Weekly Copyright News: SC Issues Notice to Govt over Regulation of Online Streaming Services, CBFC Replaces Bottle with Bouquet, SCOTUS Allows Suit Against Apple, Getty Sues ‘Her Campus’, and more
SC Issues Notice to Govt over Regulation of Online Streaming Services, CBFC Replaces Alcohol Bottle with Bouquet and Cuts Violence in John Wick 3, ‘Student of the Year 2’ Leaked on TamilRockers, US Supreme Court Allows Monopoly Suit Against Apple, Adobe Warns Users of Possible Copyright Infringement by Old Cloud Software, Getty Sues Online Magazine ‘Her Campus’ for Copyright Infringement, Eminem Loses Appeal for Enhance Damages in New Zealand, Photographer Sues Ariana Grande for Instagram Post, Google Volunteers in Australia’s Battle Against Piracy, Yeezy Sneakers Finally Receive Copyright Protection, Haas F1 Sponsor to Drop Stag Logo over Copyright Infringement Claim, Disney Acquires Comcast’s Share in Hulu, Apple Attempts to Compete with Amazon Channels, SoundStripe receives $4Million Investment, Deepika Padukone Invests in Epigamia Yogurt, Facebook Restricts Video Streaming to Fight Misuse, Google Nest Partners with Golden State Warriors, and more.
Vigorous enforcement of copyrights themselves is an important part of the picture. But I don’t think that expanding the legal definition of copyright outside of actual copyright infringement is the right move.
– Edward Felten
Indian Copyright News
SC Issues Notice to Govt over Regulation of Online Streaming Services
The Justice for Rights Foundation, an NGO, has filed an appeal in the Supreme Court of India, seeking regulation by the Government of online content available on streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar, and others.
A similar petition filed before Delhi High Court was dismissed in February, and the matter is now before the Supreme Court on appeal. The NGO had petitioned for regulation on the grounds that these services were violating the law by hosting content that was uncertified and explicit, and that such services were operating without a license. The Petition sought for a licensing regime over streaming services, so as to regulate them akin to DTH and Cable operators. The Delhi High Court, however, dismissed the petition upon consulting with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, which stated that online platforms are not required to obtain any such license.
On appeal, the Supreme Court has issued notices to the Ministry of Information and Technology, the Ministry of Law, and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, to seek the Centre’s opinion on the matter.
CBFC Replaces Alcohol Bottle with Bouquet in ‘De De Pyar De’, Cuts Violence in ‘John Wick 3’
The Central Board for Film Certification (CBFC) has made two cuts and a replacement in the Ajay Devgn and Rakul Preet starrer film ‘De De Pyar De’. This film is releasing on 17th May, and the CBFC has given the film a U/A certificate. In the film, actress Rakul Preet is seen holding a whiskey bottle and dancing to a song, and the CBFC has directed that the bottle must be replaced with a bouquet of flowers. The CBFC has disapproved of the scene featuring a woman drinking on screen, and hence the “necessary change” has been made ahead of the film’s release. The CBFC has also cut out two double entendre dialogues in the film.On learning that the shot in the movie with the alcohol bottle does not show any brand Ajay Devgn said he had no information on the exact reason for the replacement.
The CBFC has also not spared the third instalment of the John Wick series starring Keanu Reeves. It has given ‘John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum’ an ‘A’ rating for adults, cut roughly 3 minutes of “graphic violence” involving knives and shooting, and cut another scene to reduce “revenge and escape violence”. The CBFC has also, as is standard practice, blurred and muted all instances of profanity, visual gestures, all mention and presence of alcohol and inserted the anti-smoking label wherever possible. The multiple cuts have left many viewers questioning whether it is worth watching the censored version in theatres.
‘Student of the Year 2’ Leaked on TamilRockers
The latest addition to the 2012 Student of the Year movie franchise hit theatres on the 10th of May, and was poised to bring in a large sum at the box office.
The Tiger Shroff starrer has, however received much flak from critics and viewers alike. This was not the only impediment to the movie’s success, as High Definition copies of Student of the Year 2 were uploaded onto the website ‘TamilRockers’, within hours of its theatrical release. TamilRockers offers options to either stream the movie over the internet, or download the movies using torrents.
The website initially began pirating South Indian movies, and subsequently started uploading infringing copies of various Hollywood and Bollywood movies, and severalTV shows as well. Many blockbuster hits of late have also featured on the website, including Gully Boy, Avengers: Endgame, and several others.
The pirating website has been reprimanded many times before, with the website administrators being arrested, and hefty fines being imposed. The service, however, still continues to function and provide patrons with infringing movies and television shows.
US Supreme Court Allows Monopoly Suit Against Apple
The US Supreme Court has allowed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple to proceed, rejecting Apple’s argument that customers who purchase apps from the App Store are buying directly from developers. The Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeals decision in Apple v. Pepper, agreeing with a slim 5-4 majority that Apple app buyers could sue the company for allegedly driving up prices. Apple was relying on an earlier precedent which limited the ability of indirect consumers to sue for antitrust violations. The court based its decision on the reasoning that there was no intermediary in the distribution chain between Apple and the consumer.
