Justia U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Intellectual Property
SoundExchange, Inc. v. Muzak LLC
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
Independent Producers Group v. Library of Congress
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
Music Choice v. Copyright Royalty Bd.
“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
AF Holdings, LLC v. Does 1-1058
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
Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc., et al. v. Islamic Republic of Iran, et al.
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
Intercollegiate Broad. v. Copyright Royalty Bd.
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
John C. Flood of Virginia, Inc., et al. v. John C. Flood, Inc., et al.
Two businesses with nearly identical names, John C. Flood, Inc. ("1996 Flood") and John C. Flood of Virginia, Inc. ("Virginia Flood"), brought suit against each other over which company had the right to use two trademarks: JOHN C. FLOOD and its abridged form FLOOD. At issue was whether the district court erred in concluding that 1996 Flood was the proper owner of the two trademarks and that Virginia Flood, as the licensee of the marks, was estopped from challenging 1996 Flood's ownership. The court affirmed the district court's order granting 1996 Flood's motion for partial summary judgment and held that 1996 Flood was the proper successor-in-interest to John C. Flood, Inc. ("1984 Flood"), and that Virginia Flood was barred by the doctrine of licensee estoppel from challenging 1996 Flood's ownership of those marks. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment but remanded the case back to the district court for clarification regarding whether Virginia Flood's use of the mark JOHN C. FLOOD OF VIRGINIA was prohibited by the court's decision.
LePage’s 2000, Inc., et al. v. Postal Regulatory Commission
Petitioners sought review of a Postal Regulatory Commission ("Commission") order classifying the United States Postal Services's ("Service") licensing of its intellectual property for use on third-party mailing and shipping supplies as "nonpostal" under the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, Pub. L. No. 109-435, 120 Stat. 4, 3198, and requiring the Service to discontinue that activity. Petitioners contended that the Commission improperly departed from a previous order without explanation and failed to support its findings with sufficient evidence. The court held that the Commission's order was rife with anomalies, any of which was sufficient to justify a remand, and all of which, when considered together, demonstrated the Commission was proceeding in a slapdash manner. The court also agreed with petitioner's first argument and therefore, granted petitions for review, vacated the Commission's order, and remanded for further proceedings.