Justia Communications Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Copyright
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Luvdarts sued mobile wireless carriers, who own multimedia messaging networks (MMS networks), for copyright infringement. At issue was whether the carriers could be held liable for copyright infringement that allegedly occurred on their networks. Because Luvdarts failed to allege adequately that the carriers had the necessary right and ability to supervise the infringing conduct, the district court properly determined that they could not prevail on their claim of vicarious copyright infringement. Because Luvdarts failed to allege adequately that the carriers had the necessary specific knowledge of infringement, it could not prevail on its claim of contributory copyright infringement. Accordingly, Luvdarts failed to state a claim on which relief could be granted and the district court properly dismissed its complaint with prejudice. View "Luvdarts LLC, et al v. AT&T Mobility, LLC, et al" on Justia Law

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Wiley, an academic publisher, often assigns to its foreign subsidiary (WileyAsia) rights to publish, print, and sell Wiley’s English language textbooks abroad. WileyAsia’s books state that they are not to be taken (without permission) into the U.S. When Kirtsaeng moved to the U.S., he asked friends to buy foreign edition English-language textbooks in Thai book shops, where they sold at low prices, and mail them to him. He sold the books at a profit. Wiley claimed that Kirtsaeng’s unauthorized importation and resale was an infringement of Wiley’s 17 U.S.C. 106(3) exclusive rights to distribute its copyrighted work and section 602’s import prohibition. Kirtsaeng cited section 109(a)’s “first sale” doctrine, which provides that “the owner of a particular copy or phonorecord lawfully made under this title ... is entitled, without the authority of the copyright owner, to sell or otherwise dispose of the possession of that copy or phonorecord.” The district court held that the defense did not apply to goods manufactured abroad. The jury found that Kirtsaeng had willfully infringed Wiley’s American copyrights and assessed damages. The Second Circuit affirmed, concluding that section 109(a)’s “lawfully made under this title” language indicated that the “first sale” doctrine does not apply to copies of American copyrighted works manufactured abroad. The Supreme Court reversed; the “first sale” doctrine applies to copies of a copyrighted work lawfully made abroad. Section 109(a) says nothing about geography. A geographical interpretation of the first-sale doctrine could re¬quire libraries to obtain permission before circulating the many books in their collections that were printed overseas; potential practical problems are too serious, extensive, and likely to come about to be dismissed as insignificant—particularly in light of the ever-growing importance of foreign trade to America. View "Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, producers and owners of copyrighted television programming, sued defendants for streaming plaintiffs' copyrighted television programming over the Internet live and without their consent. The court, applying Chevron analysis, held that: (1) the statutory text was ambiguous as to whether defendant, a service that retransmitted television programming over the Internet, was entitled to a compulsory license under section 111 of the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 111; (2) the statute's legislative history, development, and purpose indicated that Congress did not intend for section 111 licenses to extend to Internet retransmissions; (3) the Copyright Office's interpretation of section 111 - that Internet retransmissions services did not constitute cable systems under section 111 - aligned with Congress' intent and was reasonable; and (4) accordingly, the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merits of the case. The court also concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding irreparable harm; in balancing the hardships; and considering the public interest. View "WPIX, Inc. v. IVI, Inc." on Justia Law

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The “Hot News Babes” feature of Hustler magazine invites readers to nominate young, attractive female news reporters for a monthly prize. In 2003, Bosley, a 37-year-old news anchor, entered a “wet t-shirt” contest at a Florida bar and ultimately danced nude. Durocher, took pictures without Bosley’s knowledge and published them on lenshead.com. Durocher included a visual copyright notice and a general warning. A few months later, Bosley lost her job when the story was reported. To end the photographs’ dissemination, Bosley bought and registered the copyright. In 2004, Bosley was employed as a television reporter in another city. In 2005, a reader advised Hustler of the availability of the pictures online and of Bosley being the “HOTTEST.” Hustler published the Durocher nude photograph in 2006 with text describing Bosley. Bosley’s suit alleged direct copyright infringement, 17 U.S.C. 101; contributory infringement, 17 U.S.C. 101; vicarious infringement, 17 U.S.C. 106(1), (3), (5); violation of Ohio common law right of privacy; violation of the Ohio statutory right of publicity; and violation of the Ohio Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Only the direct infringement claim survived. The jury rejected a fair use defense, but found the violation not willful, and awarded $135,000 plus fees. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. View "Balsley v. LFP, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eastern Orthodox monastic order began a spiritual affiliation with the bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR)in 1965. Although the Monastery concedes it commemorated the bishops of ROCOR until 1986, it considers itself an independent entity. The Monastery's 35 monks worked on translating religious texts from their original Greek into English. The works were in demand amongst parishes, but the Monastery obliged requests on a limited basis. One of the monks went to Colorado where he formed Dormition Skete, dedicated to painting traditional Orthodox icons. A Skete member, the Archbishop, created a website devoted to the Orthodox faith. Based on postings on that site, the Monastery sued the Archbishop, in state court, for copyright infringement. The parties settled with the Archbishop acknowledging the Monastery’s ownership of the works. The website continued to include its translations; the Monastery filed a federal suit, 17 U.S.C. 101. The district ruled in favor of the Monastery, rejecting claims or public domain, that ROCOR was the true owner of the copyrights, and of fair use. The First Circuit affirmed. The Archbishop offered identical or near-identical versions of the works on his website for the precise purpose for which the Monastery originally created them, harming their potential market value. View "Soc'y of the Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Inc. v. Archbishop Gregory of Denver" on Justia Law

