Round One to HathiTrust – Wins fair use ruling

This lawsuit stems from the Google Book Project, an ambitious program launched by Google in 2004 to digitize the library collections of the University of Michigan, Harvard, Stanford, the University of Oxford and the New York Public Library and make the collections available for searching online. In 2008, a group of universities established HathiTrust as a repository to combine, archive and share their digital libraries, and make the collection available to the public. At the time of the commencement of suit, the repository reportedly contained 10 million volumes. The Authors’ Guild, an authors’ trade association, and other authors’ groups sued HathiTrust for copyright infringement and swiftly moved for a judgment on the pleadings that HathiTrust could not rely on the fair use defense to the claim of copyright infringement. Continue reading »

Patently Fair or Patent Nonsense? Prior Art Submissions, Copyright and Fair Use

Last week I had the privilege of addressing the Dallas Bar IP Section on the subject of the current controversy over copyright and prior art submissions in patent prosecution. Four lawsuits have been filed by publisher John Wiley & Sons and the American Institute of Physics against law firms alleging copyright infringement for reproducing and distributing various scientific articles in the course of preparing and submitting patent applications. The lawsuits allege that the law firms violated copyright in the articles at issue by (1) making and distributing copies of the articles to the USPTO in connection with patent applications; (2) making additional copies of articles cited in patent applications; and (3) making copies of articles that they neither cited nor submitted to the USPTO for internal purposes. One of the cases apparently settled over the summer. In two of the remaining cases, the plaintiffs have amended their pleadings to drop the allegations concerning submissions to the USPTO, leaving only the allegations regarding internal law firm copying.

The copyright and patent communities have taken note of these lawsuits, and there is an ongoing discussion regarding whether the practices at issue constitute fair use of the articles in question. In January of 2012, the General Counsel of the USPTO issued a memorandum asserting that the accused practices constitute fair use, and the USPTO has intervened in two of the cases as a defendant and counterclaimant, seeking a declaration of noninfringement. In this post, I will give an overview of the fair use doctrine and apply it to the copying at issue in the prior art cases. Continue reading »

2nd Circuit Finds the Beef – Reverses Summary Judgment Grant in YouTube

On April 5, the Second Circuit issued its highly anticipated opinion in Viacom v. YouTube, reversing the District Court’s grant of summary judgment and remanding for further proceedings.  Significantly, the opinion marks the first time that a court has drawn a meaningful, substantive distinction between actual and “red-flag” knowledge under the DMCA.  This sets it apart from earlier DMCA opinions, including that of the Ninth Circuit in UMG Recordings, Inc.  v. Shelter Capital (involving the Veoh videosharing service) and, notably, the lower court opinion in Viacom.  Practitioners and ISPs now have some judicial guidance as to how to construe their rights and responsibilities under the DMCA.

Ominously for YouTube, the Second Circuit held that a reasonable jury could find that, under DMCA Section 512(c), YouTube had actual knowledge or awareness of specific infringing activity on its website.  Moreover, the Second Circuit ruled that the District Court had incorrectly construed the DMCA’s control and benefit provisions in holding that the “right and ability to control” infringing activity required that the ISP have knowledge of specific, identifiable instances of infringement.  Finally, the court affirmed the District Court’s holding that three of YouTube’s software functions fell within the safe harbor for infringement occurring “by reason of user storage,” and remanded for further fact-finding with respect to a fourth software function.  Continue reading »

They Built This Lawsuit on Rock ‘n Roll – Thomas-Rasset oral arguments available

On June 8, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeal heard oral argument in the Capitol Records v. Thomas-Rasset filesharing case. The oral argument addressed two issues: (1) whether the Copyright Act grants a copyright owner the exclusive right to “make available” works to the public; and (2) whether a statutory damages award that is within the range set by Congress can nonetheless be constitutionally excessive. The (third) jury in the case rendered a verdict of $80,000 per song infringed, for a total of $1.92 million, which the District Court remitted to $2,250 per song (three times the statutory minimum).

I will post the opinion when it is available. In the meantime, diehards can listen to the oral argument here.

