Articles Posted in Copyright

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Fryer and the Alliance for Water Efficiency collaborated on a study about drought. The Alliance worked on funding. Fryer circulated a draft of the report. The Alliance expressed concern with the methodology and sued Fryer under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 101. Under a settlement Fryer agreed to turn over his data from public utilities in exchange for $25,000. If any utility had disclosed data with a confidentiality agreement, the Alliance was required to secure a release. Each party could publish a report, but could not acknowledge the other’s involvement. The parties have litigated ever since. The district court concluded that the Alliance was entitled to specific data and that Fryer was bound by the settlement to refrain from acknowledging disputed organizations unless they contacted him first and asked to be recognized. The judge required the Alliance to provide those organizations with Fryer’s contact information. The Seventh Circuit reversed solely on the acknowledgment issue. Fryer returned to the district court, seeking restitution for injuries caused by the court’s erroneous injunction and attorney’s fees under section 505 of the Copyright Act for having prevailed in the first appeal. The Seventh Circuit affirmed denial of both motions. Fryer does not present genuine claims for restitution; he seeks to relitigate unrelated claims for breach of the settlement. He did not prevail on the Alliance’s copyright claim. View "Alliance for Water Efficiency v. Fryer" on Justia Law

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The initial six-month agreement between LimeCoral and CareerBuilder specified that all graphic designs created for CareerBuilder would constitute the exclusive property of CareerBuilder and said nothing about renewal fees. After six months, LimeCoral continued to prepare media files incorporating custom graphic designs, typically receiving $3,000 for each new design. As there was no longer a written agreement transferring ownership of the copyright, LimeCoral retained ownership and implicitly granted CareerBuilder a license to use the designs. CareerBuilder argued the license was unconditional and irrevocable; LimeCoral claimed it was subject to CareerBuilder’s alleged agreement to pay an annual renewal fee for every design that CareerBuilder continued to use. LimeCoral sued, alleging breach of copyright and breach of an alleged oral agreement to pay an annual renewal. The district court granted CareerBuilder summary judgment, finding that CareerBuilder had an irrevocable, implied license to use LimeCoral’s designs that was not conditioned upon any agreement to pay LimeCoral renewal fees. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. There was no evidence that would permit the factfinder to conclude that there was an agreement between LimeCoral and CareerBuilder that LimeCoral would be paid a fee for each renewal, and that the implied license LimeCoral granted to CareerBuilder to use the job brandings was subject to that agreement. View "LimeCoral, Ltd. v. CareerBuilder, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts, Copyright

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Design Basics claims rights to about 2700 home designs and sued Lexington for copyright infringement, contending that Lexington built homes that infringed four Design Basics’ designs. The district court granted Lexington summary judgment, finding no evidence that Lexington ever had access to Design Basics’ home plans. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, agreeing that Design Basics has no evidence of access and stating that no reasonable jury could find that Lexington’s accused plans bear substantial similarities to any original material in Design Basics’ plans. The court noted that its owner acknowledged in his deposition that “potential copyright infringement cases influence[d his] decision to become an owner of Design Basics.” He testified that proceeds from litigation have become a principal revenue stream for Design Basics. “Design Basics’ business model of trawling the Internet for intellectual property treasures is not unique.” View "Design Basics, LLC v. Lexington Homes, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued Amazon, claiming that it permitted third parties to advertise counterfeit copies of books, Vagabond Natural and Vagabond Spiritual, that the plaintiff wrote and self‐published, detailing his experiences as a vagabond homeless man. He says Amazon refused repeated requests to remove the advertisements, although Amazon did eventually remove them. He insists that legitimate sales would have generated “millions of dollars for Amazon” and allowed him “to end homelessness,” but that Amazon “forcefully exploited” his books by counterfeiting them. He claims to have examined copies of each book purchased through Amazon by his cousin and determined that all were unauthorized reproductions because genuine copies would bear his fingernail indentations on the covers. The district judge dismissed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting that the books at issue are hard copies, rather than online copies, and are almost certainly Hart’s self‐published books because they are identical to those books. Only six copies were sold by Amazon. There is no plausible allegation that, even if the books sold by Amazon are counterfeits, Amazon was aware of the fact. Counterfeiting cannot be presumed; Hart’s claims did not meet even a minimum standard of plausibility. View "Hart v. Amazon.com, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 1984, Jesus Muhammad‐Ali painted a portrait of the leader of the Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan. Ali later testified that his agreement with Farrakhan included only the portrait, not lithographs, and that Farrakhan never asked him to produce lithographs. In 2013, Ali sued Final Call, a newspaper that describes itself as the “propagation arm of the Nation of Islam,” for copyright infringement. Final Call admittedly had sold 115 copies of a lithograph of Ali’s Farrakhan portrait, but claimed it had authority to do so. The Seventh Circuit reversed the district court’s judgment in favor of Final Call. The law places the burden of proof on the party asserting license or authorization. Ali proved all he was required to prove, a prima facie case of infringement. A plaintiff is not required to prove that the defendant’s copying was unauthorized in order to state a prima facie case of copyright infringement. View "Ali v. Final Call, Inc." on Justia Law

