Justia Copyright Opinion Summaries
Melendez v. Sirius XM Radio, Inc.
Plaintiff appealed from the district court’s judgment granting Defendant Sirius XM Radio, Inc. (“Sirius XM”)’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims with prejudice for violations of his right of publicity under California common and statutory law because his claims were preempted by the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. Section 301. The claims arise from Melendez’s performance under the moniker “Stuttering John” on The Howard Stern Show (the “HS Show”) from 1988 until 2004. On appeal, Plaintiff asserted that Sirius XM’s use of excerpts of him from the archival episodes in its online and on-air advertisements promoting the HS Show violates his right of publicity under California common and statutory law because his name and likeness have been exploited for Sirius XM’s commercial gain without his permission. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment. The court held that Plaintiff failed to plausibly allege any use of his name or likeness that is separate from, or beyond, the rebroadcasting, in whole or in part, of the copyrightable material from the HS Show’s archives and, thus, his right of publicity claims are preempted by the Copyright Act. Moreover, because Plaintiff has failed to articulate any allegations that he could add in a second amended complaint that overcome preemption in this case, the court concluded that the district court correctly determined that any leave to re-plead would be futile and properly dismissed his claims with prejudice. View "Melendez v. Sirius XM Radio, Inc." on Justia Law
Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. Griffith
A world-famous boxer and a famous MMA fighter faced one another in a legendary fight, produced by Showtime, which allowed individuals to live-stream the fight from Showtime’s website for $99.99. Showtime granted Mayweather the exclusive right to exhibit and distribute, and authorize the exhibition and distribution of, the fight. Mayweather enlisted JHP to issue commercial licenses. JHP sold commercial licenses to broadcast the event at bars and restaurants and collected fees, ranging from $3,700-$15,700. The fight was not registered as a copyrighted work when it first aired on August 26, 2017. Two months later, Showtime applied to register its copyright, as the sole author and claimant. Showtime later signed the Copyright Agreement, giving JHP the exclusive right to distribute and publicly perform the fight live and the exclusive right to sue anyone who live-streamed the fight without paying the licensing fee. JHP sued several restaurants and bars that aired the fight without paying.In an action for copyright infringement, 17 U.S.C. 106, 501, the district court granted the defendants summary judgment, finding that JHP did not own the copyright to the fight on the day it aired and that the “retroactive transfer" was ineffective. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The Copyright Agreement merely codified earlier transfers in the wake of the post hoc registration, there is no retroactivity issue. JHP owned the exclusive right to distribute and publicly display the fight on the day it aired. View "Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. Griffith" on Justia Law
Anthony Campbell v. June James
Plaintiff wrote and recorded the song “Everything Be Lit,” which he later copyrighted. Then Plaintiff filed suit against several parties and Think It’s a Game Records (TIG) for copyright infringement based on one of Defendant’s recordings and release of a similar song “Everyday We Lit.” Two co-defendants failed to respond to the initial complaint and the district court entered a default against them. Plaintiff later filed an amended complaint, requesting among other forms of relief, actual profits, jointly and severally, from Defendants. One Defendant raised several issues on appeal, including that the district court erred in using Plaintiff’s amended complaint as the basis for the default judgment because the amended complaint stated a new claim for relief, and Plaintiff failed to serve the amended complaint on Defendant as required by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Eleventh Circuit agreed that the amended complaint stated a new claim for relief, and therefore, the district court erred in concluding that Plaintiff did not have to serve the amended complaint on Defendant. Accordingly, the court vacated the default judgment and remanded for further proceedings. The court explained that the Copyright Act did not put Defendant on notice that he could be subject to joint and several liability for actual damages and profits. Thus, Plaintiff’s claim for actual damages plus profits, jointly and severally, constituted a new claim for relief. View "Anthony Campbell v. June James" on Justia Law
WB MUSIC CORP. V. ROYCE INTL. BROADCASTING CORP.