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Flava, which specializes in production and distribution of videos of black men engaged in homosexual acts, obtained a preliminary injunction against myVidster, an online social bookmarking service by which people refer sites to those with similar tastes, based on a finding that myVidster is a contributory infringer. The Seventh Circuit vacated the injunction. A Flava customer is authorized only to download the video for his personal use. If instead he uploaded it to the Internet and so by doing so created a copy (because the downloaded video remains in his computer), he was infringing. The court remanded for determination of whether myVidster was a contributory infringer if a visitor to its website bookmarks the video and later someone clicks on the bookmark and views the video. View "Flava Works, Inc v. Marques Rondale Gunter, et al" on Justia Law

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Pleased with the results of their first collaboration, the author and musician co-authored and recorded a second song. The relationship collapsed and the musician signed as a recording artist with unrelated recording and management companies. Accusations and altercations followed, and the author filed suit, alleging a "novel" claim of copyright infringement against the musician and others for preventing the author from commercially exploiting the two songs through threats contained in cease-and-desist letters and requests to music retailers that the songs not be offered for sale. The district court dismissed for failure to state a claim of copyright infringement. The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal of the copyright infringement claim, but reversed dismissal of a declaratory judgment claim. The author's allegation that the musician transferred an interest in the first song, which she did not own, is not the same thing as creating an improper copy of the song and such transfer does not constitute infringement under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 106. The cease-and-desist letters on which the declaratory judgment action was based essentially challenge the authorship and ownership of the songs, implicating federal law, so its dismissal as a state law claim was improper. View "Severe Records, LLC, v. Rich" on Justia Law

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Recording companies sought statutory damages and injunctive relief under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 101, claiming willful infringement of copyrights of music recordings by using file-sharing software to download and distribute recordings without authorization. The jury found that the infringement was willful and awarded statutory damages of $22,500 for each infringed recording, an award within the statutory range of $750 to $150,000 per infringement. The judge reduced the damages by a factor of ten, reasoning that the award was excessive in violation of defendant's due process rights. The First Circuit affirmed the finding of liability, but reinstated the original damage award. The district court erred in considering the constitutional issue without first addressing defendant's motion for remittitur. The court noted a number of issues concerning application of the Copyright Act that "Congress may wish to examine." View "United Statesl v. Tenenbaum" on Justia Law

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In 2006 the photographer took a picture of radio personalities for use in a magazine. An employee of the radio station scanned the picture, cutting off credit lines, and posted it on the internet. After the photographer's attorney contacted the station, the personalities made disparaging remarks about the photographer on the air. The photographer alleged violations of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 1201, the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 101, and defamation under New Jersey law. The district court entered summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The Sixth Circuit reversed. A cause of action under the DMCA may arise whenever the types of information listed in the statute and conveyed in connection with copies of a work, including in digital form, is falsified or removed, regardless of the form in which that information is conveyed. The fact that the photographer's name appeared in a printed gutter credit near the image rather than in an "automated copyright protection or management system" does not remove it from the protection of the Act. The trial court erred in finding "fair use" in the station's commercial use of a commercial photographer's copyrighted image. The photographer was given inadequate opportunity for discovery on the defamation claim. View "Murphy v. Millennium Radio Grp" on Justia Law