MP3tunes loses a $41-million copyright case

April 23rd, 2014 by Karen Hao

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 4.58.42 PMA New York jury has ordered Michael Robertson, founder of, to pay an estimated $41 million in damages for infringement of copyrights owned by EMI Group. MP3tunes was best known for its cloud music service that allowed users to store music in online lockers, which could be downloaded through any internet device. is still online, offering cloud storage but no longer offering music to download.

In 2007, EMI sued MP3tunes, and, in 2012, MP3tunes filed for bankruptcy. The judge originally granted summary judgment to EMI, holding that MP3Tues and Robertson were liable for direct infringement for personally uploading some songs and there were issues of “willful blindness” and “red flag knowledge” regarding other songs on the site. In 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit addressed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s safe harbor in Viacom v. YouTube, and as a result, the judge in MP3Tunes withdrew his prior summary judgment ruling.

While Robertson tried to argue that his infringements did not rise to a level of what is “objectively obvious” to a reasonable person, however it was ultimately up to the jury. The jury came back with a ruling that MP3tunes was willfully blind, leading to an estimated $41 million damages verdict including $7.5 million in punitive damages. This late March ruling was celebrated by the entertainment industry’s copyright advocates may have inspired Hollywood Studios to sue Megaupload in addition to suing Megaupload founder, Kim Dotcom.

Posted in Copyright, Intellectual property, Music, Technology

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After a first sniff, ‘Twilight’ case will go on

April 20th, 2014 by Valerie A. Roque

A federal court in New York has denied Bath & Body Works’ request for summary judgment against Summit Entertainment’s claim that the retailers’ use of “Twilight Woods” and “Twilight Crush” infringed the entertainment company’s trademarks, trade dress, and engaged in willful false designation of origin and created trademark dilution in the film-hit Twilight.

In Auust, 2008, Bath and Body began developing a woods-scented personal product care line for launch in Fall, 2009.  After a series of brainstorming meetings and informal customer tests, the retailers’ team decided on the name “Twilight Woods” for their new line.

On Nov. 21, 2008, Summit Entertainment released Twilight, a feature based on the books by Stephanie Meyers,  telling tales of teenage human, vampire and wolf relationships set against frigid, bucolic backdrop of Forks, Wash.  Twilight proved to be a blockbuster, grossing more than $397 million and creating twi-hard fans fervid for either “Team Edward” or “Team Jacob.” A Twilight sequel, New Moon, grossed $700 million and “each of Twilight’s subsequent movies grossed over $690 million,” the court noted. With a big-money franchise potentially affected, how did the court decide to let this litgation go on? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Film, Intellectual property, Trademark

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Sony exec sees need for audience engagement

April 16th, 2014 by Kasia Campbell
Leah Weil, Senior Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Sony Pictures Entertainment. Image Credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment

Image Credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment

Hollywood has no choice but to engage with its audiences as part of its efforts to confront intellectual property piracy and to figure how to make user-generated content work for rather than against industry interests, Leah Weil, senior executive vice president and general counsel of Sony Pictures Entertainment, told an audience at the law school recent.

Weil, who oversees all legal matters relating to Sony Pictures divisions worldwide, including motion pictures, television, and home and digital entertainment, spoke recently with Steve Krone, director of the Donald E. Biederman Entertainment and Media Institute as part of Southwestern’s “Conversation with…” speaker series. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Copyright, Events, Intellectual property, Music, Privacy, Technology

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Actor inks a day pact, signs face rights away

April 14th, 2014 by Karen Hao

Can you imagine unknowingly giving away the rights for your face?

9780762431991_p0_v2_s260x420Todd Duffey, aka: Chotchkie’s Waiter in Office Space, sued 20th Century Fox for using his face on both the book’s cover and one of the buttons, claiming false endorsement under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. §1125(a), which grants a claim only if the defendant is using his likeness without permission. Here, Duffey signed a one-page Day Player Agreement with Cubicle Inc., the production company behind Office Space, which granted Cubicle “all rights throughout the universe” to Duffey’s performance. A federal court in New York has dismissed Duffey’s claim (thanks to The Hollywood Reporter Esq. for posting the decision) because his agreement granted the production company “all rights throughout the universe in and/or to all results . . .  including, but not limited to, the rights to. . . exploit in any manner. . .  any pictures, likeness or representations made hereunder, of Duffey.” Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Copyright, Film, Intellectual property

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Poof! Teller wins judgment over ‘Shadows’

April 11th, 2014 by Valerie A. Roque

(Photo Credit: ShannaBarnarna)


Shazam — a federal court in Las Vegas has granted summary judgment in favor Teller (one of the master magicians who make up Penn & Teller) on his claim that Gerard Dogge’s YouTube video performances of The Rose and Her Shadow infringes the master illusionist’s copyrighted (and signature) act, Shadows.  (Thanks to Hollywood Reporter, opinion can be read here.) Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Copyright, Intellectual property

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EU high court OKs steps to block infringement

April 10th, 2014 by Karen Hao

CJEUThe Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that Internet Service Providers in Europe legally may block piracy sites. The decision came in a case involving Constatintin Film and Wega, two movie production companies that had sued UPC Telekabel, an ISP, to block access to the website, which illegally distributes copyright-protected material.

