On May 18, 2023, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of famed rock photographer Lynn Goldsmith against the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.’s (AWF), in a long-awaited decision impacting fair use under Section 107(1) of the Copyright Act. The opinion written by Justice Sotomayor, in which Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, Barrett and Jackson joined, held that the “purpose and character” of AWF’s commercial use of Warhol’s portraits of Prince shared the same commercial purpose of the original photograph taken by Ms. Goldsmith and, as a result, did not constitute fair use. The Court’s decision affirmed the ruling of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which held that the Warhol work was derivative of the original, and noted that “the new expression may be relevant to whether a copying use has a sufficiently distinct purpose or character” but that factor was not dispositive by itself. The Court found that the Warhol Foundation’s licensing of the Orange Prince to Conde Nast did not have a sufficiently different purpose as the Goldsmith photograph because both were “portraits of Prince used in magazines to illustrate stories about Prince.”Continue Reading Supreme Court Finds Warhol’s Commercial Licensing of “Orange Prince” to Vanity Fair Is Not Fair Use and Infringes Goldsmith’s Famed Rock Photo
Generative AI (GAI) applications have raised numerous copyright issues. These issues include whether the training of GAI models constitute infringement or is permitted under fair use, who is liable if the output infringes (the tool provider or user) and whether the output is copyrightable. These are not the only legal issues that can arise. Another GAI issue that has arisen with various applications involves the right of publicity. A recently filed class action provides one example.Continue Reading Celebrity “Faces Off” Against Deep Fake AI App Over Right of Publicity
The harm caused to brands by counterfeiting goes far beyond loss of sales or profits. Fake goods jeopardize public health and safety when a brand’s trademark is applied to a sub-standard and potentially harmful product. This is especially hazardous for counterfeit medical items, mechanical parts, and food products, to name a few. What is more, the reputational damage inflicted by low-quality products can be devastating.
Continue Reading Practice Tips for Combating Counterfeiters: An Action Plan for Brands, Manufacturers and Retailers
The Supreme Court today handed down a far reaching decision throwing out an attempt by Congress to deny the benefits conferred by federal law on same sex couples legally married under state law holding that the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), as so applied, constituted a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons protected by the Fifth Amendment. In so doing, and perhaps without realizing it, the Supreme Court was also writing an important copyright case.Continue Reading DOMA goes down – Copyright goes up – U.S. v. Windsor, Supreme Court, No. 12-307, decided June 26, 2013
Blehm v. Jacobs, 10th Cir., No. 11-1479, December 27, 2012
Some appellate decisions are worth examining because they plow new ground. Others serve to explain the ground that was plowed. This decision – dealing with substantial similarity (or lack thereof) between two sets of stick figures – is among the latter.Continue Reading Thin Copyrights – Protected But Not Infringed
By Edwin Komen
On Friday afternoon, June 15, 2012, U.S. District Court Judge Gary Allen Feess, Central District of California in Los Angeles, denied CBS Broadcasting’s application for a temporary restraining order that would have prevented ABC from airing the premier broadcast of its new reality series “Glass House”. CBS complained that “Glass House” infringed the copyright in its long-running “Big Brother” series. Both featured contestants isolated in a confined space competing for prizes, building alliances and fighting with each other while they are systematically voted out of the competition. Judge Feess described these elements as “commonplace”. In doing so, Judge Feess dealt another blow to the admittedly fragile protection for one of television’s most valued commodities…a popular, highly marketable format capable of being translated and locally re-formatted for domestic consumption in local television markets around the world. The frustration of format owners may have well been summarized by Judge Feess, who observed, “When I first heard of Big Brother, I thought it sounded like Survivor in a house.”
Continue Reading Are Formats The Floor Mats Of Copyright?
By Edwin Komen
The Copyright Office recently published two little-noticed, but potentially far-reaching, announcements in the Federal Register. Collectively they tend to restrict the definitions of “claimant” and “compilation” for purposes of copyright registration. The first, noticed as a rulemaking subject to public comment, issued on May 17, 2012, 77 Fed. Reg. 29257 with written comments due by July 16, 2012 and reply comments due by August 15, 2012. The second is a Statement of Policy, with no right of comment, effective as published on June 22, 2012, 77 Fed. Reg. 37605. Although the Copyright Office does not adjudicate issues of copyrightability, its determinations still carry significant weight with the courts since it is the agency charged by Congress with the task of initially determining whether a work is entitled to copyright protection and, hence, may be registered for copyright.
Continue Reading A Copyright Office Double-Header
Recent cases reveal that seeking a reasonable royalty as a copyright remedy can be an uncertain endeavor. Courts have differed regarding which evidentiary factors are relevant and necessary. Parties seeking to apply the reasonable royalty analysis frequently used in the patent litigation arena have sometimes found themselves successful, and other times frustrated.
Continue Reading The Relevance of ‘Reasonable Royalties’ to Copyright Infringement
Social media has become a part of everyday life. As Shakespeare has written: "This news is not old enough, yet it is every day news." The minutiae of every moment is narrated through status updates. Digital photographs are taken and instantaneously posted minute-by-minute on the Internet for the world to see. This lightning fast use of social media raises new and different intellectual property challenges which have not been previously addressed by courts. On January 14, 2011, the Southern District of New York addressed a particularly interesting copyright question raised by the use of Twitpic – a service that allows users to post pictures to the Twitter microblogging and social networking website. Agence France Presse v. Morel, 2011 WL 147718 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 14, 2011). Continue Reading Tweet Me! – The Southern District of New York Answers Copyright Questions Raised By Twitter and Twitpic Use
In Neal Stephenson’s 1992 science fiction novel, Snow Crash, humans interact as avatars in the “Metaverse,” the collective product of online shared three-dimensional space. As imagined by Stephenson, this “Metaverse” has been created by all virtual worlds – it is an augmented and enhanced physical reality, a physically persistent virtual space. The novel is set in Los Angeles during the early 21st Century. The federal government of the United States has relinquished its authority to private entrepreneurs and organizations. Franchising, individual sovereignty, and private automobiles reign supreme. Highway companies compete for traffic in the real world while the Metaverse is populated and travelled by user-controlled avatars and system daemons.Continue Reading Trademarks In The Veldt: Do Virtual Lawyers Dream Of Electric Trademarks?
The State Copyright Bureau recently released a new set of copyright pledges registration rules to replace its current system. The "Measures for Registration of Copyright Pledges" (the "Measures") will become effective on January 1, 2011. Copyrights, like other property rights, can be pledged as a financial security. China has not updated its current copyright pledges registration system since it went into effect on September 23, 1996. The key provisions of the Measures are highlighted below.Continue Reading China Revamps Its Outdated Copyright Pledges System