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Bell sued several defendants for copyright infringement, alleging that they impermissibly displayed a photo of the Indianapolis skyline that belongs to Bell on websites promoting their respective businesses. With respect to one defendant, Bell misidentified the photograph. As for the other defendants, the court concluded that although Bell had established ownership of the photo, he had failed to prove damages: Bell had not demonstrated the photo’s fair market value, nor had he shown that defendants profited from their use of his photo. The district court granted summary judgment for defendants on both damages and injunctive and declaratory relief. Bell filed a second copyright infringement lawsuit against some of the defendants in the same court. The district court dismissed the second case based on res judicata. The Seventh Circuit affirmed both decisions, noting that the photographs were removed from the websites long ago and that the websites no longer exist. The second lawsuit involved a common core of operative facts. View "Bell v. Taylor" on Justia Law

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Bell, a practicing attorney and professional photographer, filed a copyright infringement action against 46 defendants including Lantz, based on their website publication of Bell’s photograph of the Indianapolis skyline. Eventually, Bell confirmed that Lantz had not infringed his copyright, and voluntarily dismissed his claim with prejudice. Lantz moved, as the prevailing party, for costs and attorney’s fees under 17 U.S.C. 505, the Copyright Act. The district court considered the nonexclusive factors outlined in Supreme Court precedent and concluded that the action was frivolous, that Bell’s motivation was questionable, that the action was objectively unreasonable, and that awarding fees would advance the considerations of compensation and deterrence. The Seventh Circuit vacated and remanded for recalculation of the award, finding no support for the attorney’s hourly rate. View "Bell v. Lantz" on Justia Law

Posted in: Copyright, Legal Ethics

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Consumer Health Information sued Amylin Pharmaceuticals,alleging copyright infringement. 17 U.S.C. 101, concerning patient-education materials Consumer Health developed for Amylin’s use in marketing its diabetes drug Byetta. The parties’ contract, executed in 2006, unambiguously assigns the copyright to Amylin. Consumer Health alleged that the contract was induced by fraud or economic distress and sought rescission. The district court dismissed the suit as untimely. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Consumer Health assigned the copyright to Amylin in 2006 but did not file this suit until 2013, several years too late under either a four-year limitations period that applies to claims for contract rescission under California law, or under the Copyright Act’s three-year statute of limitations, 17 U.S.C. 507(b). Consumer Health’s cause of action accrued when the contract was executed; at that point Consumer Health knew that Amylin owned the copyright, and the limitations clock on a suit to reclaim ownership started ticking. View "Consumer Health Info. Co v. Amylin Pharma., Inc." on Justia Law

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Rahn, a white male who earned a PhD in Industrial Engineering from the University of Illinois, was hired as a visiting professor at NIU. His wife, Regina, was hired as a tenure-track assistant professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering for that same school year. During that year, a tenure-track assistant professor position opened up in the Department. Rahn applied. Despite her husband’s status as an applicant, Regina was a voting member of the search committee. She claims that one committee member stated that he would not hire a white man into the department if qualified minority candidates were available. After another applicant was hired, the Rahns alleged reverse discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 701 42 U.S.C. 2000e, and copyright infringement, based on use of teaching notes and slides. The district court granted the defendants summary judgment on all claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. That testimony did not support indicate that an evaluation metric was a subterfuge for eliminating Rahn on racial grounds. A university employer may properly preference academic experience; Rahn did not present evidence that such a preference was inconsistent with the initial description of the position and the preferred qualifications. View "Rahn v. Bd. of Trs. of N. Ill. Univ." on Justia Law

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Bell, a lawyer and photographer, alleged that three small Indianapolis business owners violated federal copyright laws and an Indiana theft statute by publishing on the internet a photo that he took of the Indianapolis skyline without his authorization. In August 2013, the district court set a deadline for filing motions for leave to amend the pleadings. Bell sought to amend his complaint (for a fourth time) eight months after the cut-off after learning that defendant Taylor had not actually used the photo at issue but had displayed a different photo belonging to Bell. The district court denied Bell’s motion, citing undue delay and his own carelessness. The district court granted defendants summary judgment on the damages issue, finding that Bell cannot demonstrate how they caused him financial harm and was not entitled to monetary recovery. The Seventh Circuit dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. Although the court purported to issue a “final judgment” after ruling on the summary judgment motion, it did so in error; the issue of injunctive relief was never adjudicated. Because Bell’s copyright claim was not entirely disposed of by the ruling, the judgment was not final. View "Bell v. Taylor" on Justia Law