Tag: copyright

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A [Temporary] Defeat For Copyright At The European Parliament
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U.S. Federal Court rules embedding a Tweet could be copyright infringement
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Western Australian Court orders ex-customers and architect to pay damages to house designer for unauthorised use of plans
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When recording also means communication to the public – interaction between copyright and cloud-based video recording services
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Kardashian #copyright saga
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“Vespa” scooters win twice against counterfeiting – Piaggio wins two lawsuits in a month
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U.S. Supreme Court Rules that Cheerleader Uniform Elements May Be Eligible for Copyright Protection
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Jelly-sy – A Warning to e-Commerce Retailers About the Risks of Infringing Copyright
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Bring It On!
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Australian Court Orders Former Customers and Builder to pay Damages to Henley for Copying its House Plan

A [Temporary] Defeat For Copyright At The European Parliament

It was one of those big dramatic days the European Parliament had already seen before. A YES or NO vote in Plenary charged with huge political and social pressure. And, as it is common in these occasions, Members of Parliament were called to vote not about what the text submitted to them actually and literally said (a balanced result of two years of debates, legal analysis and delicate negotiations);  but about the catastrophic consequences that a positive vote would have for freedom of speech around the planet.

Internet and all its benefits were threatened if this infamous article 13 of the new Copyright Directive were to pass in its proposed text. Or so pretended the loud voices against it: “If Article13 passes it will change the way that the Internet works, from free and creative sharing to one where anything can be instantly removed, by computers”, said a powerful lobbying NGO. Both battling armies looked for external support: Wikipedia closed down its Italian and Spanish editions; Sir Paul McCartney wrote to the legislators in support of the new rules.

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U.S. Federal Court rules embedding a Tweet could be copyright infringement

A federal district court in New York recently held that embedded tweets could violate the exclusive right to display a copyrighted image. In 2016, Plaintiff Justin Goldman snapped a photo of New England Patriots quarterback, Tom Brady, with Boston Celtics General Manager, Danny Ainge. Goldman then uploaded the photo to his Snapchat Story. The image went viral, making its way onto Twitter, where it was uploaded and re-tweeted by several users. From there, media outlets and blogs published articles which featured the photo by embedding the tweets on their webpages. Goldman sued the media outlets for copyright infringement.

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Western Australian Court orders ex-customers and architect to pay damages to house designer for unauthorised use of plans

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.

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When recording also means communication to the public – interaction between copyright and cloud-based video recording services

On 29 November 2017, the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) released its judgment in response to a reference from an Italian court relating to cloud recording and computing services provided by VCAST Limited (VCAST). The services enabled VCAST’s customers to select live broadcasts of television programmes that VCAST then remotely, through its own systems, recorded and made available in a cloud data storage space. The Italian court asked whether VCAST could provide this service without the permission from the owner of the copyright over the programme, with a specific query as to the application of the private copying exception provided in Article 5(2)(b) of the Information Society Directive (2001/29/EC) (InfoSoc Directive).

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Kardashian #copyright saga

Is this the right angle?
Is this the best filter?
Do I have the legal right to post this content?

While the first two questions may be at the forefront of the mind of social media users, the third is arguably as important as the pressure to push content to followers mounts in a saturated market. It is all too easy to download, screen-shot or take a photo of an image and share it across many platforms, however, taking a laissez-faire attitude to copyright ownership can land social media users in hot water.

Not only is uploading and sharing content protected by copyright a breach of the terms of use of most social media platforms (and could lead to a  user’s accounts being suspended or terminated in some cases) but it may also lead to copyright litigation, as Khloe Kardashian recently discovered.

Last week, Xposure Photos UK LTD, an “international celebrity photo agency”, filed proceedings against Ms Kardashian in the Central District Court of California alleging that she had infringed its copyright in an image that was posted to her Instagram® account.[1]  The image in question had originally been licensed to The Daily Mail and contained a copyright notice “© XPOSUREPHOTOS.COM”. The version of the image that appeared on Ms Kardashian’s account did not contain this notice nor any acknowledgement of Xposure Photos. The unauthorised removal of the copyright notice attracts 17 US Code § 1202 -1203 which provide the basis for a civil action for such conduct. In addition to seeking an injunction to prevent Ms Kardashian from using the image, Xposure Photos is also seeking US$25,000 in statutory damages as well as any profits resulting from the infringement.

While this is arguably small change for Ms Kardashian (who allegedly earns up to US$250,000 for a sponsored post on her social media sites), once legal costs and any time invested in litigation or negotiating a settlement is considered, it seems a hefty price to pay for failing to obtain an appropriate licence from the copyright owner. It is a timely reminder to social media users to ensure that they have the appropriate rights to the content they intend to use.

