Legal Blog

Fox Television Stations, Inc., et al. v. Aereokiller, LLC, et al.: Ninth Circuit Holds FilmOn X Not a “Cable System” Entitled to Compulsory License; Implicates Federal Agency Deference Doctrines

In 2014, the United States Supreme Court, in American Broadcasting Companies v. Aereo, Inc., held that unlicensed re-broadcasts of copyrighted content over the Internet constituted public performances of copyrighted works in violation of content owners’ exclusive rights under the Copyright Act; as part of its discussion, the Court analogized services like Aereo’s to “cable services.”  Emboldened by the Court’s comparison, Aereo competitor FilmOn X (formerly Aereokiller) took the “cable services” ball and ran with it.  FilmOn X has sought to brand itself as a “cable service” under § 111 of the Copyright Act, a status that would entitled it to re-transmit performances of copyrighted works without securing prior consent if it complies with certain regulations and pays a minimal statutory fee – the “compulsory license.”  FilmOn X is now fighting high-stakes copyright battles before several federal appellate courts around the country.  On March 21, the Ninth Circuit dealt a blow to FilmOn X’s western front, becoming the second federal court of appeals (along with the Second Circuit in WPIX, Inc. v. ivi, Inc.) to hold that Internet re-transmitters do not constitute “cable systems” under the Copyright Act. Continue reading

C‐Corp vs. LLC – Tips for Choosing the Right Entity Structure for Your Business

Congratulations!  After months of dreaming about turning your great idea into a real business, you have finally decided to take the plunge and form a company.  After doing some initial research, you have decided to form your company as either a C-Corporation (“C-Corp”) or Limited Liability Company (“LLC”) since both entity structures offer personal liability protection against your company’s debts (meaning creditors of your company are not be able to come after your personal assets for repayment).  However, how do you know which of these two entity structures to choose?

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Flo & Eddie, Inc. v. Sirius XM Radio, Inc.: New York State’s Highest Court Finds No Public Performance Right for Pre-1972 Sound Recordings at Common Law

In a case of first impression, New York’s highest court ruled that New York common law does not include a right to control public performances of pre-1972 sound recordings.

The ruling arises from a years-long legal battle between The Turtles, the 1960s rock band most famous for the hit song “Happy Together,” and Sirius XM, the nation’s largest digital satellite radio service.  In 2013, members of The Turtles (through their company, Flo & Eddie, Inc.) brought a class action lawsuit against Sirius XM in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleging that Sirius XM violated New York’s common law right of public performance by broadcasting and streaming copyrighted pre-1972 sound recordings, including The Turtles’ songs, without a license.  Sirius XM admittedly broadcasts pre-1972 sound recordings to its paying subscribers without a license, but contends that no license is required – raising a legal question that has been the subject of much dispute in recent years:  whether, and to what extent, copyright law protects the public performance of these decades-old sound recordings. Continue reading

Life is Beautiful, but Trademark Overreach is Not: Attempted Monopolization of Unused Trademarks Costs Mr. Brainwash His Ability to Sue

In a trademark and copyright infringement case brought by Amusement Art, LLC (“Amusement Art”), a company owned by artist Thierry Guetta, most commonly known as Mr. Brainwash, against Life is Beautiful, LLC (“LIB”), a California federal judge ruled that Amusement Art fraudulently utilized the trademark registration system to attempt to secure a monopoly over its artwork and designs. The consequences were severe: the judge dismissed all of Amusement Art’s trademark claims.

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Copyright Termination: A Primer

I. WHAT DOES “COPYRIGHT TERMINATION” MEAN?

Copyright termination refers to the termination of a grant—or transfer—of one’s copyright rights. Following termination, those rights that were transferred under the grant return to the creator of the copyrighted work. This termination right allows content creators to renegotiate the terms of their original agreements, or enter into new agreements, effectively giving them a second chance at a better deal when they may not have had the opportunity previously. Not all rights return, however: derivative works previously created under authority of the grant before its termination can continue to be exploited. And, only creators’ U.S. rights revert; to the extent a grant of copyright rights includes foreign rights, such foreign rights do not return to the creator upon termination.

