Articles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

by
Sirius appealed the district court's order denying its motions for summary judgment and reconsideration in regard to Flo & Eddie's copyright infringement suit. The court certified a significant and unresolved issue of New York law that is determinative of this appeal: Is there a right of public performance for creators of pre-1972 sound recordings under New York law and, if so, what is the nature and scope of that right? The New York Court of Appeals answered that New York common law does not recognize a right of public performance for creators of pre-1972 sound recordings. In light of this ruling, the court reversed the district court's denial of summary judgment and remanded with instructions to grant Sirius's motion for summary judgment and to dismiss the case with prejudice. View "Flo & Eddie v. Sirius XM Radio" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs filed a copyright infringement suit against MP3tunes and its founder and CEO, alleging that two internet music services created by MP3tunes infringed their copyrights in thousands of sound recordings and musical compositions. The district court granted partial summary judgment to defendants, holding that MP3tunes had a reasonably implemented repeat infringer policy under section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), 17 U.S.C. 512. A jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiffs, but the district court partially overturned the verdict. The court vacated the district court's grant of partial summary judgment to defendants based on its conclusion that MP3tunes qualified for safe harbor protection under the DMCA because the district court applied too narrow a definition of “repeat infringer”; reversed the district court's grant of judgment as a matter of law to defendants on claims that MP3tunes permitted infringement of plaintiffs’ copyrights in pre‐2007 MP3s and Beatles songs because there was sufficient evidence to allow a reasonable jury to conclude that MP3tunes had red‐flag knowledge of, or was willfully blind to, infringing activity involving those categories of protected material; remanded for further proceedings related to claims arising out of the district court's grant of partial summary judgment; and affirmed the judgment in all other respects. View "EMI Christian Music Group, Inc. v. MP3tunes, LLC" on Justia Law

by
In this copyright infringement suit, plaintiffs challenged the district court's determination that defendants’ verbatim use of a portion of Abbott and Costello’s iconic comedy routine, "Who’s on First?," in the recent Broadway play "Hand to God," qualified as a non‐infringing fair use. The court concluded that defendants’ entitlement to a fair use defense was not so clearly established on the face of the amended complaint and its incorporated exhibits as to support dismissal. In this case, defendants' verbatim use of the routine was not transformative, defendants failed persuasively to justify their use of the routine, defendants' use of some dozen of the routine’s variations of “who’s on first” was excessive in relation to any dramatic purpose, and plaintiffs alleged an active secondary market for the work, which was not considered by the district court. The court concluded, however, that the dismissal is warranted because plaintiffs failed to plausibly plead ownership of a valid copyright. The court found plaintiffs' efforts to do so on theories of assignment, work‐for‐hire, and merger all fail as a matter of law. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "TCA Television Corp. v. McCollum" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff, the widow of Louis K. Smith, who authored and copyrighted a book entitled "The Hardscrabble Zone," filed suit alleging direct and contributory copyright infringement by Barnes & Noble. Barnes & Noble, under license, uploads books and book samples to digital “lockers” that it maintains for its individual customers. When the license granted by Smith was terminated, Barnes & Noble did not delete a sample of Smith’s book. The court concluded that, because the agreement does not provide for the license in the sample to terminate after the sample has been distributed, plaintiff cannot sustain her burden to prove that providing cloud‐based access to validly obtained samples is beyond the scope of the license agreement. Therefore, the court concluded that the conduct at issue was authorized by the relevant contracts between the parties and affirmed the judgment. View "Smith v. Barnesandnoble.com, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff, a composer and music producer, filed a copyright suit against Sony, Razor Sharp Records, and Dennis Coles, a/k/a Ghostface Killah, to enforce plaintiff's claimed ownership rights in the "Iron Man" theme song. The district court determined that plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence to rebut the presumption that Marvel was, in fact, the copyright owner. Therefore, the district court dismissed plaintiff's New York common law claims for copyright infringement, unfair competition, and misappropriation on the basis that those claims were preempted by the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 101 et seq. The court held that, although the district court properly determined that defendants had standing to raise a “work for hire” defense to plaintiff’s copyright infringement claim, the district court erred in concluding that plaintiff failed to raise issues of material fact with respect to his ownership of the copyright; the district court properly dismissed plaintiff’s state law claims as preempted by the Copyright Act; the court vacated the district court’s summary judgment ruling with respect to plaintiff’s Copyright Act claim and remanded for further proceedings; and the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's state law claims. View "Urbont v. Sony Music Entm't" on Justia Law

