As the creative industries continued to grow economically in importance in 2014, so have the stakes in copyright litigation. Increasingly, the courts have been challenged to resolve complex disputes arising from new uses of works and other subject matter brought about by innovations in technology. While content is often a core and indispensable element of new and innovative services, products or offerings, frequently parties dispute whether the use requires permission and payment to rights holders or can be engaged in without permission or payment. This post reviews some of the highlights of the court battles of 2014 in Canada and other Commonwealth countries, the United States and the European Union.
Archive for the ‘infringment’ category
Blocking orders against web sites and services that engage in or enable copyright infringement are common in the European Union. BitTorrent sites like The Pirate Bay are a frequent target of such orders. See, Keeping The Pirate Bays at Bay: using blocking orders to curtail infringements; Blocking orders against ISPs legal in the EU: UPC Telekabel Wien.
In the last decade, the Supreme Court of Canada has canvassed many important issues in copyright law including the scope of the rights of reproduction and authorization, what makes a work original, and how to apply the fair dealing defense. In its decision released yesterday in Cinar Corporation v. Robinson, 2013 SCC 73, a unanimous Supreme Court released an important precedent dealing with many other core areas of copyright including the framework for how to assess if a “substantial part” of a work has been reproduced, the assessment of damages for infringement including accounting of profits, non-pecuniary damages and punitive damages, the use of experts in a copyright case, the vicarious liability of directors for infringement, and whether copyright is protected by the Quebec Charter of human rights and freedoms. For copyright lawyers, this case is a goldmine – a treasure trove -of important copyright holdings by the Supreme Court.
Copyright assignments. There are a myriad of ways for them to be challenged or be ineffective. Three recent cases illustrate their potential frailties; one from the US and two from Canada.
Yesterday’s decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Righthaven LLC v Hoehn 2013 WL 1908876 (9th.Cir.May 9, 2013) spells the end of the copyright troll Righthaven. It gained substantial notoriety by commencing lawsuits alleging copyright infringement in articles published in the Las Vegas Review-Journal reproduced online by websites without permission.
Last week was a very eventful one in copyright law with three significant copyright rulings from US courts. The US Supreme Court ruled that importing genuine grey market works into the US does not infringe copyright. The Ninth Circuit affirmed a ruling that the Canadian bitTorrent site isoHunt is liable for contributory copyright infringement. Last, a US District Court ruled that Meltwater’s controversial electronic news clipping service is liable for copyright infringement and is not protected by fair use doctrine.
Bill C-11, the Copyright Modernization Act, with a few exceptions, is now law with the publication of the Governor General Order in Council. The fourth attempt to amend the Copyright Act since 2005 succeeded where Bills C-60 (2005), C-61 (2008), and C-32 (2010) did not.
A lot has changed since 2005 when Bill C-60 was first introduced. That Bill would have made a limited, but important, set of amendments. Its summary reminds us that it would have amended the “Copyright Act to implement the provisions of the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, to clarify the liability of network service providers, to facilitate technology-enhanced learning and interlibrary loans, and to update certain other provisions of the Act.” Bill C-11 addresses far more than this.
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals released its decision in the WPIX, INC., v ivi INC. 2012 WL 3645304, (2nd.Cir.Aug. 27, 2012) case yesterday. It dismissed ivi’s appeal from a preliminary injunction prohibiting Ivi from continuing to stream television programming over the Internet.
ivi’s defense was that it was a cable system entitled to a compulsory license under § 111 of the US Copyright Act. The US Second Circuit reviewed the statute’s legislative history, development, and purpose which indicated that Congress did not intend for § 111 licenses to extend to Internet retransmissions. This was consistent with the view of US Copyright Office’s interpretation of § 111 that Internet retransmission services do not constitute cable systems under § 111. The Court accordingly concluded that “the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merits of the case.”
Was the statutory damages award of $675,000 against Joel Tenebaum for downloading and distributing 30 music files over peer-to-peer networks excessive? Did it violate US due process? According to a decision released by a U.S. District Court yesterday in the Sony BMG Music Entertainment v Tenebaum 2012 WL 3639053, (D.Mass., Aug. 23, 2012) case, the answer to both questions is no.
After a five-day jury trial, the jury found that Tenenbaum’s infringement was willful as to each of the thirty sound recordings in issue, and returned a verdict within the US statutory range of $22,500 per infringement, for a total damages award of $675,000. After an appeal of the jury verdict, the Court was charged with the duty of determining whether the award was excessive under the common law remittitur doctrine and whether it violated due process.
In 2006, the highly regarded economics professor Prof. Liebowitz, Director of the Center for Economic Analysis of Property Rights and Innovation at University of Texas, surveyed the entire field of econometric studies on file sharing. On the basis of his comprehensive review (which displayed a remarkable consensus on the issue), he concluded that “file-sharing has brought significant harm to the recording industry”. Prior to that in a comprehensive article published in 2005 Prof. Liebowitz criticized the theory that unlicensed file sharing helps copyright owners. He said those that professed this view saw “gains from copying in every nook and cranny of the economy, when in reality the instances of such gains are likely to be rather limited.”