#GrumpyCat Sues Grenade Beverage for #Copyright Infringement

By Joseph Mandour on September 9, 2016

cat-lickingLos Angeles – The owners of internet sensation “Grumpy Cat” filed a lawsuit against coffee maker Grenade Beverage. The lawsuit claims that Grenade exceeded the bounds of a 2013 license agreement when it made Grumpy Cat Roasted Coffee and Grumppuccino branded t-shirts. The license only specifically provided for use of the famous cat name for its Grumppuccino iced drink.

The lawsuit also claims that Grenade did not give Grumpy Cat LLC a percentage of the Grumppuccino profits or provide sales and profit numbers, as was required in the license.

Grumpy Cat became popular in 2012 after her now-famous photo was posted online. The cat was born in 2012 and given the name “Tardar Sauce.” She is not a grumpy cat according to her owner, Tabatha Bundesen, but she has feline dwarfism and an underbite that causes her grumpy appearance. The owners of Grumpy Cat have capitalized on the cat’s appearance.

“Ironically, while the world-famous feline Grumpy Cat and her valuable brand are most often invoked in a tongue-and-cheek fashion, Defendants’ despicable misconduct here has actually given Grumpy Cat and her owners something to be grumpy about,” reads the original lawsuit by Grumpy Cat.

Grenade Beverage, a coffee company based out of Los Angeles, CA, has taken down its website and closed all of its social media accounts. This lawsuit started last year, but Grenade did not reply to the allegations at that time. This spring the company stated that the original licensing agreement wasn’t “straight forward.”

“Here, the magnitude of Grenade’s willful infringement of Plaintiff’s Grumpy Cat Copyrights, willful disregard of this Court’s authority, and refusal to stop its blatant infringement renders Plaintiff entitled to a $150,000 statutory damages award for each of the Grumpy Cat Copyrights, in a total amount of $600,000,” a motion reads.

In addition to the $600,000 sum listed in claim, Grumpy Cat LLC wants all the profits that Grenade gained from selling anything related to the famous cat plus $15,000 in legal fees. The owners of Grenade Beverage have now filed a counterclaim saying it is the owner of the Grumpy Cat coffee-related trademarks and copyrights.

... Read the rest

Statutory Copyright Damages Not Available in Lebron James Tattoo Lawsuit

By Joseph Mandour on August 18, 2016

tattooSan Diego – Tattoo artists seeking damages over the use of NBA player tattoos in a video game, were dealt a blow recently when a federal judge dismissed the claim for statutory damages. The tattoo artist company Solid Oak Sketches designed tattoos for several NBA stars and registered the copyright for eight of them in 2015. These tattoos were implemented into player design in video games created by 2K Games and Take-Two Interactive Software, beginning in 2013 with its game NBA 2K14.

Solid Oak Sketches filed a copyright lawsuit in February 2016, claiming unauthorized use of the tattoos in the game’s design and advertising. The lawsuit sought actual damages, attorney’s fees and statutory damages (which could be as high as $150,000 per infringement).

The New York federal judge, however, ruled against the claim of statutory damages and attorney’s fees because the plaintiff failed to register the copyright before the date of the first alleged infringement.

Solid Oaks argued that since the game 2K16 released after the copyright filing, it merits a separate case of infringement. However, the judge ruled the cases of infringement occurred by the same defendant on the same work in the same manner, with the only differences between the games being a title change and improved graphics. As a result, the infringement occurring post-registration would be seen as “a continuation of a series of ongoing infringements” rather than a separate infringement case.

The ruling places the burden on Solid Oaks to prove the occurrence and extent of the damages to the company by the use of tattoos in the games. Solid Oaks’ attorney said, “We are more than happy to proceed with requesting relief in the form of actual damages and look forward to moving this case along.”

According to a spokesperson, Take-Two does not comment on legal matters. The company did file counterclaims making several arguments in rebuttal of Solid Oaks’ claims. First, Take-Two claims that the use of the tattoos in the video games qualifies as fair use and de minimis use, negating Solid Oaks’ claim to copyright infringement.

Second, copyright law does not extend as far as Solid Oaks is claiming, saying “indeed, if Solid Oaks were correct, it would mean th... Read the rest

#LedZeppelin’s #StairwaytoHeaven is not a #Copyright Infringement

By Joseph Mandour on June 27, 2016

stairwayLos Angeles – The ongoing saga of the case of copyright infringement between Led Zeppelin and the trust of Randy Wolfe has finally ended, with the jury finding that Led Zeppelin did not commit copyright infringement. After members of the band Jimmy Page and Robert Plant testified, a federal court jury decided that they did not steal part of “Taurus” when writing “Stairway to Heaven.”