The district court appointed the receiver and authorized him to sell Defendants’ property—three radio stations—to generate the funds needed to satisfy the judgment. Contending that they had satisfied the judgment by depositing certain sums with the district court, Defendants moved to discharge the receiver, terminate the receivership, and enjoin the sale of the radio stations. The district court denied the motion, holding that it was within its discretion to prolong the receivership in order to protect other creditors and ensure that the receiver would be paid for his services. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s order denying Defendants’ motion to discharge a receiver who had been appointed to aid in the execution of a judgment for violations of the Copyright Act. Agreeing with the First Circuit, the panel held that, even assuming Defendants satisfied the judgment, it was within the district court’s discretion to prolong the receivership. The panel further held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendants’ motion to terminate the receivership. The district court offered valid reasons for not terminating the receivership—protecting creditors, permitting the receiver to prepare a final accounting, ensuring that the receiver would be compensated for his time, and seeing to it that obligations incurred during the receivership would be paid. View "WB MUSIC CORP. V. ROYCE INTL. BROADCASTING CORP." on Justia Law
WILL CO., LTD. V. KA LEE
Will Co. Ltd., a Japanese adult entertainment producer, brought a copyright infringement action against the owners and operators of ThisAV.com, a video-hosting site based in Hong Kong, alleging that the site was displaying without authorization several of its copyrighted works. The district court found that it lacked specific personal jurisdiction over ThisAV.com’s owners and operators because Will Co. could not establish that they “expressly aimed” ThisAV.com’s content at the United States market, or that it was foreseeable that operating the site would cause jurisdictionally significant harm in the United States. Defendants were Youhaha Marketing and Promotion Limited (“YMP”) and Ka Yeung Lee.The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal of a copyright suit for lack of specific personal jurisdiction and remanded for further proceedings. The panel concluded that both YMP and Lee committed at least one intentional act by operating ThisAV.com and purchasing its domain name and domain privacy services. As to the second element, both Defendants did “something more” than mere passive operation of the website. As to the third element, Defendants’ conduct caused harm in the United States because there were almost 1.3 million visits to their website in the United States during the relevant period, and that harm was foreseeable. View "WILL CO., LTD. V. KA LEE" on Justia Law
Allen Beaulieu v. Clint Stockwell
Plaintiff, Prince’s photographer, claims his former collaborators and a potential investor in a book project kept his photographs and used them without permission. He sued. The district court granted summary judgment to Defendants on all claims. Plaintiff appealed. The district court granted summary judgment to all defendants. Beaulieu appeals the judgment and the costs awarded to Defendant. Plaintiff presented two possible theories of conversion. The first is an ongoing conversion, that the collaborators still have his photos. The second is a technical conversion, that the collaborators kept his photos for several months after he demanded their return. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained Plaintiff has not given a firm inventory of how many photos he believes are missing. An extensive forensic protocol did not identify any of his materials in their possession or any wrongful use. Plaintiff provides nothing more than speculation and suspicion against Defendants. While Plaintiff has a method for counting the total number of his photos, this is not sufficient to substantiate his allegations. Further, in regards to Plaintiff’s copyright infringement claim, the court explained silence, coupled with continued and normal interactions between him and the collaborators, implied his approval of the marketing plan and the corresponding distribution of his images, and thus showed an implied license. Finally, the court wrote that since Defendants prevailed in showing there was no issue of material fact about the conversion claim or the copyright claim, they also prevail on the tortious interference claim because there is no underlying improper conduct. View "Allen Beaulieu v. Clint Stockwell" on Justia Law
ACT, Inc. v. Worldwide Interactive Network, Inc.
ACT publishes “WorkKeys”—“a system of workforce-development assessments that measure skills affecting job performance” and “Skill Definitions,” descriptions of the skills tested by each assessment. ACT collaborated with WIN to promulgate those assessments, from 1997-2011. The contractual relationship ended in 2011. WIN developed and promoted its own career-readiness-assessment materials. In 2017, ACT contracted with the South Carolina Department of Education and Workforce to provide its WorkKeys assessments to state employers. The state later solicited competing bids for new assessments, ultimately awarding the contract to WIN. WIN’s “Learning Objectives” for Applied Mathematics, Locating Information, and Reading for Information assessments were virtually indistinguishable from ACT’s Skill Definitions. ACT sued.The district court granted ACT partial summary judgment on copyright claims. When the COVID-19 pandemic caused prolonged delays in the litigation, WIN enlisted an education consultant to revise its product. The court ordered ACT to amend its complaint to include allegations about the revised Learning Objectives. WIN then unsuccessfully tried to assert a new defense: derivative sovereign immunity. The district court entered a preliminary injunction, restraining WIN from knowingly infringing ACT’s copyrights in its Skill Definitions, 17 U.S.C. 106, barring WIN from distributing the original and revised Learning Objectives and WIN’s corresponding assessments. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the imposition (and scope) of that preliminary injunction and the rejection, as untimely, of WIN’s argument that because WIN designed the Learning Objectives to bid on state contracts, it was entitled to assert state sovereign immunity. View "ACT, Inc. v. Worldwide Interactive Network, Inc." on Justia Law
Victor Elias Photography, LLC v. Ice Portal, Inc.
