You can get my latest article in your email

Gotta Dance! Just Not That One

Choreography is protected by the Copyright Act. Yet, lawsuits alleging copyright infringement in dance routines are rare. Perhaps the reason why was revealed last week where a recently filed suit over dance moves incorporated into the video game Fortnite failed to make it past a motion to dismiss. Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., explains the reason why it is that the copyright extends to the entire work, not individual dance steps or poses.

Dance to the music

It’s My Life! Yes, But You Don’t Own It

If you’ve led a particularly interesting life, perhaps you have written a memoir or completed an autobiography. Later on, much to your horror you discover someone has now taken the facts of your life and turned them into a movie or TV series. “Wait! It’s my life!” you might say. But do you “own” the facts of your own life? Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., explains why the copyright principle of “no one can have a copyright on a fact” limits your legal recourse in this instance.

tubes with human DNA Cloning

Court Rules Graffiti Is Not Protected by Visual Artists Rights Act

Suppose that as a building owner you discover an entire side of your building is now covered in graffiti. When you try to paint over it, the graffiti artists object contending that you have no right to do so, and their “art” is protected by the VARA or Visual Artists Rights Act section of the Copyright Act. Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., examines two cases involving graffiti, and explains why two courts came to very different conclusions.

graffiti

Court of Appeals Rules That a Timely Filed Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Can Recover All Damages, No Matter How Long Ago They Occurred

Suppose you discover that someone is infringing your copyright. Suppose further, much to your horror, they have been doing so for years. The copyright statute has a three year statute of limitations, of which your infringements stretch far beyond that period. Are you out of luck? Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., examines a new ruling from the 9th Circuit and discovers: it depends where you file suit.

old-camera

Josh Hawley’s Mickey Mouse Misfire: Putting the American Taxpayer on the Hook for Billions of Dollars of Compensation to Disney

Last week, Senator Josh Hawley introduced a bill to vastly reduce copyright terms, in the future, and most surprisingly, retroactively. The bill was quickly denounced as unconstitutional, since its “too clever by half” structure insured that only one company would be affected: The Walt Disney Company. Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., examines the text of the bill and its Constitutional flaws, and finds that Senator Hawley had failed to take into account one huge factor: if successful, his bill would put the American taxpayer on the hook for billions, if not trillions of dollars of “just compensation” payable to the Walt Disney Company.

Copyright Clause Restoration Act-Crop

Court Drops the Hammer on Pirate Streaming Sites and Orders ISP’s to Block, VPNs and CDNs Not To Assist, and Credit Card Companies Not To Pay

On April 26, 2022, the District Court in the Southern District of New York issued a rather remarkable ruling. Unremarkable was the amount of damages that was awarded, also unremarkable was that a permanent injunction was issued. What was remarkable was that the injunction also ordered ISP’s to block access to the site, now and in the future to all new URL’s the pirate site might hide under. It also ordered VPN’s (virtual private networks) and CDNs (Content Delivery Networks) like the notorious Cloudflare, not to assist the Defendants in avoiding the injunction, and most remarkably ordered credit card companies and payment assisters, like PayPal, to withhold money due to the pirate site and pay it to the Plaintiffs. Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., takes a deep dive inside the precedent setting ruling.

judge-gavel

The Supreme Court Gives Creative Artists a Break (For a Change)

The Berne Convention (to which the US is a signatory) mandates that Berne countries not demand that artists comply with “formalities” in order to secure copyright protection. Yet, the U.S. persists in requiring creative artists to file for copyright registration in order to secure certain benefits, such as the ability to file suit and seek certain remedies such as statutory damages and attorney’s fees. The Supreme Court recently decided a case in which it was alleged that a single mistake on the application, whether the works were “published as a single unit,” invalidated the registration, and with it the ability of the copyright owner to sue. Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., examines this decision on whether a mistake in the application is excusable or a “trap” for the unwary artist and a “get out of jail free” card for the infringer.

mousetrap

Dua Lipa’s Double Trouble: Did Levitating “Lift” From Other Songs?

It’s not unusual for hit songs to attract copyright infringement lawsuits. It was, therefore, not unexpected that Dua Lipa’s 2020 hit “Levitating” attracted a copyright infringement lawsuit. What was unusual was that two separate lawsuits were filed within a week of each other. The first alleged that “Levitating” lifted from Florida reggae group Artikal Sound System’s 2017 song “Live Your Life.” The second alleged that the 1979 disco song “Wiggle and Giggle All Night” had been copied by “Levitating.” Have you ever heard these songs? No? For this is the real question to ask: how did these songs, in one case a 40 year old disco tune, get into the ears of the composers of “Levitating”? Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., explains the importance of the “access” requirement in copyright litigation, as well as performs a musical analysis of the songs in litigation.

Levitation

Of Course I Own the Copyright! I Own the Machine That Created It!

Lots of headlines were created last week when the U.S. Copyright Office refused registration, for the third time, a piece of artwork in which the author of the work was identified as “Creativity Machine.” It is interesting to note that had the proposed author not admitted this fact, the registration probably would have issued. But what was more intriguing was the question of, if the work was copyrightable, how did the proposed copyright claimant obtain ownership? The claimant asserted that the copyright passed to him as a “work made for hire” because he “owned” the machine. Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., examines the legal and practical questions that arise from this rather bold assertion.

creativity

“What’s Next?” Thought Pooh. “Because I Just Found Out I’m a Trademark Too!”

The fact that Winnie the Pooh, Piglet and Eeyore have all passed into the public domain does not make the future of these characters as clear cut as one would think. Certainly one could copy the existing book “Winnie the Pooh” and create new stories about him as well. But new Winnie the Pooh movies? Not necessarily. All of the Pooh movies originated with the Walt Disney Company, who not only holds the copyright but also has obtained Federal Trademark registrations on Pooh, Piglet and Eeyore for uses in conjunction with motion pictures. Nova Southeastern University's Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J.D., explains this rather strange confluence of copyright and trademark law and what it might mean for the future of these beloved characters.

Pooh Outside House