“Taurus” is a song written by Wolfe when he was part of the band Spirit. Released by Spirit in 1968, it was argued in court that it has similar opening chords to Zeppelin’s “Stairway.” Zeppelin’s lawyers had argued that both bands used this common musical element and it is not covered by copyright law, but Wolfe’s legal team disagreed. The verdict in this case has finally settled a debate among music fans on both sides. The two bands played together in England in 1970 and a couple of American music festival shows together in 1969. For this reason, the legal team for Wolfe’s trust claimed that Zeppelin had the opportunity to hear the song before producing “Stairway,” as it was released in 1971, three years after “Taurus.”

Robert Plant and Jimmy Page had clear memories of creating “Stairway.” They both testified of writing and piecing together the song in a remote cottage in Wales. Some of their other memories of their interaction with Spirit are more limited. If the lawsuit had been filed 40 years ago when the songs were originally written, when Wolfe was alive and Page and Plant would have had better memories, there is a possibility it would’ve been a better case for the legal team of Wolfe’s trust. The case was allowed to procced all these years later due to the remastering of Stairway to Heaven.

Page and Plant said all along that creating their famous song was their original work. Even during testimony when they could not recall some of the history in the early days of the band and memories of Wolfe and his band Spirit, they agree... Read the rest

#AxlRose claims #Copyright Infringement in Trying to Remove Unflattering Photos

By Joseph Mandour on June 9, 2016

pieOrange County – Axl Rose, the lead singer of Guns N’ Roses, is demanding that Google take down several unflattering images of him that have been used as part of an Internet meme mocking his physical appearance and weight. In 2010, a Winnipeg Free Press photographer covered a Guns N’ Roses concert, taking photos of Axl Rose. The images ran with the newspaper’s review of the concert. The photos were then seen and used by Gauntlet, a heavy metal news site, which republished the photos under the headline: “OMFG Axl Rose is fat.”

This was the start of the “Fat Axl” Internet meme trend that involves rewriting Guns N’ Roses song lyrics to the appearance of the image, which exists entirely to mock his weight. Now Rose has decided enough is enough by demanding that Google take down the unflattering pictures. Google has received many DMCA copyright notices requesting the removal the images from the Internet.

The notices are targeted on multiple memes but they all have the same idea behind them. One image is captioned, “take me down to the bakery city/where the pies have cream and the cakes are tasty.” Another one of the images includes the message, “Remember the 80s? He ate them.” There are several others like this. The wording is paired with cropped versions of a photo taken during a concert.

The notices read: “Copyright image of Axl Rose,” filed by British company, Web Sheriff, on behalf of Rose. “Please note that no permission has been granted to publish the copyright image so we cannot direct you to an authorized example of it.” The complaints are available for the public at Harvard University’s Lumen Database. It lists more than 11 requests made on behalf of the Axl Rose.

But there might be a problem with Rose’s copyright-based strategy in this case: there is a question of who truly owns the copyright of the photographs in dispute. Boris Minkevich, who works for Winnipeg Free Press, took the original photos that are the center of the recent copyright notices. Minkevich sent out requests for comment along to the p... Read the rest

Justin #Bieber and #Skrillex Sued for #Copyright Infringement

By Joseph Mandour on June 3, 2016

music-sheetLos Angeles – Justin Bieber and Skrillex are fighting back against copyright infringement claims related to their multi-platinum song “Sorry.” A suit filed in Nashville federal court by singer-songwriter Casey Dienel, who performs as White Hinterland, claims that “Sorry” uses a vocal riff from her song “Ring the Bell,” which was released on her album “Baby” in 2014.

The sound in question is a female vocal riff which is sampled and processed electronically to sound more like an instrument, and the two samples do sound remarkably similar, although Hinterland’s riff consists of four notes to Bieber’s five. However, in response to the charges, Skrillex posted a video on Instagram of the recording session in which the vocal loop for “Sorry” was created, in order to prove it was not stolen from Hinterland.

In the video, Skrillex is seen creating the riff from the vocals of another female, who is also one of the writers of “Sorry.” While this may prove it is not actually Hinterland’s voice in “Sorry,” that doesn’t mean that Skrillex and his collaborators didn’t attempt to recreate the riff after hearing Hinterland’s song. The copyright infringement case is bolstered by the revelation that Diplo, a frequent production partner of Skrillex, actually had the Hinterland song on his hard drive.

Hinterland’s lawsuit says her attorney sent a cease and desist letter to Bieber’s lawyer and manager about the alleged infringement but they didn’t respond. The singer is now asking a Tennessee court to order Bieber and his crew to pay damages, and for an injunction barring them from using that piece of music.

Skrillex has now posted a short video on Twitter using an acapella version of “Sorry” from the song’s writing sessions to demonstrate how the opening to the hit track was produced. He also wrote “SORRY but we didn’t steal this” along with Bieber’s Twitter handle and the prayer hands emoji in the post. Bieber retweeted Skrillex’s tweet accompanied by the hashtags #wedontsteal and #sorry, along with a smiley face emoji.

