Food Invention Reality Show

Eyeworks TV, the producers behind Extreme Weight Loss on ABC and Bar Rescue on Spike, THIS WEEK ONLY, is holding an audition in Redondo Beach for entrepreneurs with food related inventions for a new show. The show is just like Shark Tank on ABC, but for food inventions.  If interested contact:
Kelly Klecha
Casting Assistant
Eyeworks TV

No Copyright Protection for Iconic Monkey Selfie

In 2011, wildlife photographer David Slater set up a camera on Sulawesi, a small island in Indonesia.  Mr. Slater received an unanticipated gift, a monkey picked up his camera and took hundreds of pictures, including self portraits or “selfies” that have gone viral on the web this past year.  Recently, controversy has erupted over who owns the copyright to the photos.  David Slater has claimed ownership, along with thousands of dollars in unpaid royalties from the photos that went viral.  As reported by the BBC and The Los Angeles Times, “Wikimedia, the nonprofit behind Wikipedia, says the pictures taken by the monkey belong to the public domain and has refused to take them down.  Slater has said that he is missing out on thousands of dollars in royalties and that he played a bigger role in the photos’ creation than he’s receiving credit for. “You could look at it like this: The monkey was my assistant,” he told the BBC.

The U.S. Copyright office addressed this issue recently in a public draft of the Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices, Third Edition — which was released Tuesday.  It says the office will register only works that were created by human beings.  “Works produced by nature, animals or plants” or “purportedly created by divine or supernatural beings” don’t count, it says. The first example in that category is “a photograph taken by a monkey.”  Similarly, the Office will not register works produced by a machine or mere mechanical process that operates randomly or automatically without any creative input or intervention from a human author.”

With some sound legal advice -Mr. Slater could have obtained copyright ownership if he digitally altered the images enough -where his creative choices would have given him ownership of the image under 102a of the US Copyright Act, which states “Copyright protection subsists, in accordance with this title, in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device;” however this was not done.  Since the photos were all release unaltered, or without any significant alterations,  the photos are in the public domain according to the U.S. Copyright office.

Jay-Z Copyright Infringement Case with Dwayne Walker

Back in 2012, Dwayne Walker filed a lawsuit against Jay-Z for breach of contract and copyright infringement for failure to pay royalties, claiming that he designed the iconic logo for Roc-A-Fella records, Jay-Z’s record company and is owed $7,000,000. The lawsuit, Dwayne D. Walker, Jr. v. Shawn Carter (“Jay-Z”) et al, case no. 12-cv-05384(ALC)(RLE), was filed in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York in 2012. The Plaintiff’s alleges that that “Jay Z, Dame Dash, and Kareem “Biggs” Burke, all agreed to pay Walker $3,500 for the design of the Roc-A-Fella logo. However, Dwayne Walker stipulated in the agreement that he be compensated with two percent of future royalties for ten years after the first year of use. Walker, who claims to own the copyright to the logo, received the $3,500, but the royalties have never come.”

One does not need to have registered with the US Copyright office to actually have copyright protection, but a registered copyright holder has the presumption of ownership in court- whereas an unregistered owner does not. The logo at issue was registered with the USPTO by ROC-A-FELLA RECORDS, INC., reg. no.: 2310169.

Recently, Mr. Walker is claiming that Jay-Z’s legal team is stalling by complicating the legal proceedings. As reported by The Daily Mail, Walker’s attorney accuses Defendant’s legal team of using behavior to ‘mislead, harass, and needlessly increase the cost of litigation’ as the case. RadarOnline writes that for example, “Jay Z’s legal team is “unwilling to cooperate in producing a joint report” and “changed terms of the proposed schedule” numerous times to suit Jay Z’s needs and timetable, the documents claim.” In response, Jay Z’s attorney’s wrote “that they have considered Walker’s prior settlement offer” but believe “that there is NOT a possibility for promptly settling or resolving the case.”

