by
Plaintiff filed suit against various defendants in the film industry, alleging copyright and state law claims, including breach of implied-in-fact contract and declaratory relief. Plaintiff alleged that defendants used his screenplay idea to create "The Purge" films without providing him compensation or credit as a writer. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of defendants' anti-SLAPP motion to strike the state law claims. In this case, plaintiff's implied-in-fact contract claim did not arise from protected free speech activity because the claim was based on defendants' failure to pay for the use of plaintiff's idea, not the creation, production, distribution, or content of the films. The panel also held that defendants' failure to pay was not conduct in furtherance of the right to free speech. View "Jordan-Benel v. Universal City Studios, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Design Basics claims rights to about 2700 home designs and sued Lexington for copyright infringement, contending that Lexington built homes that infringed four Design Basics’ designs. The district court granted Lexington summary judgment, finding no evidence that Lexington ever had access to Design Basics’ home plans. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, agreeing that Design Basics has no evidence of access and stating that no reasonable jury could find that Lexington’s accused plans bear substantial similarities to any original material in Design Basics’ plans. The court noted that its owner acknowledged in his deposition that “potential copyright infringement cases influence[d his] decision to become an owner of Design Basics.” He testified that proceeds from litigation have become a principal revenue stream for Design Basics. “Design Basics’ business model of trawling the Internet for intellectual property treasures is not unique.” View "Design Basics, LLC v. Lexington Homes, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Capacity manufactures “Trailer Jockey” semi-tractors. GFL became an authorized Capacity dealer under a 1995 franchise agreement. In 2013, Capacity notified GFL of its intent to terminate GFL’s franchise, alleging GFL had misrepresented the employment status of a former GFL employee who went to work for Capacity’s chief competitor and allowed the employee to continue accessing Capacity’s online parts ordering system while working for the competitor. GFL filed a protest with the state New Motor Vehicle Board, alleging there was no good cause for the termination, as required by the Vehicle Code. An ALJ concluded Capacity had not established good cause because GFL had not violated the express terms of its franchise agreement. The Board agreed. The Sacramento County Superior Court directed the Board to set aside its decision. While that case was pending GFL filed this suit in the Alameda County Superior Court, which concluded that GFL did not have standing because section 11726 only authorizes actions by “licensees” of the DMV and GFL did not possess such a license. The court of appeal reversed. GFL is a member of the class protected by the subdivision of section 11713.3 on which its cause of action is based; its claim is not defeated by its status as non-licensee. View "Guarantee Fork Lift, Inc. v. Capacity of Texas, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Registration of a copyright has not been made in accordance with 17 U.S.C. 411(a), until the Register of Copyrights registers the claim. Filing an application does not amount to registration. Fourth Estate filed suit against defendants, alleging that Fourth Estate had filed an application to register its allegedly infringed copyrights, but that the Copyright Office had not registered its claims. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the action where Fourth Estate has not alleged infringement of any registered work, and this appeal did not involve the ongoing creation of original works, or potential future infringement of works not yet created. View "Fourth Estate Public Benefit v. Wall-Street.com, LLC" on Justia Law

by
SoundExchange, a nonprofit entity, charged with the responsibility of collecting royalties for performing artists and copyright owners of music, filed suit under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 101 et seq., against Muzak, a company that supplies digital music channels to satellite television networks who, in turn, sell to subscribers. SoundExchange alleged that Muzak underpaid royalties owed. The district court dismissed the complaint. The court concluded that the better interpretation of the statute is that the term "service" under section 114(j)(11) contemplates a double limitation; both the business and the program offering must qualify before the transmissions are eligible for the favorable rate. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court. View "SoundExchange, Inc. v. Muzak LLC" on Justia Law

by
Mavrix filed suit against LiveJournal for posting 20 of its copyrighted photographs online. The district court granted summary judgment for LiveJournal, holding that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's (DMCA), 17 U.S.C. 512(c), safe harbor protected LiveJournal from liability because Mavrix's photographs were posted at the direction of the user. In this case, when users submitted Mavrix's photographs to LiveJournal, LiveJournal posted the photographs after a team of volunteer moderators led by a LiveJournal employee reviewed and approved them. The court disagreed with the district court and concluded that the common law of agency does apply to this analysis and that there were genuine factual disputes regarding whether the moderators were LiveJournal's agents. