Weekly Copyright News: Gully Boy Leaked, FFI Wants Piracy Court, Kanye West Sued, REM Gets Trump Tweet Removed, and more
AICWA Bans Pakistani Actors and Artists, Gully Boy Leaked Online Soon After Release, Film Federation Demands Special Court to Control Piracy, Family Sues Kanye West for Copyright Infringement, Twitter Removes Trump Tweet After Copyright Complaint from R.E.M., SCOTUS Declines to Hear ‘Empire’ Lawsuit, YouTube Changes Three-Strike Policy to Tackle Frivolous Claims, British Columbia Man Claims Ownership over People’s Party of Canada Name, McCafé to Sponsor Two SAFTA Categories, Songtradr Acquires Big Sync Music, Mattel Secures Three-Year Licensing Deal for Despicable Me, and more.
“Of all the creative work produced by humans anywhere, a tiny fraction has continuing commercial value. For that tiny fraction, the copyright is a crucially important legal device.”
– Lawrence Lessig
The copyright office has not published the list of applications filed in the last week. This week’s statistics will be updated as soon as the list is published.
AICWA Bans Pakistani Actors and Artists
In the wake of the Pulwama terror attack, the All India Cine Workers Association (AICWA) has issued a statement condemning the attack, and announced a complete ban on all Pakistani actors and artists working in the Indian film industry. The statement also provided that any organization which continued to work with Pakistani artists would be banned by AICWA and strong action would be taken against them.
Gully Boy Leaked Online Soon After Release
Zoya Akhtar’s movie, Gully Boy, starring Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt, which released last week, was made available online soon after its release. The movie opened well at the box office, earning about Rs 18.7 crore by Valentine’s Day. However, its availability on various piracy sites within the first week may affect box office earnings over the next few weeks.
Film Federation Demands Special Court to Control Piracy
Members of the Film Federation of India (FFI) have urged the government to pay attention to issues ailing the film industry, like the rising film piracy concerns. To address these issues, FFI has requested special courts to help in implementation of the recent anti-cam amendments made to Cinematograph Act. The amendments impose strict penalties of fines and imprisonment upto 3 years for unauthorized recording inside theatres.
Family Sues Kanye West for Copyright Infringement
American hip-hop musician Kanye West is being sued for copyright infringement by a family in South Carolina, US. The artist is alleged to have used an audio clip of a young girl performing a prayer in one of his latest songs, without permission. The girl and her biological mother Alice Johnson were travelling to Atlanta when the child performed a prayer, a video of which the mother uploaded on Instagram. The video went viral and two weeks later, Johnson was contacted by one of West’s representatives seeking permission to use the clip in his new song. Johnson agreed to the request verbally and also sought adequate payment in exchange for the same. The singer’s new album, The Life of Pablo, had the audio from the viral clip featured in many of its tracks. Johnson’s legal representative claims that West has benefited from using the said clip and his clients are only looking for a fair share. The family is seeking actual damages and payments for the value of the audio samples. Kanye West and his representatives have not responded yet to the lawsuit.
Twitter Removes Trump Tweet After Copyright Complaint from R.E.M.
The President of the United States has been embroiled in yet another copyright issue over his tweets. Last week, Trump tweeted a video mocking the response of the Democrats to his State of the Union address, with the audio of R.E.M.’s song ‘Everybody Hurts’ playing in the background. The video was first created by a person under the pseudonym ‘Carpe Donktum’ and later shared by the President himself. R.E.M.’s publisher Universal Music, and its bassist Mike Mills complained on Twitter and the video was taken down soon after. Users visiting Trump’s page found a message stating that the “video has been removed in response to a report from the copyright holder.” However, the video has now resurfaced, with a different song playing in the background.
Trump has been previously involved in two other cases of copyright infringement. He has been accused of using The Rolling Stones’ music at his campaign rallies and using a famous catchphrase from the hit TV show Game of Thrones to further his political agendas – but neither of these instances resulted in any action against him.
SCOTUS Declines to Hear ‘Empire’ Lawsuit
The Supreme Court of the United States has declined to hear a copyright infringement lawsuit involving the hit TV show ‘Empire’. On Tuesday, the court said that it will not be taking on the case against the show, the storyline of which revolves around a black family finding their ground in the record industry. Actor Clayton Prince Tanksley had sued the creators of the show, Danny Strong and Lee Daniels, in 2016 alleging that he had pitched an idea for a similar TV Show at a competition. The lawsuit claims that Daniels, who was a judge at the competition, expressed an interest in the idea. The trial court and appeals courts ruled it that the two shows were not substantially similar. The latest statement from the Supreme Court would mean that the decision in favor of Empire’s co-creators stands.
