Einstein Publicity Rights Deemed Expired By California Federal Court

On October 15, 2012, a California federal judge dismissed Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s (“Hebrew University”) lawsuit against General Motors LLC (“GM”) over the use of Albert Einstein’s image as part of a GM advertisement, holding that Einstein’s publicity rights have expired and now fall in the public domain. Hebrew University of Jerusalem v. General Motors LLC, 10-cv-3790 (C.D. Cal.). United States District Judge A. Howard Matz rejected Hebrew University’s claim that New Jersey common law provides for an indefinite duration of the postmortem right of publicity, or that it alternatively is coextensive with copyright law and lasts for a minimum of 70 years after a person’s death. Instead, the Court ruled that New Jersey common law postmortem publicity rights endure for no more than 50 years after a person’s death. Because Einstein died in 1955, the Court’s ruling means that Einstein’s publicity rights are now in the public domain. Continue reading

Sweetener Manufacturer Looks to Burst Wrigley’s Bubble

Illinois District Court Continues Motion for Preliminary Injunction, Orders Hearing in Trademark Case

On September 28, 2012, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois found that even though there was a “better than negligible chance of prevailing” on its claim that gum manufacturer Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company infringed a sweetener manufacturer’s trademark by using the name “Swerve” for a flavor of its popular sugar-free chewing gum, “5,” a hearing was necessary to determine Wrigley’s potential damages from a sales injunction. Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company v. Swerve IP, LLC, No. 11-9274 (N.D. Ill. 2012) Continue reading

Mary E. Rasenberger: Copyright Exceptions for Libraries in the Digital Age

On Friday, November 2, CDAS partner Mary E. Rasenberger will speak at the symposium Copyright Exceptions for Libraries in the Digital Age: Section 108 Reform, at the Jerome L. Greene Hall, at Columbia Law School. Presented in cooperation with the U.S. Copyright Office, the symposium will address Section 108 of the U.S. Copyright Act and mass digitalization by libraries. What explicit exceptions should libraries have? How should Section 108 be revised? To what extent should libraries be able to engage in mass digitalization of published, in-copyright works in their collections? How and to whom may digitized materials be made available? How does Section 108, fair use, and licensing piece together? Continue reading

Google Settles Book Scanning Lawsuit With Publisher Group

On October 4, 2012, Google reached a settlement in the Google Books case with the publisher plaintiffs, which include The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., Pearson Education, Inc., Penguin Group (USA) Inc., John Wiley & Sons, Inc., and Simon & Schuster, Inc. The Association of American Publishers (AAP) represented the publishers in the settlement, resolving its seven-year copyright dispute over Google’s controversial book digitization project in The McGraw-Hill Cos. Inc, et al. v. Google Inc., 05-cv-08881 (S.D.N.Y.). In 2004, Google launched the Google Books Project and commenced scanning thousands of books from major public and academic libraries pursuant to agreements with the libraries. Through its Google Books service, Google makes the scanned books searchable and publicly displays fragments of the books in response to search queries. In October 2005, five AAP member Publishers and the Authors Guild, on behalf of a class of authors, sued Google in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, claiming Google did not seek authorization from the owners of the works and accusing Google of massive copyright infringement. Google countered that its scanning and display of the books was fair use because it displayed only small “snippets” of each book, and the scanning was conducted for that purpose. Continue reading

Nancy E. Wolff – “What You Need to Know About Copyright”

CDAS partner Nancy E. Wolff joins the panel “What You Need to Know About Copyright, Licensing and Image/Footage Usage Trends” presented by Visual Connections, Wednesday, October 24, 10am, at The Altman Building, 135 West 18 Street, New York City. The panel will discuss a variety of copyright issues including fair use, orphan works, royalty free, managed rights, and copyright concerns in innovative uses of imagery. Please click here for more information and to register.

Documentary Filmmaker Successfully Argues Fair Use in Central District of California

A federal court recently ruled that an unauthorized use of film clips in a documentary film satisfied the requirements of the fair use exception under the Copyright Act. In National Center For Jewish Film v. Riverside Films, LLC (C.D. Cal. Sept. 14, 2012), the defendants made a documentary film entitled Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness about the 19th century Yiddish author Sholem Aleichem which examined the past 150 years of Jewish history. The National Center for Jewish Film (NCJF) sued the filmmaker for copyright infringement and claimed that the filmmaker used clips in the documentary from four of its copyrighted films without permission. The total amount of footage from the four films used in the documentary ranged from 22 seconds to one minute and 24 seconds, which amounted to 0.4% to 1.5% of the original films. Continue reading

The Dog that Stole Copyright

Missouri District Court Awards Summary Judgment to Disney on Copyright Infringement Claim

On September 20, 2012, the District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, in Harter v. Disney Enterprises, Inc., No. 11-2207 (E.D. Mo. 2012), dismissed a copyright infringement lawsuit that claimed Disney stole the idea behind its direct-to-DVD movies about a dog who helps Santa Claus save Christmas. Continue reading

California Appellate Court Upholds Amazon’s Anti-Counterfeiting Measures

Decision Provides Significant Guidance for Contributory Trademark Infringement Claims Against Online Service Providers


On August 22, 2012, the California Court of Appeal validated, Inc.’s (“Amazon”) efforts to police counterfeit goods sold by third-parties on its website in Tre Milano, LLC v., Inc., No. BC460511 (Cal. App.2d 2012). At issue was whether Amazon could be held liable under direct and contributory trademark infringement theories for counterfeit versions of Plaintiff Tre Milano LLC’s “InStyler Rotating Hot Iron Hair Straightener” (the “InStyler”) that were rampant on Amazon’s Marketplace website. Continue reading

Louboutin v. Yves Saint Laurent: The High Stakes High Heels

Second Circuit Holds A Single Color Can Be A Fashion Trademark

On September 5, 2012, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in Christian Louboutin S.A. v. Yves Saint Laurent Am. Holding, Inc., No. 11-3303 (2d Cir. 2012), held that a single color can be used as a trademark in the fashion industry. The highly anticipated ruling is a significant victory for the fashion industry and ensures that French designer Christian Louboutin has a valid and enforceable trademark on his contrasting red-soled shoes. Continue reading

Monge v. Maya Magazines, Inc.: A Fair Use “Telenovela”:

Tabloid’s Publication of Copyrighted Photographs without Permission Not a Fair Use

On August 14, 2012, the majority of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in Monge v. Maya Magazines, Inc., Nos. 10-56710, 11-55483 (9th Cir. 2012), reversed the decision of the District Court for the Central District of California and held that a tabloid’s publication of copyrighted photographs without permission was not a fair use under copyright law, rejecting a general newsworthy exception. Continue reading