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded for trial. The court addressed the remaining issues that the district court addressed because these issues may be contested on remand. On remand, the district court must determine whether LiveJournal met the section 512(c) safe harbor threshold requirement by showing that the photographs were posted at the direction of the user, then LiveJournal must show that it lacked actual or red flag knowledge of the infringements and that it did not financially benefit from infringements that it had the right and ability to control. View "Mavrix Photographs, LLC v. LiveJournal, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs, former student athletes, filed suit against T3Media, asserting claims for statutory and common law publicity-rights, as well as an unfair competition claim under California law. Plaintiffs alleged that T3Media exploited their likenesses commercially by selling non-exclusive licenses permitting consumers to download photographs from the NCAA's Photo Library for non-commercial art use. The district court held that the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 101 et seq., preempted plaintiffs' claims and granted T3Media's special motion to strike pursuant to California’s anti-SLAPP statute, Cal. Civ. Proc. Code 425.16. In this case, plaintiffs concede that their suit arises from acts in furtherance of T3Media's right to free speech. Therefore, plaintiffs must demonstrate a reasonable probability of prevailing on their challenged claims. The court concluded that plaintiffs failed to do so because the federal Copyright Act preempts plaintiffs' claims. The court explained that the subject matter of the state law claims falls within the subject matter of copyright, and the rights plaintiffs assert were equivalent to rights within the general scope of copyright. Because the district court did not err in granting T3Media's special motion to strike, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Maloney v. T3Media, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Unicolors filed suit against Urban, alleging copyright infringement of the Subject Design. The district court concluded that defendants were liable for copyright infringement. A jury found that Urban willfully infringed Unicolor's copyright in the Subject Design and awarded damages, as well as fees and costs. The court concluded that a district court may grant summary judgment for plaintiffs on the issue of copying when the works are so overwhelmingly similar that the possibility of independent creation is precluded. The court determined that the works at issue in this case met this standard. The court explained that, because of the decisive objective overlap between the works, no reasonable juror could conclude under the intrinsic test that the works are not substantially similar in total concept and feel. Therefore, the district court properly granted summary judgment in favor of Unicolor. The court also concluded that it is permissible to infer copying in this case, even absent evidence of access; the district court properly held that Unicolors had a valid registration in the Subject Design; and the jury's verdict finding willful infringement is therefore supported by substantial evidence. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Unicolors, Inc. v. Urban Outfitters, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs, BWP Media and National Photo Group, filed suit against T&S, an internet service provider, for direct and secondary infringement. Plaintiffs alleged that T&S hosted an internet forum on which third-party users posted images that infringed copyrights owned by plaintiffs. The district court granted summary judgment for T&S. The court adopted the volitional-conduct requirement in direct-copyright infringement cases, and found that BWP did not contend that T&S did, in fact, engage in such conduct. In this case, the court explained that T&S hosts the forum on which infringing content was posted, but its connection to the infringement ends there. Rather, the users posted the infringing content. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "BWP Media USA, Inc. v. T & S Software Associates, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The “pictorial, graphic, or sculptural features” of a “design of a useful article” are eligible for copyright protection as artistic works if those features “can be identified separately from, and are capable of existing independently of, the utilitarian aspects of the article,” 17 U.S.C. 101. Plaintiffs have copyright registrations for two-dimensional designs, consisting of lines, chevrons, and colorful shapes, appearing on cheerleading uniforms that they design, make, and sell. They sued a competitor for infringement. The district court rejected the claims on summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed. A feature incorporated into the design of a useful article is eligible for copyright protection only if the feature can be perceived as a two- or three-dimensional work of art separate from the useful article and would qualify as a protectable pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work—either on its own or fixed in some other tangible medium of expression—if it were imagined separately from the useful article into which it is incorporated. That test is satisfied here. The feature cannot be a useful article or “[a]n article that is normally a part of a useful article,” nor the replica of a useful article in another medium. While plaintiffs have no right to prevent anyone from manufacturing a cheerleading uniform that is identical in shape, cut, or dimensions to the uniforms at issue here, an artistic feature that is eligible for copyright protection on its own does not lose that protection simply because it was first created as a feature of the design of a useful article, even if it makes that article more useful. View "Star Athletica, L. L. C. v. Varsity Brands, Inc." on Justia Law