Entertainment and E-Commerce Law News: Court Orders Block Against 76 Websites, Xiaomi Fires Employee for Infringement, Former Snap Exec Launches Verishop, and more
Ranveer Singh Receives Infringement Notice from Brock Lesnar, Village Roadshow Wins Order to Block 76 Piracy Websites, VidAngel to Pay USD 62 million for Copyright Infringement, Genius Accuses Google of Copyright Infringement of Lyrics, Court Upholds University’s Claim of Immunity Against Copyright Infringement, Premier League Tops List of UK Copyright Suits, Twitch Sues to Identify Uploaders of Christchurch Shooting Videos, Niantic Sues Global++ for Hacked Versions of Games games, Xiaomi Fires Employee Accused of Infringement, Netflix Attempts to Introduce New Revenue Streams, Spotify Announces Your Daily Drive Playlist for the Road, Former Snap Exec Imran Khan Launches Verishop, Lazada’s Organises Innovative ‘See Now, Buy Now’ Fashion Shows, and more.
Ranveer Singh Receives Infringement Notice from Brock Lesnar
Bollywood actor Ranveer Singh has been served with a legal notice by the attorneys of WWE wrestler Brock Lesnar, for his use of the phrase “Eat, Sleep, Conquer, Repeat”. Ranveer had used his take on the phrase to caption a photo of himself with cricketer Hardik Pandya in a tweet. Lesnar’s attorney, Paul Heyman, tweeted back at Ranveer, accusing him of infringement and threatening litigation. It is unclear whether a separate notice was served, as Ranveer’s team has not yet commented on the matter.
Village Roadshow Wins Order to Block 76 Piracy Websites
Australian media company Village Roadshow has won a court order in its favour in a suit for copyright infringement against 76 websites which linked, streamed or torrented movies and TV shows without authorisation. The suit was filed last year before an Australian court, by Village Roadshow along with major studios including Disney, Warner, Universal and Paramount. The order was granted against websites that were mostly hosted outside Australia, and requires major internet or carriage service providers like cellular networks to facilitate blocking of the websites. Unlike most jurisdictions which do not impose any costs for such blocking, Australian law permits the court to impose a fee on the copyright owner. In this case, the fee for blocking each domain is AUD 50, and is to be paid by the studio requesting the block. This order is the latest one in a series of similar orders that have been passed following an amendment in Australia’s copyright laws, which has simplified the process of blocking infringing online resources.
VidAngel to Pay USD 62 million for Copyright Infringement
Video filtering service VidAngel has been guilty of copyright infringement by a California court, and has been ordered to pay USD 62.4 million in damages. Major production houses including Disney, Warner Brothers and 20th Century Fox had claimed that VidAngel infringed on their copyrighted content by making copies of movie discs, and allowing customers to stream the movies for USD1 per movie. The studios claimed that this resulted in heavy losses as VidAngel sometimes made content available even before the studios themselves had legally made it available on licensed streaming services.
The court had earlier dismissed VidAngel’s arguments that its filtering service was protected by the 2005 Family Movie Act, and found it liable for copyright infringement, violations of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and the studios’ public performance rights. The studios appear hopeful that the ruling and assessed damages send a clear message to others who would attempt to profit from unlawful infringing conduct at the expense of the creative community.
Genius Accuses Google of Copyright Infringement of Lyrics
Genius, a popular song lyrics website, has accused Google of blatantly and directly copying content from its site to populate its results panel when a user searches for song lyrics. Genius made this discovery in 2016 because it had digitally watermarked its lyrics with alternating apostrophes and quotation marks. However, as Genius itself does not own the lyrics, and may at best be a non-exclusive licensee of the music producers, it is likely that Genius can neither file a suit against Google nor obtain any damages. Google claims to have licensed the lyrics from another company, LyricFind in an attempt to atleast partially absolve itself from any wrongdoing, and has issued a statement that it is investigating the issue and would terminate agreements with licensing partners who did not uphold good practices.
Court Upholds University’s Claim of Immunity Against Copyright Infringement
In a suit filed by a professional photographer against the University of Houston, an appellate court has held that copyright infringement by a public university does not amount to a ‘taking’ under the US Constitution. The suit was filed by Jim Olive, over a photograph that he took of the university at dusk from a helicopter, and had registered with the US Copyright Office in 2005. He alleged that the University of Houston downloaded the photo from his site without his authorisation, removed all identifying material and displayed it on several pages of its website to promote its business school. This case deals with the ‘taking clause’ clause under the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution, which states that “private property [shall not] be taken for public use, without just compensation.” The appellate court considered the nexus between intellectual property rights and the “takings clause”, and finally decided that although copyright is a property interest, copyright infringement is not a taking because courts have previously found that no takings claim exists for similar trademark and patent interests.
The court of appeals held that Olive’s case amounted to an infringement claim and the state has sovereign immunity in copyright, patent and trademark infringement cases (but not trade secrets cases). This implies that copyright owners may still seek an injunction against ongoing infringement, but will not be awarded damages. This case is an interesting development in light of the Blackbeard case currently before the US Supreme Court, which also concerns similar issues.