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Star Trek Fan Fiction Copyright Decision Stuns Usefulness of Summary Judgment on Substantial Similarity for Plaintiffs in Ninth Circuit

On Stardate Tuesday, January 3, 2017, Judge Klausner of the Central District of California filed the Court’s summary judgment decision in Paramount Pictures Corp. v. Axanar Productions, Inc., Case No. 2:15-CV-09938-RGK-E.  The ruling, which denied the parties’ dueling motions, is the most important decision for the fictional universe in which Paramount’s Star Trek properties are set since Starfleet’s court martial of Captain James Tiberius Kirk in Season One, Episode 20 of the original Star Trek series.  While the Court’s ripeness and fair use analyses are relatively straightforward, its ruling on substantial similarity could tilt the playing field on the issue towards copyright infringement defendants.  The Court noted that no case in the Ninth Circuit has found for Plaintiffs on substantial similarity at summary judgment and that out of the Ninth’s Circuit’s brace of extrinsic and intrinsic substantial similarity tests, the latter must be reserved for a jury.  Unless that point is clarified at the Circuit level, parties’ litigation budgets should allow for the strong possibility that a jury must weigh even the most obvious instances of substantial similarity. Continue reading

Second Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Louis Vuitton Infringement Claims in Parody Tote Bag Lawsuit

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals last week affirmed a district court’s dismissal of luxury brand Louis Vuitton Malletier, S.A.’s suit against My Other Bag, Inc., seller of canvas tote bags featuring the text “My Other Bag…” on one side and drawings meant to evoke luxury handbags on the other. Continue reading

Negotiating Esports Content Deals: Looking Beyond YouTube

A major trend over the past fifteen years has been the evolution of major sports teams into true media companies. Whereas previously sports teams’ media presence was limited to appearances during live games on broadcast television, today’s top teams, from Real Madrid and Manchester United to the New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys, are creating and distributing content via YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat and, in some instances, their own dedicated cable television channels. In doing so, they have grown from sporting organizations into bona fide content producers and entertainment brands. Continue reading

Negotiating an Agreement for Video Measurement Services

The past two decades have seen an explosion of video distribution services and content providers.  Measurement began with the need to ascertain audience size for ad sales purposes, first by mid-20th century over-the-air broadcasters and their advertisers and ad agencies.  Then, this essential monetizing requirement was passed on to the late 20th century competitive cable networks, coupled with the corollary cable, satellite and telecommunications systems delivering all of these signals, known as multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs), of which there were hundreds, now consolidated into a mere handful.   More recently, in this century, these more traditional providers have been joined by a seemingly endless array of “over-the-top” (OTT) providers streaming programming via the web.  These distributors, and their producers, subscribe to numerous measurement services, the most well-known being AC Nielsen, as it has been providing measurement data for the industry since such information became necessary in the 1950s, and now including several competitive data and measurement providers, like Rentrak, comScore, Quantcast, Wakoopa, and Networked Insights.  The data obtained is not only useful in order to demonstrate how popular certain programming is, but also, due to digital technology, it now provides information that allows measurement data subscribers to optimize their own services to meet consumer preferences.  Continue reading

A Heavy Shield to Bear – An Overview of the New EU-US Privacy Shield

In October of 2015, when the European Court of Justice struck down the US-EU Safe Harbor framework – which allowed EU organizations to transfer EU citizens’ data to the US in compliance with stricter EU privacy laws – thousands of companies that transfer data across the Atlantic were left at sea.  Since the Safe Harbor’s downfall, organizations that transferred personal data from the EU to the US could not be certain that they were complying with EU privacy laws.  As of this July, the European Commission, in partnership with the US Department of Commerce, has approved a new legal framework for these intercontinental data transfers, deemed the EU-US Privacy Shield.  The goal of the new program is the same as the old one: to ensure that EU citizens’ data being transferred to the US is sufficiently protected.  However, the new Privacy Shield program provides more, and stricter, obligations on US companies, greater governmental oversight by US regulators, and several options for the enforcement of these obligations. Continue reading

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