Tag Archives: Fair Use

Oscarwatch.com a trademark infringement?

Originally posted 2010-03-23 15:38:08. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

The Academy of Motion Pictures is suing a website called Oscarwatch.com. Fair use anybody? The site’s owner, Sasha Stone, has been doing his homework:

I used to watch Oscar all the time

“I am not trying to exploit the Academy’s trademark to offer competing goods and services,” Oscarwatch.com’s Stone told [The Hollywood Reporter].
“Rather, I am offering commentary that directly addresses the Oscars awards, a topic of great interest to the general public, thanks largely to the efforts of the Academy itself. I believe that the use of (Oscarwatch) to describe commentary about the Oscars is that of fair use.”

I believe he’s right. But this may be one of those close cases in which the mark holder still has to act. And in California, the Academy’s chances aren’t terrible, because many of their judges are.

UPDATE:  More of the same, and a case that Oscar Madison would certainly appreciate!

UPDATE: From the Citizen Media Law Project:

The parties settled soon after the lawsuit was filed, and Stone changed the name of his site to “Awards Daily” and his domain name to “http://www.awardsdaily.com.”

Ninth Circuit. Keywords. Trademarks. Hike!

Originally posted 2011-03-11 17:23:32. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Here’s a roundup of what other people are saying about the decision in Network Automation, Inc. v. Advanced System Concepts, Inc. involving keyword advertising using other folks’ trademarks (a form of the dreaded “diversion“!) and perhaps implicating secondary liability for trademark infringement:

Well, that’s almost all the roundup you need!  In fact, here’s the “takeaway” of Eric’s post:

9th Circuit court building with sign

We’ve had surprisingly few appellate decisions involving keyword advertising generally, and almost none involving trademark owners’ lawsuits against keyword advertisers (as opposed to suing keyword sellers like search engines). On that basis alone, this ruling is important. The case is also remarkable because the opinion, written by highly regarded Judge Wardlaw, gets so many things right.
Perhaps that sounds like damning with faint praise, but the reality is that the Ninth Circuit’s Internet trademark law has become horribly tortured due to deeply flawed opinions like the 1999 Brookfield case. This opinion deftly cuts through the accumulated doctrinal cruft and lays a nice foundation for future Internet trademark jurisprudence.
The only sour note is that the opinion makes some unnecessary and empirically shaky “presumptions”–exactly the kind of unfortunate appellate court fact-finding that got the Ninth Circuit into trouble into the first place. Still, given how this opinion could have turned out, I still give this opinion very high marks.
Yeah, Eric is great on that “presumption” stuff — and how badly judges wing them when it comes to trademark.  And Rebecca?

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SUPER BOWL® trademark post XI: Consumer Reports and the super-duper exemption

Originally posted 2012-01-30 15:50:19. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Yes, it is that time of year again — the SUPER BOWL® trademark overreaching (dare I say bullying?) time of year.  This January I’m focusing on this article from, of all places, Consumer Reports, which focuses on the BIG GAME non-trademark aspect of the NFL’s X’s and O’s on this:

[I]f you’ve been searching the Web for an amazing Super Bowl deal on an HDTV only to find the pickings slimmer than a runway model after a three-day fast, we have another suggestion: Try substituting the term “Big Game” for “Super Bowl” in your search engine.

Get a bit more action? That’s because retail ads and promotions can’t legally use the phrase “Super Bowl”—or even “Super Sunday”—unless the companies have paid big bucks (really big bucks) to the NFL, which owns the trademarks to the two terms. Fortunately, exceptions are made for news organizations like Consumer Reports, or this article would have a different headline.

Good idea on the search strategy. But not quite sure I get that last line.  Yes, they’re right about the application of the fair use doctrine to news and commentary, but mistaken (and surprisingly, given Consumer Reports‘ supposed mission) in suggesting that non-profit organizations are per se entitled to assert the defense without regard to the nature of the use in question.  They are not.


Non-profit use of a trademark is indeed a factor courts consider when analyzing fair use.  Now, the fact is there is no way on earth this article (but wait, there’s more!) constitutes a prima facie copyright or trademark infringement such that fair use would have to be asserted in an action by the NFL.  But even if it did, there is no bright-line “exception for news organizations.”

I sure hate to think that, laboring under such a misapprehension, Consumer Reports is actually refraining from giving accurate, descriptive names to its publications that happen to be someone’s copyright or trademarks.