Premier League Tops List of UK Copyright Suits
The English Premier League, the top-tier club football league in England, has emerged on top of the list of highest number of copyright-infringement claims at the UK High Court between March 2018 and March 2019. The Premier League has filed 36 complaints in this period, , according to London-based law firm Reynolds Porter Chamberlain,. The majority of these claims were brought against the owners of pubs, bars and restaurants, who are alleged to have shown football matches or played music without a licence. Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL) brought 88 suits in this period while the Performing Rights Society, made 25 claims, mostly for the enforcement of performance rights. The firm’s analysis is that the easy availability of copyrighted material on the internet has made it essential for content owners to pursue all revenue from any business using their material, making litigation a more popular choice in pursing infringers.
Twitch Sues to Identify Uploaders of Christchurch Shooting Videos
Twitch, the popular live stream website, has filed a lawsuit against a group of anonymous users, to find out the identities of 100 people who recently violated its terms of service by uploading inappropriate content including the deadly Christchurch terrorist shooting, hardcore pornography, copyrighted movies and television shows, and racist and misogynistic videos under an ongoing campaign. Twitch alleges that the videos caused harm to the platform and its community of users, and is also alleging copyright infringement for the use of its logo in association with the videos on a separate website.
In its suit before a California court, Twitch is seeking to identify the individuals involved, ban them from the site and force them to pay damages.
Niantic Sues Global++ for Hacked Versions of Games games
Niantic, the American software company that created Pokémon Go, has filed a suit against hacker group Global++ members for offering the hacked versions of popular games like Pokémon Go, Ingress and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. According to Niantic, the modified mobile apps not only violate intellectual property rights but also undermine the integrity of the gaming experience by helping players cheat which could hurt user enthusiasm and thus interfere with Niantic’s business. The suit names Global++ reported leader Ryan Hunt and YouTube promoter Alen Hundur, and includes 20 other anonymous members.
Global++ is yet to directly answer the allegations, but has responded by taking down its website and discord servers, saying it was shutting down “indefinitely” in order to honour its “legal obligations”. While Global++ clearly did not have permission to modify Niantic’s apps, questions have been raised over whether game studios are actually losing revenue due to cheaters, proving some aspects of Niantic’s suit to be contentious.
Xiaomi Fires Employee Accused of Infringement
Chinese smartphone giant Xiaomi has fired an employee who used an artist’s work without permission in a promotional campaign for the company. The campaign featured three pieces of art from British 3D artist Peter Tarka for advertisements in Spain. Tarka claimed that he had not been approached by anyone from Xiaomi to acquire a license for the use of his works, from his recent Installations series. Xiaomi has stated that it has removed the content from its website, and has also reached out to Tarka to apologise. It has also committed to revising its approval process to prevent such instances in the future.
Netflix Attempts to Introduce New Revenue Streams
Steaming giant Netflix, is making efforts to turn its streaming platform into a multimedia empire by unveiling new video games based on its shows. Instead of developing the games itself, the company is currently licensing the characters from its own series to outside studios. Stranger Things 3, a game based on the company’s most popular show, will come out on 4th July. It has also licensed “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance”, a prequel series to the 1980’s Jim Henson film, for a game that will debut later this year. The Stranger Things game follows Netflix’s other efforts to monetise its most popular original series, including a mobile game in 2017 and merchandise.
Spotify Announces Your Daily Drive Playlist for the Road
Spotify, the Swedish music-streaming service, has announced a new playlist named “Your Daily Drive” that combines music, news and podcast content for the first time in one single personalized feed. This new feature serves as a one-stop shop for personalized entertainment and education. The name and the nature of the content suggests the playlist is targeted at users’ daily commutes, and furthers Spotify’s attempt to become an all-inclusive platform for audio content.
Former Snap Exec Imran Khan Launches Verishop
With an aim to be a high-end and online version of a department store, Verishop, a new retail website has been launched by Imran Khan, former Snap Executive, with his wife, Cate Khan. With the goal of bringing “joy back to online shopping,” it goes head-to-head with platforms like Amazon. Its mission is to relieve some of the frustrations that the brands have expressed regarding existing sites that have counterfeit products or that hurt brand integrity. Khan said that his vision is to be the best home for brands. From the nature of the partnerships Verishop has entered into, it appears to be aiming to become a high-end version of regular brick-and-mortar stores.
Lazada’s Organises Innovative ‘See Now, Buy Now’ Fashion Shows
Southeast Asian e-commerce company Lazada Group organised its third ‘See Now, Buy Now’ fashion show in Bangkok, featuring products by 24 Thai designers. . This fashion show was the most important event in Lazada’s month-long ‘Women’s Festival’, a shopping bonanza held throughout May to celebrate women shoppers across Southeast Asia. Lazada group is headquartered in Singapore and owned by China’s Alibaba Group which is a multinational conglomerate.
According to an Alibaba press release, over 120,000 viewers across Thailand watched the show in real-time on their mobile phones. Moreover, the ‘See Now Buy Now’ feature allowed them to immediately purchase the items they saw on the runway using the Lazada app. The show exemplified the “shopper-tainment” concept, featuring several Thai celebrities and pop singers. The same shows were held in Philippines and Malaysia earlier in May, with the total viewership for all three shows topping 300,000. With an increasing number of eCommerce platforms in the market, companies are turning to more innovative strategies like this one to connect with users.
Authored and compiled by Ashwini Arun and Neharika Vhatkar (Associates, BananaIP Counsels)
The Entertainment Law News Bulletin is brought to you jointly by the Entertainment Law, eCommerce 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.
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