If Mr. Carter’s legal team is trying to scare the Plaintiff away through prospect of high legal fees, it seems that it isn’t working. “This is a straightforward breach of contract case,” explains Berry. “Mr. Walker agreed to create a logo for Jay-Z and his partners, and he did create a logo that has become intimately tied to the enormous success of Jay-Z. Mr. Walker upheld his end of the bargain when all the parties were just starting out, and now they need to uphold theirs.”

Copyright Aereo Oral Arguments in US Supreme Court

This week, The U.S. Supreme Court began the oral argument stage for ABC Inc. v. Aereo, No. 13-461, a case with colossal ramifications on copyright law. ABC is joined by CBS, Disney, Fox, Comcast’s NBC Universal, and the federal government. The Aereo Company, based in Long Island, NY is an internet alternative to watching television. Aereo charges its subscribers a monthly fee to watch television stations over the internet, without the company having a license to do so, or paying retransmission fees to local affiliates.

The case turns on a part of the copyright law that requires copyright owners’ permission for “public performances” of their work. The law defines such performances to include retransmission to the public.” Aereo argues that since they have an individual antenna streaming to each individual subscriber over the internet, it is accordingly not classified as a public performance under U.S. Copyright Law.

According to Deadline, Chief Justice John Roberts proclaimed during oral argument that “[y]our technological model is based solely on circumventing legal prohibitions that you don’t want to comply with…There’s no reason for you to have 10,000 dime-sized antennas except to get around the Copyright Act.” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out at Aereo “[Is] the only player so far that pays no royalties whatsoever.”

The oral arguments were reportedly watched in person today by Fox co-COO, James Murdoch as well as Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia. The high stakes of this case is clear. If the court rules for Aereo, it could be a deathblow for the television broadcasting model that has been fighting the internet for years. If the court rules for the broadcasting companies, the Aereo business model will be finished. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case in June.

Top Gun Copyright Infringement on Twitter

Paramount Pictures is not happy about the way a Twitter user is sharing one of its movies. The Twitter user @555hz attempted to show the entire film “Top Gun” on Twitter through tweets of the film as frame-by-frame clips and images.

The Twitter user posted content from the film every half hour, generating over 1,500 tweets in one month. The user has gained a following of over 6,900 other Twitter users. The handle “@555hz” is suggested to reference the number of frames per second at which the film was being “shown” on Twitter. According to this calculation, the film could be tweeted in 7,000 postings at a rate of two tweets posted per hour. At this rate, the entire film would be on Twitter within 145 days.

Paramount obviously caught this well before the 145-day mark. The last frame was posted on Twitter on February 25, 2014, with Paramount threatening legal action. Paramount issued a Digital Millennium and Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice on February 21, 2014. The DMCA provides a safe harbor for internet service providers and imposes no liability on providers for transmitting information that may infringe a copyright. However, the DMCA requires that the providers remove material from their users’ websites when they receive proper notice that their users are engaging in acts of copyright infringement. This gives copyright holders an avenue to limit those who are infringing their rights.

Though Twitter has not removed @555hz from its site, the user has not posted any Tweets since February 25, 2014. Many of the tweets showing frames of the movie are still available on the user’s Twitter feed, while a few posts are unable to be seen, with the message, “This image has been removed in response to a report from the copyright holder.”

Generally, infringement of a film through the use of film clips would typically be seen on video-based platforms such as YouTube. Additionally, Twitter ostensibly seems like an unlikely candidate as a platform for viewing copyrighted materials, however we now know otherwise with advancements in social media that can lend to such potential infringements. So this case shows the ease, or maybe we should say creative ways, in which individuals may potentially infringe copyrighted material. It enforces the need for lawyers to be quick in responding to infringement (at two frames uploaded per hour, @555hz got quite far!), and the need for the law to keep up with the ways in which users may interact with developing platforms and technology.

Beverly Hills Bar Association Event: Dressing Up IP: Copyright, Trademark, and Licensing Issues in the Fashion Industry

Great event at the Beverly Hills Bar Association, the program is titled: “Dressing Up IP: Copyright, Trademark, and Licensing Issues in the Fashion Industry.” The program will be on October 11, 2012 and may be attended in person, streamed live online, or viewed via the internet at a later date.