YouTube Changes Three-Strike Policy to Tackle Frivolous Claims
YouTube has made changes to its infamous three-strike policy but has not addressed a pressing copyright concern of users. Starting February 25th, the first time a video is flagged, the site will issue the creator a warning and take down the flagged video. After this warning, they will obtain a first strike – which will put a one-week freeze on the creator’s ability to upload any new video or livestream. The subsequent second strike, if it occurs within a span of 90-days, will stretch the freeze to two weeks and the third and final strike will lead to the termination of the creator’s YouTube channel. Prior to this change, there was no provision for a warning and as soon as a video was flagged, the creator would get their first strike, a 90-day freeze on livestreaming, while the second strike would result in a two-week freeze on video uploads. Over the years, YouTube’s previous three-strike policy has attracted a lot of flak for enabling troublemakers to make bogus copyright claims and have a creator’s content taken down repeatedly. Thus, the recent change in the policy should have tackled the issue, but it does not seem to have done so. A spokesperson for YouTube has stated that these changes have been made in accordance with the site’s community guidelines, and are not related to changes in its copyright system. Therefore, these amendments will only cushion the blow by issuing a warning, but are unlikely to provide an effective remedy to users.
British Columbia Man Claims Ownership over People’s Party of Canada Name
An Abbotsford Canada based businessman, Satinder Singh Dhillon, has filed two lawsuits in a Canadian Court claiming copyright and trademark over the “People’s Party of Canada” name. Elections Canada shows that the name was officially registered on January 17th 2019, and has also listed former Federal Conservative Party cabinet minister Maxime Bernier as its leader. Dhillon claims to have filed the name for registration to Elections Canada many weeks before Bernier and he has issued evidence of a TV report that shows him discussing the name as early as 2015. Dhillon’s suit asks for an injunction preventing Bernier from using the party name during the upcoming federal byelection in Burnaby South and also wants Elections Canada to issue a review of the process used in registering the name. A cease-and-desist letter has also been sent to Bernier’s representatives but has allegedly been ignored.
McCafé to Sponsor Two SAFTA Categories
McDonald’s South Africa, through its coffee brand, McCafé, will now sponsor two awards at the 2019 South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTAs). According to McDonalds, it has had a strong relationship with the film and television industry since the year 2016. This year, the sponsorship has migrated from the Best Youth Production category to the prestigious Best Actor and Actress in a Feature Film Category. In its statement, the coffee brand has acknowledged the talent and skill of individuals recognized at these awards and expressed its aim to provide them with more opportunities in commercial storytelling.
Songtradr Acquires Big Sync Music
The largest music licensing platform in the world, Songtradr, has announced its acquisition of Big Sync Music, the world’s leading full service, creative music licensing agency.
Big Sync is headquartered in London and sources music from all around the world for advertising campaigns on behalf of big brands like Dove, Knorr, Magnum, Axe, Johnnie Walker, Samsung and many more. Songtradr is an open music licensing marketplace that develops real-time data intelligence, such as the utilization of streaming and social metadata to guide the licensing experience. In a statement issued by Songtradr, the company believes that this Big Sync’s global footprint, which includes major brands, combined with Songtradr’s technology and growing number of artists, will create an unparalleled music licensing solution for all parties. The acquisition was a multi-million-dollar cash and equity transaction and has resulted in Big Sync’s co-founder, Unilever Ventures, exiting and becoming a minority shareholder in Songtradr.
The acquisition represents a big leap in the world of music licensing. The technology provided by Songtradr will help streamline access of Big Sync’s music services to a larger community and also allows Big Sync to match a brand’s target audience with data-approved selections of music, thus creating an effective and premium experience for buyers and audience alike.
Mattel Secures Three-Year Licensing Deal for Despicable Me
Multinational toy manufacturer Mattel has entered into a three-year international licensing agreement with Universal Brand Development for the ‘Despicable Me’ franchise. The license will cover North America and will see a range of new products such as action figures, dolls, play sets, vehicles, radio control toys, games, plush, role-play and accessories. The representatives of Universal Brand Development believe that new range of merchandise will inspire creativity and open up new ways for play and extend the storytelling.
The success of the beloved characters ‘Minions’ featured in the movie has opened many doors in the world of licensing. The characters have won the hearts of millions of viewers around the world and this collaboration between the filmmakers and the toy company will enable the audience to purchase memorabilia and build a deeper connection with the film’s characters. The Mattel ‘Despicable Me’ range will launch a collection just in time for the movie sequel, slated for a summer 2020 release.
Tip of the Week
The use of a few seconds of a video or audio clip from someone else’s work can be considered copyright infringement if the few seconds used is considered substantial as compared to the whole and or it is core to the original work. When in doubt, get a license.
Author: BIP’s Copyright and Entertainment Law Attorneys
Led by Sanjeeth Hegde, Senior Partner, the entertainment law attorneys at BIP are among the well-known lawyers in the field. They work with clients such as Yash Raj Films, Dharma Productions, Ananda Audio, Anushka Sharma, Sushant Singh, and Arka Media (Producer of Bahu Bali). BIP’s entertainment law team helps clients protect, manage and effectively license and merchandise their creative works such as films, music, brands and other content, to maximize financial returns.
The weekly copyright and entertainment law news initiative is a part of their pro bono work, and is aimed at spreading entertainment law awareness. You are free to share the news with appropriate attribution and backlink to the source.
If you have any questions, you may write to BIP’s Copyright and Entertainment Law Attorneys – [email protected]