In fact, Consumer Reports’ misunderstanding of the fair use doctrine is so profound, from how I understand it, anyway, that this next part is not too surprising, though it is pretty amusing (sorry, it just is) — and it clearly does not look at all like fair use!:

Find all of our Super Bowl coverage in one place on ConsumerReports.org: Super Bowl XLVI game plan helps you pick out the best TVs for watching the game, how to find those TVs, apps that’ll augment your fun, the tastiest TV-watching treats, and lots more.

Really?!  Maybe there is a super-duper blanket exception for Consumer Reports!  We’ll see.

I do like this from the piece:

But just as it’s done in years past, regional retailer H.H. Gregg is once again pushing up against the NFL’s Super Bowl advertising restrictions—this year with a website that sports a very Super Bowl-looking logo, complete with the words “Super Sale” and the Roman numerals “XLVI.” I guess some retailers figure “Big Game” promotions call for some big-time gambles, and not just on the outcome of the game.

Perhaps other retailers will also adopt more creative end-arounds to help promote football-oriented TV sales without violating the NFL’s trademarks. As we get closer to game day, let us know if you see any local ads that tie in to a “Big Game” promotion, or if you notice any especially creative ways a dealer is finding to promote “super” sales without getting flagged by the NFL for trademark encroachment.

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Worth a thousand words

Originally posted 2012-10-23 19:15:22. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Special Civil Part courtroom, Essex County Hall of Records, Newark NJ
How much use is fair use — i.e., permissible use — when it comes to graphics and photographs you “find” on the Internet?

Not too much.  As I said a while back in a chat with friend John Hawkins:

What’s the most common mistake you see bloggers making? What are you seeing people do that could get them sued?

Well, it’s fair to say that well over 90% of bloggers are not risking any legal trouble. Most people write their original thoughts, they make legitimate links, and even things like hotlinking graphics, even aside from the copyright issue, are probably not actionable. It’s interesting to think about whether if you knocked out someone’s website with a hotlink to a graphic, he could come after you on a trespassing theory…

But if there is any single problem that seems to consistently be out there, it’s copyright infringement regarding the use of photographs from news services.
Read More…

The ugly side of branding

Originally posted 2013-02-06 13:58:13. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Who but the ultimate trademark pig the NFL would make unwilling third parties endorse their sponsors?

Makes me want to throw a SUPER BOWL PARTY!

DMCA days

Originally posted 2008-07-21 21:27:12. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Mike Masnick on a key question:  Whether copyright fair use, no matter how obvious, may be ignored by a would-be copyright owner when sending a DMCA takedown notice that but for the fair use defense is “reasonable”:

The DMCA has provisions for a copyright holder to assert ownership, at which point the service provider needs to takedown the content. Whoever posted the content can protest that the content was legally posted — which is exactly what happened in this case. However, the DMCA also says that filing a false DMCA notice opens one up to damages from those whose content was taken down. This was in an effort to discourage false DMCA notices. This provision was used last year against Viacom for its false takedowns on satirical clips of the Colbert Report.

The question then, is whether or not filing a takedown notice on content that is used in a way consistent with “fair use” is a misuse or not. Universal Music’s claim is that it is not reasonable for the copyright holder to take fair use into consideration before sending a takedown notice. At a first pass, it sounds like the judge agrees.

As ridiculous as this whole situation is, the judge and Universal Music may be correct under the existing law.

A corrollary:  Is fair use grounds for a DMCA recipient to disregard a DMCA takedown notice?  Hat tip to aggregator Tech Verdict.

UPDATE from Carolyn Wright.

A quick scan of the law regarding copyright and the public domain images

Originally posted 2010-03-17 18:26:32. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

startrek-tricorderThe story’s all over the Net, but here’s as good a take on it as any, from Mike Masnick at Techdirt:

Derrick Coetzee, a software developer and an administrator of Wikimedia Commons, the media repository for Wikipedia is being threatened by the National Portrait Gallery in London. Coetzee admits that he downloaded about 3,000 high-resolution images from the site, but notes that they are all of paintings that are in the public domain (nearly all are over 100 years old). Coetzee is in the US, where he notes Bridgeman v. Corel suggests that photographs of public domain paintings do not carry any copyright, since the photograph does not add any new expression. However, such issues are not settled in the UK, and the National Portrait Gallery is insisting that the photos are covered by copyright.

Mike is surprised that the National Portrait Gallery is acting so regressively:

Here was a chance to help educate the public and give people more reasons to go to the Gallery to see the actual photos, and they’re trying to stomp out that kind of education through abuse of copyright law. The people who run the Gallery should be ashamed of themselves. They ought to go back and read their own mission statement.

Yes, mission statements are all very nice, but the way they see it, they’ve spent millions on scanning stuff and it just galls them that someone is depriving them of the rent that should come their way by virtue of all that effort.

