LEGAL THOUGHTS

This blog contains our personal opinions on topics that interest us.

Another political campaign used music without approval

At Donald Trump's first political rally since COVID-19 shut the country, they decided to play Tom Petty's "I won't back down". Unfortunately, the rally organizers didn't have the right to do so, and not surprisingly, they received a cease and desist letter from Tom Petty's family (see link). While the campaign may have thought it could use the venue's public performance license, such licenses generally exclude music use during conventions, expositions and campaign events (see ASCAP document). To avoid this issue, campaigns can obtain a political campaign license. However, musicians can request specific songs be excluded from a particular campaign's license. And, even if a campaign is pro

Resident Evil

Life imitating art. Found in Switzerland.

There isn't one Public Domain

On January 1, 2020, copyrighted works in the US started to enter the public domain. The public domain refers to materials that are no longer protected by intellectual property laws such as copyright. These works are now owned by the public and anyone can use a public domain work without obtaining permission. Works haven't entered the US public domain for the last 20 years because the Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA) of 1998 had extended copyright protection to the life of the author plus 70 years; and for works of anonymous, pseudonymous or works made for hire to 120 years after creation or 95 years after publication, whichever ends earlier (17 USC 302). Copyright protection outside of

Ouch. Default judgment for $258,484.45

When you are litigating against someone, getting to a verdict is less than half of the race. The other half is enforcing the judgment against the scofflaw. Photographer Scott Gunnells sued two of the stars of American Chopper, the TV show, Paul Teutul and Michael Teutul, and their business Orange County Choppers, Inc. for unlawfully using ten of his photographs (Gunnells v. Michael Teutul et al., Case 1:19-cv-05331 and 1:10-cv-05312 (SDNY), Dkt 35, First Amended Complaint). The defendants were served with Mr. Gunnells' copyright infringement lawsuit, but for some reason chose not to participate in the lawsuit. The Court awarded Mr. Gunnells a default judgment for $258,484.45 (Dkt 67). Now

Instagram says...

Earlier this year, Mashable won a motion to dismiss a copyright infringement case (see link). Mashable was accused of infringing the copyright to a photo because it embedded a photo using the Instagram API. The court found that Mashable had a valid sublicense from Instagram to display the photo using the Instagram API. Based on this case, it would appear that Instagram users that set their profiles to public are granting users of Instagram's API a sublicense to embed their images. McGucken v. Newsweek LLC, Case 1:19-cv-9617 (SDNY) is another copyright infringement case where the alleged infringer embedded a photo using the Instagram API. Newsweek argued in its motion to dismiss the Mashabl

A bad copyright infringement claim

There is a YouTube channel called Vocal Synthesis. It features videos with audio deepfakes (AI generated voices). The channel received a DMCA copyright takedown notice from Roc Nation LLC for two videos featuring Jay-Z reciting "To Be or Not To Be" from Hamlet and "We Didn't Start the Fire" from Billy Joel. Pursuant to the DMCA copyright claim, the videos were taken down by YouTube. However, they were later reinstated because the DMCA copyright claim notices were defective. The basis of the copyright claims was that "This content unlawfully uses an AI to impersonate our client’s voice" (see link). Copyright protects original works of authorship. The author of these videos probably is the

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