MoviePass, the subscription movie ticket and streaming service, has grown its user base exponentially in recent months, but it may become a victim of its own success. The $7.95 per month service, which supplies its users with an unlimited number of monthly movie theater tickets and access to streaming content, has over two million users and counting. Purchasing multiple movie theater tickets for these two million users every month, however, generates a significant operating loss. MoviePass hopes to reverse its fortunes through a combination of monetizing the information its users provide, partnerships with movie studios (including acting as a distributor) and theater chains, as well as a gradual process by which its users stop “binging” the service and become more passive consumers. Continue reading
A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit today issued its much-anticipated opinion in the TVEyes appeal, reversing the decision of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, and holding that TVEyes’ copying, storage, and re-distribution for viewing, downloading, and sharing, of massive amounts of copyrighted TV content was not fair use.
TVEyes is a for-profit media company offering a service that allows its clients to “sort through vast quantities of television content in order to find clips that discuss items of interest to them.” TVEyes records 1,400 channels’ worth of TV broadcasts, 24 hours a day, and makes the copied content searchable by also copying the closed-captioned text that accompanies the videos. Clients can search for videos based on keywords and play unlimited video clips, each up to ten minutes in duration, and may archive, download, and share clips by e-mail. Clients pay $500 per month for these services. Continue reading
Last week, Judge Forrest of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in Goldman v. Breitbart News, LLC – one of a pair of cases pending in Manhattan federal court concerning the practice of “embedding” copyrighted content – issued a ruling in favor of the plaintiff, photographer Justin Goldman, holding that embedding (or framing) does not immunize content users from copyright infringement claims. The court declined to adopt the Ninth Circuit’s “server test” as set forth in Amazon v. Perfect 10, holding that the location of the allegedly infringed work does not determine whether a defendant has “publicly displayed’ that work in violation of the copyright owner’s exclusive rights. Put another way, “the fact that the image was hosted on a server owned and operated by an unrelated third party . . . does not shield” defendants from a finding that a plaintiff’s display right had been violated.
The court chiefly relied on the language of the Copyright Act, including § 101’s definition of “display,” which includes showing a copy of a work by any “device or process,” and transmitting or communicating a display by means of any “device or process.” The court explained that the Copyright Act does not require a user to possess, or to store at their own physical location, a copy of the work in order to display it within the meaning of the statute. The court further looked to legislative history and the 2014 decision in Aereo to note the application of the Copyright Act to new technologies. Continue reading
In a rare show of bipartisanship, Congress has proposed legislation that would financially benefit music creators who have either been overlooked in the past or are compensated on inconsistent terms. Three bills – the Fair Play, Fair Pay Act, the CLASSICS Act and the Music Modernization Act (all of which have bipartisan support) – were introduced in 2017 to reform Copyright laws and bring balance to the music industry. As copyright reform has gained much traction in the past month, with a House Judiciary field hearing that took place in New York City on January 26, 2018, the three bills represent hope for change and needed updates in the digital music era.
Fair Play, Fair Pay Act
The Fair Play, Fair Pay Act, introduced March 2017, aims to extend a copyright owner’s rights to include the right to perform a sound recording publicly by means of any transmission – including traditional broadcast. Currently, the Copyright Act affords the owners of musical compositions (the underlying music and lyrics) the right to perform a sound recording publicly, but only provides a much narrower public performance right for owners of sound recordings, limited to performance by means of digital transmissions by cable, satellite, and internet radio stations. For instance, when an internet radio station such as Pandora streams a song, the artist and record label receive a statutory royalty for the performance of the sound recording, but when that same song is played on terrestrial AM/FM radio, the artist and record label are not compensated (in both scenarios the writer and/or publisher of the song is paid for the performance of the composition, though). The radio industry has consistently defended the lack of monetary compensation for radio air play, citing the promotional value that radio uniquely brings an artist and record label. Continue reading
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recently affirmed a lower-court decision that Viacom’s use of the trademark “BUBBLE GUPPIES” for promotional merchandise for its show of the same name did not infringe on a children’s clothing brand that had registered the trademark “GUPPIES,” primarily because the “GUPPIES” mark – which had been used for many years before Viacom’s use– was relatively unknown to the public.
