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Plaintiffs, a group of broadcast stations and copyright holders, filed suit against FilmOn X, an operator of a service that uses antennas to capture over-the-air broadcast programming, much of it copyrighted, and then uses the Internet to retransmit such programming to paying subscribers, all without the consent or authorization of the copyright holders. Under section 111 of the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. 111(c), a "cable system" is eligible for a so-called compulsory license that allows it to retransmit "a performance or display of a work" that had originally been broadcast by someone else—even if such material is copyrighted—without having to secure the consent of the copyright holder. So long as the cable system pays a statutory fee to the Copyright Office and complies with certain other regulations, it is protected from infringement liability. The district court granted partial summary judgment to FilmOn. The Copyright Office determined that Internet-based retransmission services were not eligible for the compulsory license under section 111. The court deferred to the Office's interpretation because it was persuasive and reasonable. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment. View "Fox Television Stations, Inc. v. Aereokiller LLC" on Justia Law

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The United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia certified a question of Georgia law to the Georgia Supreme Court. Arthur and Barbara Sheridan owned several pre-1972 master sound recordings of certain popular songs, as well as the associated intellectual property and contract rights. iHeartMedia operated AM/FM radio stations, as well as internet radio services. These latter services allow listeners to access and listen to a song through an internet-connected device such as a tablet, computer, or smartphone. iHeartMedia streamed the Sheridans’ recordings to listeners over its internet radio platform, iHeartRadio. It was undisputed that iHeartMedia had no license, authority, or consent from the Sheridans to stream the recordings, and iHeartMedia did not compensate the Sheridans for the use of their recordings. The Sheridans claimed that iHeartMedia needed their consent to transfer their master sound recordings to iHeartRadio listeners, and that iHeartMedia engaged in racketeering activity by making unauthorized transfers. iHeartMedia moved to dismiss the Sheridans’ complaint under the radio broadcast exemption in OCGA 16-8-60 (c) (1), which stated that the statute did not apply to “any person who transfers or causes to be transferred any such sounds or visual images intended for or in connection with radio or television broadcast transmission or related uses." After review, the Supreme Court found that the type of internet radio services being offered by iHeartMedia, Inc. in this case fell under the exemption set forth in OCGA 16-8-60 (c) (l). View "iHeartMedia, Inc. v. Sheridan" on Justia Law

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The court certified the following questions to the California Supreme Court: 1) Under section 980(a)(2) of the California Civil Code, do copyright owners of pre-1972 sound recordings that were sold to the public before 1982 possess an exclusive right of public performance? 2) If not, does California's common law of property or tort otherwise grant copyright owners of pre-1972 sound recordings an exclusive right of public performance? View "Flo & Eddie v. Pandora Media" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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Design Data filed suit alleging that UE infringed the copyright on Design Data's computer aided design (CAD) program by downloading an unauthorized copy of the program and importing and distributing within the United States program output generated by a Chinese contractor using an unauthorized copy of the program. The court affirmed the district court's conclusion that the copyright protection afforded Design Data's computer program does not, on these facts, extend to the program's output; affirmed the district court's decision to refuse Design Data a further opportunity to amend its complaint; reversed the district court as to its determination on summary judgment that UE's download of Design Data's SDS/2 program was a de minimis copyright violation; and remanded for further proceedings. View "Design Data Corp. v. Unigate Enterprise" on Justia Law

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This case arises from a copyright dispute revolving around the Usenet. Giganews owns and operates several Usenet servers and provides its subscribers with fee-based access to content stored on its own servers as well as content stored on the servers of other Usenet providers. Livewire provides its subscribers with access to the Usenet content stored on Giganews’s servers. Perfect 10, owner of exclusive rights to tens of thousands of adult images, filed suit against Giganews and Livewire, alleging direct and indirect copyright infringement claims as well as trademark and state law claims. The copyright claims are at issue in this appeal. The court concluded that the district court did not err in requiring Perfect 10 to satisfy the volitional conduct requirement as an element of a prima facie case of direct infringement, and agreed with the district court that Perfect 10 failed to prove volitional conduct with respect to either Giganews or Livewire. The court concluded that the district court did not err in dismissing much of Perfect 10’s direct infringement claim at the pleadings stage, nor did it err in granting summary judgment in favor of Giganews and Livewire on the direct, vicarious, and contributory infringement claims; concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding fees to defendants and denying defendants' supplemental fee request; and held that the district court did not clearly err in refusing to add Perfect 10's sole shareholder and founder, Norman Zada, to the judgment against Perfect 10. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Perfect 10, Inc. v. Giganews, Inc." on Justia Law

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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

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Plaintiff sued Amazon, claiming that it permitted third parties to advertise counterfeit copies of books, Vagabond Natural and Vagabond Spiritual, that the plaintiff wrote and self‐published, detailing his experiences as a vagabond homeless man. He says Amazon refused repeated requests to remove the advertisements, although Amazon did eventually remove them. He insists that legitimate sales would have generated “millions of dollars for Amazon” and allowed him “to end homelessness,” but that Amazon “forcefully exploited” his books by counterfeiting them. He claims to have examined copies of each book purchased through Amazon by his cousin and determined that all were unauthorized reproductions because genuine copies would bear his fingernail indentations on the covers. The district judge dismissed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting that the books at issue are hard copies, rather than online copies, and are almost certainly Hart’s self‐published books because they are identical to those books. Only six copies were sold by Amazon. There is no plausible allegation that, even if the books sold by Amazon are counterfeits, Amazon was aware of the fact. Counterfeiting cannot be presumed; Hart’s claims did not meet even a minimum standard of plausibility. View "Hart v. Amazon.com, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was a corporation owned by two of the original members of The Turtles, a band most famous for its song “Happy Together.” Plaintiff controlled the master recordings of approximately 100 Turtles songs recorded before 1972. Defendant, the nation’s largest satellite digital radio service, broadcast pre-1972 Turtles songs but did not have licenses with the performers or sound recording copyright-holders and did not pay them for broadcasts. Plaintiff commenced this federal putative class action alleging common-law copyright infringement and unfair competition. The federal district court denied Defendant’s motion for summary judgment, concluding that New York common law includes a right to control public performances of pre-1972 copyrighted sound recordings. The court of appeals certified a question to the Court of Appeals regarding an unresolved issue of New York copyright law. The Court of Appeals answered that New York common-law copyright does not recognize a right of public performance for creators of sound recordings. View "Flo & Eddie, Inc. v Sirius XM Radio, Inc." on Justia Law