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
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
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
The Federal Court of Australia recently handed down its decision in the copyright case of Hardingham v RP Data. This decision serves as a warning about the risks of informal licensing arrangements. The case centres around copyright infringement regarding the use of photographs and floorplans without authority.
The applicants in the case were Real Estate Marketing (REMA) and its sole director, Mr Hardingham. REMA had been operating its business since 2009 and entered into informal agreements with real estate agencies to create and provide photos and floorplans of properties for marketing campaigns. It was understood by REMA that, as part of marketing campaigns, the agents would upload the commissioned photos to platforms such as realestate.com.au. However, the scope of the permitted uses by the agents was not clearly agreed or recorded in writing.Read More
All companies that conduct business online should take note of a potential upcoming renewal deadline for the “safe harbor” from copyright infringement liability. Online service providers seeking safe harbor under 17 U.S.C. § 512(c) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) must designate a copyright agent with the U.S. Copyright Office and renew that designation at least once every three years. Failure to do so will negate the online service provider’s ability to claim the safe harbor from copyright infringement liability under § 512(c). Many companies renewed their designations between December 1, 2016 and December 31, 2017 using the Copyright Office’s new electronic filing system. For those that did, the three-year renewal deadline may be approaching.Read More
“Improvise. Become more creative. Not because you have to, but because you want to. Evolution is the secret for the next step.” Karl Lagerfeld
Our Fashion team has prepared the latest edition of Fashion Law where we provide you with the latest updates on legal issues affecting the fashion industry.
This edition covers:
• An update on Modern Slavery legislation
• Copyright infringement
• The benefits of design protection in an IP strategy
• A look at illegal phoenix activity.
Click here to read Fashion Law online.
On 22 January 2018, Justice Martino of the Supreme Court of Western Australia delivered his judgment in the case of Milankov Designs & Project Management Pty Ltd v Di Latte & Anor, a copyright infringement case in respect of house plans.
Mr and Mrs Di Latte engaged the plaintiff, Milankov Designs & Project Management Pty Ltd (Milankov), to design and prepare drawings for a home to be built at the Di Lattes’ property. The agreement provided that Milankov would prepare plans for stages of the design and build process – first, the development stage and, second, the construction drawing stage. The Di Lattes agreed to pay Milankov a percentage of the build cost, to be billed to the Di Lattes at various stages throughout the process.
After Milankov had prepared the stage one plans (including plans submitted to council for building licence approval) and the Di Lattes had paid several invoices issued by Milankov, the relationship between the parties broke down. The engagement contract was terminated by the Di Lattes, and Milankov promptly wrote to the Di Lattes putting them on notice that Milankov owned copyright in the plans it had created and that the Di Lattes were not entitled to reproduce the plans without its permission, including by building the house at their property.
Nonetheless, the Di Lattes proceeded to engage an architect to create plans including construction drawings by copying Milankov’s plans, and then to construct a house in accordance with the design.
A recent decision on copyright infringement in building designs
On 13 October, Justice Beach of the Federal Court of Australia delivered his judgment in the case of Henley Arch v Lucky Homes & Ors, a copyright infringement case in respect of a project home design.
Mr and Mrs Mistrys were customers who, in 2013, went part way through the sales process with Henley Arch (Henley) for it to build them a house in accordance with its “Amalfi” design. The Mistrys paid Henley a deposit and plans were drawn up to build the house on the block that the Mistrys were purchasing. The Mistrys signed a standard Henley document acknowledging that Henley owned copyright in the plans and that the Mistrys were not entitled to use these (other than by building with Henley). While the Mistrys had initially wanted Henley’s “Avenue” façade option, after they learned that this would increase the price by about AUD10,000 they reverted to the standard option for the facade.
The Mistrys did not sign a final contract with Henley and instead approached Lucky Homes with the Henley plan (which featured Henley’s title block and copyright notice). Lucky Homes agreed to build the home for the Mistrys with the “Avenue” façade they preferred for about AUD10,000 less than Henley’s price (that is, Henley’s price for the house with the standard façade). The Mistrys ultimately engaged Lucky Homes, and it engaged a draftsperson to create a plan for the Mistrys’ house from the Henley plan, with a number of minor changes.
Earlier this week the Supreme Court of Queensland (Court) delivered its judgment in the case of Coles v Dormer & Ors, a copyright infringement case about home designs. The Court found that a house built in an exclusive Port Douglas estate was created by copying the design of another house built close by in the same estate, and ordered that the infringing house undergo significant alterations to change its appearance.
John and Edith Bredens were prospective buyers of a home in The Sands, which had been constructed by Port Douglas Builders in accordance with plans created by designer Gregory Skyring. The Bredens were not successful in purchasing the house, which was ultimately bought by Stephen Coles, who gave evidence that he was particularly taken with the unique style of the house.