April must be copyright month. Those who follow copyright, photography and the free press will have their interests piqued by the Southern District of New York’s holding of fair use as a defense to infringement involving the events of Jan. 6, 2021, Fox News and a freelance photographer who, on January 6, was at the Capitol and filmed the activities.
In particular, she videoed Kelly Meggs participating in a stack formation ascending the Capitol’s stairs. The Department of Justice charged Meggs and attached to its complaint a copy of a still from the photographer’s video.
“AI is the next revolution … there is no going back.”
— M. Werneck, executive vice president, The Kraft Heinz Company.
Not all revolutions benefit humanity. Tech luminaries Elon Musk and AI pioneer Yoshua Bengio recently warned we might be circling the drain. They, and others, have called for a six-month moratorium on training artificial intelligence systems more powerful than Microsoft’s GPT-4. They caution AI can be dangerous to society in ways not understood.
In the first trial involving non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, trademark rights and a First Amendment defense, a jury in New York City earlier this month found an artist had violated the trademark rights of Hermés, the iconic French fashion house.
At issue was the artist’s NFT depictions of Hermés’ Birkin bags and his use of the BIRKIN mark in connection with his art. NFTs are digital depictions of art that reside not on walls or shelves of collectors but in the cloud, accessible via the owner’s computer.
Chief Justice Warren Burger admonished the ABA in 1984, “Our litigation system is too costly, too painful, too destructive, too ineffective for a civilized people.” The Chief added, “For many claims trials by the adversarial contest must in time go the way of the ancient trial by battle and blood.” Copyright trademark and trade secret trials may be among the most expensive legal contests, and I am pretty sure the Chief would have recommended mediation.
The number of civil cases that reach trial in the federal courts is a very small percentage of the total cases filed; probably less than 5 percent. The road to settlement, however, can be long and very expensive. We can get these cases settled early on! Continue reading
“…no plagiarist can excuse the wrong by showing how much of his work he did not pirate.” These words were written by Judge Learned Hand in 1936. His point was that a taking of someone else’s expression will not be excused merely because it is insubstantial in quantity when held up for comparison to the infringing work. Continue reading
A client recently had the good fortune to reduce its financial exposure for copyright infringement from $3 million to a little over $75,000. Still, $75,000 is a lot of money to pay for unauthorized reproduction of twenty photos that belonged to someone else. But on the down side, in addition to statutory damages of up to $150,000 per photo, there also was the possibility of an award of attorney’s fees, and because the facts as known pointed to the conclusion that this client was aware that the photos were not its to borrow, it was quite likely a jury would have found the infringement to be willful and would, and could, have awarded $150,000 per photograph. Continue reading
Goodell DeVries partner Jim Astrachan published this article in the Drake Law Review. Full text is available here.
In many cases of copyright infringement, the plaintiff is only able to afford to bring an action for infringement if they are entitled to ask the court to award statutory damages and attorney’s fees should they prevail in establishing infringement. While there might be a connection between the amount of statutory damages a court may award, in its discretion, the profits of the infringer and the actual damages, if any, suffered by a copyright owner, 17 U.S.C. § 504(c) allows a court to award between $750 and $150,000 for each work infringed.1 The statute does not require the plaintiff to establish what actual damages they may have suffered from the infringement or what profits the defendant reaped.2
The United States Supreme Court held in Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp v. Wallstreet.com, LLC, that the Copyright Office must either issue a (1) copyright registration certificate or (2) refuse to register a copyright before a copyright owner can sue for copyright infringement.
Prior to this decision, there was a split among the circuits concerning the interpretation of the first sentence of Section 411(a) of the Copyright Act which states, “no civil action for infringement of the copyright in any United States work shall be instituted until preregistration or registration of the copyright claim has been made in accordance with this title.”