Additionally, the program offers MCLE credit: “MCLE CREDIT: This activity has been approved for Minimum Continuing Legal Education credit by the State Bar of California in the amount of 1.5 HOURS and the Beverly Hills Bar Association certifies that this activity conforms to the standards for approved prescribed by the rules and regulations of the State Bar of California governing minimum continuing legal education. “

No Doubt Lawsuit with Activision Right of Publicity

No Doubt enjoyed mainstream success during the 90s with hits like “Don’t Speak” and “Just a Girl.” Last week, the band announced its plans to reunite and release an album this September. The same day that the band shared the news of their planned comeback, a judge gave permission for the band’s lawsuit against video game maker Activision to be heard by a jury. “Hella Good” day for No Doubt.

The video game created by Activision, Band Hero, features the band members’ likenesses as video game characters. Players of this video game can select a character that is modeled after a No Doubt band member’s likeness and make the character sing a song selected by the player. No Doubt did allow Activision to use of the likeness its band members, but alleges that Activision overstepped the terms of this contractual agreement.

Supposedly, No Doubt had agreed to allow the use of its band members’ likenesses in 3 songs, but the video game allows the appearance of the likenesses in about 60 songs. Additionally, the video game allows the No Doubt characters to sing songs besides those that No Doubt previously approved of, which are songs that No Doubt sang or performed in real life.

The Los Angeles Times reported that No Doubt feels that the video game “transformed No Doubt band members into a virtual karaoke circus act” and “the Character Manipulation Feature results in an unauthorized performance by the Gwen Stefani avatar in a male voice boasting about having sex with prostitutes.”

This lawsuit includes a right of publicity claim, but is more complicated than a mere unauthorized use of a celebrity’s likeness.

No Doubt did authorize Activision to use each band members’ likeness in the video game, but now challenges how the video game uses and manipulates a band member’s likeness. While No Doubt will likely emphasize that it did not agree for the likenesses to be used in such ways, Activision may argue that some flexibility is needed to make the video game functional. Although the specifics of the contract between No Doubt and Activision are unclear, this cases raises questions about what the scope of permitted uses should be when a celebrity authorizes use of his/her likeness for a video game character.

Google’s Fair Use Defense to Authors Copyright Infringement

Last month, Google got the vote for “most popular technology brand,” beating out Facebook, Twitter, and Apple. Google has grown to include its own specialized search tool for Maps, News, Shopping, Videos, etc.

A few years back, Google started Google Books and made an agreement with several research libraries to scan books for its Google Books Library Project. It has scanned 12 million books over the course of the project.

The website for Google Books describes that you can view a few “snippets” or sentences of copyrighted books and you can fully view a book that is out of copyright. The website states:
“The Library Project’s aim is simple: make it easier for people to find relevant books – specifically, books they wouldn’t find any other way such as those that are out of print …”
Members of the Authors Guild are alleging that Google scanned their copyrighted books without authorization. Last week, a federal judge gave the ok for the members of the Authors Guild to sue jointly (a class-action lawsuit). So now thousands of authors can sue Google since the class includes: “all U.S. authors and their heirs with a copyright interest in books scanned by Google as part of its Library Project.”

Google’s plans to create the world’s largest digital book library could come to a halt depending on whether a court agrees with the authors that Google’s e-books infringed their copyright protection. But wait a minute. Google may have a claim to “fair use” of these works under copyright law, which Google will reportedly use as its primary defense in this case.

The line between fair use and infringement can get blurry. The doctrine of fair use, section 107 of copyright law, says that certain purposes can qualify as “fair” such as scholarship, research, etc. Section 107 also says a court should consider:

1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
2. The nature of the copyrighted work
3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work.

The outcome of this case will undoubtedly have effects on the future of ebooks and digitization. It’ll be up to a judge whether Google’s actions qualify as fair use, but what’s your opinion based on what you know about the case and considering the fair use factors?

