-criminal character and onerous treble damages, "has an almost inevitable stigmatizing effect on those named as defendants,"1 and have even likened such claims to "the litigation equivalent of a thermonuclear device."2

Copyright, Trademark Claims Survive Dismissal Request In Illinois Court
CHICAGO - Efforts by two defendants to obtain dismissal of allegations they committed copyright and trademark infringement by copying and exhibiting photographs by the late Vivian Maier were unsuccessful on Nov. 20, when an Illinois federal judge deemed claims by a public administrator appointed to Maier's estate upon her death in 2009 adequately pleaded (The Estate of Vivian Maier v. Jeffrey Goldstein, et al., No. 17-2951, N.D. Ill., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 191294).

On Remand, Texas Federal Judge Won't Dismiss Copyright Infringement Claim
HOUSTON - In a Nov. 21 ruling, a Texas federal judge interpreted the phrase "lawfully made under this title" as it appears in Section 109 of the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 109, to mean "that a copy is lawful if it was made in the United States in compliance with Title 17 or in a foreign country in a manner that would comply with Title 17 if United States copyright law applied" (Geophysical Services Inc. v. TGS Nopec-Geophysical Services, No. 14-1368, S.D. Texas, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 192803).

2nd Circuit Affirms Rejection Of DMCA Claim, Denial Of Attorney Fees
NEW YORK - A New York federal judge did not err in rejecting allegations that a licensee violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), 17 U.S.C. 1201(a), when it modified security measures to prevent two software programs from self-enforcing certain licensing restrictions because the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate the copyrightability of the underlying programs, the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Nov. 8 (Dynamic Concepts Inc. and Point 4 Data Corp. v. Tri-State Surgical Supply, et al., Nos. 15-0563, -3212, 2nd Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 22348).

BitTorrent Users Severed, Dismissed In 'Mechanic: Resurrection' Copyright Suit
LAS VEGAS - Adopting a magistrate's recommendation, a California federal judge on Nov. 7 severed all but one defendant accused of infringing a movie's copyright via online file sharing, with the judge deeming the defendants improperly joined (ME2 Productions Inc. v. Mikiyas Bayu, et al., No. 2:17-cv-00724, D. Nev., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 184021).

Copyright Infringement, Trade Secrets Claims Dismissed In Misappropriation Suit
TRENTON, N.J. - An engineering firm in a misappropriation of trade secrets lawsuit has failed to show that it had a valid copyright registration or had applied for a copyright it alleges two former employees misappropriated after becoming employed by the firm's competitor, a federal judge in New Jersey ruled Nov. 6 in dismissing the firm's complaint without prejudice (Kipcon Inc. v. D.W. Smith Associates LLC, No. 17-3190, D. N.J., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 183576).

Company's Claims In Trade Secrets, Copyright Suit Survive Motion To Dismiss
SHERMAN, Texas - A company has properly stated a claim for relief in seeking declaratory relief against several former employees and its direct competitor for alleged trade secret misappropriation and patent and copyright infringement, among other things, and its claims under the Copyright Act provide a federal district court with federal question jurisdiction, a federal judge in Texas ruled Nov. 20 in denying the defendants' motion to dismiss (Performance Pulsation Control Inc. v. Sigma Drilling Technologies LLC, et al., No. 17-0450, E.D. Texas, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 191530).

4th Circuit Affirms: Computer Fraud Claims Preempted By Copyright Act
RICHMOND, Va. - Allegations that the creator of a cloud computing environment committed computer fraud when it copied and transferred data to former employees of a company it once contracted with are preempted by the Copyright Act, the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Nov. 13 (OpenRisk LLC v. MicroStrategy Services Corp., No. 16-1852, 4th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 22736).

5th Circuit Affirms: State Law Claim Preempted By Copyright, Patent Statutes
NEW ORLEANS - An allegation of unfair competition by misappropriation under Texas law was properly rejected by a Texas federal judge on the basis of federal preemption under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 101 et seq., and Patent Act, 35 U.S.C. 1 et seq., the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Nov. 14 (Motion Medical Technologies LLC, et al. v. ThermoTek Inc., No. 16-11381, 5th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 22826).

Justices Will Not Review Role Of Expert Testimony In Copyright Infringement Cases
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Supreme Court on Nov. 6 denied a petition for a writ of certiorari in a copyright infringement action over the popular John Madden Football series computer game in which the court was asked to determine the standard for the admissibility of expert testimony in copyright infringement disputes involving computer codes (Robin Antonick v. Electronic Arts Inc., No. 17-168, U.S. Sup.).

Architectural Expert's Testimony Restricted In Home Design Copyright Case
TOLEDO, Ohio - An architectural expert in a home design copyright infringement action cannot opine that a company's designs do not merit copyright protection because the opinion is an impermissible legal conclusion, though the expert can testify about the similarities and differences between the parties' designs, an Ohio federal judge held Nov. 14 (Design Basics LLC v. Forrester Wehrle Homes, Inc., et al., No. 3:15-cv-00666, N.D. Ohio, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 188005).

