Court Tosses Claim on Unregistered Copyright, CEOs Demand Federal Privacy Law, Antitrust Probes Against Facebook, Google, Uber, Tencent and Car-Makers, and more

IP, Privacy and Antitrust This Week: Audible Files Motion to Dismiss Publishers Suit, Court Rejects Copyright Infringement suit over Gilda Radner Documentary, Tencent Music Shares Fall After Probe into Record Label Ties, Old Antitrust Laws May Hinder Probe into Facebook and Google, DOJ to Probe Automakers’ Emission Deals with California, SC Orders Investigation into Uber Practices, Conservative Party May be Liable for Data Breach, 51 Tech CEOs Demand Federal Data Privacy Law in Open Letter, and more.
Audible Files Motion to Dismiss Publishers Suit
The Amazon-owned audiobook company, Audible, has filed a motion to dismiss the suit and opposing the application for injunction filed by seven publishers last month. In their collective suit, the publishers had claimed that the Audible Caption feature, which converted speech to text, resulted in the unauthorized distribution of ebooks along with the audio book version. In its memorandum filed before the court, Audible has argued that the feature is not a paper book, e-book or any other cross-format product. It claims the sole purpose of this feature is to engage readers while listening to an audiobook, and comes well within the purview of fair use.
Court Rejects Copyright Infringement Suit over Gilda Radner Documentary
A copyright infringement suit brought by a journalist against CNN and Magnolia Pictures over a documentary on the life of the legendary comedian and actress, Gilda Radner, has been rejected by a New Yorkcourt. The journalist, Hillary Johnson, claimed that the audiotapes of her interviews with Gilda and used in the making of the documentary, “Love, Gilda”, were creative enough to claim copyright protection. However, thecourt refused to allow her suit for copyright infringement to proceed because she did not get the tapes registered or seek a declaration of ownership prior to the institution of this suit.
Tencent Music Shares Fall After Probe into Record Label Ties
Tencent Music Entertainment Group suffered a setback after the Chinese antitrust authorities started investigating its licensing deals with major record labels like Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group. These labels have sold exclusive rights to the Chinese company which in turn, sublicences content to other smaller companies in China. The fee that such companies have to pay to Tencent for the license is much higher than what they would have to pay if they licensed directly from the major labels. The authorities hope the investigations will discourage major music labels from entering into exclusive licensing with online streaming platforms.
Old Antitrust Laws May Hinder Probe into Facebook, Google
The attorneys general of almost every state in the US have geared up to conduct antitrust investigations against major tech giants like Google and Facebook, suspecting violations of consumer data. However, concerns have arisen over whether the century-old antitrust statutes could be interpreted to apply in the internet age. Experts have pointed out that the obvious objection against applying antitrust laws to technology companies is that they offer most services to their customers for free, while the laws specify provisions where companies use their dominant position for monetary consideration. Also, antitrust liabilities usually arise from tangible economic harm caused by companies whereas in case of companies like Google, the harm is mostly likely to arise from breach of privacy and unwanted surveillance.
DOJ to Probe Automakers’ Emission Deals with California
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has launched an antitrust probe against four major automakers who have entered into independent deals with California to reduce vehicular emissions. The investigation aims to determine if the four companies – Ford, Volkswagen, BMW and Honda, have engaged in any form of anti-competitive behavior when they agreed with each other to follow the Californian fuel economy standard. California can set its own air standards since the enactment of the Clean Air Act in 1970 and has steadily moved towards its goal of increasing zero-emission vehicles. The US federal government, on the other hand, has tried its best to strip California of its ability to set its own air standards and discourage automakers from following stricter standards.
SC Orders Investigation into Uber Practices
Meru Travel Solutions Pvt. Ltd. had filed a suit in 2015 before the Competition Commission of India (CCI) alleging that Uber engaged in anti-competitive activities by providing rides at exceptionally low prices. After being initially dismissed, Meru appealed against the order at the Competition Appellate Tribunal which ordered the CCI to investigate into Uber’s alleged misuse of market dominance. The Supreme Court has decided to uphold the tribunal’s order and ordered CCI to investigate further into Uber’s practices.
Conservative Party May be Liable for Data Breach
The Conservative Party, which collected information about users’ political opinions through the webpage “Back Brexit”, could be liable for the breach of data privacy. Users were required to enter their personal details like name, address and contact number which the party could use to customize campaign advertisements. Users were not given any information or the choice to control the use of their data. The privacy policy of the webpage stated that user data would be utilised to build their profiles or understand voting opinion, but did not mention that the Party may target the user with online advertisements specific to the campaign.
51 Tech CEOs Send Open Letter to Congress Demanding Federal Data Privacy Law
An open letter was sent to the US Congress by the Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs of America’s largest companies, demanding a federal data privacy law to replace or consolidate the rising number of data privacy laws at the state level. Multiple and varying laws at the state level have caused confusion among the consumers as well as the companies. However, companies have been criticized for not considering users’ interests, and instead attempting to consolidate privacy laws to make them less effective. The CEOs have provided a framework of legislation to the Congress which is similar to but broader than the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Authored and compiled by Ashwini Arun and Anusmita Mazumder (Associates, BananaIP Counsels)
The IP, Privacy and Antitrust Law News Bulletin is brought to you by the Consulting/Strategy Division of BananaIP Counsels, a Top IP Firm in India. If you have any questions, or need any clarifications, please write to [email protected]  with the subject: IP, Privacy and Antitrust  Law News.
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