Justia Copyright Opinion Summaries

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In these consolidated appeals, appellants challenge the royalty rates and terms established by the Board for the period of January 1, 2018 through December 31, 2022. Appellants challenged numerous aspects of the Board's final determination: the Streaming Services argue that the Board's decision impermissibly applies retroactively; the Streaming Services challenge the Board's rate structure and the specific rates applicable under that structure; the Streaming Services and the Copyright Owners each object to the Board's definition of certain terms; and songwriter George Johnson challenges the Board's acceptance of the Subpart A settlement, as well as its adoption of the final rate structure.The DC Circuit rejected the Streaming Services' retroactivity objection and the challenges brought by the Copyright Owners and George Johnson. However, the court agreed with the Streaming Services that the Board failed to provide adequate notice of the final rate structure, failed to reasonably explain its rejection of the Phonorecords II settlement as a benchmark, and failed to identify under what authority it substantively redefined a term after publishing its initial determination. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, and vacated and remanded to the Board in part because it failed to give adequate notice or to sufficiently explain critical aspects of its decisionmaking. View "Johnson v. Copyright Royalty Board" on Justia Law

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Since 2007, EC Design, LLC, sold its popular personal organizer, the LifePlanner. In 2015, Craft Smith, Inc., wanting to enter the personal-organizer market, reached out to EC Design about a possible collaboration. EC Design and Craft Smith couldn't agree to a collaboration. Craft Smith, with input from Michaels Stores, Inc., designed and developed a personal organizer to sell in Michaels stores, leading to this action in Utah federal district court. EC Design claims the Craft Smith and Michaels product infringed on the LifePlanner’s registered compilation copyright and unregistered trade dress. The district court disagreed, granting summary judgment in favor of Craft Smith and Michaels (collectively, the Appellees) on both issues. On the copyright issue, the district court concluded that EC Design did not own a valid copyright in its asserted LifePlanner compilation. On trade dress, the district court held that EC Design had failed to create a genuine issue of material fact over whether the LifePlanner’s trade dress had acquired secondary meaning. Though the Tenth Circuit disagreed with how the district court framed the copyright issue, the Tenth Circuit affirmed because no reasonable juror could conclude that the allegedly infringing aspects of Appellees’ organizer were substantially similar to the protected expression in the LifePlanner compilation. With respect to the trade dress issue, the Tenth Circuit agreed with the district court: EC Design had failed to create a genuine issue of material fact over whether the LifePlanner’s trade dress had acquired secondary meaning. Summary judgment as to both claims was affirmed. View "Craft Smith v. EC Design" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims under the Copyright Act and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Plaintiff alleged claims of copyright infringement and copyright management information (CMI) removal based on an underlying controversy involving defendants' promotion of their own version of a honey harvesting product, which replaced one that plaintiff had invented and that defendants had sold for many years through a website defendants owned.The court held that plaintiff was not entitled to statutory damages or attorneys' fees, because the first allegedly infringing act occurred before the date of the copyright registration and no genuine issue of material fact exists concerning this issue. The court also held that plaintiff failed to establish a CMI removal claim under the DMCA, because "Fischer's" cannot be construed as a CMI with respect to the advertising text at issue because it is simply the name of the product being described. View "Fischer v. Forrest" on Justia Law

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These appeals involves a sculptural work called “the Maniken,” which portrays the human body. The defendant, Balanced Body University, bought several Manikens and used them to advertise and instruct students on human anatomy. Jon Zahourek and his company Zahourek Systems, Inc., sued for copyright infringement (among other claims). The district court granted summary judgment to Balanced Body University on the copyright-infringement claim, concluding that the Maniken was unprotected as a “useful article.” If the Maniken was a useful article, it wouldn’t ordinarily be protectible under the copyright laws. The Tenth Circuit concluded that a genuine issue of material fact existed on whether the Maniken was a useful article. View "Zahourek Systems v. Balanced Body University" on Justia Law

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IPG, an agent for royalty claimants in these proceedings, filed suit challenging Copyright Royalty Judges' denial of most of its clients' royalty fee claims for programming in the devotional and program suppliers' categories that was retransmitted by cable during specific years. IPG lost the right to pursue many of its clients' claims as a result of a discovery sanction and ultimately failed to establish for certain claims that it was a duly appointed agent pressing valid claims.The DC Circuit affirmed the Judges' decisions as to IPG's challenge to the revocation of the presumption of validity where the Judges did not abuse their discretion in withholding the presumption based on false testimony and where IPG received constitutionally adequate due process; affirmed as to IPG's challenge to the imposition of discovery sanctions where the sanction, while harsh, was not arbitrary and capricious and did not violate due process; and affirmed as to IPG's challenge to the final distribution of royalties where the Judges' distribution methodology decisions were well within a zone of reasonableness. View "Independent Producers Group v. Copyright Royalty Board" on Justia Law

