Articles Posted in Intellectual Property

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Plaintiffs challenged the Copyright Royalty Board's most recent determination for rates noninteractive webcasters must pay to play recordings over the Internet under a statutory copyright license. The DC Circuit sustained the Board's determinations in all respects and held that the Board's acceptance of the Pandora and iHeart benchmark agreements was not arbitrary and capricious; the court applied Chevron deference to the Board's adjustment downward of SoundExchange's proposed benchmark; the Board adequately and reasonably explained its decision to set different rates for ad-based and subscription noninteractive webcasting services; and the court rejected SoundExchange's challenge concerning the Board's decision to amend a license term setting forth the requirements to qualify as an auditor that can verify royalty payments. Finally, the Board rejected a pro se appellant's challenge concerning the constitutionality of the Board's determination. View "SoundExchange, Inc. v. Copyright Royalty Board and Librarian of Congress" on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from a dispute between a paleta company in Mexico (Prolacto) and a paleta company in northern California (PLM) over a phrase "La Michoacana" and an image of a girl in traditional dress holding a paleta ("Indian Girl"). At issue was whether Prolacto or PLM owned the contested phrase and image and which paleta company unfairly competed or otherwise infringed the other's trademark rights. The DC Circuit held that Prolacto's false-association claim failed because Prolacto failed to establish a right to the "La Michoacana" mark or injury from PLM's use sufficient to establish false association in violation of Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's judgment for PLM on that claim. The court also affirmed the district court's conclusion that Prolacto failed to establish that PLM's use of the Tocumbo Statements and other advertising materials constituted false advertising in violation of Prolacto's rights under section 43(a)(1)(B). Finally, the court affirmed the district court's conclusion that Prolacto infringed PLM's use of its registered marks. The court found no merit in Prolacto's remaining arguments. View "Paleteria La Michoacana, Inc. v. Productos Lacteos Tocumbo S.A" on Justia Law

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The district court granted summary judgment to the Standards Developing Organizations (SDOs) on their claims of direct copyright infringement, finding that they held valid and enforceable copyrights in the incorporated standards that PRO had copied and distributed, and that PRO had failed to create a triable issue of fact that its reproduction qualified as fair use under the Copyright Act. The district court also concluded that ASTM was entitled to summary judgment on its trademark infringement claims, and issued permanent injunctions prohibiting PRO from all unauthorized use of the ten standards identified in the summary judgment motions and of ASTM's registered trademarks. The DC Circuit reversed and held that the district court erred in its application of both fair use doctrines. The court remanded for the district court to develop a fuller record regarding the nature of each of the standards at issue, the way in which they were incorporated, and the manner and extent to which they were copied by PRO in order to resolve this mixed question of law and fact. View "American Society for Testing v. Public.Resource.Org, Inc." on Justia Law

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Where a foreign broadcaster uploads copyrighted content to its website and directs that content onto a computer screen in the United States at a user's request, the broadcaster commits an actionable domestic violation of the Copyright Act. The D.C. Circuit agreed with the district court's finding, based on supportable factual findings, that TV Polska was liable for infringing Spanski's copyrights in fifty-one episodes of certain Polish-language television programs that TV Polska transmitted into the United States via its online video-on-demand system, and concluded that damages of $60,000 per episode were appropriate in light of the circumstances. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's judgment as to both liability and damages. View "Spanski Enterprises, Inc. v. Telewizja Polska, S.A." on Justia Law

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SoundExchange, a nonprofit entity, charged with the responsibility of collecting royalties for performing artists and copyright owners of music, filed suit under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 101 et seq., against Muzak, a company that supplies digital music channels to satellite television networks who, in turn, sell to subscribers. SoundExchange alleged that Muzak underpaid royalties owed. The district court dismissed the complaint. The court concluded that the better interpretation of the statute is that the term "service" under section 114(j)(11) contemplates a double limitation; both the business and the program offering must qualify before the transmissions are eligible for the favorable rate. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court. View "SoundExchange, Inc. v. Muzak LLC" on Justia Law

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IPG, representative of several copyright owners in the 2000-03 royalty fee distribution proceeding, alleged that the Board erred in determining IPG's royalty fees in the sports programming and program suppliers categories. As a preliminary matter, the court concluded that the orders at issue are subject to judicial review as part of the Board’s final determination and therefore, the court has jurisdiction to review the merits of the appeal. The court concluded that an evidentiary sanction that the Board imposed during the preliminary evidentiary hearing is not arbitrary and capricious where the Board reasonably responded to a blatant discovery violation by IPG; no basis exists for overturning the Board’s reasoned decision to reject IPG’s sports programming claims on behalf of FIFA and the U.S. Olympic Committee; and the court rejected IPG's contentions that the Board improperly relied on the MPAA's methodology for calculating the relative marketplace value of their claims and allocating royalty fees within the program suppliers category. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Independent Producers Group v. Library of Congress" on Justia Law

