SUMMARY: Congress enacted the Copyright Remedy Clarification Act in 1990 to ensure that copyright owners could protect their work from infringement against States and State entities. The Copyright Alliance filed a brief with the Supreme Court urging it to reverse a Fourth Circuit decision that held that the CRCA did not validly abrogate state sovereign immunity.
SUMMARY: ComicMix sought to sell a book titled “Oh the Places You’ll Boldly Go!” which used copyrighted elements from Dr. Seuss’s “Oh the Places You’ll Go!” and mixed them with copyrighted elements from the television franchise Star Trek. Dr. Seuss alleged the work infringed its copyrights, but applying an incorrect legal standard and misconstruing the nature of the relevant markets and harms, the district court erroneously found that ComicMix’s “slavish copy[ing]” of Go! was a fair use.
SUMMARY: Copyright Alliance members have a strong interest in ensuring that courts ruling on infringement cases apply procedural rules and evidentiary burdens that do not impede creators and copyright holders in bringing meritorious claims. The defense of a license to a copyright is an affirmative defense. Once a plaintiff in a copyright infringement action has made out a prima facie case for infringement, the burden shifts to the defendant to prove that the copying was authorized by a license or other authorization. And because direct evidence of illicit copying is often in the possession of an infringing defendant, courts routinely permit plaintiffs in copyright actions to show copying in particular instances through circumstantial evidence.
The Copyright Alliance filed an amicus brief with the Ninth Circuit urging it to reverse a district court decision that departed from these well-established principles by making the plaintiff prove the absence of a license and by establishing a new evidentiary standard for proof of copying.
SUMMARY: Record labels filed a copyright infringement suit against the operator of two popular “stream ripping” sites based out of Russia. The labels allege the sites “quickly and seamlessly capture the audio tracks contained in videos streamed from YouTube” that users access, “convert those audio tracks to an MP3”, “copy and store the audio files”, “and then distribute copies of those files from their servers to users in the United States”–all without authorization from the copyright owners (and in violation of YouTube’s own terms of service). Labels allege this conduct amounts to direct and indirect infringement.
A district court granted defendant’s motion to dismiss based on lack of personal jurisdiction, holding that the sites “are semi-interactive, the interactions with the users are non-commercial, and there were no other acts by the Defendant that would demonstrate purposeful targeting” of the forum specifically or the United States generally.
The record labels have appealed that decision to the Fourth Circuit, arguing that the district court erred because the sites had a large U.S. customer base that it purposefully targeted and profited from, and it had multiple and sustained contacts with both the forum and the U.S.
SUMMARY: The Copyright Alliance filed an amicus brief arguing that §505 of the Copyright Act does not limit what costs a court may award to a prevailing party in a copyright infringement case. Allowing recovery of full costs aids copyright owners in protecting their rights through litigation, particularly in circumstances where the primary relief sought is injunctive and therefore no significant monetary recovery is expected to offset the costs.
United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
SUMMARY: The Copyright Alliance filed an amicus brief in support plaintiff-appellant Russell Brammer arguing that the district court misapplied the fair use factors, including by incorrectly characterizing the use as transformative and noncommercial, and failing to consider the market harm to Brammer, and creators in general, that would result from widespread unauthorized copying.
SUMMARY: The Copyright Alliance filed an amicus brief arguing that a copyright owner satisfies the Copyright Act’s registration prerequisite for filing an infringement lawsuit when she submits her application materials to the Copyright Office, contrary to the lower court’s holding that the copyright owner must wait until the Copyright Office either accepts or denies the application before going to court, a process that currently takes an average of 7-9 months. We argue that this rule is better supported by the statute, achieves the objectives of Congress, and supports the policies underlying the Copyright Act. The lower court’s rule, on the other hand, causes significant harms to authors and copyright owners.
United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
SUMMARY: The Copyright Alliance filed an amicus brief in support of plaintiff-appellee/cross-appellant VHT, Inc. in VHT. v. Zillow, a case concerning Zillow's secondary infringement of VHT's photographs on Zillow's "Digs" site.
The brief argues that the district court's finding was erroneous on its contributory infringement holding because the "material contributions" test of contributory liability was improperly reduced to the question of whether Zillow had simple measures to remove infringing material, and because the "inducement test" of contributory liability was similarly reduced to whether Zillow had specifically promoted the use of its site for users to view the infringing photos.
In addition, the brief argues that the district court's finding was erroneous on its vicarious liability holding when it narrowed its inquiry by looking at whether Zillow had the ability to prevent users from posting the infringing photos rather than looking generally at whether Zillow could stop or limit the infringing conduct.
United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
SUMMARY: The Copyright Alliance filed an amicus brief in support of plaintiff-appellees in Allen v. Cooper, a case concerning whether Congress validly abrogated State sovereign immunity for copyright infringement when it passed the Copyright Remedy Clarification Act in 1990, arguing that the 4th Circuit should affirm the district court's holding that the statute is constitutional.
United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
SUMMARY: The Copyright Alliance filed an amicus brief arguing that the Second Circuit should affirm the lower court opinion which held that the first sale doctrine does not apply to ReDigi's service—"mak[ing] pristine copies of countless files, offer[ing] those unauthorized copies to the public at a discounted price, and then tak[ing] a cut of the sale"—and that its conduct is not excused by the doctrine of fair use.