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IMAPizza, which operates the "&pizza" chain of restaurants in the United States, filed suit under the Copyright and Lanham Acts as well as D.C. common law against At Pizza, operator of the "@pizza" restaurant in Edinburgh, Scotland.The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of IMAPizza's Copyright and Lanham Act claims, holding that IMAPizza failed to state a claim under the Copyright Act because it did not allege an act of copyright infringement in the United States. The court declined to extend the Copyright Act beyond its territorial limits lest U.S. law be used to sanction what might be lawful conduct in another country. The court also held that IMAPizza failed to state a claim under the Lanham Act because it failed to allege some plausible effect — let alone a significant or substantial effect — upon U.S. commerce. Finally, the court held that IMAPizza's trespass claim fails for want of any unauthorized entry into its restaurants, and the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying IMAPizza's motions for leave to file a surreply and to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the U.K.'s "passing off" claim. View "Imapizza, LLC v. At Pizza Limited" on Justia Law

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Digidrill filed suit against its competitor, Petrolink, alleging that Petrolink hacked into its software at various oil drilling sites in order to "scrape" valuable drilling data in real time. The district court granted Petrolink's motion for summary judgment on Digidrill's copyright claims. Digidrill's unjust enrichment claim proceeded to trial, where a jury returned a verdict in Digidrill's favor.In regard to the copyright infringement claim, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment and held that Digidrill likely waived its "qualitative importance" argument but, even if not, the argument fails on the merits because no reasonable jury could find substantial similarity based on the qualitative importance of the copied schema to DataLogger as a whole. The court also affirmed the district court's judgment as to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act claims, holding that the USB dongle and Interface Process did not effectively control access to the protected database schema.The court also held that Digidrill's unjust enrichment claim is not preempted by the Copyright Act because the claim incorporates an element beyond mere unauthorized copying. The court held that the available Texas authorities do not foreclose the possibility that a litigant may show the taking of an undue advantage without showing the violation of a law or legal duty. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's denial of Petrolink's judgment as a matter of law on the issue of whether Digidrill adduced sufficient evidence of the benefit Petrolink obtained from Digidrill. Finally, the court held that the district court failed to treat Petrolink as the prevailing party under the relevant statutes and failed to apply the correct legal standard. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's denial of Petrolink's motion for fees and remanded. View "Digital Drilling Data Systems, LLC v. Petrolink Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, twelve record companies, filed suit against defendant alleging claims for five separate violations of the Copyright Act. Plaintiffs are Delaware corporations, with eight having their principal place of business in New York, three in California, and one in Florida. Defendant, born in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, is a Russian citizen who still resides in Rostov-on-Don. Defendant owns and operates websites that offer visitors a stream-ripping service through which audio tracks may be extracted from videos available on various platforms and converted into a downloadable format.The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of defendant's motion to dismiss, holding that defendant's contacts sufficiently show he purposefully availed himself of the privilege of conducting business in Virginia. Therefore, the exercise of specific personal jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(k)(1) is appropriate if it is constitutionally reasonable. Because the district court did not perform a reasonability analysis in the first instance, the court remanded for the district court to do so. View "UMG Recordings, Inc. v. Kurbanov" on Justia Law

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Apple owns Madison, Wisconsin vitamin stores. Knott, a former Apple employee, was fired in 2017. Knott founded his own vitamin shop, Embrace Wellness, in Middleton, Wisconsin. Embrace allegedly shared design features and a similar layout with Apple’s locations and carried comparable products. Apple sued, alleging infringement of its trademark, trade dress, and copyrights. The defendants filed counterclaims for tortious interference and retaliation. Apple sought a preliminary injunction on the trademark and trade dress claims, which the court denied, explaining that Apple had failed to show a likelihood of irreparable harm. Apple then moved to dismiss its own claims without prejudice. Because the defendants had already expended resources litigating an injunction, the court ordered Apple to withdraw its motion or accept dismissal with prejudice, expressing its opinion that no party’s claim was strong. Apple agreed to dismiss its claims with prejudice.The court subsequently denied defendants’ motion for fees; they appealed with respect to the copyright claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Apple’s copyright claims were frivolous—common-law copyright was abolished in 1976—but the totality of the circumstances did not warrant fees. There was no evidence that Apple had filed suit with an improper motive, and no need to deter future frivolous filings. The case was primarily about trademark and trade dress. no motions were filed related to copyright. Apple dismissed the copyright claims voluntarily before defendants had to argue against them. View "Timothy B. O'Brien LLC v. Knott" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of the Welsh Government's motion to dismiss claims of copyright infringement brought by Pablo Star over two photographs of the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas and his wife, Caitlin Macnamara, on the ground of sovereign immunity. The Welsh Government argued that the commercial-activity exception of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) does not apply to its conduct promoting Welsh culture and tourism in New York.The court held, however, that the Welsh Government engaged in commercial activity in publicizing Wales-themed events in New York, and that the Welsh Government's activity had substantial contact with the United States. Therefore, Pablo Star's lawsuit falls within an exception to the immunity recognized in the FSIA. View "Pablo Star Ltd. v. The Welsh Government" on Justia Law