Last month, the Supreme Court denied certiorari in Authors Guild v. Google, Inc., the long-running copyright case involving Google’s Google Books project. The high court’s refusal to hear the case leaves in place the Second Circuit’s October 2015 decision in favor of Google and brings to a close this highly publicized and closely watched litigation, more than a decade after it began. The Second Circuit’s opinion, which the Supreme Court has left undisturbed, held that Google Books is protected as fair use, a conclusion considered by many to… More
Tag Archives: Fair Use
We’ve taken advantage of past Presidents Days to recount George Washington’s role in the history of U.S. Copyright law, specifically the birth of fair use. That role was not insubstantial, but it was posthumous and, therefore, unwitting. By contrast, Abraham Lincoln’s contribution to copyright law was likely quite intentional.
On March 3, 1865, President Lincoln signed into law “An Act to Amend Several Acts Respecting Copyright,” the galley of which contained the subheading: “Photographs … may be copyrighted.” This was the first U.S…. More
Most readers of this blog are well-acquainted with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and the anti-circumvention provisions codified therein, 17 U.S.C. § 1201 et seq., which prohibit the circumvention of technological measures that control access to a copyrighted work, even in the absence of copyright infringement. The anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA are often criticized for their failure to include an explicit fair use exemption like that included elsewhere in the Copyright Act,… More
Are You Sure This Isn’t About Copyright? Chicken Sandwiches, Monkey Selfies and the Boundaries of Copyright Law
Last week, a wild crested macaque named Naruto (but really People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against photographer David John Slater in the Northern District of California. The suit alleges that Slater infringed Naruto’s copyright in the famous “monkey selfies” (taken by Naruto with Slater’s camera). The complaint requests that the Court order Slater to disgorge any profits he has realized from the distribution of the images and establish a trust, administered by PETA, to “be used solely for the benefit of Naruto, his… More
As a leader of a start-up company, you are probably aware of the importance of protecting your company’s innovative products, services and technologies through patent filings. If you are savvy, you are also aware of the importance of having a trademark and branding strategy as well (see our guide entitled “Trademark Strategies for Start-Up Companies”). Most start-up companies overlook copyright issues, however, and this can create problems down the road. In this article,… More
On July 31, 2015, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling celebrates her 50th birthday, according to muggle sources. The enormous success of Rowling’s literary creation and its associated multimedia empire has spawned countless jealousies, countless imitators, countless parodists and countless pirates. The franchise has kept dozens if not hundreds of lawyers busy with precedent-setting copyright cases, trademark disputes, First Amendment battles over religious expression, and even the occasional breaking and entering. Indeed, it appears that Ms. Rowling and her works pop… More
In our Oscar litigation post a few weeks ago, we made a passing reference to MGM v. Showcase Atlanta Coop. Prods., Inc., 479 F.Supp. 351 (N.D. Ga. 1979). In that case, the Northern District Court of Georgia held that the play Scarlett Fever was not a protected parody of Gone with the Wind, but rather an unlicensed derivative remake. When we researched this topic, we were somewhat surprised to discover almost no other published opinions exploring the line between theatrical… More
Federal Government Wins Trademark Battle to Shut Down “Voice of America” Website with “Undeniable Governmental Aesthetic”
Since its first broadcast on February 1, 1942, the Voice of America radio service (VOA) has aired countless hours of programming in dozens of languages to what is currently an estimated global audience of over 100 million people. Although the history of the VOA name is storied and long, VOA’s efforts to protect that name are of a more recent vintage. VOA didn’t apply to register its name as a federal trademark until 2005, and didn’t get around to registering an internet… More
Georgia State Academic Fair Use Decision Vacated by 11th Circuit: A (Relatively) Quick Read for the Busy Practitioner
Last Friday, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated and remanded the Northern District of Georgia’s 350-page fair use analysis of the electronic reserves practices at Georgia State University (“GSU”). Although this reversal is technically a win for the plaintiff publishers, the 11th Circuit left the most important parts of the lower court’s analysis intact, and essentially affirmed the bulk of its reasoning with respect to the first and fourth fair use factors. We have previously written at length about GSU’s
On September 26, 2014, the District of Massachusetts shot down a plan to develop a “textbook dictionary.” James Richards, inspired in part by the Autobiography of Malcolm X, developed a project to convert the dictionary from a reference book into something that looked more like a textbook. Richards felt that this format would be more conducive to helping students and adults improve their reading and listening comprehension skills.
Last week, Judge Alvin Hellerstein of the Southern District of New York issued his opinion Fox News v. TVEyes. Fox News claimed that TVEyes’ media monitoring service was copyright infringement. TVEyes argued that it was fair use. Here is our summary version of the case:
What is TVEyes?
TVEyes is a media-monitoring service that records content from over 1,400 TV and radio news outlets, and uses speech-to-text technology to create a searchable database of transcripts of that content. TVEyes subscribers include corporations,… More
Last month, the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District, held that a public university was not required to turn over copies of certain course materials, including course syllabi, in response to a public records request. The syllabi were the type of document that is normally subject to disclosure under Missouri’s “Sunshine Law” (Chapter 610 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri), which allows members of the public to gain access to government records. However, there was one problem: copyright.
The Sunshine… More
Every attorney in the United States understands that West Publishing Corp. (“Westlaw”) and the LexisNexis Group (“Lexis”) are perennial rivals in the electronic legal research field. As such, they don’t agree on much, but there are some important exceptions. Earlier this month, one of those exceptions came to a pleasing conclusion for both companies, when Judge Jed Rakoff of the Southern District of New York issued his long-promised opinion in White v. West Publishing Corp.
The case was brought by Edward… More
Second Circuit Hints At Possible Google Books Outcome In Finding HathiTrust Digital Library Project Protected As Fair Use
Earlier this week, the Second Circuit issued its ruling in the HathiTrust case, a potential precursor to the long-awaited resolution of the more prominent, and related, Google Books case. The decision upholds the district court’s finding that the non-profit defendant is protected by the fair use doctrine, but leaves room for a potentially different outcome in the Google Books matter. As we have reported, the Google Books project aims to scan and digitize all the world’s books and make them full-text searchable. As part of the “Library Project” arm of… More
In its recent opinion in Oracle v. Google, the Federal Circuit reversed the Northern District of California and reinstated a jury’s infringement verdict against Google. The opinion is long and complex, and much ink has already been spilled by its critics. As a service to those of you sitting on the sidelines of this particular debate, here is our summary version of the case:
What’s the case about?