Hinterland’s lawyer, meanwhile, will no doubt counter by pointing to a musicologist’s report, cited in the lawsuit, that says the pieces of music are t... Read the rest

#LedZeppelin #Copyright Case Over “#StairwaytoHeaven” Heads to Trial

By Joseph Mandour on April 18, 2016

stairwaySan Diego – A copyright lawsuit filed by a band called Spirit against Led Zeppelin over its iconic song Stairway to Heaven will now go to trial. The trial’s focus is whether the introduction from Stairway to Heaven copied the chord sequence of Spirit’s song called “Taurus.”

The surviving members of Spirit claim they performed at festivals with Led Zeppelin, which provided the band opportunity to hear, and then later borrow from, their song “Taurus.” The Spirit band members state they shared multiple conversations with the Led Zeppelin band members at these festivals, and that these times together would have been enough for Led Zeppelin to hear the chord sequence.

The surviving members of Led Zeppelin, in contrast, claim they never toured with Spirit or heard any of their music and in no way took their chord sequence.

These conflicting accounts were provided as testimony when the case went before U.S. District Judge Gary Klausner of the Central District of California. Michael Skidmore brought forth the case on behalf of Spirit member Randy Wolfe, who died in 1997. The case is brought against Led Zeppelin members Robert Plant and Jimmy Page (band member John Paul Jones was dismissed from the case). The lawsuit over Stairway to Heaven was able to overcome statute-of-limitations challenges because the song was remastered and re-released in 2014.

In addition to testimony over whether the members of Led Zeppelin had the opportunity to hear the song Taurus while performing at music festivals, testimony was used from experts who reviewed the songs.

An expert brought on behalf of Spirit claimed, “The presence of acoustic guitar, strings, recorder/flute sounds, and harpsichord as well as the noticeable absence of bass and drums (and other instruments characteristic of rock and roll) lend both songs a decidedly ‘classical’ style, particularly evoking a Renaissance atmosphere.”

In response, an expert brought on behalf of Led Zeppelin claimed that analysis “does not mention or reflect, for example, perfor... Read the rest

Trump Campaign Sued for Copyright Infringement for Using Bald Eagle Photo

By Joseph Mandour on March 30, 2016

voteOrange County – Wildlife photographers Wendy Shattil and Robert Rozinski are suing Donald Trump’s campaign for copyright infringement, after one of their photos was found on merchandise for the GOP candidate. The Denver-based photographers claim their photo “Bald Eagle Portrait” has appeared on Trump campaign materials without their permission. Rozinski photographed the once-endangered bird in 1980 and after receiving honors in 1986 from the BBC, registered the image with the U.S. Copyright Office five years later.

The two photographers spotted their photo on television in early February, while watching news coverage of New Hampshire’s presidential primary. One of the people in the crowd of a Trump rally was holding a printed sign with a photo of the iconic bird. They later learned the photo was being printed on Trump’s merchandise as well. Trump yard signs being sold on his campaign website also feature the portrait of the bald eagle.

Attorneys for the photographers soon filed a civil complaint in federal court claiming he used their bald eagle photo to sell merchandise and promote his campaign. No one involved with Trump’s campaign ever reached out to the two photographers with a request for permission to use their photo. And both claim Trump’s reference to, and use of, bald eagles throughout his campaign has been “deliberate.”
This is not the first time Trump has had a run-in with a bald eagle issue. Last August, he was a TIME Person of the Year runner-up and was establishing himself as a real contender in the presidential race. The candidate agreed to pose with a bald eagle for a TIME cover story. While being photographed, the bird tried to attack Trump’s hair and then later goes for his hand while he sits at a desk.

Attorneys for the two photographers say they have reached out to Trump’s campaign, but they were unable to resolve the matter privately. Now they’re asking for a District Court judge to find Trump’s campaign liable for... Read the rest

#CardiffKook Surfer Statue is Center of #Copyright Lawsuit

By Joseph Mandour on February 12, 2016

waveSan Diego – The Cardiff Kook statute proudly stands near one of the most popular surf breaks in San Diego, California, where over the years it has become most famous for being the target for a variety of pranks which usually take the form of the statue being dressed in unique outfits. It addition to this ridicule, it is now the focus of a lawsuit.

The image copyright of the statue belongs to Cardiff 101 Main Street, a non-profit organization working to promote the Cardiff by the Sea community. The organization obtained the copyright when the statue’s creator, Matthew Antichevich, transferred the copyright over to it when the statue was built in 2007.

In the lawsuit, Cardiff 101 claims that the Cardiff Kook Run knowingly infringed on the statute copyright when it used the statue’s image without compensation wheny printing the statute’s image on signs, medals, T-shirts, websites, and other promotional materials. Cardiff 101 filed the lawsuit on January 25, 2016, a few weeks before the annual Cardiff Kook Run on February 7. The lawsuit seeks up to $150,000 in damages for willful infringement.