Plaintiff, a commercial photographer, discovered infringing uses of his copyrighted images on the internet. Instead of pursuing the infringing parties, Plaintiff brought a lawsuit against Ice Portal, Inc. – now a division of Shiji (US), Inc. (“Shiji”) – which acts as an intermediary between the hotels that licensed Plaintiff’s photographs and online travel agents (“OTAs”) like Expedia and Travelocity.In optimizing the photographs for use by the OTAs, Shiji’s software allegedly removed certain copyright-related information that Plaintiff had embedded within the metadata of the photographs. Defendant claimed that Shiji, therefore, violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”). The district court correctly granted summary judgment to Shiji because Plaintiff did not show an essential element of its claim – namely, that Shiji knew, or had reasonable grounds to know, that its actions would induce, enable, facilitate, or conceal a copyright infringement. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court held that Plaintiff did not meet its burden of coming forward with sufficient evidence demonstrating Section 1202(b)’s second scienter requirement, and judgment in Shiji’s favor was therefore appropriate. The court explained that the statute’s plain language requires some identifiable connection between the defendant’s actions and the infringement or the likelihood of infringement. To hold otherwise would create a standard under which the defendant would always know that its actions would “induce, enable, facilitate, or conceal” infringement because distributing protected images wrongly cleansed of CMI would always make infringement easier in some general sense. View "Victor Elias Photography, LLC v. Ice Portal, Inc." on Justia Law
ELLIOT MCGUCKEN V. PUB OCEAN LIMITED
Plaintiff alleged copyright infringement in the posting by Pub Ocean Ltd. of an article about an ephemeral lake that formed on the desert floor in Death Valley, using twelve of Plaintiff’s photos of the lake without seeking or receiving a license. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s summary judgment in favor of Defendant, based on a fair use defense in an action under the Copyright Act, and remanded for further proceedings. The court held that Pub Ocean could not invoke a fair use defense to Plaintiff’s copyright infringement claim. Under 17 U.S.C. Section 107, in determining whether fair use applies, a court must analyze the purpose and character of the use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole, and the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.The court explained that because all four statutory factors pointed unambiguously in the same direction, the court held that the district court erred in failing to grant partial summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff on the fair use issue. View "ELLIOT MCGUCKEN V. PUB OCEAN LIMITED" on Justia Law
LANG VAN, INC. V. VNG CORPORATION
In a prior appeal, the Ninth Circuit vacated a prior dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction and remanded with instructions that Plaintiff be permitted to undertake jurisdictional discovery. On remand, the district court granted defendant VNG Corporation’s renewed motion to dismiss, finding that there was no specific personal jurisdiction in California over VNG, a Vietnamese corporation that released the Zing MP3 mobile music application in the Apple App Store and the Google Play store. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal, for lack of personal jurisdiction, of a copyright infringement suit and remanded for further proceedings. In assessing whether Plaintiff established a prima facie case of jurisdiction, the court analyzed jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(k)(2), which provides for jurisdiction over foreign defendants that have ample contact with the United States as a whole, but whose contacts are so scattered among states that none of them would have jurisdiction. Under Rule 4(k)(2), the plaintiff must prove: (1) the claim at issue arises from federal law; (2) the defendant is not subject to any state’s courts of general jurisdiction; and (3) invoking jurisdiction upholds due process. The plaintiff has the burden to show the first two prongs, and the burden then shifts to the defendant to show that the application of jurisdiction would be unreasonable. The court concluded that VNG purposefully targeted American companies and their intellectual property. Rejecting VNG’s argument regarding forum non conveniens, the court concluded that venue, in this case, was not proper in Vietnam. View "LANG VAN, INC. V. VNG CORPORATION" on Justia Law