Federal Circuit: Fees Due On Trade Dress Claims, Not Copyright, Patent Claims
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A Texas federal judge's denial of a motion to dismiss a declaratory judgment action relating to patent, copyright and trade dress protection for fiberglass utility bodies for use with trucks was affirmed Nov. 7 by the Federal Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which agreed that an actual case or controversy existed between the parties (Industrial Models Inc. v. SNF Inc., et al., Nos 17-1172, -1173, Fed. Cir.).

Singapore Jurisdiction Debated In Appeal Of Hotel Photos Copyright Suit
NEW YORK - In a Nov. 1 reply brief, an intellectual property holding company tells the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals that a trial court erred in dismissing its copyright infringement claims against a Singapore firm for forum non conveniens, arguing that the defendant's business ties in the United States, as well as its acts of infringement, adequately established New York jurisdiction (The Wave Studio LLC v. General Hotel Management Ltd., et al., No. 17-1018, 2nd Cir.).

Adult Site Operator Tells High Court Usenet Provider Benefitted From Infringement
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals mistakenly held that a usenet service provider did not profit from the millions of unauthorized copyrighted images on its fee-based websites, an adult website operator argues in a Nov. 8 reply brief to the U.S. Supreme Court, seeking a writ of certiorari to resolve what it says is a circuit split over a copyright holder's duty to establish an infringer's profits directly attributable to its works (Perfect 10 Inc. v. Giganews Inc., et al, No. 17-320, U.S. Sup.).

Ownership Of 1973 Song's Copyrights Debated In 2nd Circuit Briefs
NEW YORK - In briefs filed with the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, a rhythm and blues band and other parties connected with a 1973 song they recorded, spar over ownership of the song's copyrights, notably related to recent songs that sampled the old recording (John Wilson, et al. v. Dynatone Publishing Co., et al., No. 17-1549, 2nd Cir.).

10th Circuit: Refusal To Allow Amended Copyright Claim Not Erroneous
DENVER - A Utah federal judge's decision to deny The SCO Group Inc. leave to amend its tortious interference complaint against International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) to add a new claim for copyright infringement was affirmed Oct. 30 by the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals (The SCO Group Inc. v. International Business Machines Corp., No. 16-4040, 10th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 21487).

Hawaii Federal Judge Partly Grants Sanctions In Copyright Case
HONOLULU - Although refusing to dismiss a copyright infringement case outright as a sanction for providing insufficient discovery responses, a Hawaii federal judge on Oct. 17 ordered a plaintiff to supplement the discovery responses, attend a status conference and be deposed, as well as pay all court reporter fees associated with the deposition (Keoni Payton v. Defend Inc., et al., No. 15-238, D. Hawaii, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 171877).

Company Awarded More Than $6.8M In Damages In Trade Secrets Lawsuit
LOS ANGELES - A defendant in a misappropriation of trade secrets and copyright infringement lawsuit will pay more than $6.8 million in damages on claims that he used his former employer's trade secrets to develop a competing 3-D imaging device for the dental industry, a federal judge in California ruled Oct. 19 in granting the former employer's motion for damages and entry of judgment (Sirona Dental Systems Inc., et al. v. Jian Lu, No. 15-8777, C.D. Calif., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 174510).

Some Defenses Stricken In Florida Trade Dress, Trademark, Copyright Case
ORLANDO, Fla. - A declaratory judgment defendant and copyright, trademark and trade dress infringement counterclaimant partly prevailed Oct. 18 before a Florida federal magistrate judge, who agreed to strike various affirmative defenses raised in response to the counterclaims (Systematic Home Staging LLC v. MHM Professional Staging LLC, No. 17-1327, M.D. Fla., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 172036).

Request For Dismissal Of Copyright Claim Denied By California Federal Judge
SAN FRANCISCO - Allegations that a copyright infringement case is time-barred as well as deficient for failure to satisfy the registration requirement of the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 411, were turned away Oct. 18 by a California federal judge (Margaret Eve-Lynne Miyasaki v. Kyna Treacy, No. 12-4427, N.D. Calif., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 172705).

Plaintiff Pleaded Elements Of Federal Trade Secrets Claim, Federal Judge Rules
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - A federal judge in Virginia on Oct. 16 ruled that the co-owner of a software developer may bring a federal trade secret misappropriation claim against his co-owner, a former employee and others because the plaintiff has sufficiently pleaded the elements of his claim in alleging that the defendants misappropriated software code for two LLCs they stated (Todd Hawkins v. Jonathan B. Fishbeck, et al., No. 17-0032, W.D. Va., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 170678).

Illinois Federal Judge Awards $650,000 In Copyright, Trademark Case
CHICAGO - A defendant who sold counterfeit "Monster Energy" products online was ordered by an Illinois federal judge on Oct. 23 to pay Monster Energy Co. $650,000 in damages in connection with allegations of copyright and trademark infringement (Monster Energy Company v. Zheng Peng, et al., No. 17-414, N.D. Ill., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 175287).

Dismissal Of Copyright Claims Upheld By 9th Circuit On Jurisdiction Grounds
SAN FRANCISCO - Although a United Kingdom limited company intentionally copied a competitor's logos for reproduction on its newsletters, the intentionally infringing acts were not expressly aimed at the state of California, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Nov. 1, affirming dismissal of a copyright infringement action (Axiom Foods Inc., et al. v. Acerchem UK Limited, No. 15-56450, 9th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 21801).