Although a decision in the suit is not expected anytime soon, it could potentially affect the manner in which all digital platforms interact with consumers, if consumers can directly sue the platform for price hikes. However, the unique ‘closed ecosystem’ nature of Apple’s hardware and software may limit the effect of the final outcome in the antitrust suit.
Adobe Warns Users of Possible Copyright Infringement by Old Cloud Software
This week, Adobe began warning users to discontinue using older versions of its Cloud Control Softwares, which includes Lightroom Classic, Photoshop Premiere, Animate, and Media Director programs. The communication merely stated that users were not legally licensed to use the older versions of the software, and must update to the latest versions, accompanied by a warning that continuing to use the older software versions may lead to third-party infringement suits. Adobe refused to clarify any further as to who the third-party was, as the information related to an ongoing litigation. Adobe has removed older versions from its websites, and restricted the versions that users can download from its website.
The likely third-party is suspected to be Dolby, which is currently involved in an infringement dispute with Adobe for its sale of software containing Dolby’s technology without paying the due amount to Dolby. Dolby alleges that Adobe distorted sales reporting after the mode of sale was changed from physical CDs to a Cloud based system.
Disgruntled users are asserting that they should have a right to continue using the older version of the software which they have paid for. However, standard End User Licensing Agreements allow such software updates and require users to abide by them.
Getty Sues Online Magazine ‘Her Campus’ for Copyright Infringement
Getty Images, an internet photo archive, has brought a suit alleging Copyright infringement against Her Campus, for using photographs owned by Getty Images without acquiring a license. Getty Images provides a large database of stock photographs and images, that can be used by persons by paying a nominal usage fee. This negates any requirement of users to pay for royalties, and adds an extra element of convenience.
The online magazine ‘Her Campus’ is a platform for female college students, which sources most of its content from articles contributed by students themselves. The magazine encourages the incorporation of photographs as well, in the articles, to boost the website’s viewership.
In its suit, Getty has alleged that the use of its photographs by Her Campus led to an increase in readership and revenues. It also alleges that the administrators of the website had complete editorial control over all articles being uploaded on the website, and were completely aware of the infringing content being uploaded. It claims that the magazine refused to respond to a number of notices of infringement issued by Getty Images, even after over 2,000 infringing images were found on the website.
Getty Images is seeking $150,000 from Her Campus for every instance of infringement.
Eminem Loses Appeal for Enhance Damages in New Zealand
New Zealand’s National Party, a centre-right political party, had incorporated a song as part of its campaign during the 2014 elections, titled ‘Eminem Esque’. The immensely popular track featured throughout the campaign in an advertisement, and saw the National Party succeed in the elections.
Eight Mile Style, the company owned by American rapper Eminem, alleged that the song used by the National Party was extremely similar to and thus infringed on the rapper’s hit song ‘Lose Yourself’. The National Party claimed, however, that it had legally purchased the music from an Australian music library. This was rebutted by Eight Mile Style, which claimed that there was no permission granted to use the music in a political advertisement without permission.
The High Court ruled in favour of Eight Mile Style, holding that the song was substantially copied from Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself’, and awarded substantial damages. The National Party appealed against this decision, and had the damages reduced to $NZ 225,000, as the use was not for a commercial purpose.
Photographer Sues Ariana Grande for Instagram Post
Grammy-winning artist Ariana Grande is facing a copyright infringement suit filed by photographer Robert Barbera in a New York court. The suit revolves around Grande’s Instagram post from August 2018, which features two side-by-side photos of the artist, carrying a bag emblazoned with the word ‘Sweetener’, promoting her album of the same name.
Barbera alleges that he was, and always had been the author of the photograph, and thereby has the exclusive right to use the photographs in any manner. The complaint further states that Grande is not, and has never been, authorised to use the photographs posted on Instagram, which eventually amassed over 3.3 million likes, before eventually being taken down.
Barbera has claimed damages of $25,000 for each photograph, or alternatively, all the money earned through the use of the photographs.
It is worth noting that Ariana Grande recently incorporated a new Concert Tour agreement with photographers, which allowed them limited rights for pictures from her concerts, and designated these pictures as “works-for-hire”, thereby granting Grande all the rights. She reportedly made this move in response to incidents of photographers using photographs of her during concerts, to manufacture merchandise without her authorisation and profit off of their sale.
Google Volunteers in Australia’s Battle Against Piracy
The Australian authorities have taken a strong stand against websites and other domains that harbour infringing content. The Federal Government passed a legislation back in 2015 which allowed for court-ordered blocking of websites that host infringing content. This legislation led to 65 pirating websites, and over 380 related domains, to be blocked by 2018.
These laws have been further strengthened, allowing for quick blocking of websites that are mere mirror domains that attempt to circumvent the anti-piracy laws of the land. The laws now allow for right-holders to obtain injunctions against search engines that provide infringing websites in their search results. Search engines like Google have received considerable criticism for allowing users to work around copyright protection measures by searching for such infringing websites.
