This is the weekly news update for copyright and entertainment law.
Tencent sues ByteDance over infringement claims
Tencent, the Chinese technology conglomerate, has recently sued ByteDance, which is another Chinese internet technology company that owns the short video platform “Douyin”. According to the claims made by Tencent, infringing content from the show “Crime Crackdown” was being made available on Douyin. Crime Crackdown was produced by Tencent’s film production subsidiary, Tencent Penguin Pictures, which owns the rights to the show.
Douyin has stated that the team behind Crime Crackdown had agreed to collaborate with it, to promote the show and part of the marketing campaign included asking users to upload clips from the show. However, in response to the suit filed by Tencent, Douyin has removed over 8000 such pieces of allegedly pirated content from Crime Crackdown. In addition to the immediate removal of the infringing content on Douyin, Tencent is also seeking RMB 100 million (USD 15.4 million) as damages from Douyin.
Copyright Lawsuit against H.E.R. settled
Songwriter, Andre Sims filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against the artist H.E.R. (Gabriella Wilson), DJ Camper, Justin Love and Sony Music Entertainment for allegedly copying his song “Endless Minds”. Sims claimed that, H.E.R.’s song “Focus” had intentionally infringed upon his song “Endless minds”, without his permission and had not provided him with an adequate compensation for the same, which prompted Sims to file a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Southern New York, in June 2020.
Sims stated that he had created “Endless Minds” in 2004 and later posted it on Instagram and YouTube in 2015, following which the song was registered with the U.S. Copyright Office in January 2020. As pet the initial lawsuit, Sims was seeking USD 3 million in damages. The parties have finally settled the lawsuit, however, the terms of settlement have not been disclosed.
Revival of Copyright infringement case against North Carolina
Rick Allen a film director and producer had filed an infringement lawsuit against the state of North Carolina for using his images and videos on the state’s tourism website, without his consent. This lawsuit filed by Allen in 2019, was quashed by the Supreme Court, citing the 11th amendment of the US Constitution which provides immunity to the states, from lawsuits by citizens for monetary damages.
However, recently a North Carolina District Court revived Allen’s original lawsuit and ruled that the Supreme Court did not consider that the state’s actions could violate Allen’s constitutional rights under the 5th and 14th Amendment which deal with the protection of property rights and due process. While ruling on Allen’s lawsuit filed in 2019, the Supreme Court had cited the 11th Amendment of the US Constitution, to justify North Carolina’s unauthorized use of Allen’s images and videos. The immunity granted to the states under the 11th Amendment was in conflict with “Copyright Remedy Clarification Act”, according to which, states and officials “shall not be immune, under the Eleventh Amendment of the Constitution of the United States or under other doctrine of sovereign immunity, from suit in Federal court by any person… for a violation of any of the exclusive rights of a copyright owner provided by [federal law].”
Further, Allen stated that the “Takings Clause” of the 5th Amendment forbids the state from seizing property without just compensation and therefore, his constitutional right had been violated by the state of North Carolina. Allen also relied on a previous Supreme Court judgment which ruled that “you can override sovereign immunity when it violates someone’s constitutional rights.”
LVMH infringement case dismissed by Taiwanese SC
The LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton owned brands, Givenchy and Celine, had filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against a Taiwanese handbag manufacturer for copying the designs of their Luggage Tote, Pandora and Antigona bags and selling these copycat handbags on e-commerce platforms. This lawsuit was originally filed before Taiwan’s Intellectual Property (IP) Court which allowed the unfair trade practices claim against the manufacturer 2 R Int’l Co. to proceed, while dismissing the copyright infringement claim against the handbag manufacturer.
As Givenchy and Celine were not satisfied with the IP Court’s ruling, the two companies approached Taiwan’s Supreme Court, which upheld the IP Court’s decision of dismissing the copyright infringement claims, stating that, “the handbag designs at issue have utilitarian or functional features, which are not protectable by copyright law.”
Amazon faces Copyright infringement Lawsuit
A German businessman Ralf Hartmann, has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Amazon, for the alleged illegal streaming of four films, which have been made available on Amazon’s streaming platform “Amazon Prime”. Hartmann has claimed that the rights of these four films were sold to him by Capella International, while submitting contracts, showing that the rights for these films were transferred to his ownership.
Amazon has moved to dismiss Hartmann’s claims, on the grounds that he has only submitted the contracts and no registration certificates from the US Copyright Office indicating his ownership of the films. The US District Court for the Southern District of New York has allowed Hartmann to proceed with his copyright infringement claim against Amazon.
Authored and compiled by Neharika Vhatkar (Associate, BananaIP Counsels)
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