Justia Copyright Opinion Summaries
Matthew Green v. DOJ
Claiming that the code they write qualifies as speech protected by the First Amendment, Appellants brought a pre-enforcement action challenging the DMCA on facial and as-applied First Amendment grounds. The government moved to dismiss all claims, and the district court partially granted the motion. The district court dismissed all, but the as-applied First Amendment claims. The district court summarily denied an injunction for the dismissed claims. Appellants appealed the district court’s dismissal of their facial challenge and denial of injunctive relief. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of Appellants’ motion for a preliminary injunction and remanded for further proceedings. The court first addressed jurisdiction and held that declaring the DMCA facially unconstitutional would resolve Appellants’ as-applied claims, but not so in reverse, ensuring that their as-applied claims remain anything but inextricably bound to their facial challenge. The court, therefore, held that it lacked jurisdiction over Appellants’ facial challenge. In regards to the Appellant, that wants to publish an academic book “to instruct readers in the methods of security research,” which will include “examples of code capable of bypassing security measures, the court held that the government’s concession ends any “credible threat of prosecution” against Appellant, leaving him without standing to obtain a preliminary injunction. Moreover, the court held that the other Appellant’s arguments on the remaining preliminary injunction factors rest entirely on his flawed claim that continued enforcement of the DMCA imperils his First Amendment rights. View "Matthew Green v. DOJ" on Justia Law
UNICOLORS, INC. V. H&M HENNES & MAURITZ, LP
Unicolors, which creates designs for use on textiles and garments, alleged that a design it created in 2011 (the EH101 design) is remarkably similar to a design printed on garments that H&M began selling in 2015 (the Xue Xu design). The Supreme Court held that lack of either factual or legal knowledge on the part of a copyright holder can excuse an inaccuracy in a copyright registration under the Copyright Act's safe-harbor provision, 17 U.S.C. Section 411(b)(1). Accordingly, the panel reviewed anew the threshold issue whether Unicolors holds a valid copyright in registration No. VA-1-770-400 (the '400 Registration), and concluded that under the correct standard, the '400 Registration is valid because the factual inaccuracies in the application are excused by the cited safe-harbor provision. On remand, from the Supreme Court in this copyright-infringement action the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in general, save that it vacated and remanded with instructions to grant a new trial, limited only to damages, if Unicolors rejects the remittitur amount of $116,975.23. The panel held that a party seeking to invalidate a copyright registration under Section 411(b) must demonstrate that (1) the registrant submitted a resignation application containing inaccuracies, (2) the registrant knew that the application failed to comply with the requisite legal requirements, and (3) the inaccuracies in question were material to the registration decision by the Register of Copyrights. View "UNICOLORS, INC. V. H&M HENNES & MAURITZ, LP" on Justia Law
ABKCO Music, Inc. v. Sagan
A collection of music publishers alleged infringement of their copyrights in 197 musical works when a series of live concert recordings was made available by Defendants for download and streaming on their websites. Plaintiffs sought damages and a permanent injunction pursuant to the Copyright Act. The district court held on summary judgment that Defendants had no valid licenses and therefore infringed each of the musical works and that the principal was personally liable. The district court denied Plaintiffs’ request for a permanent injunction. Defendants appealed from the district court’s summary judgment order and the order granting fees and costs. Plaintiffs cross-appeal from the district court’s denial of a permanent injunction, several evidentiary rulings, and the denial of a new trial. The Second Circuit affirmed the rulings in the summary judgment order to the extent they: (a) held that Defendants failed to obtain a license for any of the audiovisual recordings, and therefore infringed the audiovisual works; (b) concluded that Defendants had no valid affirmative defense, and (c) declined the Publishers’ request for a permanent injunction. The court vacated the ruling in the summary judgment order that Defendants infringed the musical works used in the audio-only recordings by failing to comply with Section 115’s substantive requirements. The court reversed the ruling on summary judgment that Defendant was liable for direct infringement. The court rejected the challenges to evidentiary rulings. The court affirmed the order denying the motion for a new trial. Finally, the court vacated the award of attorneys’ fees. View "ABKCO Music, Inc. v. Sagan" on Justia Law
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