Justia Copyright Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
BWP Media USA, Inc. v. T & S Software Associates, Inc.
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
Geophysical Service v. TGS-Nopec Geophysical
TGS, a Houston company requested seismic data from Geophysical, a Canadian company, under Canada's law that requires companies who gather seismic data about the Earth's substructure to submit their findings to the Canadian government. After a period of confidentiality, the Canadian agency that compiled this data was then apparently permitted to release it to members of the public upon specific request. Geophysicial then filed suit against TGS, alleging copyright infringement. The court held that the act of state doctrine does not forbid a United States court from considering the applicability of copyright's first sale doctrine to foreign-made copies when the foreign copier was a government agency. The court also held that the inapplicability of the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 101 et seq., to extraterritorial conduct barred a contributory infringement claim based on the domestic authorization of entirely extraterritorial conduct. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Geophysical Service v. TGS-Nopec Geophysical" on Justia Law
Ultraflo Corp. v. Pelican Tank Parts, Inc.
Ultraflo filed suit against Pelican, asserting an unfair competition by misappropriation claim under Texas law. Ultraflo alleged that Pelican stole its drawings showing how to design valves and then used them to make duplicate valves. The court previously held that copyright preempts this Texas cause of action when the intellectual property at issue is within the subject matter of copyright. Ultraflo contends that its claim escapes preemption because its valve design, when separated from the drawing itself, is afforded no protection under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 101 et seq. Determining that Ultraflo did not waive its preemption challenge, the court concluded the district court correctly found that the state claim is preempted because copyright preemption prohibits interference with Congress’s decision not to grant copyright protection just as much as it protects a decision to provide protection. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Ultraflo Corp. v. Pelican Tank Parts, Inc." on Justia Law
GlobeRanger Corp. v. Software AG
After GlobeRanger, a software maker, obtained a $15 million judgment in a trade secret misappropriation trial against competitor Software AG, Software AG appealed. The court found that the trade secret claim is not preempted but that a dismissed conversion claim was preempted and supports federal jurisdiction. In this case, GlobeRanger’s trade secret misappropriation claim requires establishing an additional element than what is required to make out a copyright violation: that the protected information was taken via improper means or breach of a confidential relationship. Because the state tort provides substantially different protection than copyright law, it is not preempted. As the complaint alleged only conversion of intangible property for which there is equivalency between the rights protected under that state tort and federal copyright law, complete preemption converted the conversion claim into one brought under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 101 et seq., that supported federal question jurisdiction at the time of removal and supplemental jurisdiction after it was dismissed. On the merits, the court concluded that GlobeRanger’s evidence is sufficient to show that Software AG used the Navy Solution in developing its own product. Therefore, the court upheld the jury's finding of trade secret use. Finally, the court rejected Software AG's claims of error in regard to the damages award and affirmed the award. View "GlobeRanger Corp. v. Software AG" on Justia Law
Guzman v. Hacienda Records and Recording
This dispute involves two Tejano songs: "Triste Aventurera" and "Cartas de Amor." Plaintiff filed suit against Hacienda alleging, inter alia, that Hacienda's release of "Cartas" infringed upon his "Triste" copyright. The district court ruled in favor of Hacienda as to each of plaintiff's claims. The court rejected plaintiff's contention that the district court erred in finding no reasonable possibility of access. In this case, the court concluded that plaintiff failed to show that the district court's access finding was clearly erroneous. The court also concluded that, absent evidence of uniqueness or complexity, and in light of the expert testimony at trial describing differences in the lyrics and music of the songs, the district court’s finding that "Cartas" and "Triste" are not strikingly similar was not clearly erroneous; the court rejected plaintiff's invitation to apply a novel "sliding-scale" analysis that would have lowered his access burden; and plaintiff waived his Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), 17 U.S.C. 1202(a), claim. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Guzman v. Hacienda Records and Recording" on Justia Law