Julie Ahrens's blog

Second Circuit Victory for Richard Prince and Appropriation Art

Today the Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued a long-awaited decision in favor of fair use in Cariou v. Prince. Reversing the district court’s finding of infringement, the Court held that Richard Prince’s use of Patrick Cariou’s photographs in 25 of his 30 Canal Series paintings was a fair use. The decision affirms an important tradition in modern art that relies on the appropriation of existing images to create highly expressive works with new meaning.

Stop Censorship: The Problems With SOPA

Today Congress held hearings on the latest IP legislation, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). We are taking part in American Censorship Day to help spread the word and stop this bill. We’ve outlined five of the most important problems with SOPA.

1. SOPA violates due process. Under SOPA, any private copyright or trademark owner can cut-off advertising and payments to any website by alleging that the operator “avoid[ed] confirming a high probability” that “a portion” of its site is being used to infringe copyrights. Advertisers and payment companies (e.g. Visa, Mastercard, and PayPal) are then required to stop doing business with that site. It seems likely that content owners (or people merely claiming to be content owners) will often succeed in shutting down websites without ever going to court. The proposed legislation also gives the Attorney General and the Justice Department the power to shut down websites before they are actually judged infringing. Courts will be able to order any Internet service provider to stop recognizing an accused site immediately upon application by the Attorney General, after an ex parte hearing. By failing to guarantee the challenged websites notice or an opportunity to be heard in court before their sites are shutdown, SOPA violates due process. Read more: Letter to Congress from over 100 law professors techdirt explains that SOPA would create the Great Firewall of America.

Sony v. Tenenbaum: Amicus Brief Urges Due Process Review of Copyright Damages Awards

On Monday we filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Electronic Frontier Foundation in the Sony v. Tenenbaum case, pending in in the First Circuit Court of Appeals. Tenebaum was sued and found liable for copyright infringement for sharing 30 music files. The jury awarded the record label plaintiffs $675,000 in damages. The District Court reduced that award to $67,500, citing constitutional and fairness concerns.

Court Denies Savage's Motion to Dismiss

Michael Savage’s motion to be dismissed as a defendant in Brave New Films’ wrongful DMCA takedown lawsuit was denied by Judge Illston on April 15. As explained in earlier posts, Original Talk Radio Network, the national syndicator of Savage’s radio show, sent a takedown notice to YouTube demanding that YouTube remove BNF’s video "Michael Savage Hates Muslims." BNF’s video uses audio clips of The Michael Savage Show to criticize Savage’s overtly hostile, anti-Muslim views.

The Cost of Bogus Copyright Claims: BT Wins Motion for Attorneys' Fees

In a decisive victory for defendants beleaguered by baseless copyright infringement claims, U.S. District Court Judge Pauley ruled last week that Plaintiffs Ralph Vargas and Bland- Ricky Roberts must pay Defendants BT and East West Communications $175,000 in attorneys' fees and costs. The fee award follows the Court's decision last year granting Defendants' motion for summary judgment and dismissing Plaintiffs’ case in its entirety.

Aguiar v. Webb: Webb Defeats Aguiar's Preliminary Injunction Motion

Floyd Webb successfully defeated William Aguiar’s motion for a preliminary injunction last Friday at a hearing before Judge Wolf in the Massachusetts District Court in Boston. Reading his opinion from the bench, Judge Wolf held that Plaintiff Aguiar had not shown that he was likely to succeed on his copyright infringement claim, even assuming he could prove ownership of the allegedly infringed works, because Webb has demonstrated a likelihood of success on his fair use defense.

BT Moves to Recover Attorneys' Fees and Costs

In May, BT secured a complete victory over Plaintiffs Ralph Vargas and Bland-Ricky Roberts when the court granted his summary judgment motion and dismissed Plaintiffs' case in its entirety. BT has now moved to recover the attorneys' fees and costs incurred in debunking Plaintiffs' meritless allegations of copyright infringement, which were based entirely on a passing similarity between two drumbeats derived from common elements of popular music.

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