by
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA), 17 U.S.C. 512(c), establishes a safe harbor which gives qualifying Internet service providers protection from liability for copyright infringement when their users upload infringing material on the service provider’s site and the service provider is unaware of the infringement. Plaintiffs filed suit against Vimeo alleging that Vimeo is liable for copyright infringement by reason of 199 videos posted on the Vimeo website, which contained allegedly infringing musical recordings for which plaintiffs owned the rights. In this interlocutory appeal on certified questions from rulings of the district court interpreting the DMCA, the court concluded that the safe harbor of section 512(c) does apply to pre-1972 sound recordings, and therefore protects service providers against liability for copyright infringement under state law with respect to pre-1972 sound recordings, as well as under the federal copyright law for post-1972 recordings. Therefore, the district court’s grant of partial summary judgment to plaintiffs with respect to Vimeo’s entitlement to the safe harbor for infringements of pre-1972 recordings is vacated. The court also concluded that various factual issues that arise in connection with a service provider’s claim of the safe harbor are subject to shifting burdens of proof. Because, on a defendant’s claim of the safe harbor, the burden of showing facts supporting a finding of red flag knowledge shifts to the plaintiff, and the district court appears to have denied Vimeo’s motion for summary judgment as to a number of videos on this issue based on a test that would improperly deny service providers access to the safe harbor, the court vacated the denial of Vimeo’s motion for summary judgment on that issue. The court remanded for reconsideration and further proceedings. Finally, the court rejected plaintiff's argument that the district court erred in its ruling in Vimeo’s favor as to plaintiffs’ reliance on the doctrine of willful blindness. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Capitol Records, LLC v. Vimeo, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Appellee Flo & Eddie, Inc. filed suit against Appellant Sirius on behalf of itself and a class of owners of pre-1972 recordings, asserting claims for common-law copyright infringement and unfair competition under New York law. Specifically, Appellee alleged that Appellant infringed Appellee’s copyright in The Turtles’ recordings by broadcasting and making internal reproductions of the recordings (e.g., library, buffer and cache copes) to facilitate its broadcasts. Because this case presents a significant and unresolved issue of New York copyright law, the court certified the following question to the New York Court of Appeals: Is there a right of public performance for creators of sound recordings under New York law and, if so, what is the nature and scope of that right? View "Flo & Eddie, Inc. v. Sirius XM Radio, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Tyrone Simmons, a writer and performer of hip hop music, filed suit against hip hop producer William C. Stanberry, Jr., rapper 50 Cent, and various corporate entities involved in the production and distribution of the 2007 song, "I Get Money." Simmons alleged that in February 2006 he purchased from Stanberry an exclusive license to a beat and that Simmons therefore owns the right to bar all others from using the beat. Simmons further alleged that 50 Cent's recording of his song employing that beat was publicly released in 2007, violating Simmons' copyright. The court concluded that Simmons' complaint is barred by the statute of limitations because Simmons, although aware of defendants' acts of infringement, waited more than three years to sue. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint. View "Simmons v. Stanberry" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff, the author of "Point Break Live!", filed suit against defendants, asserting claims for copyright infringement, breach of contract, and tortious interference with contract. At issue on appeal was whether an unauthorized work that makes “fair use” of its source material may itself be protected by copyright. The court held, for substantially the reasons stated by the district court that, if the creator of an unauthorized work stays within the bounds of fair use and adds sufficient originality, she may claim protection under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 103, for her original contributions. The court also rejected defendant’s challenges to the district court’s jury charge. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Keeling v. Hars" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs, authors of published books under copyright, filed suit against Google for copyright infringement. Google, acting without permission of rights holders, has made digital copies of tens of millions of books, including plaintiffs', through its Library Project and its Google books project. The district court concluded that Google's actions constituted fair use under 17 U.S.C. 107. On appeal, plaintiffs challenged the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Google. The court concluded that: (1) Google’s unauthorized digitizing of copyright-protected works, creation of a search functionality, and display of snippets from those works are non-infringing fair uses. The purpose of the copying is highly transformative, the public display of text is limited, and the revelations do not provide a significant market substitute for the protected aspects of the originals. Google’s commercial nature and profit motivation do not justify denial of fair use. (2) Google’s provision of digitized copies to the libraries that supplied the books, on the understanding that the libraries will use the copies in a manner consistent with the copyright law, also does not constitute infringement. Nor, on this record, is Google a contributory infringer. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Authors Guild v. Google, Inc." on Justia Law