Wealth of Ideas Blog

Who Pays for All Those Illegal Music Downloads?

Music publisher BMG Rights Management could not sue each of the thousands (maybe even millions) of downloaders who infringed the company’s copyrights, so it sued the company that provided the downloads. A jury in DC just ruled that Cox Communications, a regional Internet provider, must pay BMG $25 million for permitting free musical downloads by its subscribers. What really nailed it for the jury was that Cox would cancel the accounts of copyright infringing customers, then promptly reactivate their accounts.

So what happens now? Does Cox go after those customers who are illegally downloading music, or just raise rates for all of its customers?

Cisco Wins $37 Million in Counterfeit Goods Suit

We’ve all seen a watch that was probably not really a Rolex. Or a pocketbook that was probably not really a Coach. Well Network Genesis took counterfeit goods to a new level. The company either bought stolen Cisco products and altered the serial numbers, or rebranded non-Cisco products as the real thing. And got caught.

During the trial, Cuong Cao Dang, the defendant in the case, was found to be using a counterfeit laptop and cell phone in court, and both were confiscated. No, not really. But did anyone check his laptop and cell phone?

Copyright Infringer Gets Three Years!

Rocky Ouprasith pled guilty to one count of criminal copyright infringement, and was sentenced to three years in prison. Ouch! Now before you get too sympathetic, Rocky did not copy a Wikipedia article for a high school term paper. Who hasn’t done that?

Through his RockDizMusic.com website, Rocky reproduced and distributed millions of copyrighted songs! Millions! Do they let inmates listen to music at Club Fed?

Candidate Huckabee Is Sued for Playing “Eye Of The Tiger”

GOP Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaign has been charged with copyright infringement in U.S. District Court in Chicago. The campaign had played "Eye of the Tiger" at a rally supporting Kim Davis, the County Clerk who was jailed for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

Frank Sullivan – probably not a Republican – is co-writer of the Grammy-winning song that was made popular in "Rocky III." Mr. Sullivan’s business, Rude Music – Yeah, we guess so! – owns the rights to the song, and Gov. Huckabee did not get permission to use it. But wouldn’t Huckabee’s playing of the song fall under the “fair use” doctrine (see “Circuit Court Rules in Favor of the “Dancing Baby” from our October Blogs)?

Give Me a “C.” Give Me an “O.” Give Me a “P.”

The Sixth Circuit Court let stand a previous ruling that cheerleader outfits are eligible for copyright protection. The case was brought by Varsity Brands back in 2010 when it claimed that its competitor, Star Athletica, had copied several of its cheerleader uniform designs. Push ‘em back, push ‘em back, waaaay back!

While U.S. Copyright law does not currently offer protection for functional aspects of apparel design, copyright protection can be extended to decorative features that exist independent of the clothing’s functional aspects. This fuzzy part of copyright law is known as the “Conceptual Separability Doctrine” and it was the focus of the court’s ruling. The court distinguished between “fabric design” and “garment design.” The court ruled that chevrons, stripes, and other decorative elements of the plaintiff’s cheerleader uniforms were identifiable items that differentiated Varsity Brands’ products from the completion.

The Jury Rules for Three Cents a Minute

A jury of 12 good persons and true granted Ultratec $5.4 million in damages for infringement of its closed-caption telephone patent. What is interesting is how the jury came up with $5.4 million. In its decision, the jury rejected a one-time lump sum payment to the plaintiff and decided on a per-minute royalty fee of three cents a minute. Royalties can be based on dollar sales, unit sales, or any other measure of volume of sales for the infringing product or service. So, the jury found, for the 181,449,487 infringing minutes, Sorenson Communications, Inc. et al owes Ultratec Inc. et al $5,443,484.61. A nice round number.

Jay Z Dodges the Bullet

Shawn Carter (aka Jay Z) is a free man after a California federal judge dismissed the copyright infringement lawsuit filed against him for allegedly lifting music from a 1957 ballad, “Khosara,” by Egyptian artist Baligh Hamy for his song “Big Pimpin’”. The case was brought by Mr. Hamdy’s nephew, Osama Ahmed Fahmy. The judge dismissed the case against Jay Z and his producer, Timbaland, ruling that Mr. Fahmy did not have legal standing to bring the case to trial in the first place!

We have an idea for Jay Z’s next hit: “No Standin’”

Circuit Court Rules in Favor of the “Dancing Baby”

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court just ruled that Universal Music should have first considered if the use of its copyrighted music was “fair use” before sending a takedown letter to Stephanie Lenz whose video of her baby dancing to “Let’s Go Crazy” by the artist formerly known as Prince went viral. Eight years ago, Ms. Lenz posted her video to YouTube, and Universal Music demanded that she “take down” the video since the music to which her baby was dancing infringed the music publisher’s copyright.

In what has become known as the “Dancing Baby” case, the court ruled that “copyright holders cannot shirk their duty to consider – in good faith and prior to sending a takedown notification – whether allegedly infringing material constitutes fair use, a use which the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) plainly contemplates as authorized by the law.” After this decision, copyright holders in the United States will have to first consider fair use before sending takedown notices to both adults, babies and the kid in all of us.

“Happy Birthday” Copyright Is Not Valid

According to a California Federal District Court Judge, Warner Bros. (“That’s all folks!”) and its Chappell Music business unit do not own a valid copyright to “Happy Birthday to You.” The ruling was the result of a class action lawsuit that, according to the plaintiffs’ attorneys, puts the world’s most recognizable tune into the public domain. No ruling on who owns “That’s all folks!”

Chubby Checker Sues for Trademark Infringement over Cufflinks

First of all, Chubby Checker is apparently still alive, and we have the court documents to prove it. Ernest Evans (Chubby’s real name) has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Wirkin Stiffs, the manufacturer of a line of Chubby Checker cufflinks, and against Macy's, Nordstrom, Amazon.com and other resellers of the allegedly infringing cufflinks.

Best known for his 60s hit, “The Twist,” Evans/Checker claims that endorsements and royalties on products that use the Chubby Checker trademark are an important part of his livelihood.