Tag Archives: Copyright Law

Suing bloggers for dollars

Originally posted 2011-12-05 10:40:50. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Interior of rotunda, New York Supreme Court, New York CountyGlenn Reynolds links to a an article in Wired about a newspaper “chain”‘s — actually, lawyer Steve Gibson’s — “new business model”:  Suing bloggers who post newspaper articles, evidently more or less intact ones, on their sites.  Glenn says suing bloggers “seems like a poor business plan” — mainly, of course, because most bloggers are broke, or pretty close to it.

The article also explains why these one-off claims by outfits such as the Las Vegas Review-Journal are unlikely, in the long run, to pay off.  One reason is that at least the music industry, through the Recording Industry Association of America, is theoretically going for some degree of bulk in its litigation trawling against unlawful file sharing.  And we did say “theoretically”:  Remember, in 2008 the RIAA managed to spend about $16 million on legal fees to reel in a whopping $391,000.  As the article says, “You’d have to go after a lot of people for a relatively small amount of money,” says Jonathan Band, a Washington, D.C. copyright lawyer. “That is a riskier proposition.”

So, yes, it is hard to comprehend the return on investment here.

There are other reasons this doesn’t seem to make sense.  “Defendants might be less willing to settle a lawsuit stemming from their posting of a single news article, despite the Copyright Act’s whopping damages,” says the article.  But no, not quite on the “whopping damages” stuff.  Contrary to myth — and to the threats routinely uttered by copyright plaintiff attorneys — statutory damages are not meant to be a windfall, as I explain at some length here.  Now it is true that some juries think intellectual property infringement damages are a jackpot unrelated to actual harm — usually because judges don’t instruct them properly.  But other judges in high profile cases are refusing to be part of the copyright shakedown.  Thus in the recent Tannenbaum copyright case, the District Judge reduced the jury’s damages award of $675,000 for infringement of 30 songs to $67,500, ruling that the amount awarded was unconstitutional under the Due Process clause.

Still, $67,500 is a lot of money, a lot, and still pretty darned distant from any plausible quantum of loss to the copyright owner.   Read More…

King Kong meets Godzilla

Originally posted 2014-04-22 21:57:10. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Via Drudge — FT.com unleases a whopper:

Microsoft on Tuesday launches a fierce attack on Google over its “cavalier” approach to copyright, accusing the internet company of exploiting books, music, films and television programmes without permission.Tom Rubin, associate general counsel for Microsoft, will say in a speech in New York that while authors and publishers find it hard to cover costs, “companies that create no content of their own, and make money solely on the back of other people’s content, are raking in billions through advertising and initial public offerings”.

Mr Rubin’s remarks, presaged in an article in Tuesday’s Financial Times, come as Google faces criticism and legal pressure from media companies over services allowing users to search online for books, films, television programmes and news. Viacom, the US media group, instructed YouTube, which Google owns, to remove 100,000 clips of copyright material.

Okay, so there’s a touch of irony here:

You see, Microsoft excels at marketing. They don’t excel at innovation. In fact, very little of what Microsoft has to offer is truly innovative. There is a tendency to come late to the game and snatch up an idea and build on it, perhaps years after the concept has hit the market, and call it their own. They market themselves as innovators and do a degree they are. Their innovation comes in the spit and polish and not in the technological breakthrough itself.

Examples of this go way back …

Arguably, Google has innovated more — with its search engine technology and the applications it has spun off them, and in the way it has changed the face of how people use their (and others’) computers — than Microsoft ever will. What commercial reality is motivating this attack, then? Read More…

Revoke this, I implied. Or something.

Originally posted 2011-03-24 17:58:18. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Only a real IP lawyer like Pamela Chestek can write about revoking an implied nonexclusive copyright license.

And mean it.

This Isn’t One, Either. Heavens, No.

Originally posted 2009-09-30 23:33:12. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Bill Heinze’s I/P Updates blog reports about a trademark registration you can see at the erstwhile movie pirating website LokiTorrent.com. You get a message that says “There are websites that provide legal downloads. This is not one of them.” The site is the property of the good people at the MPAA. And it ought to: Downloading someone else’ movie is just plain stealing. Even if the MPAA is against it. Clients sometimes ask whether the infringing website they’re steaming about can ever fall like an overripe fruit into their hot little hands. Yep. It can.

Someone dropped in an extra zero, right? RIGHT?

Originally posted 2008-10-16 00:01:17. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

It’s a month-old story, and how it got past us here notwithstanding, it’s not getting past us now.  Per the ABA Journal, remember the Bratz litigation?  Well, you haven’t read half of it yet:

Two toy companies battling for rights to the Bratz dolls-with-attitude have racked up legal fees of at least $93 million in the case.

