Pirates Find New Shelter

Demand for Pirated Content Surges as the Public Stays Home

Written by Eleanor M. Lackman

At a time where theaters are shut down and productions are on hold, the entertainment industry is facing another challenge: the sudden surge in demand for pirated audiovisual and game content.  According to anti-piracy firm MUSO, the number of people illegally streaming the movie Contagion increased by over 5600%.  As lockdowns and stay-home orders keep people at home in an increasing number of countries, online searches for local pirate sites have ballooned, even despite studios’ in-home release of films that were slated to premiere this month in theaters.

Apparently taking advantage of the situation, well-known piracy app Popcorn Time, which launched in 2015 and was quickly shut down thereafter, has just reemerged in a new version.  In its own words, Popcorn Time announced in a tweet on Tuesday: “Love in the Time of Corona Version 0.4 [sic] is out!” Popcorn Time offers an easy-to-use system that uses BitTorrent to stream movies and television shows without needing to download them.  This time, the instructions for the app include a suggestion for users to use VPNs to avoid detection by users’ ISPs, which may be held responsible for repeated acts of infringement by their users if the ISP fails to take appropriate steps to curtail it.  See, e.g., BMG Rights Management (US) LLC v. Cox Communications, Inc., 881 F.3d 293 (4th Cir. 2018). Continue reading “Pirates Find New Shelter”

MSK Wins Reversal of “Dark Horse” Copyright Verdict

Written by Christine Lepera, Jeffrey M. Movit and Gabriella Nourafchan

Last July, a team of MSK attorneys represented Defendants in a copyright infringement trial involving allegations that the ostinato (a musical phrase that repeats) in Katy Perry’s 2013 song “Dark Horse” infringed the ostinato in Plaintiffs’ Christian rap song entitled “Joyful Noise.”  After the jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiffs, MSK filed a motion seeking reversal, or in the alternative, a new trial.

This week, the Court granted MSK’s motion, overturned the jury verdict, and entered judgment in Defendants’ favor.  The Court found that Plaintiffs’ copyright claim failed because the ostinato in “Joyful Noise” was commonplace expression that no music creator can monopolize.  Continue reading “MSK Wins Reversal of “Dark Horse” Copyright Verdict”

Ninth Circuit Ends Lawsuit Involving Copyright Protection for Characters, Leaving Plaintiffs in a Bad Mood

Photo Credit: istock.com/Ja_inter

Written by Robert H. Rotstein

On March 16, 2020, the Ninth Circuit ended a lawsuit alleging that Disney’s Inside Out infringed plaintiffs’ alleged copyright in characters known as “The Moodsters.” Daniels, et al., v. The Walt Disney Company, et al., Case No. 18-55635 (9th Cir. Mar. 16, 2020). The Court elaborated on the standards governing character protection and enunciated a rigorous standard for pleading “idea submission” claims in federal court.

Plaintiffs’ five characters are color-coded anthropomorphic emotions, each representing a different emotion. Between 2007 and 2009, Plaintiffs allegedly pitched The Moodsters to Disney. In 2015, Disney released Inside Out, a film that centers on five anthropomorphized emotions that live inside the mind of an eleven-year-old girl. Continue reading “Ninth Circuit Ends Lawsuit Involving Copyright Protection for Characters, Leaving Plaintiffs in a Bad Mood”

Ninth Circuit Rules in Favor of Led Zeppelin, Clarifies Standards for Copyright Infringement

By David A. Steinberg and James Berkley

Photo Credit: istock.com/NiroDesign

On March 9, 2020, the Ninth Circuit issued its en banc decision­­­ in the long-running and closely watched copyright case concerning the rock group Led Zeppelin’s 1971 song “Stairway to Heaven.” Skidmore v. Led Zeppelin et al., Case No. 16-56057, 16-56287 (9th Cir. Mar. 9, 2020).  A 2014 lawsuit in the Central District of California alleged that “Stairway to Heaven” infringed portions of an instrumental composition titled “Taurus” that had been recorded and released in 1967 by the group Spirit.  Capping off several years of uncertainty, the Court’s en banc opinion reversed the previous 2018 ruling of a three-judge panel and reinstated the judgment entered at the district court, where a jury found that “Stairway to Heaven” does not infringe the “Taurus” musical composition.

Among many topics covered, the Ninth Circuit’s en banc opinion contains three sets of holdings that, absent a successful petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, should have continuing implications for copyright litigation in the Ninth Circuit.  These holdings may be summarized as follows: Continue reading “Ninth Circuit Rules in Favor of Led Zeppelin, Clarifies Standards for Copyright Infringement”

I’ll Need a Copy of Your Copyright

Photo credit: istock.com/alexsl

By Eric Schwartz

On March 4, 2019, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp. v. Wallstreet.com LLC holding that, under §411(a) of the Copyright Act, a copyright claimant may file an infringement suit only after the Copyright Office renders a final decision on a copyright application, subject to limited exceptions. Prior to this ruling, circuit courts were split on whether the text of §411(a) granted standing to sue based on the so-called “application approach” (adopted in the 5th, 6th and 8th circuits) or the “registration approach” (adopted in the 10th and 11th circuits). The “application approach” permitted a copyright claimant to commence a lawsuit once a completed application with all three elements (i.e., the application, fee and deposit copy) was properly filed with the Copyright Office. The “registration approach” requires the Copyright Office to render a final decision (either to register or deny a registration) before a claimant may file suit. Justice Ginsburg, writing for the Court, concluded that the plain text of §411(a) “permits only one sensible reading”: the “registration approach.”

Continue reading “I’ll Need a Copy of Your Copyright”

Intellectual Property Tips

By Emily F. Evitt

Here are 10 ways to build a rock-solid foundation for your new company and avoid constructing a masterpiece on top of quicksand:

  1. Make sure your company’s name isn’t already taken. As a starting point, search the name on Google and other Internet search engines. Then search the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website (uspto.gov). Important: repeat this process each time you pick the name of a new product or service.
  2. Check if the domain name you want is available – if so, get it. Create Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts for your company, and start using them. Continue reading “Intellectual Property Tips”

Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 and Intellectual Property Rights

By Susan Kohn Ross

This article was co-authored with Kevin M. Rosenbaum of MS&K.

On February 24, 2016, President Obama signed into law the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, PL 114-125 (TFTEA), which includes an assortment of trade facilitation and trade enforcement provisions, including a number of provisions focused on intellectual property rights (IPR). Section III of the new law provides a number of enhancements to U.S. enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR) at the border.  In addition, included among a variety of new trade enforcement provisions in Section VI, the new law provides additional resources to assist the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) improve IPR protection and enforcement in foreign markets. Continue reading “Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 and Intellectual Property Rights”