On September 2, 2020, a California federal judge denied musician Taylor Swift’s motion to dismiss copyright infringement claims related to the lyrics in Swift’s hit song Shake It Off. On remand from the Ninth Circuit, the district court held the merger doctrine did not apply at this stage and that plaintiffs Nathan Butler and Sean Hall sufficiently alleged a protectable sequence of creative expression and substantial similarity in the lyrics at issue. This ruling comes nearly three years after Hall and Butler originally filed suit, and nearly one year after the Ninth Circuit breathed new life into the case by reversing the district court’s prior dismissal of this lawsuit.Read More
On 11 June 2020, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) handed down its decision in the referral from the Belgium Companies Court (Tribunal de l’entreprise de Liège) arising from copyright infringement proceedings by Brompton Bicycle Ltd (Brompton) against a Korean company Get2Get Chedech (Get2Get) relating to its folding bike.
The decision is good news for designers and creative businesses as it lays a foundation for new opportunities for copyright protection and enforcement in Europe. This evolving area of law now requires a low threshold for protection, with a suggestion from the CJEU that minor creative choices in products will be sufficient for a finding of copyright protection.Read More
The Italian Supreme Court decision on the KIKO case (Cass. 780/2020) is the most recent judgement made in the wake of the Cofemel decision (case C-683/17) and follows the UK IPEC decision in Response Clothing (click here for our previous blog post).
In this latest development, KIKO S.p.a, a well-known make-up store was able to secure copyright protection for its signature store layout, made of its open space entrance with digital screens, the white/black/pink/purple color combination, the disco lighting effects, the size, proportions, materials and position of furniture.Read More
In its recent judgment (Boomerang Investments Pty Ltd v Padgett (Liability)  FCA 535), the Federal Court of Australia has found that an American electronic musical duo copied the celebrated Australian disco song ‘Love Is In The Air’. The decision confirms that the sound of lyrics as sung forms part of a musical work. Furthermore, a short sung lyric with attending music can be the ‘essential air’ of a song.
While determining only “modest” levels of copyright infringement occurred and dismissing most claims for damages, Justice Perram described the copying as “flagrant” and indicated there will be a further hearing to assess damages.Read More
On April 27, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision authored by Chief Justice Roberts that copyright protection does not extend to the annotations in Georgia’s official annotated code. In the case, Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org, Inc. (No. 18-1150), the majority held that because “Georgia’s annotations are authored by an arm of the legislature in the course of its legislative duties, the government edicts doctrine puts them outside the reach of copyright protection” even though the annotations themselves do not have the force of law.Read More
A district court in the recent Sinclair case found no copyright infringement by the website Mashable, where it used one of photographer Sinclair’s Instagram photos in an article, even after an unsuccessful attempt to license the photo directly from Sinclair. Sinclair v. Ziff Davis, LLC, and Mashable, Inc., No. 1:18-CV-00790 (S.D.N.Y. April 13, 2020).Read More
Who owns a celebrity’s tattoo, and the extent to which that tattoo can be displayed in a commercial context, raises right of publicity, copyright, and trademark issues. A district court in the recent Solid Oak case found no copyright infringement where a video game incorporated tattoos as inked on professional NBA players. Solid Oak Sketches, LLC v. 2K Games, Inc., No. 16-CV-724-LTS-SDA (S.D.N.Y. March 26, 2020).
This case considered use of tattoos as part of lifelike depictions of professional athletes in video games, however the ruling easily relates to individuals with tattoos who commodify their likeness such as celebrities, social media influencers, and musicians.Read More
Late last year, Judge Baird of the Australian Federal Circuit Court handed down a decision in the case of Henley Arch v Del Monaco, a copyright infringement matter in respect of a project home design.
The claim was brought by well-known Australian builder Henley Arch, who readers might also recall from the 2016 decision in Henley Arch v Lucky Homes. The respondent in this case, Dorian Del Monaco, was an individual who owned a property in Pakenham (Melbourne), Victoria.Read More
On March 23, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States held that the Copyright Remedy Clarification Act of 1990 (“CRCA”) does not abrogate the states’ sovereign immunity from copyright infringement suits. The practical effect of this ruling is that copyright holders cannot sue the states for damages for copyright infringement.
Allen was decided in reliance on and accordance with Florida Prepaid Postsecondary Ed. Expense Bd. v. College Savings Bank, a 1999 case in which the Supreme Court found unconstitutional the Patent Remedy Act (“PRA”), a related statute “basically identical” to the CRCA, that eliminated the states’ sovereign immunity from patent infringement suits.
Applying the reasoning of Florida Prepaid and emphasizing stare decisis, the Supreme Court rejected the arguments that either Article I’s Intellectual Property Clause or Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment’s limitations on state power provide a basis for the CRCA’s abrogation of state sovereign immunity in copyright suits.Read More
On March 13, 2020, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit held in Photographic Illustrators Corp. v. Orgill, Inc. that a copyright licensee given the unrestricted right to grant sublicenses may do so without using express language. Specifically, the court held that a sublicense may be implied by the conduct of the sublicensor and the sublicensee. Orgill presents the first ruling by a circuit court on whether copyright sublicenses can be implied in the absence of express permission from a sublicensor. Read More