Articles Posted in Copyright Law

Compare contributory infringement to aiding and abetting. An accessory knows about and assists with a crime in a subtle way, without getting his or her hands too dirty. An example might be storing stolen merchandise without taking part in a robbery – you’re guilty of facilitating the crime.

Movie maker Quentin Tarantino filed a lawsuit in January accusing Gawker Media of revealing his entire screenplay to the public. Tarantino had plans to produce the “The Hateful Eight” movie but scrapped the idea after Gawker’s published links to the script in a blog. Gawker wants a California judge to throw out the lawsuit, claiming the company could not be held as an accessory for copyright infringement that hasn’t occurred.

Gawker’s position is the company could not be guilty of contributory infringement, because the film director has no evidence of direct infringement. The motion to dismiss alleges Tarantino’s case is weak, because it supposes Gawker’s exposure of “The Hateful Eight” script would encourage infringement. The defendant asserted possible infringement was not actual infringement and, without direct proof, there could be no secondary liability case.

It’s not mandatory for a Los Angeles artist to register a copyright to have legal protection. Intellectual property laws cover registered and unregistered copyrights, but physical evidence comes in handy. Visible proof of a copyright beats a spoken claim when there’s a dispute over copyright infringement.

Actor and voice talent Hank Azaria proactively filed a lawsuit aimed at preventing legal arguments over a character creation. Azaria’s baseball-announcer character, named Jim Brockmire, was used in a widely-seen 2010 Funny or Die video. The actor wanted a court to confirm the character and copyright belonged to him.

Another voice talent and one-time friend of Azaria’s, Craig Bierko, argued in court that the baseball character and the character’s voice originally were his. A judge disagreed with Bierko. The court felt Bierko’s claim was “vague” and unproven, compared to Azaria’s well-defined, colorful character.

Many Los Angeles musicians know protection of a copyright involves more than a handshake and a simple contract with a record company. Intellectual property abuses occur when artists don’t understand the music rights they have.

A lawsuit accuses KC & the Sunshine Band and affiliated defendants with copyright infringement. The son of a now-deceased member of the famous 70’s disco band claims his father’s music rights to solo work were trampled.

Initially, a federal court threw out the complaint claiming the horn player’s son had no right to make the claim. A second court reversed that decision and ordered the infringement case to be heard.

Literary works and sometimes the characters within them are copyright protected. The length of protection varies under intellectual property laws depending on several factors, like when and whether a work was published and whether the copyright was renewed.

A California author is planning to publish a Sherlock Holmes-inspired book later this year. The estate of Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the deductive detective and a series of five dozen Sherlock Holmes novels and stories, wanted the author to pay $5,000 for using Doyle’s famous characters in the new book. The author took the case to court.

The original Sherlock Holmes series spanned 40 years, from 1887 to 1927. Only 10 of the detective mysteries remain under the protection of U.S. copyright laws, with an expiration date of 2022; the other 50 tales are in the public domain.

When you own a copyright, you have exclusive control over an original creation. If you so choose, you may copy the work and sell it. Music rights allow you to perform the work for a Los Angeles audience and make derivatives, or new versions, inspired by the original piece.

Inspiration is not limited to copyright owners. Other musicians may feel compelled to create and express something new and different with elements of your work. Whether or not that constitutes copyright infringement depends on whether the derivative passes muster under fair use.

A California federal court has been asked by a toymaker to define the litigants’ boundaries in a dispute over the use of a Beastie Boys song in the manufacturer’s advertising. The widely-seen Goldieblox “Princess Machine” ad features a parody of the song “Girls,” complete with revised lyrics that promote science and engineering interests and goals for girls.

Rivals in lawsuits aren’t always strangers. Intellectual property disputes can crop up between friends or family members turned business partners. A tug-of-war develops over a company’s confidential information when partners or relatives get competitive.

The Lichtenberg brothers are fashion designers with separate businesses. Brian Lichtenberg LLC and Christopher Walter Lichtenberg’s Alex & Chloe, Inc. both market and sell products with the trendy “Ballin'” trademark. Brian recently told a California federal court that he’s the only with the intellectual property rights to use the design and name.

Brian filed a trademark infringement suit against his brother, along with a string of accusations. Christopher allegedly took advantage of his more successful brother’s generosity when Alex & Chloe was struggling.

New California businesses often begin operations with limited funds. Most money is used to establish and grow the company. Small business owners often don’t budget legal expenses to include an all-out intellectual property war.

Hacker Scouts in Oakland has been in operation for about a year and already faces a huge legal challenge. The organization promotes youth education in the advanced fields of technology, science and engineering. Hacker Scouts officials say the non-profit youth services they offer are nothing like the well-known Boy Scouts of America, potential plaintiffs in a trademark infringement lawsuit.

The Boys Scouts sent a letter to the Oakland organization ordering it to change its name. The duplicate use of the word “scouts” is the problem. Hacker Scouts contends the Boy Scouts cannot place a restriction on a word that has been in existence longer than the Boy Scouts. Legal observers say Hacker Scouts might be disappointed if the case goes before a judge.

How many Americans had no idea of the existence of a government organization called the National Security Agency before the last few weeks? An honest show of hands probably would reveal that most Los Angeles residents were unaware of the government’s highly-classified, communications protection agency.

The media made the NSA and its super-secret PRISM data-gathering program the subject of nationwide debate about the public’s right to privacy. Agency officials contend they are just doing their jobs to protect the nation’s communications by mining dangerous data from foreign-based emails, videos, files and chats.

The shockwave began when media sources reported that the government’s surveillance program was solidly in place among the country’s largest service providers including Google, Facebook and Skype. News reports hint that an Orwellian “Big Brother” may be keeping constant tabs on anyone and everyone.

Counterfeiters who steal products or designs from Los Angeles businesses take more than revenue — they dilute company brands. Copyright and trademark infringers also oblige many businesses to remain in a perpetual defensive position.

Money used to protect intellectual property is an expense that fortifies but does not expand a company. Limited budgets prevent new entrepreneurs from shielding the uniqueness of their products. Startups easily fold without funds to safeguard merchandise.

Some established companies like fashion house Tory Burch use a no-holds-barred approach to thwart thieves. The business’s legal team said during the past year it helped close down 1,200 online sites selling copycat Tony Burch products. Authorities also confiscated half a million counterfeit items.

A reality television personality and an East Coast governor are at odds over a $35 T-shirt. Gov. Andrew Cuomo spotted a photograph of California fashion entrepreneur Khloe Kardashian wearing a shirt she sells that bore a familiar logo. The emblem on Kardashian’s shirt had surprising similarities to the logo for the state’s agriculture department.

The state and Rich Soil logos depict the Statue of Liberty highlighted against a farm field. The words on the shirts differ. The state-generated emblem says “Pride of New York” while Kardashian’s version states “Rich Soil New York.” The fonts appear to be the same.

State officials were quick to contact Kardashian’s enterprise and order the top-end clothing company to stop selling the T-shirt. The “cease and desist” order also compelled the 28-year-old fashion executive to tally up the profits her company made from the sale of the shirt.