Partial verdict in Oracle v. Google – The party’s not over

Today the jury issued a partial verdict in the Oracle v. Google copyright infringement lawsuit.  In that suit, Oracle accuses Google of infringing elements of its Java programming platform in developing its Android mobile software.  The jury found that Google infringed 37 Java API packages.  The jury did not reach a result on the issue whether Google’s use of the API packages constituted a fair use.  Google is reportedly seeking a mistrial.  The trial is now moving into a phase involving Oracle’s claims that Google infringed certain Java patents.

Trademarks Make the World Go ‘Round
Can’t-Miss Program on Nuts and Bolts of Trademarks

LJS headshot My esteemed partner, Lawrence Siskind, will be delivering his annual talk, “Nuts and Bolts of Trademark Law,” at the San Francisco Bar Association on July 12, 2012 from 12:00 – 1:30 p.m.  It doesn’t get any more fun than this!  I’ve attended before, and the program is both entertaining and informative.  Register now and tell Larry that Shades of Gray sent you!

Eldred Conquers Golan’s Heights
Supreme Court Upholds Copyright Restoration

Last week, the Supreme Court issued its eagerly awaited ruling in Golan v. Holder, holding that Congress acted within its authority in passing legislation that restored copyright in certain foreign works that were previously in the public domain in the United States.  The Court found that its earlier opinion in Eldred v. Ashcroft largely disposed of the petitioners’ claims.  Though reactions to the case seemed muted in contrast to the raging debate over SOPA – which initially overshadowed news of the opinion – it is an important opinion with significant ramifications for those who use content in the public domain. Continue reading »

Appealing YouTube: The Experts Debate!

I have been an active member of the Copyright Society of the USA for years, and am currently a member of its Executive Committee. It’s a terrific group for those interested in copyright issues, and maintains chapters throughout the country. I thought readers of this blog might like to know about this upcoming chapter event in Washington, D.C.:

The Washington D.C. Chapter of the Copyright Society of the U.S.A. is holding a membership building event on Wednesday, July 27th, 2011 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Arent Fox LLP, 1050 Connecticut Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036, will host the event.
There will be a networking reception from 4: p.m. to 4:30 p.m, followed by the panel discussion from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Lawyers who submitted amici briefs to the Second Circuit in the pending appeal of Viacom/Football Association Premier League v. YouTube will debate issues related to copyright safe-harbors for user generated content sites. The case will be argued soon, so don’t miss this opportunity to learn about the issues from experts.

The speakers will include:
Moderator
Robert Kasunic, Deputy General Counsel, U.S. Copyright Office

Panelists
Jonathan Band of Jonathan Band PLLC
Patrick Coyne of Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner LLP
Russell Frackman of Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP
Ron Lazebnik of Fordham University School of Law
Mary Rasenberger of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP.

Any non-member who joins the Copyright Society of the U.S.A. immediately prior to registering for the event may attend for free. Attendance is $40 for non-members and Copyright Society members. Attendance is $25 for Student members of the Copyright Society. Any Copyright Society member who invites a guest who joins the Society immediately prior to registering for the event may attend at half price.

Registration materials and a membership application are at the following link.
http://www.csusa.org/chapters/dc/CSUSA%20DC%20EVENT%20July%202011.pdf

Space is limited. Please register early. The registration deadline is extended to July 25, 2011.

Second Round
Who’s on Second? A look at secondary liability and the DMCA

A couple of weeks ago, I reprised my talk on secondary liability and the DMCA for the State Bar of California’s IP Section. I updated my original talk – initially delivered last fall to the ABA – to reflect the current status of the UMG v. Veoh and Viacom v. YouTube appeals, which in the interim were fully briefed (and, in the case of Veoh, argued). You can review the revised and updated outline here.

The outline also notes a late-breaking development in the YouTube case stemming from the United States Supreme Court’s recent decision in Global-Tech v. SEB, a patent case addressing the doctrine of willful blindness. I have posted a fuller analysis of this development over at The 1709 Blog, which you can read here.