Marvel Sued for X-Men Theme Song; Warner Gets Trump Tweet Removed; Telegram Under Fire from RIAA for Infringement; Jennifer Lopez Sued for Infringing Photograph; NY Court Dismisses Infringement Suit against ‘Billions’; Lil Peep’s Mother Files a Suit for Wrongful Death; Multiple Rappers Named in ‘Rodeo’ Infringement Suit; Rafale: The Jet and Pan Masala; RSS wants Online Platforms to Regulate Anti-Hindu Content and more.
Marvel Sued for X-Men Theme Song
A copyright infringement lawsuit against Marvel, Disney, Amazon, Apple and others, has been filed in a New York Court. Zoltan Krisko filed the suit claiming that the theme song of the animated version for “X-Men”, was copied from the 1980’s Hungarian TV series ‘Linda’. Krisko claims to represent Gyorgy Vukan, the late composer of the theme song from ‘Linda’. In his suit, he claims that, “Linda” was a household name in Hungary, which the entire country could “identify through its iconic soundtrack.”
He claims that a huge part of the success of the X-Men series can be attributed to the popularity of its theme song, which has now gained iconic status, and includes the multibillion-dollar film franchise as well. Since the X-Men series streams on Amazon Prime Video and is available at Apple’s iTunes Store, these companies have also been added as defendants to the suit. Krisko is seeking statutory damages for each instance or infringement or actual profits from the X-Men franchise, along with an injunction to prevent further reproduction and distribution of the theme song.
Warner Gets Trump Tweet Removed
Twitter has recently removed a doctored version of the music video for the song ‘Photograph’ by the band Nickelback, in compliance with a Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown request. The altered video clip was uploaded by US President Donald Trump in a tweet mocking 2020 presidential candidate and former vice-president Joe Biden. The video contained a picture of Biden and his son allegedly spending time with Ukrainian businessmen. The post was made amid Trump’s impeachment inquiry and the ongoing investigation by Congress, into the now leaked and public telephone conversation between Trump and the Ukrainian President.
Warner Music Group, which owns the copyright in the song ‘Photograph’, sent a DMCA complaint to Twitter, which resulted in the prompt removal of the video. Since US Copyright law criminalizes the unauthorised use and distribution of copyrighted work online, and Twitter functions as an online service provider, non-compliance of such DMCA notices could threaten Twitter’s intermediary status.
Telegram Under Fire from RIAA for Infringement
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has filed a copyright infringement complaint with the US Government against encrypted messaging platform Telegram. The RIAA is a trade organisation that represents several companies in the music industry, including Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group, and Sony Music Entertainment among others. The RIAA in its complaint has mentioned that, although it does not believe that Telegram is directly liable for copyright infringement, the platform’s lax enforcement enables its users to illegally host and transmit copyrighted material. The RIAA has also stated that it sent DMCA notices to Telegram for over 18,000 instances of unauthorised use of copyrighted recordings being used on the app.
The complaint notes that, although Telegram appears to have forwarded the DMCA notices to the various channel operators, very few of these channel operators have deleted the audio/video files in question.
The RIAA claims that record sales of its members account for about 85 percent of all recorded music sales in the United States. While it is likely that RIAA will take this matter forward by filing a civil suit, the US Government could also launch an investigation of its own.
Telegram has not commented on or responded to the complaint.
Jennifer Lopez Sued for Infringing Photograph
Singer Jennifer Lopez is the latest celebrity to be hit with a USD 150,000 copyright infringement lawsuit, by the Splash News and Picture Agency, over a photo of herself and fiancé Alex Rodriguez that was allegedly posted to her Instagram account two years ago. The Agency filed this suit in a California court, claiming that it never gave Lopez the license to use that photograph. Despite the absence of any license, it appears that a member of Lopez’s team copied and distributed the image through the singer’s Instagram account.
The Agency also claims that Lopez’ celebrity status enhances the appeal of the image, thus adding to the creativity, distinctiveness and value of the photograph. Due to this, both Splash and the photographer stood to gain revenue from licensing the photograph and such unauthorized use of the photograph by the singer, harms the existing and future market for the original photograph.
NY Court Dismisses Infringement Suit against ‘Billions’
A New York court has dismissed a copyright infringement suit filed by author and Wall Street performance coach Denise Shull against the Showtime network for its show “Billions”. Shull had filed the suit last December, claiming that the character Wendy Rhoades in the show was based on her, and that the story of the show infringed on her 2012 book “Market Mind Games”. Shull also claimed that Andrew Ross Sorkin one of the creators of “Billions” had asked for inputs while developing the Rhoades character.