MGA Entertainment has spent $63 million in fees since 2004 defending a lawsuit by Mattel Inc. that contended the doll’s designer conceived of the idea before leaping from Mattel to MGA, the Daily Journal reports (sub. req.). Plaintiff Mattel has spent $30 million in just the first half of the year, the story says.

Mattel was awarded $100 million in the case, far short of the more than $2 billion in damages it had sought.

The Daily Journal got MGA’s figures in a lawsuit it filed against its insurers seeking full payment of the Bratz fees, while the publication got the Mattel figure from a stock analyst.

The ABA item quotes a Jones Day litigation partner who is flummoxed at the idea that there is any conceivable way to get to $93 million for a trademark case, even over the course of four years.  We sure are, too.  And re-read this ‘graph:

MGA Entertainment has spent $63 million in fees since 2004 defending a lawsuit by Mattel Inc.  . . . Plaintiff Mattel has spent $30 million in just the first half of the year, the story says.

That $30 million was just the first half of ’08!  That means Mattel spent WAY more than $30 million since the suit began in ’04, and that the total legal fees must have blasted way, way past $100 million since the case began.

Is there anyone out there who can even remotely do this math and explain how you can get to numbers like this — not how they can be justified, for, given the business interests involved, they are not irrational.  But how many widgets, and of what kind, does a law firm have to spit out to get to these kinds of numbers?

War Is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength

Originally posted 2014-11-26 12:58:03. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

And free speech is a form of negotiable intellectual property, right?

Maybe I can give up the blog. There is no percentage in clever commentary when the claimants provide the self-parody.  Credit to Instapundit.

Let the games begin

Originally posted 2009-09-29 23:36:13. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Yahoo! News reports:

Media conglomerate Viacom Inc. sued Google Inc. and its Internet video-sharing site YouTube for more than $1 billion on Tuesday in the biggest challenge yet to the Web search leader’s strategy to dominate the online video market.

The lawsuit accuses Google and its popular online video unit of “massive intentional copyright infringement,” threatening its ambitions to turn YouTube into a major distributor of entertainment and outlet for advertising.

This is going to come down to the old question that we wrestled with — without resolution — in the online auction context: Whether or not “trying really hard” to avoid copyright (or in the case of auctions, typically trademark) infringement is enough to get website such as YouTube (or eBay) off the hook.

Ironclads battle

In the case of eBay, where the issue is trademark, they have replicated the notice-and-takedown provisions of the copyright law and were tested on whether this helps — there is no safe harbor provision for trademark infringement — only by Tiffany, in a case that evidently never went anywhere.

Here there really is a legislative safe harbor under the Copyright Act. But why should an entire business model premised, at least in part, on profiting from copyright infringement get the benefit of a safe harbor? Viacom will argue that it shouldn’t.

UPDATE: Good analysis by Allahpundit and Google Watch. Meanwhile, when you’re a carpenter, every damned thing looks like a nail, doesn’t it!  Also, Evan has the complaint and a sharp rundown on it.

UPDATE BUT GOOD:  Settled in March 2014:

The settlement ends seven years of litigation that drew wide attention from Hollywood, the music industry and Internet companies, and which tested the reach of a federal law designed to thwart piracy while letting people find entertainment online.

“This settlement reflects the growing collaborative dialogue between our two companies on important opportunities, and we look forward to working more closely together,” Google and Viacom said in a joint statement.

Terms were not disclosed. No money changed hands, a person close to the matter said. The person was not authorized to discuss the settlement’s terms.

Old media vs. new in LA federal court

Originally posted 2012-01-01 00:01:47. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

CNET News.com reports:

NBC Universal and Viacom have come out against YouTube in a legal case that could help to determine whether the video-sharing site is culpable for copyright violations committed by users.

On Friday, NBC Universal and Viacom filed a request with the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles asking that they be allowed to file a friends-of-the court brief in support of journalist Robert Tur, according to a copy of the request obtained by CNET News.com.

Tur, a Los Angeles-area news reporter, accused YouTube of copyright infringement in a lawsuit last summer. Tur said in his suit that footage he shot of the 1992 Los Angeles riots appeared repeatedly on the video-sharing site.

Google, which acquired YouTube last October for $1.65 billion, has filed a summary judgment asking that Tur’s suit be dismissed, according to court documents. NBC and Viacom want the opportunity to argue against dismissing the case.

“Any ruling on YouTube’s motion will have far-reaching ramifications for the owners of video content,” NBC and Viacom said in their filing. “And especially for content owners such as Viacom and NBCU, whose works have been copied, displayed, and performed and disseminated by YouTube and others without their authorization.”

