Lauren Conrad Sued Over Infringing Photograph; Russian Internet Firm Sues Twitch; Court Orders USD 1 Billion Penalty for Cox Communications; Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Filed Against Makers of Music Documentaries; MJ’s Estate Settles Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Against Disney; Crackdown on Bombay Pubs Playing Copyrighted Songs Without Licence and more.
Entertainment Law News
Lauren Conrad Sued Over Infringing Photograph
Reality TV star Lauren Conrad has recently been sued by a photographer named Jason Cook, who claims that Conrad used his picture on her blog, without his permission. Cook has stated that, in an article written about yoga teacher Jessamyn Stanley, which was later posted on Conrad’s blog, the latter used a photograph of Stanley that was taken by him. Further, Conrad did not make the effort to get the required license to use this photo, which is necessary, since the photo has already been granted a copyright by the US Copyright Office.
The TV star has blatantly infringed the photographer’s copyright and according to Cook such an infringement is “willful, intentional, and purposeful, in disregard of and indifference” to his rights.” Further, the photographer has stated that he will be seeking damages and an account of profits, in addition to the relief that the court deems just and proper.
Russian Internet Firm Sues Twitch
Rambler Group, which is Russia’s third-largest internet service provider (ISP), has sued Twitch, the Amazon owned streaming platform, for 180bn Roubles (2.1bn Pounds) due to the pirated broadcasts of the English Premier League games. Rambler had bought the exclusive digital distribution rights for the English Premier League this year, for three seasons. The Russian ISP stated that Twitch has allegedly violated its exclusive broadcasting rights more than 36,000 times between August and November. According to Rambler’s terms and conditions, “users cannot share content without permission from the copyright owners, including films, television programmes and sports matches.”
Twitch’s lawyer has denied the allegations, stating that it “only provides users with access to the platform and is unable to change the content posted by users, or track possible violations”. Considering that Russia is the third-largest user of Twitch, the streaming service took all the necessary precautions to avoid any violations, prior to receiving any notice from Rambler. The case was heard by the Moscow City Court this month. The Court has ordered a temporary suspension of English Premier League streams on Twitch, pending the outcome.
Court Orders USD 1 Billion Penalty for Cox Communications
In a case decided by the District Court jury, Cox Communications, the American Company that provides telecom and other services, has now been ordered to pay a penalty amounting to USD 1 billion in a copyright infringement case. This dispute is the result of an ongoing struggle that music publishers and music record companies have been facing for a long time now, with regard to pirated content. Since the last couple of years, record labels have been suing Internet Service Providers (ISP) for not removing music pirates from their services, however, after the order granted in the present matter, the record labels seemed to have scored a win.
Cox Communications was held liable for piracy infringement of more than 10,000 musical works, and was ordered to pay damages to Sony Music, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group and EMI. With this win, the recording industry has proved that “a jury will buy its argument that an ISP should be held liable for failing to kick a music pirate off its network.” The American Company, has stated that it will appeal this decision. This lawsuit is not a first of its kind for Cox Communications, as previously telecom company was ordered to pay USD 25 million in a copyright infringement matter filed by BMG, the German music company. BMG filed the lawsuit only after Cox Communications ignored repeated copyright infringement warnings from the copyright enforcement company Rightscorp, following which the decision was granted in favour of BMG. “This decision was later reversed on appeal, but prior to the retrial Cox Communications paid out a settlement to BMG.”
Such copyright infringement lawsuits have been filed against other ISP’s as well, and the order granted in the present matter gives hope to the recording companies that the rulings granted in those lawsuits will also be similar.
Infringement Lawsuit Filed Against Makers of Music Documentaries
A new lawsuit recently filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York carries accusations of copyright infringement against the producers of documentaries centered on rock bands such as ABBA, Nirvana, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The defendants include Coda Publishing, Vision Films and director Robert Carruthers.
The plaintiff companies, including Universal Music Group, Polygram, and ABKCO Music & Records, that own the rights to the songs, described the documentaries made on artists such as The Rolling Stones, U2 and Elton John as “nothing more than a delivery system for intentionally infringed materials.”
The plaintiffs are seeking a declaration that the defendants wilfully infringed copyrights, an order to destroy all copies of the films, as well as statutory damages of up to USD 150,000 per infraction or actual damages plus any profits the defendants made from the films.
MJ’s Estate Settles Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Against Disney
In 2018, Michael Jackson’s estate had sued Disney in the Western Division of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, alleging that a documentary, The Last Days of Michael Jackson, was broadcast without the estate’s consent to use the singer’s songs and imagery.
In its complaint, the estate noted the irony of Disney’s copyright infringement, given that its “zeal to protect its own intellectual property from infringements, real or imagined, often knows no bounds.” Consequently, the estate stated they were “genuinely shocked.” While Disney took the defence of the fair use doctrine, it removed certain imagery from the film a few days before its broadcast.
The trial that was scheduled to begin this month has been dismissed by the court upon a formal request by Jackson’s estate post a settlement between the two parties. Thus far, neither party has commented on the settlement. Jackson’s estate may now expect to face fresh lawsuits under a new California law that gives victims of child sex abuse additional time to file claims.
Crackdown on Bombay Pubs Playing Copyrighted Songs Without License
Bombay High Court had passed an order restraining over 600 hotels, restaurants and pubs from playing copyrighted music during New Year’s Eve celebrations without having a licence to play them for any commercial purpose. The petitioners, Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) and Novex, own public performance rights of songs. It remains disputed as to whether assignees like PPL and Novex have the right to collect royalties.
The Madras High Court had also put in place similar restraints upon a petition by the Indian Performing Right Society Limited, the only registered copyright society under the Indian Copyright Act.
Authored and compiled by Neharika Vhatkar (Associate, BananaIP Counsels) and Tanvi Chaturvedi (Legal Intern)
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: Entertainment Law News.
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