What if a Judge refused to hear your copyright infringement case because he didn't like your movie? Or that he thought you filed "too many" infringement lawsuits? This is the exact situation that happened recently in a District Court in Washington D.C. But now, the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has heard the appeal and reversed the District Court. Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., details the major points of the Court's ruling that "[b]asic copyright principles establish that a plaintiff’s ability to defend its copyrights cannot turn on a court’s subjective view of the copyrighted material."
Many pirate sites operate outside the United States, though they traffic in huge amounts of U.S. works. They know that U.S. Copyright law does not have any extra-territorial effect. By setting themselves up in a foreign country, they attempt to insulate themselves from the ability for U.S. companies to drag them into court in the U.S. At the same time, they make their websites attractive to U.S. residents, accept plenty of traffic from them, and sell advertising directed at U.S. residents. But, after this important court ruing, this may change. Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., takes a look at the ruling in UMG Recordings v. Kurbanov, and why the old adage of "follow the money" allows the U.S. courts to rope in foreign pirates.
When the Copyright Office released its report on Section 512 of the DMCA on May 21, 2020, it largely concluded that the law was not working as intended, and that “Congress’ original intended balance has been tilted askew.” This conclusion did not sit well with the websites, ISP’s and OSP’s. And at 198 pages and 1041 footnotes, it’s a lot to unpack. In the intervening month, plenty has been written about the report. But what about the parts that didn't make the headlines or the bullet points? Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., takes a "deeper dive" into the report to discuss "submission bots," standardizing the take-down process, and why nobody can figure out what "red flag" knowledge really means.
It is said that truth is stranger than fiction. But what happens when what is labelled "fiction," sounds a lot like "real life" to you? Can you really sue for defamation contained in a work of fiction? It turns out you can, but it isn't easy. Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., examines the case law and discusses how hard it is to prove, "That's me...but it can't possibly be me."
Coming on the heels of a $25 million jury verdict against Cox Communications for copyright infringement brought by BMG, last December saw a jury award an astonishing $1 billion award against Cox in a suit brought by Sony. These large damage awards were all due to one thing: Cox's ultra-cynical and self serving treatment of their obligations under the DMCA. Cox, naturally, wants the Judge to throw out the verdict, or at least get a "do-over." Did they get it? Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., takes a deep dive into the Judge's 75-page opinion, particularly on the issue of statutory damages.
If you found out that your residential tenant had used your vacation home to shoot 9 pornographic movies, your first thought would be to sue for breach of lease, not copyright infringement. Yet, that is exactly the case that is playing out in a Federal District Court in Massachusetts. For, unbeknownst to the production company, the artwork on the walls of the home were created by the owner of the house, and are highly visible in the resulting movies. Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., details the facts and law surrounding this unusual case, and shows how once again, a simple permission request would have saved a lot of money.
“Why would we allow the official law enacted by a legislature…to be hidden behind a paywall?” asked Justice Neil Gorsuch at oral argument in the case of Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org. Yet contrary to the headlines surrounding this decision, the Supreme Court of the United States did not rule that States cannot hold a copyright in the law, because the State of Georgia never contended that they could. The SCOTUS also did not rule that one cannot have a copyright in annotations to statutes and legal decisions, because it previously ruled that one could. What it did rule was that the State of Georgia could not have a copyright in the “Official” annotated statutes in which the State of Georgia was clearly the “author,” under the “Government Edicts Doctrine.” Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., analyzes the reasoning of both the majority and dissenting opinions and asks “what’s the practical effect?” You may not like the answer.
A recent decision out of the Eastern District of New York featured a significant pushback on the theory that some works do not offer enough “creativity” to qualify for copyright protection. Coming just days before the reversal of the Katy Perry Dark Horse verdict on a similar theory, the case illustrates how litigants have started to misuse and distort the concepts of “originality” and “creativity” in order to attack the bedrock principles of copyright law. Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., analyzes the important rulings in this decision, especially that creativity can be as simple as realizing you’re in the right place at the right time.
Most often, claims of copyright infringement go to the artistic expression contained in a story. Rare is the case that claims a copyright in a character itself. But this is what happened in the case of Daniels v. Walt Disney Company. Plaintiff created a group of colored anthropomorphic characters she named The Moodsters. Each Moodster represents a different emotion. Yet, what makes this case stand out is the Plaintiff in not claiming copyright infringement over the plot of the Moodsters, she is claiming copyright infringement over the characters themselves. Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., goes through the Court's decision, which very clearly defines the test for a claim not frequently litigated.
On March 16, 2020, the trial judge in the Katy Perry Dark Horse case surprised a lot of people by outright reversing the jury’s finding of infringement and resulting award of damages. Many commentators felt the verdict was eroding the lines between what is slightly similar and what is substantially similar. But in reversing the jury’s verdict, the Judge says that none of that matters. The reason is that the Judge rules that the four bar ostinato of Joyful Noise does not contain protectable expression. So even if copied, it could not support a finding of infringement. Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., examines the Judge’s reasoning and asks: “if you are a music composer, are you really happy about this”?