Articles Posted in Copyright Law

One issue that often faces small to medium sized companies is whether or not to buy cyber liability insurance policies.  The need and market for such policies is developing.  In this post, I will provide an overview of the product and why I recommend that our clients obtain this coverage.

First, with rare exception, today every company is a tech company.  Obviously, social networks and electronic marketplaces are run from an internet platform but the same can be said for the auto body shop that interacts with insurance carriers via web portals.  Just as tech companies have a significant brick and mortar presence, traditional brick and mortar companies transact large amounts of business online.  Because of this simple fact, I advise my clients, large to small, to obtain cyber liability coverage.

Continue reading

Copyrights protect individuals from having their work used by others without permission. The copyrighted work must be fixed in a tangible medium and be original. California residents who have intellectual property protected by a copyright may wonder how long the copyright lasts. It lasts for the creator’s lifetime plus a period after their death.

The work is protected from copyright infringement from the time of creation, whether or not it was published or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. If the work was created after 1978, the copyright lasts for a creator’s lifetime plus 70 years. Co-authored works last for the lifetime of both authors. If one author predeceases the other, the copyright lasts for the lifetime of the remaining author plus 70 years. The copyright for hired work will last for 95 years from the date that it was published or 120 years from the date that it was created. Works created before 1978 have copyright protection until at least Dec. 31, 2002. If the work was published before 2002, the copyright is extended until the end of 2047.

Copyrights are considered personal property, and they may be transferred to another person or to a company. The transfer, governed by applicable state laws, may be accomplished by contract or stipulated in a will, and recording the transfer may be beneficial. An author wishing to reacquire a copyright may be able to terminate the transfer in some cases.

A lawsuit originally filed in May and amended in August by attorneys for two real estate photographers, one of whom is based in California, accuses CoreLogic, Inc., of large-scale intellectual property theft. The company is accused of a deliberate failure to credit the creators of numerous photographs of real property.

According to the complaint, CoreLogic allegedly scrubbed legitimate copyright metadata from millions of images uploaded to online multiple listing services and sold unauthorized, uncompensated access to the images through its own subscription database. The complaint alleges that CoreLogic engaged in this behavior with the understanding or expected understanding that it would facilitate infringement. It also alleges that CoreLogic placed its copyright image beside the images, creating a potentially deceptive impression of ownership.

The plaintiffs are seeking monetary relief for themselves and other professionals. Their intent is to expand the lawsuit into a class action representing many other photographers affected by CoreLogic’s alleged actions, and such action could later include some multiple listing services who worked with CoreLogic and may have received the photographs.

A recent Wall Street Journal article discussed the effect of patent trolls on innovation. Patent trolls are individuals or companies that scoop up patents and threaten legal actions against patent users, “trolling” for licensing agreements or judgments. Patent trolls have been criticized for contributing to a 60 percent surge in patent claims since the beginning of the century.

Adam Carolla is familiar to Los Angeles fans as an entertainer, but the comedian isn’t kidding around about being named in a copyright infringement lawsuit. The intellectual property lawsuit claimed podcasters like Carolla and broadcasters NBC, CBS and Fox infringed upon a 1996 patent owned by Personal Audio. The patent allegedly covers all podcasting.

Personal Audio is a small technology company with zero product output. Investments and patent licensing agreements keep the business afloat. Carolla calls the company a patent troll.

Los Angeles authors have several exclusive rights to the works they create including rights to copy, distribute and make derivatives. Intellectual property protection also gives authors the flexibility to sell, buy, gift or license the use of a copyright. Rules applicable to author collaborations are being tested in a federal case over the origins of the book that spawned the Broadway musical and 2014 film “Jersey Boys.”

A widow claims her husband was the co-author of an unpublished book about members of the Four Seasons, the inspiration for “Jersey Boys.” The late attorney was also a freelance writer who chronicled the group’s history. Thomas Gaetano DeVito, an original member of the band and the named defendant, contacted the writer.

DeVito apparently shared information the writer hadn’t previously known about the seamier side of some band members’ links to crime. The lawsuit states a 1988 letter from the attorney to DeVito outlined the men’s rights to the finished book. The terms included shared credit and royalties.

Copyright laws protect California authors. Authors include, but are not limited to, the creators of literary works as well as art, television shows, plays, movies and music. Laws cover music rights to a song and recordings of that song.