  1. Xposure Photos UK Ltd v Khloe Kardashian et al, 2:17-CV-3088 (C.D. Cal).

By: Jaimie Wolbers

“Vespa” scooters win twice against counterfeiting – Piaggio wins two lawsuits in a month

In just a few weeks, Piaggio – the Italian company manufacturing iconic Vespa scooters – obtained a double victory before Italian courts both under the intellectual property and the copyright perspectives.

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U.S. Supreme Court Rules that Cheerleader Uniform Elements May Be Eligible for Copyright Protection

Yesterday, in a decision that will be welcomed by the fashion industry, the United States Supreme Court ruled that certain design elements of cheerleader uniforms may be eligible for copyright protection.  Star Athletica, L.L.C. v. Varsity Brands, Inc.  The Court held that, “a feature incorporated into the design of a useful article is eligible for copyright protection only if the feature (1) can be perceived as a two- or three-dimensional work of art separate from the useful article and (2) would qualify as a protectable pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work—either on its own or fixed in some other tangible medium of expression—if it were imagined separately from the useful article into which it is incorporated.”  Justice Clarence Thomas authored the 6-2 majority opinion, addressing disagreement among lower courts as to the proper test for determining if certain design elements could ever qualify for copyright protection.

This case involved lines, chevrons, and colorful shapes on cheerleader uniforms. In finding that these elements could be covered by copyright, the appeals court below had identified nine different approaches that various courts and the Copyright Office had employed over the years to address “separability.” The appeals court fashioned its own test and found that the design features of Varsity Brands’ cheerleader uniform played no role in the overall function of the article as a cheerleading uniform, and the elements were separable from the utilitarian aspects of the uniform and thus eligible for copyright protection.

The Supreme Court affirmed.  Applying § 101 of the Copyright Act, the Court found that the decorations on the uniforms at issue could be identified as having pictorial, graphic, or sculptural qualities, and the arrangement of the decorations could be placed in another medium (e.g. placed on a painter’s canvas) without replicating the uniforms themselves.  Thus, the two-dimensional work of art fixed in the uniform fabric met both the separate-identification and independent-existence requirements of the statute. Importantly, the Court held only that the uniform elements are eligible for protection in concept; now the trial court must determine whether Varsity Brands’ specific lines, chevrons, and shapes are original enough to merit copyright protection.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg concurred in the result, pointing out that the Court did not have to discuss the separability test at all because the designs at issue were not themselves useful articles, but rather standalone, two-dimensional pictorial and graphic works reproduced on a useful article.  Justice Stephen Breyer, joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy, dissented, arguing that even under the majority’s test, the designs cannot be perceived as separate from the cheerleading uniform.

Thus, although the majority offers some clarity about the proper approach to separability, the dissent demonstrates that analysis may yield divergent results.  The decision is likely to be embraced by fashion industry leaders and other garment design stakeholders for its recognition that certain garment design elements may be protectable under the Copyright Act.  K&L Gates will continue to monitor litigation in this area and provide updates.

A link to the opinion can be found here: https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/16pdf/15-866_0971.pdf

By: David Byer, John Cotter, Shamus Hyland and Eric Lee

Jelly-sy – A Warning to e-Commerce Retailers About the Risks of Infringing Copyright

It seems only fitting that with “Schoolies Week”[1] around the corner, the Federal Circuit Court has delivered judgment in the matter of Weller & Anor v Smith [2016] FCCA 2827 which relates to intellectual property rights and commercial reputations in the jelly wrestling products industry.

The matter relates to a dispute between the partnership of John Weller and Jake Weller trading as “Crazy Town Parties” and Ian Smith.

The Wellers trade in the party supply and party hire industry. One aspect of their business is the sale of a range of products, including a substance sold in crystalline form, that are used for jelly wrestling. The Wellers utilise a number of photos for marketing purpose in both digital and hardcopy formats including on the packaging of their jelly wrestling products.

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Bring It On!

On 31 October 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the ongoing dispute between Star Athletica LLC and Varsity Brands Inc, two major designers and manufacturers of cheerleading uniforms. In what could be considered a bizarre mash up of early 2000s films “Bring it On!” and “Legally Blonde”, the two companies are involved in a stoush as to whether or not the two-dimensional designs of coloured stripes and zig-zags that are applied to cheerleading uniforms can be protected under US copyright law. My U.S. colleagues John Cotter and Shamus Hyland previously discussed the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision in this matter here.

It will come as no surprise to readers that U.S. and Australian laws differ in many respects and this is particularly the case when it comes to copyright and designs laws.

In Australia, fashion designers may have recourse to the Designs Act 2003 (Cth) and/or the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) depending on whether or not they are looking to protect two-dimensional (prints, images etc.) or three-dimensional (cut, shape, fit etc.) designs and how they intend to exploit the designs.

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Australian Court Orders Former Customers and Builder to pay Damages to Henley for Copying its House Plan

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.

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