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Posted in Copyright, Film, Intellectual property, International

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In Big Easy, a big no to counterfeiter takedown

April 9th, 2014 by Kasia Campbell
Image Credit: WWE

Image Credit: WWE

The WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.), like all big time entertainments like the NFL Super Bowl, College Football Championship games, and Beyonce concerts, suffers from counterfeit merchandise sales at its shows and live events. The WWE zealously has sought judicial orders permitting it to seize counterfeit goods and prevent their vending,  especially for its pay-per-view events like WrestleMania, SummerSlam, and the Royal Rumble. With its most successful such event upcoming, WrestleMania XXX at the Superdome in New Orleans,  WWE pulled out all stops to curb infringement on its intellectual property. But a federal court in Louisiana came off the ropes to block a proposed body slam of what WWE saw as prospective merchandise bootleggers and brand pirates (a tip of the hat to The Hollywood Reporter Esq. for posting the decision online). Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Copyright, Intellectual property, Sports, Television, Trademark

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In Britain, teen angst, more over ‘Glee’ ruling

April 8th, 2014 by Erica Rose

Glee, the American TV show that has become a global hit by capitalizing on teen angst, is in the midst of its own high  legal drama in Britain where Gleeks breathlessly await a further High Court ruling and an appellate decision as to the pop series’ fate in the UK. This all traces back to a recent court case in which Comic Enterprises Ltd. prevailed  over 20th Century Fox Film Corp. in a suit over a trademark for The Glee Club. Comic Enterprises registered the mark in 2001 to cover the various entertainments it offers, this long before Fox’s show was so much as glitter in its creators’ eyes. The British company, which has said it sought to negotiate with the U.S. media monolith before the case ended up in the High Court, demonstrated a key element to persuade the judge to protect its mark: public- or wrong way- confusion, meaning the ordinary folk might think its comedy club was a show spin-off or somehow related to it. The court planned a later hearing to determine remedies.  Fox has said it will appeal the decision, which could keep the show off British TV for its sixth and final season and affect its  merchandising, ending up costing the media company even more beyond its legal fees, possibly to negotiate now with Comic Enterprises.

Posted in Intellectual property, Television, Trademark

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50 Cent rings up partial win over hip hop site

April 6th, 2014 by Kasia Campbell

50 Cent v. World Star Hip HopWhen hip hop artist, 50 Cent, first hit the music scene, many joked about his name and thought he would not last. But it looks like the joke’s on them as “50” has risen to the top, turning his rap career into a business empire, including a record label and clothing line, both labeled G-Unit, and an entertainment company, Tomorrow Today Entertainment. So when World Star Hip Hop, a website dedicated to hip hop culture, used Jackson’s and other G-Unit member’s images and likenesses without permission, you better believe “50” was all over that.

The rap artist-actor, who is quickly becoming famously known by his birth name, Curtis Jackson, sued World Star for copyright infringement, violation of his publicity rights, and trademark infringement. The intellectual property at issue includes photos of Jackson and G-Unit members, Lloyd Banks and Tony Yayo, from their albums Beg for Mercy and Thoughts of a Predicate Felon, and the “G-Unit” trademark. The court granted summary judgment in part for Jackson on his copyright infringement claim and his right of publicity claim, however, the court found that issues of genuine facts exist under Jackson’s trademark infringement claim. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Copyright, Intellectual property, Music, Right of publicity

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‘Oh, Really?’ Naughty judges and ‘Mother’

April 4th, 2014 by Valerie A. Roque

In ‘Oh, Really?’ the Biederman Blog’s editors — voracious consumers of all matters pop culture — cast a curious, skeptical, fun and smart end-of-the-week eye on popular productions, sharing their keen observations about legal matters these raise.

With tens of millions of TV viewers tuned this week to see the answer to the nine-year question posed by the series How I Met Your Mother, for judicious reasons it’s a good time to reflect on this show’s episode titled Twelve Horny Women. Sitcom lawyer Marshall Eriksen, as played by Jason Segel, should have a slam-dunk case but cannot get anywhere with the judge or jury because opposing counsel, his law school pal Brad Morris (portrayed by Joe Manganiello), flexes his sculpted muscles, flashes his pearly white smile, and lures the all-female-jury with romance novel good looks. He woos all in the courtroom with his story of heartbreak after being recently dumped by his longtime girlfriend.

And not even the judge can resist — he allows Brad to act in this manner and even encourages it.  In one scene, Brad drops his pen to the floor, and when he goes to pick it up, he does so by flaunting his back-side to the judge and jury, then, slowly and seductively picks the pen up.  A frustrated Marshall says, “Objection!” yet the judge, with a grin on his face, gleam in his eyes and flirtation in his voice, responds, “I’ll allow.” Really? Is such conduct permissible in court? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Oh, Really?, Procedural, Television

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This site is an academic activity of law students at the Biederman Entertainment and Media Law Institute. Founded in 2000, the Institute takes full educational advantage of Southwestern Law School's location in Los Angeles and its long history with and deep connections to the entertainment industry.