Megaupload Executives Denied Certiorari In Fugitive Disentitlement Dispute
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A group of former executives of the now-defunct file-sharing service Megaupload who were convicted for criminal copyright convictions won't have their questions about fugitive disentitlement of assets heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, as their petition for certiorari was denied in the high court's Oct. 2 order list (Finn Batato, et al. v. United States, No. 16-1206, U.S. Sup.).

Supreme Court Denies Certiorari In Dispute Over Substantial Similarity Test
WASHINGTON, D.C. - In its Oct. 10 orders list, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will not review a case that posed the question of which test for substantial similarity controls when determining whether copyright infringement has occurred (Shame On You Productions Inc. v. Elizabeth Banks, et al., No. 17-180, U.S. Sup.).

Supreme Court Won't Hear Suit Over Liability For Online Sale Of Infringing Goods
WASHINGTON, D.C. - In its Oct. 10 order list, the U.S. Supreme denied a petition for certiorari in a children's pillowcase maker's suit against Inc., declining to consider questions regarding an online retailer's liability for the sale of a third party's goods that infringe another's patents or copyrights (Milo & Gabby LLC, et al. v. Inc., No. 17-287, U.S. Sup.).

1st Circuit Affirms: Copyrights Conveyed To Gripe Website
BOSTON - The First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Oct. 11 upheld findings by a Massachusetts federal judge that a disgruntled civil litigant conveyed a nonexclusive license to the "Ripoff Report" website when he clicked a box acknowledging that a user who posts on the site agrees to give the site's owner an "irrevocable right" to display the posting (Small Justice LLC, et al. v. Xcentric Ventures LLC, Nos. 15-1506, 16-1085, 1st Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 19866).

3 Studio Plaintiffs Added In Amended Copyright Complaint Against VidAngel
LOS ANGELES - After receiving adverse rulings for sanctions, contempt and a preliminary injunction, video-streaming service provider VidAngel Inc. saw three more movie studios join a copyright infringement lawsuit against it, with the Oct. 6 filing of a first amended complaint (FAC) (Disney Enterprises Inc., et al. v. VidAngel Inc., No. 2:16-cv-004109, C.D. Calif.).

California Magistrate Judge OKs Service By Publication In Copyright, Patent Case
SAN FRANCISCO - Citing an inability by a copyright, patent and trade dress infringement plaintiff to serve a copy of its complaint on two defendants, a California federal judge on Oct. 6 found "good cause" to allow service by publication (Rain Design Inc. v. Spinido Inc., et al., No. 17-3681, N.D. Calif., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 166415).

Bar On Expert Testimony In Copyright Cases Not Cert Worthy, Video Maker Says
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Supreme Court should deny certiorari in a copyright infringement action over the popular John Madden Football series computer game because the federal circuit courts agree that disputed works must be placed into evidence so a jury can compare them, and any ruling on the role of expert witnesses in software copying cases would not change the outcome of the case at hand, the video game maker argues in a Sept. 28 response brief (Robin Antonick v. Electronic Arts Inc., No. 17-168, U.S. Sup., 2017 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 3769).

Builder Appeals Home Plan 'Thin' Copyright Protection To U.S. Supreme Court
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A homebuilder in a Sept. 14 petition for certiorari asks the U.S. Supreme Court to review an 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that it says devalues architectural plan copyrights, simultaneously arguing that the disposition of its infringement suit via summary judgment deprived it of the right to a jury trial under the Seventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (Arthur Rutenberg Homes Inc., et al. v. Jewel Homes LLC, et al., No. 17-511, U.S. Sup.).

FedEx, Nonprofit Argue Over Noncommercial Copyright License In 2nd Circuit
NEW YORK - A nonprofit educational firm and FedEx Office and Print Services Inc. briefed the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on issues surrounding the noncommercial use requirement in a public license for downloadable materials, with the parties disagreeing whether FedEx violated the materials' copyright by copying the materials for school districts (Great Minds v FedEx Office and Print Services Inc., No. 17-808, 2nd Cir.).

Zillow Tells 9th Circuit Use Of Home Photos On Website Was Fair Use
SAN FRANCISCO - In an Oct. 26 brief appealing a $4 million statutory damages award that assigned a per-photo fine for 2,700 real estate photos deemed infringing, Zillow Group Inc. tells the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals that its online use of the pictures was transformative and fair use (VHT Inc. v. Zillow Group Inc., et al., No. 17-35587 and 17-35588, 9th Cir.).

Usenet Provider Opposes Adult Site's Certiorari Bid In Vicarious Copyright Suit
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Asserting that an appeals court's ruling in its favor presented no conflicts with copyright law or controlling case law, a usenet provider argues in an Oct. 20 brief in the U.S. Supreme Court that there is no merit to an adult website operator's petition for certiorari appealing a finding that the respondent was not liable for infringing content posted by its users (Perfect 10 Inc. v. Giganews Inc., et al, No. 17-320, U.S. Sup.).