According to the lawsuit, Plaintiffs Debbie and Dean Rohn have operated Guppie Kids, Inc., a children’s apparel brand, since 1990. The couple registered two trademarks for apparel-related items: one for the word “GUPPIE,” an acronym for “Growing Up Playing Pursuing Individual Excellence,” and the other for a logo: the word “GUPPIE,” in which a fish in a necktie forms the letter G. Continue reading
On January 9th, Kodak announced its intention to enter the cryptocurrency craze by developing a blockchain-based service that presumably allow participating photographers to get paid each time their licensed work is used on the Internet without their prior consent. As described on the company’s website, the digital platform, currently referred to as KODAKOne, will “provide continual web crawling to monitor and protect the [intellectual property] of images registered in the KODAKOne system.” Upon detection of an unlicensed use, Kodak will manage the post-licensing process and (i) have the picture removed, or (ii) compensate the participating photographer in the company’s own currency, referred to as KodakCoin. By December 11th, the company’s stock had more than tripled. Continue reading
Sexual assault and harassment complaints in the Hollywood working world are up 500 percent for SAG-AFTRA in the post-Harvey Weinstein era. The pressure is present and growing for companies whose executives, employees, and/or talent have been accused of, or have been victims of such assaults. For example, following the firing of The Today Show co-anchor Matt Lauer for inappropriate sexual behavior, Andy Lack, chairman of NBC News and MSNBC said that the company is retaining “a firm to conduct in person, interactive training on workplace behavior and harassment prevention.” Moreover, SAG-AFTRA’s attorney Gloria Allred led a panel for guild members called “Beyond the Headlines: A Conversation on Sexual Harassment and Abuse in the Entertainment Industry” a few weeks into the Hollywood sexual harassment and assault scandals to share and discuss strategies for dealing with harassment and observing harassment in the Hollywood workplace. Gabrielle Carteris, SAG-AFTRA’s president, said in a Vanity Fair interview that Harvey Weinstein’s stories have “created a conversation that we haven’t had in the open in a very full way[.] Everybody is re-evaluating their policies and procedures. We’re talking about, as an industry, how do we do this?” As a result, the industry is already changing its audition practices; one-on-one male/female auditions are declining: “If it’s just the male director there…don’t go in that room,” said casting director Debra Zane. “[Although auditions] are not a contract issue, […] those are our members, so we want to give voice to them. Our job as a union is to protect people and give them a sense of safety when they’re working,” said Carteris. “Additionally, studios are launching more and more investigations; updating their sexual harassment policies and sharing them with producers; producers are conducting sexual harassment trainings on set; contracts’ moral clause are being revised; and actors are launching anti-sexual harassment campaigns. Needless to say, this issue goes beyond the Hollywood working world with the #MeToo movement created by sexual assault and harassment victims to virally share their stories.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently affirmed a lower court’s holding that Fox’s use of the name “Empire” for its hit television series is protected by the First Amendment, leaving record label Empire Distribution without any recourse on its trademark infringement claims. A copy of the full decision is available here. Of most significance is the court’s arguable expansion of the Rogers v. Grimaldi test for expressive use of trademarks into the realm of promotion and merchandise.
Empire Distribution, founded in 2010, records and releases albums in the genres of hip hop, rap, reggae, and R&B under the name “Empire.” Its portfolio of artists includes Snoop Dog, T.I., and Kendrick Lamar. In 2015, Fox premiered its Empire television show, a drama that centers on a fictional New York-based hip hop music and entertainment company called “Empire Entertainment.” The Empire show features songs and original music, which Fox releases through Columbia Records after the episode airs, and packages as soundtrack albums at the end of each season – of which there have been four and counting. Continue reading
The last few months have seen a number of high-profile deals in episodic programming, spurred in part by the entry of a number of significant new players in the marketplace. Here are a few particularly noteworthy entries:
Apple is anticipated to become a major purchaser of entertainment content, and it made a splash with its first show announcement – a two-season order for a show starring and executive produced by Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, set inside the cutthroat world of morning television.
Everyone is looking for the next “Game of Thrones and “The Kingkiller Chronicles,” in development at Showtime and based on Patrick Rothfuss’s acclaimed fantasy series, may be it. “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda is attached to executive produce, and will contribute music to the series – a key development as music is an important component of Rothfuss’s books. Continue reading