YouTube is taking the position, in effect, that it’s just an Internet service provider, a common carrier, a pipe, and that it can profit (well, has it ever profited?  Its founders did when they sold out to Google) from content placed on its website but cannot be held liable for it.  It think that’s preposterous, and that this position is not what Congress had in mind when it passed the amendments to the Copyright Act on which Google is relying (NB:  I have not seen the actual Google filings — if someone can correct my characterization of them, I welcome that).

UPDATE:  Read this.

They always get their man

Originally posted 2009-11-24 17:22:30. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Yes, people do have some funny ideas of what kinds of things to protect with copyright, don’t they?   A few years ago, criminal enterprise Milberg Weiss (in its pre-conviction days) tried to assert copyright in its own specie — the legal papers it filed to generate kazillions in crooked class-action fees — and not so unreasonably (hmm…).

Anyway, it seems that certain countries, though not as wealthy as Milberg Weiss, nor nearly as scurrilous (indeed, arguably cordial to a fault!), have figured, if an American law firm can try to claim copyright in its own money, why can’t we?   Why not indeed?

Dudley and SnidelyAnd so we read of a vacation. “To experience the full excitement of traveling abroad,” writes Eric E. Johnson,

you’ve got to have a pocket full of unfamiliar money. Never mind that their pennies, dimes, nickels, and quarters look almost identical to U.S. coins. And put aside the fact that the exchange rate right now between the U.S. and Canada is almost exactly one-to-one. I was still excited to use different cash.

Inspecting the colorful bills, I got a delightful surprise: a copyright notice!

Aspiring counterfeiters be warned – the bills are copyrighted by the Bank of Canada! That will make you think twice before xeroxing off a sheaf of north-of-the-border moola.

In the United States, we discourage that sort of thing with specially crafted counterfeiting laws. Under these laws, you can be arrested by Secret Service agents who, in proving their mettle to make the presidential security detail, will take you down in broad daylight in a swarm of dark suits and sunglasses while never ceasing to speak covertly into their earpieces.

Ouch!  Eric then goes on to wonder what, exactly, could be the point of this exercise, besides saving money on sunglasses and long overcoats.  Does Canada conceive of some gentlemanly copyright tribunal that will save it the gruesome martial expense and unpleasantness that Uncle Sam would gladly undertake if some pipsqueak tin-horn principality were to try to save a few bucks by just copying our bucks for their money? To use for their money, that is, replacing the trinkets and beads they presumably had been trading with until just then.

I wouldn’t rule that out.  But more likely, the Ministry of Money is being pretty clever here.  Why indeed not include copyright infringement as a belts-and-suspenders civil (and criminal) remedy, just another tool on top of a counterfeiting claim?  It could also be helpful if, for some reason, the elements of the criminal charge of counterfeiting could not be proved, or in order to make use of the various litigation tools available to civil litigants (whatever they may be in a quaint foreign land such as Canadia) but not to government prosecutors.

And then there’s the possibility that the fine artwork on the gelt, separate and apart from the cute, colorful Canadian “dollars” themselves, is being protected as well, for any number of reasons.

There are lots of possibilities, I guess, and in fact just before hitting PUBLISH, I figured I’d better check and see if anyone else has enunciated them.  And they did, and not so long ago, either, when Mike Masnick asked the same question and a whole bunch of people tried to answer it.  Yep.

But Eric is right about this:  All the clever rationales in the world aren’t worth a hill of Klondike bars compared to the fact that, well, some things you just don’t do, if you’re an A-List country, you know?

Copyright on the money?  Please.

Uncle Sam HandSpeak to the hand.

Death By Lawyer

Originally posted 2014-08-07 16:31:49. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

 

Originally, originally posted 2007-06-13 20:42:40. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

They make that sound like a bad thing. Now, I wouldn’t agree with each and every little thing Stan Schroeder, the author of this article on Mashable, says — such as this about MP3.com of blessed memory:

In 2000, the owners started a new service – My.MP3.com – which enabled users to register CDs they legally own and make online copies on MP3.com’s servers. Although this about as legit as you can get, the record industry managed to sue them (!) and win (!?), and MP3.com had to settle the lawsuit, paying 200 million dollars in damages, which turned out to be a blow from which they would never recover.

“About as legit as you can get”? Yes, well, that’s what Cooley Godward thought, too. Judge Jed Rakoff didn’t see it that way, and — in his inimitable matter — he didn’t suggest there was a lot of doubt about the right answer, either. We never got a second opinion (i.e., one that mattered from an appellate court), so just don’t come away from this article with the wrong impression.

Still and all, a good piece, and food for thought. Hat tip to Overlawyered.