A work must be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office for an author to exercise the right to file a copyright infringement lawsuit. A songwriter has the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, modify and publicly perform a song. People other than an author are allowed to do these things, too, but only with the copyright holder’s permission.

Singer Katy Perry, Capitol Records LLC and individuals associated with the song “Dark Horse” are being sued by a group of Christian rap artists. Four musicians – among them Flame, also known as Marcus Gray — claim “Dark Horse” infringes upon a 2008 religious track called “Joyful Noise.” The Christian song was included on the Grammy nominated “Our World: Redeemed” album.

Los Angeles musicians can be caught between a rock and a hard place. An artist wants exposure, especially at a career’s inception, but going public with a song also makes the music vulnerable to thieves. Song authors may not realize the music rights they have until someone else capitalizes upon their work.

The rock anthem “Stairway to Heaven” was introduced in 1971. A new copyright infringement lawsuit claims parts of the song were stolen from the work of a band called Spirit, the main attraction on a 1968 tour with a then-little-known opening band called Led Zeppelin. The lawsuit filed by the estate of Spirit’s deceased lead guitarist claims Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” sounds a lot like Spirit’s song “Taurus.”

The intellectual property lawsuit was filed more than four decades after the public was introduced to Zeppelin’s blockbuster and 17 years after Spirit’s band member died. Why is there a legal dispute now? The estate claimed Spirit’s Randy California was a struggling guitarist, without the financial resources during his life to challenge the world-renown rock band and its record company, Warner Music.

The people who create the ideas behind movies produced in Los Angeles often don’t get the recognition of J.K. Rowling, the author of the wildly-popular Harry Potter fantasy books. Many writers are firmly behind the scenes with other, less-than-affluent artists, while movie production companies and actors are in the forefront. Consequently, big-moneyed studios have a distinct advantage in intellectual property disputes with authors.

The name Frank Petrella probably doesn’t ring a bell. It’s highly probable you identify with the name Robert DeNiro, the star of the Academy Award winning movie “Raging Bull” and dozens of other movies. The film about boxer Jake LaMotta’s life earned DeNiro a best actor Oscar in 1981, the same year Petrella died.

Petrella wrote a 1963 screenplay, which a copyright infringement lawsuit claims was the basis for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s “Raging Bull.” The screenwriter’s daughter, who inherited the copyright, is suing MGM. A California federal appeals court favored the movie studio, which asserted the copyright claim was too old to be valid.

The world of imagination is a serious, sometimes high-risk business for California movie makers. Investments can be unrecoverable when a movie flops. While some filmmakers can afford the financial sting of failure, others place all their bets on a single project.

The Walt Disney Co. is flying high off the success of its billion-dollar animated movie “Frozen.” Far fewer people responded to the debut of an animated film called “The Legend of Sarila,” released at about the same time. The Hollywood Reporter claimed Disney filed and won a trademark infringement suit against the makers of “Sarila,” after Phase 4 Films repackaged the film as “Frozen Land.”

The plaintiff alleged “Frozen Land” contained reworked elements that were similar or, in some cases, identical to “Frozen.” Now, just a few months later, Disney is a defendant in a copyright infringement lawsuit brought by the maker of a 2-D animated short film named “The Snowman.” The complaint states that Disney stole the storyline and other elements to create “Frozen’s” teaser trailer.

Popular stories about a British secret service agent have been the fodder for the “James Bond” movie franchise for decades. The movies injected life into the Ian Fleming novels. Even people who have never seen a Bond movie may be familiar with the larger-than-life character’s quirks.

James Bond’s publicly-identifiable characteristics as Agent 007, a member of the elite MI6 squad, are at the center of a Los Angeles copyright infringement lawsuit. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, associated subsidiaries, United Artists and Danjaq – the company that produces the James Bond features – are suing NBCUniversal, Universal Studios and a screenwriter. The federal complaint alleges Universal’s planned “Section 6” movie lifts blatantly from the Bond character and franchise.

The lawsuit claims Universal is developing a movie from Aaron Berg’s $2 million screenplay about the origins of MI6 in the post-World War I years. The plaintiffs argued the “Section 6” screenplay and movie feature a secret agent named Alex Duncan with unmistakable similarities to James Bond, and a plot line directly harvested from several Bond films.