Singer Josh Stone Files Infringement Suit Against Ariana Grande, Google wins Infringement Lawsuit, Apple Faces Infringement Suit for ‘Servant’ Show, and more
Singer Josh Stone Files Infringement Suit Against Ariana Grande; Eden Project Artist Sues Botanic Garden Over Infringing Sculptures; EWHC Dismisses Infringement Claim against Google; Spotify and Time Warner End Indian Licensing Dispute; Apple TV+ Show ‘Servant’ Faces Copyright Infringement Suit; Federal Court orders Ed Sheeran to Reveal Concert Revenues and more.
Singer Josh Stone Files Infringement Suit Ariana Grande
Adding to the spate of infringement suits filed against popular musicians lately, pop star Ariana Grande has landed in hot water over the chorus of her song ‘7 Rings’. Singer Josh Stone has filed a copyright infringement claim against Grande and Universal Music Corp, alleging that the hook in 7 Rings is substantially similar to his 2017 song ‘You Need It, I Got It’. The lyrics to the hook of 7 Rings are ‘I want it, I got it, I want it, I got it’, while the lyrics to the hook of Stone’s song are ‘You need it, I got it, you need it, I got it’. One of the claims made in the lawsuit, which was filed in New York, alleges that, each of the 39 respective notes of 7 Rings is identical with the 39 notes of ‘I Got It’ from a metrical placement perspective.
Further, Stone revealed that in 2017 he had played his song to an executive named Tommy Brown, who was also a producer and had collaborated with Ariana Grande.
Eden Project Artist Sues Botanic Garden Over Infringing Sculptures
UK-based light installation and sculpture artist Bruce Munro has filed a suit against Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, seeking USD 150,000 in statutory damages for allegedly infringing his work, titled ‘Forest of Light’. He has also sought an injunction and destruction of the infringing goods purchased by the Florida-based Botanic Garden. He claimed that the exhibition has bought unauthorised replicas of his light installations from Chinese seller G-lights, who is also impleaded as a defendant in the lawsuit. G-lights reportedly offers infringing copies of Munro’s works rather blatantly on Alibaba’s online retail platform, by advertising them as ‘Bruce Munro Style’.
The complaint claims substantial similarity between the garden installations used by Fairchild and many of his famous works. To demonstrate the renown of his light exhibitions, Munro went so far as to compare the footfall at his Longwood exhibition with the Rolling Stones 2014 concert tour, stating that half as many concert attendees attended his installations, many from more than three hours away.
EWHC Dismisses Infringement Claim against Google
The England and Wales High Court (EWHC) recently dismissed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Google. Christopher Wheat, the operator of the website theirearth.com, appealed against a lower court’s decision to dismiss his suit against Google for copyright infringement of his photograph. Wheat stated that an aggregator had hotlinked his photograph of Lewis Hamilton, which was originally available on his website. Hotlinking refers to the method of displaying content on the website not by copying it, but by merely providing links to the original host website and displaying the content directly from their servers.
Wheat alleged that, after his photograph was hotlinked, Google either saved a copy of or cached the aggregator’s website and displayed it at the top of the image search results for Lewis Hamilton’s name, thereby infringing upon his copyright in the photograph.
The High Court however, seemed to disagree with Wheat, as it stated that, there is nothing in this situation that came within the ambit of copyright infringement. It noted that Google had not ‘attributed’ the image to itself, and neither did the hotlinking have any effect of depriving Wheat of his rights in any manner. The High Court upheld the lower court’s decision and dismissed the suit.
Spotify and Time Warner End Indian Licensing Dispute
Spotify, the audio streaming platform, and Time Warner, the American Multinational Mass Media Company, have made an announcement ending their year-long licensing dispute in India. Both companies released simultaneous and largely similar statements on 14th January, announcing that the court dismissed the pending litigation between them on the joint request of both parties. They also announced a new multi-territory licensing agreement, which includes India within its ambit.
Last year’s litigation, which saw both sides trade sharp barbs, was centered around the low subscription rates Spotify charged Indian customers and the resultant valuation of streamed music. While the announcement did not reveal the terms of the deal, Spotify mentioned in its statement that it was happy with the deal’s impact on the Indian customer base and likewise Time Warner mentioned that it was satisfied with the valuation of its music.
Apple TV+ Show ‘Servant’ Faces Copyright Infringement Claims
Francesca Gregorini, the director of the film ‘The Truth About Emmanuel’, has filed a copyright infringement suit against director M. Night Shyamalan and Apple, for allegedly borrowing the plot of her film and adapting it for the Apple TV+ show, ‘Servant’.
The suit alleges similarity not only of the plot, but also of characters, scenes, directorial choices and modes of storytelling. The plot of the film revolves around a woman dealing with the loss of her infant treating a realistic doll as a human baby, and the plot of the show revolves around a wealthy couple that also cares for a lifelike doll in the wake of their infant’s death. Interestingly, a key difference between the two works is that, while her film is told from a female point of view, Shyamalan’s show employs a male narrator. Gregorini claims this is typical of Hollywood’s usurpation of stories from female perspectives and imposition of male voices and male central characters upon those stories. It will be interesting to note how the court will treat the retelling of a substantially similar story from a different point of view, especially when such changes are commonly made even for acknowledged adaptations.
The lawsuit does not specify the amount of damages that Gregorini seeks to claim.
Court Orders Ed Sheeran to Reveal Concert Revenues
The ongoing copyright infringement proceedings in a New York court, instituted against singer Ed Sheeran by the heirs of songwriter Ed Townsend, have taken an adverse turn against the singer. The suit alleged that Sheeran’s 2014 song ‘Thinking Out Loud’ infringed the copyright held by Townsend in the lyrics of Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On’. The court granted the plaintiffs’ request for financial data about Sheeran’s concerts in which he performed the song, including both ticket sales and revenue generated through merchandise sales.
The court rejected arguments by Sheeran arguments denying a causal connection between the alleged infringement and revenues from concerts. It also rejected Sheeran’s arguendo that he had a right to perform his song due to blanket performance licenses from the organisation that holds the copyrights to ‘Let’s Get It On’. It called such an argument ‘unfounded’, holding that the said licenses only granted the licensees the rights to perform their songs, rather than conveying any kind of consent of the author, to play infringing music, or remedying the infringement.
Authored and compiled by Neharika Vhatkar (Associate, BananaIP Counsels) and Yashita Gour (Legal Intern)
The Copyright and 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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