Pandora Opens Box of Copyright Issues with Proposal to Congress

Over one hundred artists signed an open letter to be published in this weekend’s Billboard Magazine, making it abundantly clear that they oppose Pandora’s stance on The Internet Radio Fairness Act, which would decrease the royalty rates paid by Internet radio companies. Signees include crowd favorites such as Katy Perry, Rihanna, Pink Floyd, Jimmy Buffett and Billy Joel. The artists grouped together to ask Pandora why they are begging Congress to step in and “gut the royalties that thousands of musicians rely upon” when they…
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Judge Tells Plaintiff to ‘Just Go Away’ in Mötley Crüe Copyright Suit

Recently, U.S. District Judge John F. Grady dismissed a copyright infringement suit brought against the band Mötley Crüe in alleging the band improperly used copyrighted photos of themselves – photos acquired and copyrighted by Plaintiff Ron Toma in 2008 – as backdrops for recent rock concerts.  Toma filed suit against the band in the Northern District of Illinois. Judge Grady’s decision noted that the band had only “sporadic” contacts with Illinois, making the state an inappropriate forum for the action, stating “[t]hese contacts are extensive…
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Ghost Rider Creator Consigned to Copyright Hell with Appellate Decision

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed a ruling by U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest (for the Southern District of New York) by refusing to revive copyright claims brought by comic book writer and “Ghost Rider” creator Gary Friedrich.  The ruling confirmed that Friedrich had both (a) signed over whatever rights he had in the character in a 1978 agreement with Marvel, and (b) alternatively, had waited too long to sue over those rights and could therefore not dispute…
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Author Fails in ‘Avatar’ Copyright Suit Against Cameron and Fox

U.S. District Judge Manuel L. Real recently granted director James Cameron’s and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.’s motion to dismiss in a copyright action, holding that a disgruntled author and screenwriter was unable to demonstrate that “Avatar” was “substantially similar” to his novel, “Bats and Butterflies.” “Bats and Butterflies” is a story about a bullied boy who travels to a magical land called Altair where he befriends a tribe of aliens that look like butterflies.  At the end of the story, the boy battles against…
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Writers Call Foul on FX Over ‘The League’

Writers Joseph Balsamo and Peter Ciancarelli filed a copyright infringement suit in the U.S. District Court in New York against cable network FX, accusing the network of using their idea for a television show as the basis for its popular program “The League.” “The League” premiered in October 2009, and the fourth season is scheduled to air next month. According to the writers, they filed a television treatment titled “The Commissioner” with the Writers Guild of America in December 2006.  The treatment was also posted…
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Usher ‘Caught Up’ in Copyright Infringement Suit Over Single

Usher has been slapped with a copyright lawsuit in Illinois federal court by three individuals who claim that Usher and his record company stole their material for Usher’s hit single “Caught Up.” Musicians Edwards, Moses, and McClean allege that shortly after they played their song “Caught Up” for Michael Barackman, Senior Director of A&R at Arista Records in October 2002, Usher released his hit album “Confessions,” featuring his hit single “Caught Up.”  According to the musicians, Usher and his record companies used the same melody,…
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Memorabilia Collector Settles Copyright Infringement Suit by Jackson Estate

On September 4, 2012, the estate of Michael Jackson agreed to settle the late singer’s copyrights and misappropriation of likeness claims against a memorabilia collector for $2.5 million.  The case was set to proceed to trial on September 5, 2012. The settlement comes almost a month after U.S. District Judge Dean D. Pregerson granted the estate’s motion for partial summary judgment, which found Howard Mann and Vintage Pop Media Group LLC liable for copyright infringement (and several other claims). The estate’s suit accused Defendants of…
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Weinsteins’ Suit Against ‘Scream’ Writer Williamson is about the Contract, not the Copyrights

On August 23, 2012, California Superior Court Judge Mary Ann Murphy refused to dismiss a suit brought by The Weintstein Co., LLC against ‘Scream’ writer Kevin Williamson.  In essence, the ruling resolved a dispute over whether the action was preempted by the Copyright Act, or was, in fact, a simple contract dispute.  Judge Murphy held that the case could proceed as it is based in contract and The Weinstein Co.had not alleged any copyright infringement or any other acts forbidden by federal law. In its…
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Walt Disney Pictures and Buena Vista Home Entertainment Sue Horse-Racing Announcer’s Estate Seeking Declaratory Judgment on Right of Privacy/Copyright Claims Over Secretariat

Walt Disney Pictures and Buena Vista Home Entertainment filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York on Friday, June 29, requesting declaratory judgment against family members of the late horse-racing announcer Charles Anderson. The companies are seeking to pro-actively guard against the estate’s right of publicity and copyright claims related to the 2010 film Secretariat. According to the complaint, Anderson’s widow, daughters, and sons have spent the past two years asserting multiple bases of liability for…
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