Charlie Sheen Trademark Infringement and Right of Publicity

For $250, guests of a New York Gentlemen’s Club could eat sushi off the body of an almost-naked woman in the “Charlie Sheen Room.” At least until Sheen’s lawyer sent the Cheetahs Gentlemen’s Club a cease and desist letter threatening a lawsuit for millions, which the club complied with.

The “Charlie Sheen Room” featured Sheen’s name and images. It sounds a little creepy, but hey, to each his own. The president of the company owning Cheetahs, Sam Zherka, denied that it used Sheen’s name to promote the business. Rather, he says that the strip club used the name for comical effect and felt that it would help, not harm, Sheen’s reputation.

Sheen apparently did not appreciate the effort. Sheen’s lawyer, Marty Singer, reportedly commented: “You can’t use any celebrity name to promote a business without permission. They had no right to use his name.”

Sheen’s lawyer likely relies on the right of publicity laws in California. California Cal. Civ. Code Section 3344 states:

“Any person who knowingly uses another’s name, voice, signature, photograph, or likeness, in any manner, on or in products, merchandise, or goods, or for purposes of advertising or selling, or soliciting purchases of, products, merchandise, goods or services, without such person’s prior consent…shall be liable for any damages sustained by the person or persons injured as a result thereof.”

Although Zherka says that the purpose of using Sheen’s name and images did not include promoting business and customers did not visit the club to see the “Charlie Sheen Room,” Sheen may have had a good argument. Sheen’s reputation may not be the best, but his controversial reputation has helped attract attention and profits. In 2011, Sheen set a new Guinness World Record for the “Fastest Time to Reach 1 Million Followers” on Twitter and his nationwide tour “My Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat is Not An Option” sold out in 18 minutes.

We will never know which way a court would have ruled in this case, but it seems like Cheetahs took the smart route by taking down its unauthorized use of Sheen’s name and images from its VIP room.

Tupac Hologram Copyright and Intellectual Property Issues

Most of you have probably heard about the Tupac hologram at the Coachella Music Festival in California over the weekend. If you haven’t…read the news, there was a Tupac hologram at the Coachella Music Festival over the weekend. Now that’s out of the way, why is this important? First, it was a great post-mortem performance along side Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg which can be seen here.

Tupac hologram copyright
Second, in addition to the incredible technical feat of the hologram, which was a collaboration pushed by Dr. Dre and done by Digital Domain Productions and AV Concepts, Pandora’s box blew up with speculation of resurrecting great performers like Jim Morrison and Michael Jackson for possible tours.

So what does this mean? IP issues run amok. Where do we begin? Essentially it can be broken down into copyright law and right of publicity. Namely, the creators of the hologram would need to obtain a license of the music that was performed. Most likely AV Concepts obtained the rights from ASCAP for that, nothing too unusual there. However, the creation of the hologram, which we believe was an original recreation of Tupac’s movement (rather than just a copy of footage from one of Tupac’s prior videos) would be a copyright owned by AV Concepts or whomever created the hologram.

But the biggest question is the right of publicity which would be the threshold question. Right of publicity laws are state laws, and in California Cal. Civ. Code Section 3344 states:

“Any person who knowingly uses another’s name, voice, signature, photograph, or likeness, in any manner, on or in products, merchandise, or goods, or for purposes of advertising or selling, or soliciting purchases of, products, merchandise, goods or services, without such person’s prior consent…shall be liable for any damages sustained by the person or persons injured as a result thereof.”

Therefore, Dr. Dre and AV Concepts had to get consent from the executors of Tupac’s estate which is controlled by Afeni Shakur, Tupac’s mother who was apparently thrilled with the end result. So although obtaining consent to a celebrity’s likeness to be used with products is nothing new; posthumous hologram acts for live performances places a new intellectual property spin the likes of which we’ll probably see more of. Now if we can just get Dr. Dre to bury the hatchet and get Eazy-E to come back, how epic would that make up be?