And what is the law?  Read More…

MTA’s way or the highway

Originally posted 2009-09-02 16:31:48. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

I’ve been watching these guys at the MTA and their IP enforcement program for a while now.  Once was for a client, who, regrettably, didn’t want to fight.

  • I first picked up on this over four years ago, when I wrote,

The New York Times reported (yes, reg. req.) last week that New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority is scrambling to enforce trademark rights in its wide array of iconography, including the famous alphanumeric train symbols known to all New Yorkers. . . .

Still and all, there is an interesting trademark policy issue in here somewhere. It’s one thing to say that services aren’t free and that even when, as in the case of the MTA, they succesfully address significant externalities, their costs should not be unduly disconnected from users. But it’s another thing to say that, however revenue-starved, a public institution (in the broad sense of the word) such as the MTA should restrict the public, much less the bloggy, enjoyment of a public iconography such as the train number symbols and the image of the classic subway token.

  • A few months later I reported on a “crackdown” by the MTA on unauthorized distribution of copyright-protected maps of the subway, and cited Bill Patry, who said, in a similar vein:

There is no statutory bar to protection for original subway maps, therefore. There should, though, be a common sense bar but that, like common decency, is apparently lacking.

  • Later in 2005 I saw the MTA’s overreaching finally exceed the breaking point, when it tried to register trademark rights in this original phrase (they were succesful, too).If you see something say something

 

What, really, is the point?  It’s just your (my) tax money at work.

  • In 2006 I noted a story reporting that — unlike a lot of other copyright, trademark and right-of-publicity owners who have not made a peep — the MTA made those masters of confusion, “Jews for Jesus,” stop using the transit symbols in their underground evangelizing, though in reality, they probably didn’t have to.
  • Then, most recently, I “covered” an item — involving official New York City family planning devices bearing a “subway theme,” regarding which I suggested, somewhat tongue in

cheek, that this would seem to undermine any secondary meaning connecting the subway route symbols and subway routes at all.

This suddenly came to my attention again, when, three weeks ago, the following comment appeared on that two year old post: Read More…

Google Books settlement takes it on the Chin

I raised questions about the Google Books settlement ages ago.

Now some of them have been answered, and Judge Denny Chin’s answer is “no”:

While the digitization of books and the creation of a universal digital library would benefit many, the [Amended Settlement Agreement] would simply go too far.  It would permit this class action – –  which was brought against defendant Google Inc. (“Google”) to challenge its scanning of books and display of  “snippets” for on-line searching – –   to implement a forward-looking business arrangement that would grant Google significant rights to exploit entire books, without permission of the copyright owners.  Indeed, the ASA would give Google a significant advantage over competitors,rewarding it for engaging in wholesale copying of copyrighted works without permission, while releasing claims well beyondthose presented in the case. . . .

Read More…

Trademarks — and Copyrights — in the Public Interest?

South Brooklyn section of MTA Subway MapWired News reports:

Transit officials in New York and San Francisco have launched a copyright crackdown on a website offering free downloadable subway maps designed to be viewed on the iPod. . . .

More than 9,000 people downloaded the map, which was viewable on either an iPod or an iPod nano, before Bright received a Sept. 14 letter from Lester Freundlich, a senior associate counsel at New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority, saying that Bright had infringed the MTA’s copyright and that he needed a license to post the map and to authorize others to download it.

Not very freundlich of Lester, was it?

“I removed it promptly,” said Bright, a design director at Nerve.com. “I’m very aware that they are copyright violations, but I’m not trying to make money or do anything malicious. I’m not in this to piss people off.”

Last week Bright received a similar cease-and-desist letter from officials with Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART, demanding that Bright remove a map of the San Francisco rail system.

I blogged about this topic in general — the assertion of intellectual property rights in arguably public goods such as train-line symbols — in June. My conclusion then:

It’s one thing to say that services aren’t free and that even when, as in the case of the MTA, they succesfully address significant externalities, their costs should not be unduly disconnected from users. But it’s another thing to say that, however revenue-starved, a public institution (in the broad sense of the word) such as the MTA should restrict the public, much less the bloggy, enjoyment of a public iconography such as the train number symbols and the image of the classic subway token.

In other words, if you get a C&D letter from the MTA, give me call, won’t you?

The issue here is not quite the same. It is narrower, and deals only with the copyright in the maps. But in a broader sense, it is the same: Should these public authorities, ostensibly in the business of helping people get around, be more interested in rent seeking than in … helping people get around?

I don’t think so.

UPDATE: Excellent legal analysis, as usual, by Patry.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE:  How did the MTA’s ad department let this past the boys in legal?!