copyright infringement

Finding Google’s copying a fair use, the Supreme Court ended Oracle’s decade-long attempt to recover copyright damages.  The battle began between these tech giants when Google designed its Android software platform for mobile devices, such as smartphones.  The platform allows “computer programmers to develop new programs and applications” for Android-based devices.  In designing the mobile platform, Google independently developed most of the code but copied what the parties referred to as “declaring code” for 37 application programming interfaces, or APIs.  The declaring code in APIs “enables a set of shortcuts for programmers.”  A programmer can select a particular task from the API’s task library without having to learn anything more than a simple command, thus allowing the programmer to use a library of prewritten code to carry out complex tasks without having to write the code from scratch.

At the time Google was developing the Android platform, many software developers were using Sun Microsystems’ Java programming language and its popular Java SE platform.  Oracle, shortly after acquiring Sun Microsystems in 2010, accused Google of taking critical portions of the APIs in the Java code for unauthorized use in its Android platform.  While Google independently developed the underlying code for the tasks, Google copied the declaring code for certain tasks “useful to programmers working on applications for mobile devices.”  “Without that copying, programmers would need to learn an entirely new system to call up the same tasks.”  With the “structure, sequence, and organization” of the APIs so similar, Oracle alleged Google infringed its copyrights.
Continue Reading Fair Use Shields Google in Its Copyright Battle with Oracle

We recently discussed a new trend in celebrity copyright litigation on our YouTube channel and podcast (The Briefing on YouTube). Specifically, we discussed celebrities taking a stand and defending copyright claims brought by photographers against celebrities who reposted photos on their social media accounts. Two specific celebs who have taken a stand are

Under the Copyright Act, an owner of a copyright suing for infringement may elect to seek statutory damages instead of actual damages.  The amount of statutory damages under the Copyright Act are limited to $30,000 for innocent infringement and up to $150,000 for willful infringement.  In Desire, LLC v. Manna Textiles, Inc., et al. (decided February 2, 2021), the Ninth Circuit was confronted with the issue of whether a plaintiff is entitled to multiple statutory damage awards where some of the defendants are found to be jointly and severally liable with each other.

Desire is a fabric supplier that had obtained and registered with the Copyright office “a two dimensional floral print textile design.”  Shortly thereafter, a woman’s clothing manufacturing, Top Fashion, purchased a couple of yards of the fabric from Desire in order to secure a clothing order with Ashley Stewart, Inc., a woman’s clothing retailer.  Unfortunately, Top Fashion and Desire had a dispute over the fabric’s price.  Top Fashion then showed the design to Manna, a fabric designer, who in turn used a Chinese textile design firm to modify the design.  That designer changed approximately 30-40% of the original design, and Manna subsequently registered the “new” design with the Copyright Office.
Continue Reading The Interplay Between Statutory Damages and Joint and Several Liability in a Copyright Infringement Action

The facts in Mango v. BuzzFeed are fairly straight forward. Mango is a freelance photographer who licensed a photograph to the New York Post.  The Post included the photo in a story and below the photo included Mango’s name – an attribution known in the publishing industry as a “gutter credit”.  Three months after the story was published by the Post, BuzzFeed published a related story and included Mango’s photo.  BuzzFeed did not get permission from Mango to use the photo.  Further, BuzzFeed removed Mango’s name from the gutter credit.  Mango sued for copyright infringement and for removal or alteration of copyright management information under the DMCA.  Prior to trial BuzzFeed stipulated to liability on the copyright infringement claim, leaving Mango’s DMCA claim as the sole issue for the District Court
Continue Reading Second Circuit Frames Novel Issue of Photographer’s Claim of Copyright Infringement and DMCA Violation

Unicolors, Inc. creates and markets artistic design fabrics to various garment manufacturers.  Some of these designs are marketed to the public and placed in its showroom while other designs are considered “confined” works that Unicolor sells to certain customers. Unicolors withholds marketing them to the general public for a set period of time. In order to save money, Unicolors often times groups various designs into a “single work” when filing with the U.S. Copyright office for copyright registration.  The Ninth Circuit in Unicolors v. H&M Hennes & Mauritz (May 29, 2020), recently addressed whether this practice, grouping both public and “confined” works into a single registration application, creates a valid copyright that Unicolors could enforce.
Continue Reading “Birds of a Feather” – The Ninth Circuit Confronts “Single Unit of Publication” Copyright Issue