Recently, a client asked why we included a short form option agreement and a short form assignment agreement as an exhibit to a long form literary option agreement.  I am sure that many a corporate transactional attorney has similarly wondered why a short form copyright assignment agreement is included within the package of numerous M&A

The Copyright Act provides that “Registration” of a copyright is a precondition to filing suit for copyright infringement.  17 U.S.C. § 411(a).  We are still trying to figure out exactly when registration occurs.

While copyright registration is voluntary, the Copyright Act provides several incentives for a copyright owner to register a copyright, one of

Scott-Hervey-10-webNorth Jersey Media Group Inc. is the copyright owner of the iconic photograph of three firefighters raising an American flag at the ruins of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. On September 11, 2013, a Fox News producer posted a photograph that juxtaposed the 9/11 photograph with a World War II photograph of four U.S. Marines raising an American flag on Iwo Jima on the Facebook page for the Fox News’ television program Justice with Judge Jeanine. North Jersey Media Group sued Fox, claiming that the posting of the combined image infringed its copyright. Fox news argued that the use was protected “fair use” and moved for summary judgment. The court denied Fox’s motion and Fox is now appealing to the 2nd Circuit.

Fox’s appeal centers around the lower court’s analysis of the first fair use factor: the purpose and character of the use. The purpose of this factor is to test whether the allegedly infringing work is “transformative.” A work is transformative when it adds something new to the work allegedly infringed, with a further purpose or different character, altering the original work with new expression, meaning, or message. A work is transformative if it does something more than repackage or republish the original copyrighted work. A transformative work is one that serves a new and different function from the original work and is not a substitute for it. As the Supreme Court noted in Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc, “the more transformative the new work, the less will be the significance of other factors, … that may weigh against a finding of fair use.”
Continue Reading Is Fox News Proposing a New Standard For Determining Fair Use?

In March 2014, this column analyzed a decision by a Ninth Circuit panel in Garcia v. Google, Inc., in which the Court held that an actress, who believed she was appearing in a minor role in an Arabian adventure movie, could maintain a copyright infringement claim against the producers when they used the footage instead in an anti-Islamic film that resulted in her receiving death threats. As the prior column surmised, it appeared that “bad” (although entirely sympathetic) facts were making “bad” law.

This week, the Ninth Circuit ruled that it would rehear the matter en banc and ordered that its previous decision “not be cited as precedent by or to any court of the Ninth Circuit.” It remains to be seen whether the entire Ninth Circuit will take a different position this time (and hold that the lower court properly denied the injunctive relief) or take the opportunity to emphasize just how limited the scope of its prior ruling was intended to reach.

Below is the original column analyzing the Ninth Ciruit’s original ruling in this case.

A Bit Part, A Fatwa and Copyright Infringement

Most law students learn early in law school the old maxim: “Bad facts make bad law.”  A recent Ninth Circuit case, Garcia v. Google, Inc., seems certain to test this proposition with its incredibly sympathetic facts.
Continue Reading 9th Circuit Agrees to En Banc Rehearing of Garcia v. Google, Inc.

Under the WIPO Internet Treaties, member states are required to recognize in their national laws  the exclusive right of  authors of works to ‘‘make [the works] available’’ and ‘‘communicate [the works] to the public’’, including through interactive platforms, such as the Internet. The United States implemented the WIPO Internet Treaties through the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (‘‘DMCA’’) in 1998.  Based on advice received from the Copyright Office and others, Congress did not amend U.S. law to include explicit references to ‘‘making available’’ and ‘‘communication to the public,’’ concluding that the distribution right under the Copyright Act already covers those rights.  However, because of  the absence of express “making available” language in the Copyright Act, courts in file-sharing litigation have reached somewhat different conclusions as to whether the distribution right requires proof of actual dissemination.

Commentators on the subject have opined that the “making available” right is subsumed within the distribution rights set forth in Section 106 of the Copyright Act and that most courts have correctly interpreted the Act as such.  These courts have found that a defendant infringes the distribution right by making the work available without having proof that the work was actually accessed by others.  For example, in  A&M Records, Inc. v. Napster, the 9th Circuit held that “Napster users who upload file names to the search index for others to copy violate plaintiffs’ distribution rights”.  Also in UMG Recordings, Inc. v. Alburger, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania held that “There is no requirement that plaintiffs show that the files were actually downloaded by other users from Defendant, only that files were available for downloading.”

However, it appears that some courts have concluded that an infringement of the distribution right under the Act does not occur in the absence of actual dissemination. For example, in Atlantic Recording Corp. v. Howell, the District Court of Arizona  held that “[the distribution right] is not violated unless the defendant has actually distributed an unauthorized copy of the work to a member of the public.” 
Continue Reading Will The Copyright Act be Amended to Include a “Making Available” Right