Generic Fair Use

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Tag: infringement (page 2 of 2)

Seek and Destroy: Metallica is antagonizing its fan base over IP rights. Again.

Metallica has always had a love-hate relationship with its fans.  Beginning with its controversial decision to film a music video for the first time for the anti-war song “One” and continuing with the shift from heavy metal thrash to more “commercial” rock songs on the Black Album, Metallica has routinely challenged the expectations of the public.

More famously, on April 13, 2000, Metallica inflamed the good nature of its fan base by suing Napster in federal court for copyright infringement, racketeering, and unlawful uses of digital devices, among other causes of action.[1] As part of this lawsuit, Metallica identified over 300,000 individual users who allegedly copied and unlawfully acquired digital copies of Metallica’s songs through the Napster peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing service. These users were “temporarily” banned as a result of Metallica’s investigation and lawsuit.[2]  Not surprisingly, Metallica faced a severe public backlash for attacking its purported fans through lawsuits and allegations of copyright infringement. It even inspired a classic South Park episode.

Metallica is accordingly well-known to be litigious. They will strongly enforce trademark rights and all of their copyrights, when necessary. This often does not sit well with music fans that view the band as entitled and out-of touch millionaires. This leads to the most recent unfavorable public relations snafu by Metallica.

On December 30, 2015, Metallica’s lawyers sent a cease-and-desist letter to a Canadian tribute band performing under the name “Sandman.” Why did Metallica go after a tribute band? How is this different from the Napster case?

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PETA fails to throw a monkey wrench into copyright authorship

Copyright is the exclusive domain of humans. So says the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Oh, and the U.S. Copyright Office, too. A recent appeal made on behalf of haplorhine primates everywhere has failed to extend the law to allow monkeys to be the authors or owners of copyrights in the United States.  How and why are we even talking about this? Because in 2011, a monkey in Indonesia took a selfie. The monkey even smiled for the camera!

The resulting images created a firestorm for copyright law when the owner of the camera began publishing the monkey’s pictures and asserting copyright claims against others.  On September 22, 2015, PETA filed suit on grounds that the camera owner and his publishing company were infringing the monkey’s copyrights. As if that lawsuit was not bizarre enough, it did set the stage for one of the more amusing Motions to Dismiss ever filed in federal court. Nevertheless on January 7, 2016, Judge Orrick granted the Motion to Dismiss and held that a monkey cannot be the owner or author of a copyright.

While the monkey, now known as “Naruto,” may not be able to enforce any copyrights, it does raise interesting legal issues to address and consider.

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How Was “Happy Birthday” Still Protected as a Copyright?

[originally posted September 23, 2015 at www.law-dlc.com]

By now it is likely you have seen the news story.  On Tuesday, September 22, 2015, Judge George H. King, in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, ruled that Warner/Chappell, the publishing arm of Warner Music, did not have the right to enforce its claims in the copyright for the ubiquitous lyrics to the song “Happy Birthday.”  The legal implications are that the song lyrics may be in the public domain and free to use by all.

The question many of you likely also have is “how was ‘Happy Birthday’ still subject to a copyright after all these years?”  It can be somewhat complicated.

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Not Even Rick Ross is Allowed to Copyright a Word or Phrase

[originally published September 18, 2015 on www.law-dlc.com]

In January 2014, Rick Ross sued LMFAO for copyright infringement over their use of lyrics from their song “Party Rock Anthem.” In particular, Ross claims that LMFAO are infringing on his copyright in the phrase “Everyday I’m hustlin’” which is a phrase Ross claims originally appeared in his song “Hustlin’.” LMFAO modified the lyric to “Everyday I’m shufflin’” and also began selling t–shirts and clothing bearing the same phrase. Rick Ross apparently was not amused by this apparent derivative work.

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Top Three Differences Between Copyrights and Trademarks

[originally published September 10, 2015 at www.law-dlc.com]

The term “intellectual property” is commonly used to describe creative works such as inventions, music, movies, art, technical know-how and other intangible products. Unfortunately, the various types of intellectual property can often be confusing or difficult to categorize. For example, it is not uncommon to see a reference to a word or slogan being “copyrighted” when in fact, the correct term of art is “trademark.” Likewise, I am often asked in my practice to help clients “patent” their business or trade name.

There are four major types of intellectual property (IP) rights: patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. Each category has unique characteristics that distinguish it from the other types of IP rights.

Accordingly, as a short-hand guide, here are some key differences between trademarks and copyrights under United States law.

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