The race’s co-founder and organizer Steve Lebherz said that while the race began in 2012, he didn’t learn the statue’s image was protected by copyright until December of 2015. Lebherz responded by agreeing to cease using the image after this year’s run. He added that he would have stopped earlier if the promotional materials were not already created. Since the materials had already been created, he claimed that it would be too costly to remove and replace the images for this year’s race.

The attorney for Cardiff 101, claims that Lebherz knew about the copyright and has previously paid a licensing fee. This year, Lebherz refused to pay the fee, which is what prompted Cardiff 101 to file the lawsuit.

Lebherz argues the lawsuit is in retaliation for the Cardiff Kook Run declining to partner with Cardiff 101 when Cardiff 101 sought a higher administrative fee, promoting the Cardiff Kook Run to partner with another nonprofit. Lebherz also points out that the Kook run has donated around $15,000 to improve the area surrounding the statue.

“It’s really too bad,” Lebherz said. “We put money and upkeep towards [the statue] and w... Read the rest

#LeBron and #Kobe Tattoos Lead to #Copyright Lawsuit over #NBA2K16 Videogame

By Joseph Mandour on February 5, 2016

tattooLos Angeles – The tattoos of NBA stars such as LeBron James and Kobe Bryant are the focus of a copyright lawsuit filed by Solid Oak Sketches, a company that owns the copyright of those tattoos featured on the NBA 2K16 videogame. Solid Oak Sketches argues that Take-Two Software, the creator of the video game, reproduced the tattoo designs without authorization. The NBA players who have the tattoos themselves are not involved in the lawsuit.

The tattoos in focus are featured throughout the game, as well as serving a key role in advertising for the game. Solid Oak Sketches is seeking $800,000 in damages for copyright infringement and has stated it is willing to allow the continued use of the tattoos in exchange for a $1.1 million perpetual licensing fee.

A core legal question in this case could be whether tattoos at issue can even be copyrighted. Tattoo designs are often in the public domain or are derivative works. While this question has been brought up in court in previous cases, it’s never been definitively answered. The previous copyright cases ended with settlements, resulting in a lack of a definitive judicial position being taken. Solid Oak Sketches appeals to precedent from two of these past cases to support its argument.

The first is the lawsuit filed by Victor Whitmill (designer of Mike Tyson’s facial tattoo) against Warner Bros., over a similar facial tattoo on Ed Helm’s character in The Hangover: Part II. The case was settled, but the judge stated that he believed there’s no reasonable dispute against copyright of tattoos.

The second is the case filed by Christopher Escobedo (designed of the ribcage lion tattoo for UFC fighter Carlos Condit) against videogame publisher THQ over unauthorized use of the tattoo in the video game. Escobedo was awarded $22,500. Solid Oak Sketches used this amount to calculate the damage total for the eight tattoos in the NBA 2K16 game.

Solid Oak Sketches also argues that tattoos meet the copyright standards of originality and fixation, pointing out that the United States Register of Copyrights has previously issued registration for tattoo designs.

The spokesman for Take-Two Software stated that the company does not comment on lawsuits.

... Read the rest

Monkey Loses Copyright Case Over Selfie

By Joseph Mandour on January 15, 2016

monkeyLos Angeles – Naruto, the famous macaque monkey behind the monkey selfie, just lost a court case. The not-for-profit organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ (PETA) filed the lawsuit back in September on behalf of Naruto and the other macaques living on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi on a reserve.

The lawsuit was prompted over a photograph and the resulting proceeds for it. The monkey selfie was taken by Naruto with British nature photographer David Slater’s camera. Three different arguments over ownership were made when the photos came out.

While Slater never clicked the button for those photos, he claims he should be viewed as the intellect behind them given he set up and held the tripod throughout the shoot. Thus he argues that he should own the copyright.

PETA argues Naruto owns the photo since he is the living creature who clicked the photograph, as PETA argued in the lawsuit, Naruto “purposely pushed the shutter release multiple times, understanding the cause and effect relationship between pressing the shutter release, the noise of the shutter, and the change to his reflection in the camera lens.”

Multiple online outlets, such as Wikimedia, argued that nobody owned the copyright because an animal took the photo.

The U.S. Copyright Office policy states it “will not register works produced by nature, animals, or plants” and provides the example of “a photograph taken by a monkey.”

The Copyright Office’s clear statement on the issue did not deter PETA from filing a lawsuit in hopes of PETA being allowed to represent Naruto and administering proceeds from the photo on his behalf. The proceeds PETA focused on were sales from Slater’s book titled Wildlife Personalities, which includes Naruto’s selfies.

PETA’s argument was that the definition of authorship under the Copyright Act is broad en... Read the rest

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