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“Musical work” and the owner’s exclusive right to perform the work in public are protected by 17 U.S.C. 106(4). Broadcast of a musical work is a performance and requires a license from the copyright owner. Copyright Act amendments afford the copyright owner of a sound recording “the narrow but exclusive right ‘to perform the copyrighted work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.’” The law requires “certain digital music services . . . to pay recording companies and recording artists when they transmit[] sound recordings” and provides for appointment of three Copyright Royalty Judges. If sound recording copyrights owners are unable to negotiate a royalty with digital music services, the Judges may set reasonable rates and terms. The Judges set royalty rates and defined terms for statutorily defined satellite digital audio radio services (SDARS) and preexisting subscription services (PSS). SoundExchange, which collects and distributes royalties to copyright owners, argued that the Judges set rates too low and erred in defining “Gross Revenues” and eligible deductions for SDARS. A PSS that provides music-only television channels appealed, arguing that PSS rates were set too high. The D.C. Circuit affirmed, concluding that the Judges of the Board acted within their broad discretion and on a sufficient record. View "Music Choice v. Copyright Royalty Bd." on Justia Law

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AF Holdings, represented by Prenda Law, filed suit in district court against 1,058 unnamed John Does who it alleged had illegally downloaded and shared the pornographic film "Popular Demand" using a file-sharing service known as BitTorrent. Prenda Law's general approach was to identify certain unknown persons whose IP addresses were used to download pornographic films, sue them in gigantic multi-defendant suits that minimized filing fees, discover the identities of the persons to whom these IP addresses were assigned by serving subpoenas on the Internet service providers to which the addresses pertained, and then negotiate settlements with the underlying subscriber. The providers refused to comply with the district court's issuance of subpoenas compelling them to turn over information about the underlying subscribers, arguing that the subpoenas are unduly burdensome because venue is improper, personal jurisdiction over these Doe defendants is lacking, and defendants could not properly be joined together in one action. The court agreed, concluding that AF Holdings clearly abused the discovery process by not seeking information because of its relevance to the issues that might actually be litigated here. AF Holdings could not possibly have had a good faith belief that it could successfully sue the overwhelming majority of the John Doe defendants in this district. Although AF Holdings might possibly seek discovery regarding individual defendants in the judicial districts in which they are likely located, what it certainly may not do is improperly use court processes by attempting to gain information about hundreds of IP addresses located all over the country in a single action, especially when many of those addresses fall outside of the court's jurisdiction. Given AF Holdings' decision to name and seek discovery regarding a vast number of defendants who downloaded the film weeks and even months apart - defendants who could not possibly be joined in this litigation - one can easily infer that its purpose was to attain information that was not, and could not be, relevant to this particular suit. Accordingly, the court vacated the order and remanded for further proceedings, including a determination of sanctions, if any, for AF Holdings' use of a possible forgery in support of its claim.View "AF Holdings, LLC v. Does 1-1058" on Justia Law

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Bell appealed the vacatur of a default judgment as void in connection with the manufacture and marketing by Iran of a helicopter that resembled Bell's Jet Ranger 206 in appearance. The court concluded that Bell's interpretation of Rule 60(b)(4) was contrary to the court's precedent, as well as that of almost every other circuit court of appeals, all of which rejected a time limit that would bar Rule 60(b)(4) motions; because Iran never appeared in the district court proceeding resulting in the default judgment, the district court properly applied the traditional definition of voidness in granting Iran's Rule 60(b)(4) motion; and because Bell's evidence regarding the effect in the United States of Iran's commercial activities abroad was either too remote and attenuated to satisfy the direct effect requirement of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1605(a)(2), or too speculative to be considered an effect at all, the district court did not err in ruling the commercial activity exception in the FSIA did not apply. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc., et al. v. Islamic Republic of Iran, et al." on Justia Law

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Intercollegiate Broadcasting, Inc. appealed a final determination of the Copyright Royalty Judges (CRJs) setting the default royalty rates and terms applicable to internet-based webcasting of digitally recorded music. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals held that the positions of the CRJs, as currently constituted, violates the Appointments Clause of the U.S. Constitution. To remedy that violation, the Court followed the Supreme Court's approach in Free Enterprise Fund v. Public Company Accounting Oversight Bd. by invalidating and severing the restrictions on the Librarian of Congress's ability to remove CRJs. The Court concluded that with such removal power in the Librarian's hands, the CRJs are "inferior" rather than "principal" officers, and no constitutional problem remained. Because of the Appointments Clause violation at the time of the decision, the Court vacated and remanded the determination challenged here. View "Intercollegiate Broad. v. Copyright Royalty Bd." on Justia Law