The court found that the book and the show did not resemble each other, as the book was a fictionalized retelling of Shull’s experiences in the form of an in-house female performance coach for a hedge fund. The court also held that, even though Shull is well known in the performance coaching world, she cannot copyright the idea of a female in-house performance coach. Since the characters of Denise and Wendy did not resemble each other even in the slightest, there did not seem to be any relevant grounds for a copyright infringement suit.
Lil Peep’s Mother Files a Suit for Wrongful Death
Rapper Lil Peep’s mother, Lisa Womack, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against his former management agency, First Access Entertainment claiming that the agency is responsible for his death. Lil’ Peep, who was born Gustav Ahr, died from a Xanax and fentanyl overdose while on tour in November 2017.
She also claims that his managers provided him with various kinds of drugs and enabled his drug use, to the point where he was forced to perform on stage on various occasions under the influence of enough drugs to impair his communication. Until November of last year Womack and First Access worked side-by-side and released his first posthumous project Come Over When You’re Sober 2 which debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200.
In response to the lawsuit, First Access has stated that Womack’s claims are completely meritless, since police found Lil Peep’s death to be an accident.
Multiple Rappers Named in ‘Rodeo’ Infringement Suit
Several rappers including Lil Nas X, Cardi B, and their collaborators have been hit with a copyright infringement lawsuit for the song ‘Rodeo’. Don Lee and Glen Keith DeMeritt III, two producers from Atlanta have claimed in their lawsuit that the song ‘Rodeo’ is substantially similar to their song “gwenXdonlee4-142,” which they produced in 2017. The song gwenXdonlee was initially incorporated into the song ‘Broad Day’ by PuertoReefa and Sakrite Duexe, which was then distributed widely throughout the Atlanta hip-hop scene.
Shortly after ‘Broad Day’ was released, Lil Nas X released ‘Rodeo’. As per the allegations in the lawsuit both the songs have similar chord progression, instruments and drumbeats. The producers claim that they did not give Lil Nas X and his collaborators permission to use or copy their work and that the rappers created an unauthorized copy and/or derivative work from Plaintiffs’ original material.
Rafale: The Jet and Pan Masala
A company based in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, has recently launched a pan masala by the name of Rafale, not to be confused with the Rafale fighter jet, which will soon make its way to India. The Lucknow company manufacturing the pan masala has recently put out an advertisement for the product featuring fighter jets. Once the advertisement was out, it created quite a buzz on social media, with a lot people trolling the advertisement for trying to take advantage of recent news about the Rafale fighter jet, which was officially handed over to India by France.
Irrespective of the future legal implications for the pan masala brand for using the name Rafale, it has for the time being managed to generate the initial interest in the product through its marketing strategy.
RSS wants Online Platforms to Regulate Anti-Hindu Content
Representatives of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) have expressed concern over the content being shown on several streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime, among others, claiming that some of this content harbours anti-hindu and anti-national sentiments among viewers. In order to regulate such content, RSS members have been holding meetings with the representatives of such platforms to urge them to show content that “represents real Indian culture and ethos.” As of now, RSS members, have held six such meetings with the representatives in the last four months in New Delhi and Mumbai.
An RSS office-bearer stated that they want to restrict content that is ‘critical’ of the Indian standpoint on Kashmir or defamatory to Hindu symbols and the Indian Army, and for this purpose they were in touch with many online curated content providers (OCCPs). During one such meeting with the representative of Netflix, RSS discussed the protests in New Delhi with respect to the show ‘Leila’ and the subsequent Twitter case when the issue of blocking rightwing handles was raised by Anurag Thakur in a parliamentary committee and officials summoned. RSS therefore suggested that more Indians should be involved while creating content for India.
To deal with this issue, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has begun to look at alternative ways that do not infringe on the freedom of video on demand (VoD) providers, which will include a mechanism of having a dedicated body with a helpline to address complaints, to reduce the burden on the courts.
Authored and compiled by Neharika Vhatkar and Ashwini Arun (Associates, BananaIP Counsels)
The Entertainment Law News Bulletin is brought to you jointly by the Entertainment Law and Consulting/Strategy Divisions 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: Ent Law News.
Disclaimer: Please note that the news bulletin has been put together from different sources, primary and secondary, and BananaIP’s reporters may not have verified all the news published in the bulletin. You may write to [email protected] for corrections and take down.