Category Archives: Copyright

Supreme Court Grants Cheerleading Apparel Manufacturer’s Request: Uniform’s Decorative Elements are Copyrightable

The U.S. Supreme Court held that a cheerleading uniform’s decorative elements may be protected under copyright law — a ruling aimed at providing some resolution regarding the disagreement over when these types of designs are eligible for protection under U.S. copyright law. As background, in 2010, Varsity Brands, Inc., the country’s largest cheerleading supplier, accused one of its rivals, Star Athletica, of copying the key elements of its uniform’s design, including stripes, chevrons, and other graphic elements that Varsity had registered with the Copyright…

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Judge Finds Chink in IP Suit Over Iron Man’s Armor

On March 27, 2017, U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken dismissed in part and granted in part Walt Disney’s Marvel Entertainment’s bid to dismiss a copyright suit by Horizon Comics Productions Inc. over Iron Man’s body armor design. The lawsuit commenced in April 2015 by Horizon’s owners Ben and Ray Lai, who claimed Iron Man’s armor was based upon their 2001 comic book series Radix. In addition, the Lai brothers claimed that Marvel’s promotional poster for Iron Man 3 copied a promotional piece of…

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NCAA Players’ Likeness Suit Attempts to Gain New Life

On February 17, 2017, two former Catholic University basketball players from the 2001 Division III national championship team pleaded for the Ninth Circuit to revive their class action against a website, T3Media, which sold official NCAA photographs from their championship season. The suit commenced in 2012, but was dismissed in 2015 as a District Court judge found that the website did not exceed its copyright and, therefore, was preempted by the Copyright Act. In response to the court’s dismissal, members of professional player unions in…

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Sudanese Refugees’ Copyright Suit Against Movie Makers Survives Motion to Dismiss

In 2015, 54 Sudanese refugees and their foundation, Foundation for Lost Boys and Girls of Sudan, Inc., (the Lost Boys) filed suit against the producers and writer of the movie The Good LieThe Good Lie was a 2014 movie starring Reese Witherspoon about the Lost Boys fleeing genocidal activity during the Second Sudanese Civil War and being granted asylum and residency in the US. The writer had interviewed the Lost Boys about their life stories in order to make the movie. Despite promises…

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Quit Monkeying Around! Judge Dismisses PETA’s Copyright Suit in Monkey Selfie Case

If Congress intended to give animals standing in the Copyright Act, “they would have done so plainly,” said California U.S. District Court Judge William H. Orrick III. In 2015, photographer David Slater published a photo in which a monkey — a crested macaque, to be exact — took a picture of itself with Slater’s camera. PETA sued Slater and his publisher under the Copyright Act, arguing the primate should be “declared the author and owner of his photograph.” However, in a preliminary ruling on January…

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Pro Athletes File Amicus Brief Supporting NCAA Players’ Likeness Suit

On December 7, 2015 , professional athletes filed an amicus brief in support of a likeness suit brought by two former NCAA basketball players against a media company that sold game-time photographs of the ex-college athletes. Patrick Maloney and Tim Judge — both former members of the Catholic University 2001 NCAA Championship basketball team — initially brought the likeness suit in relation to a deal the NCAA made with media company T3Media in 2012 to host and license the league’s photo library. Through this deal,…

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2001 NCAA Basketball Champs Appeal 9th Circ. Dismissal of Likeness Suit

In March of this year, U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte Jr. dismissed a lawsuit brought by former NCAA basketball players alleging that the licensing of copyrighted photographs violated their right of publicity. Patrick Maloney and Tim Judge — both former members of the Catholic University 2001 NCAA Championship basketball team—initially brought the suit in relation to a deal the NCAA made with T3Media in 2012 to host and license the league’s photo library. Through this deal, the public could purchase non-exclusive licenses to the copyrighted…

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Totally Bananas? Court Urged to Dismiss Monkey’s Copyright Suit

A California federal court was hit with two motions to dismiss Monday, November 10, 2015, arguing that a monkey does not have standing to sue in a United States courtroom.  This case relates to the famous “Monkey Selfie” photo that went viral a few years ago (which has already seen its fair share of litigation to date).  Yet, it is not a person arguing that they have copyright protection over the photograph this time — rather, it is the monkey’s rights that have allegedly been…

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Sir Mix-a-Lot Awarded Attorney’s Fees Against Former Collaborator

On Tuesday, October 27, 2015, U.S. District Court Judge Robert S. Lasnik ruled in favor of hip-hop legend Sir Mix-A-Lot, ordering plaintiff David Ford to pay more than $20,000 in attorney’s fees and other expenses. The ruling came as the latest decision in the copyright suit filed by Ford in March, and follows Judge Lasnik’s dismissal of the suit in September. Ford, who collaborated on a number of tracks with Sir Mix-A-Lot in the late 1980s and early 90s, sought to recover for copyright violations…

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Copyright Lawsuit Hits Top-Rated TV Show “Empire”

Ron Newt, author of “Bigger than Big,” filed suit in April against 20th Century Fox for breach of implied contract and copyright infringement. The poorly drafted summons and complaint was not taken seriously by Fox until it was recently amended by Newt’s new legal team. The amended complaint is now alleging $10 million in damages and has been edited sufficiently, to warrant a response from 20th Century Fox. By way of background, Newt authored “Bigger than Big”, a book, screenplay and DVD documentary…

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