In a move to further bolster the anti-piracy efforts, and also in an attempt to avoid any liability claims, Google has voluntarily entered into agreements with Australian internet service providers (ISPs), to remove websites that are engaged in sharing of copyrighted material from Google’s indexes. Creative Content Australia (CCA) claims that the collaboration has resulted in the blocking and de-indexing of over 830 piracy websites.
Yeezy Sneakers Finally Receive Copyright Protection
Adidas’ ‘Yeezy’ line of sneakers, modelled by rapper Kanye West, has been selling on a large scale, with the sportswear giant finding it difficult to meet demand. However, behind the scenes, Adidas has been in a tussle with the US Copyright Office since 2017, over granting protection to the unique design of the sneakers.
In its application to the U.S Copyright Office, Adidas claimed that the unique design elements, including the colours on the sneakers, could be protected by copyright. The US Copyright Office however claimed that the sneakers were useful articles that did not contain any copyrightable authorship, and hence denied a copyright as these elements could not be separated from the sneakers. On review, the Copyright Office clarified that although the elements of the design were separable, they were merely ordinary colours used in common, expected shapes and patterns. Adidas appealed to the Review Board, which held that the designs were “two-dimensional or three-dimensional works of art, separable from the useful article”, and hence copyrightable. This decision comes as a big win for Adidas and Kanye West, in light of the number of counterfeit sneakers that may enter the market.
Haas F1 Sponsor to Drop Stag Logo Over Copyright Infringement Claim
The Haas F1 Team, known to sport a stag logo along with the name of its title sponsor Rich Energy on the front of its cars, has been handed a judgement requiring the sponsor to cease its use of the logo.
This order flows from a copyright infringement suit against Rich Energy, by UK-based bicycle manufacturing company Whyte Bikes. The bike manufacturer contended that Rich Energy had copied its logo without permission on the Haas F1 car, its line of energy drinks, and on the helmets of drivers Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean.
The court held that the CEO of Rich Energy misled the Court when he asserted that he was not aware of the Whyte Bikes logo. It also states that Rich Energy was engaged in manufacturing documents to prove it had a better right over the logo than Whyte Bikes. In effect, Rich Energy is now prevented from using the stag logo in any further commercial activities.
Facebook Restricts Video Streaming to Fight Misuse
Facebook, still reeling from all the criticism after the attacks in New Zealand were live-streamed on its platform, has made some far-reaching changes to its policies to prevent any future misuse.
Facebook is implementing a ‘one-strike’ policy, and will ban users who upload any content in violation of Facebook’s Community Guidelines from using Facebook Live services. This restriction applies across all Facebook services. Facebook has entered into partnerships worth USD 7.5 million with various researchers and universities to improve the technology used to detect violations.
Apple Attempts to Compete with Amazon Channels
Apple’s latest service will feature a single platform for subscription services from HBO, Showtime, and other primetime television broadcasters. The service is being released by Apple through an Apple TV update, and will also be made available on iPhones and iPads, along with certain brands of Smart TVs.
Amazon’s Channels feature, available on the Fire Stick, and other Smart TVs and devices, offers users the option of avoiding to pay for a plethora of TV channels, by allowing users to choose from a list of A-La-Carte options that suit their interest. The highly acclaimed service appears to have forced Apple to launch its own such service in the market.
Apple’s service will be launched with more than 150 video apps, spanning the entire spectrum of television and movie genres. It is also reported that Apple is seeking a 30% share from all subscribers who sign up for third-party services through the TV app.
SoundStripe receives $4Million Investment
Royalty-free music licensing platform Soundstripe has received USD 4 Million in its Series A funding round led by Vocap Investment Partners. This comes as a big boost to the startup, as it was only able to raise just half a million dollars prior to the current funding round. The new found money will help propel Soundstripe further, and increase the range of music available in its portfolio. Soundstripe has disrupted the music licensing industry, brokering over two million “micro-licenses” over its three years of operation. It operates like a stock image website similar to Getty Images, where customers, ranging from freelance creators, to marketing agencies, and even Fortune 500 companies, purchase the rights to use a certain sound recording for their promotional or marketing endeavours, for a one-time payment.
The service does not collect any royalties after such payment, thus helping in ease of licensing of music. Its popular offerings include themed songs and playlists for events, and it plans to foray into original content using the recent funding.
Deepika Padukone Invests in Epigamia Yogurt
KA Enterprises, the strategic initiative arm owned by Deepika Padukone, has entered into an investment agreement with Drum Foods International Pvt. Ltd, the maker of flavoured yogurt brand Epigamia, as part of the Series C funding round raised by the company this year. The deal includes Padukone’s endorsement of the brand and her participation in large scale marketing, to reach a target of 50,000 distribution outlets across over 25 cities in the next 2 years.
Epigamia features a line of flavoured yogurts, Greek yogurt, and smoothies, and requires the money to further scale its Pan-India presence. Padukone, as of 2018, had endorsed over 20 brands, and had amassed a brand value of about $102.5 Million. The collaboration with Deepika Padukone, who has also featured in several blockbuster films recently, is likely to significantly drive up sales and outreach of the product.
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.
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