By Dale C. Campbell

On July 31, 2012, the Ninth Circuit issued its ruling protecting the right of privacy held by collegiate athletes against the use of their likeness in connection with video games. (Keller v. Electronic Arts, Inc. (2013) 9th Circuit Court of Appeals 10-15387. This decision joins the Third Circuit’s decision in Ryan Hart v. Electronic Arts, Inc., U.S. App. LEXIS 10171 (3d Cir. 2013), finding that the collegiate athletes’ right to publicity outweighs Electronic Arts’ First Amendment rights. 

Sam Keller was a starting quarterback for Arizona State in 2005, before joining Nebraska in 2007. Electronic Arts ("EA") is the producer of a series of video games known as NCAA Football, in which EA seeks to replicate a school’s entire team as closely as possible. NCAA Football is an interactive game that allows the video gamer a wide range of playing options including modification of a player’s size and abilities as well as for which team he plays. Keller sued EA and the NCAA in a putative class action. EA filed a SLAPP motion ("Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation"), claiming that this conduct was protected by the First Amendment. The District Court denied the SLAPP motion, and EA appealed. 

The Ninth Circuit recognized that video games, like books, plays, and movies, are entitled to the full protections of the First Amendment.  (Brown v. Entm’t Merchs. Ass’n, 131 S.Ct. 2729, 2733 (2011). However, the First Amendment rights are not absolute, and states may recognize the right of publicity to a degree consistent with the First Amendment. (Zacchini v. Scripps-Howard Broad Co., 433 U.S. 562, 574-75 (1977).) 


By Lisa Y. Wang

In April, we published an article about Fox Broadcasting Co. v. Dish Networks, LLC, where Fox Broadcasting was requesting a preliminary injunction against Dish Network, claiming that were engaged in copyright infringement by offering their Auto Hop on Dish Networks’ DVRs. As of that date, a judge declined to issue a preliminary injunction and Fox had appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. On July, 24, 2013, the Ninth Circuit rejected Fox’s appeal, and affirmed the district court’s refusal to enjoin Dish Network’s features. It affirmed the lower court’s reasoning that the consumer is the party causing a copy to be made, and not Dish Network. So if you subscribe to Dish Network and have the Auto Hop and "PrimeTime Anytime" features, no need to panic and switch cable/satellite providers, you can still watch your favorite television shows, commercial-free, without even touching the fast-forward button.

The Ninth Circuit confirmed that DVR recording is protected fair use, and since Fox did not have any copyright interest in the advertisements (the only content that was being skipped), it could not show that it was irreparably harmed by the features.   However, it may be a bit premature for Dish Network to break out the champagne, despite Dish’s executive vice-president’s statement that, "This decision is a victory for American consumers."   That is because this decision was made using the very high legal standard required to justify a preliminary injunction, and the deferential standard of review applied to denials of preliminary injunctions. Continue Reading UPDATE: You Can Still Hop Through Commercials

By Anji Mandavia

Currently pending before the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois is a case that will determine whether the Estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has any remaining copyright interest in the iconic character of Sherlock Holmes, and his friend and companion in sleuthing, Dr. John Watson.   

The fictional detective and his sidekick first made their appearances in “A Study in Scarlet,” published in 1887. By 1923, Doyle had written and published some fifty-six short stories and four novels wherein Holmes and Watson solved numerous cases through Holmes’ unique analytic and deductive methods, all the while interacting with various supporting characters, including Scotland Yard’s Detective Lestrade, their landlady Mrs. Hudson, Holmes’ brother Mycroft, and his arch-nemesis Professor Moriarty.   Each of those pre-1923 works is now in the public domain in the United States. Approximately ten Sherlock Holmes stories, published after 1923, remain protected by copyright.

Malibu lawyer, and Sherlock Holmes aficionado, Les Klinger, is the author of numerous books and articles regarding the Sherlock Holmes canon. In 2011, he published, as co-editor, a collection of new short stories by contemporary writers featuring Sherlock Holmes and some of his supporting characters, titled “A Study in Sherlock.” In connection with that publication, the Doyle Estate demanded, and Klinger’s then-publisher paid under protest, a license fee for the use of Holmes and the other characters in the story collection.
Continue Reading Character Copyright — Is Sherlock Holmes in the Public Domain?

By Audrey A. Millemann

In Association For Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., decided on June 13, 2013, the United States Supreme Court held that isolated natural genes (DNA) are not patentable. Thus, genes that exist in a living organism, such as the human breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 at issue in this case, are not made patentable because the inventor isolates them from the other genomic DNA. The Court was careful to explain that other inventions related to genes, however, are patentable. In particular, the Court held that the synthetic copy of a gene known as “complimentary DNA” (cDNA) is patentable, as well as methods of isolating genes and methods of using cDNA. 

The decision was not surprising. The law has long been that naturally occurring biological compositions are not patentable subject matter. The Court applied that rule logically to find that a gene as it exists in a living organism is not patentable just because someone discovers it. In contrast to natural DNA, cDNA is not found in the living organism. The Court found that cDNA is a copy of the natural gene, synthesized in the lab; it is different from the natural gene in that it does not include the non-coding portions of the DNA that are present in the natural gene. The Court concluded that the cDNA is therefore patentable as a man-made composition.

BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are associated with an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. A woman with specific mutations in these genes has a 50% to 80% chance of having breast cancer, compared with 12% to 13% risk for women without these mutations, and a 20% to 50% chance of having ovarian cancer. Myriad discovered the location of these genes and sequenced the most common mutations. They used this information to develop a screening test to determine if a woman has a high risk of cancer due to the presence of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations.

By Kay Brooks

Today the United States Supreme Court ruled that Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. The case, United States v. Windsor, 570 U.S. ____ (2013), involved the portion of DOMA that stated that the federal government will only recognize marriages between opposite-sex spouses for purposes of federal law. There are over 1,000 federal laws that address marital status, and DOMA’s Section 3 denied validly married same-sex couples myriad protections and responsibilities under federal law. Because of the Windsor decision, same-sex spouses who are validly married under state law will now also be treated as married under federal law.

Continue Reading Supreme Court Rules DOMA Section 3 Unconstitutional