Amicus Briefs

An amicus brief, also known as an amicus curiae brief, is a legal document filed in a specific court case for the purpose of persuading or educating the court on a legal issue before the court in the case. Amicus briefs are submitted by a person or entity that is not involved in a court case but who has an interest in the legal issues at stake. In determining whether to file an amicus brief, we consider how the court’s ruling could impact not only the particular parties involved, but also the impact the ruling may have on copyright law as a whole and the creative community more broadly. This is just another way in which we advocate for strong copyright laws that effectively protect the rights of creators and copyright owners.

May 21, 2021

SAS Institute Inc. v World Programming Ltd.


On May 21, the Copyright Alliance filed an amicus brief in support of plaintiff-appellant SAS Institute, urging the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to vacate and remand a district court’s dismissal of SAS’s copyright claims due to its finding that the works asserted had not been shown to be copyrightable. The brief argues that the district court erred by improperly shifting the burden to the copyright holder to prove that its registered copyright contained protected elements rather than requiring the defendant to prove that those elements were unprotected. Focusing on the importance and benefits of registration and the well-established protectability of software, the brief emphasizes how the procedures employed by the district court were inconsistent with the copyright regime that Congress created. If the district court’s holding is allowed to stand, the brief explains that it would compromise the protection that copyright affords software and the incentives to register that Congress intended.

January 27, 2021

Canada Hockey LLC v. Texas A&M University


On January 27, The Copyright Alliance filed an amicus brief in support of plaintiff-appellant Michael J. Bynum and Canada Hockey LLC, urging the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse and remand a district court’s dismissal on sovereign immunity grounds of copyright claims against Texas A&M, in the Canada Hockey LLC v. Texas A&M University case. The brief argues that the district court erred by closing the courthouse door on constitutional violations that stem from copyright infringement, and that United States v. Georgia provides a framework by which the Court may consider copyright claims against a state actor that also rise to a constitution violation. Additionally, the brief explains that intentional copyright infringement by state actors is a growing problem that threatens the balance of copyright law, as detailed in the Copyright Alliance’s comments in response to the U.S. Copyright Office’s ongoing sovereign immunity study. Also filing amicus briefs in support of plaintiff-appellant were the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and Professor Adam Mossoff.

September 10, 2020

AMA Multimedia v. Wanat


The Copyright Alliance filed an amicus brief in support of plaintiff-appellant AMA Multimedia, arguing that the Ninth Circuit should grant a rehearing and reverse the court’s decision that the defendant does not have sufficient forum contacts to be subject to personal jurisdiction in the United States. The brief asserts that the court erred in disregarding important forum contacts, including the fact that Americans account for the largest amount of visitors to the website and that Wanat deliberately exploits the American marketplace by deriving revenue from advertisements targeted at American website visitors. Additionally, the brief explains that if allowed to stand, the decision threatens to undermine copyright enforcement in the U.S. by creating a dangerous loophole that foreign infringers will exploit.

June 29, 2020

Lang Van v. VNG


The Copyright Alliance filed an amicus brief in support of plaintiff-appellant, arguing that the Ninth Circuit should reverse a district court’s dismissal of copyright infringement claims against a foreign website and its operators for lack of personal jurisdiction. The brief asserts that the district court erred in disregarding important forum contacts and that if it were not for the widespread availability of VNG’s app and website throughout the United States, Lang Van would not have an infringement claim to make against VNG. Additionally, the brief explains that if allowed to stand, the decision threatens to undermine copyright enforcement in the U.S.

February 19, 2020

Google v. Oracle


The Copyright Alliance filed an amicus brief arguing that the Federal Circuit properly analyzed copyright protection for the interfaces at issue and correctly held that Google’s use of Oracle’s interfaces was not transformative. Additionally, the brief argues more generally that courts should not allow the concept of “transformative use” to swallow a copyright owner’s exclusive rights and that adopting Google’s fair use reasoning would be harmful to individual creators, small businesses, and developing industries.

August 30, 2019

Georgia v. Public Resource Org


The Copyright Act protects statutory annotations as creative works and allows states to own the copyright in these annotations, which are intrinsically valuable to the public. The Copyright Alliance filed here to explain that reversing the Eleventh Circuit would further the goals of the Copyright Act by reinforcing the value of copyright and incentivizing authors to create scholarly works for the public good. If left to stand, the decision would not permit greater public access to the legal scholarship, but would only serve to benefit free-riders who seek to capitalize off of other’s creative authorship and undermine the integrity of the annotations.

August 13, 2019

Allen v. Cooper


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.

August 12, 2019

Dr. Seuss Enterprises v. ComicMix


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.

August 5, 2019

Oracle America v. Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co.


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.

March 19, 2019

UMG Recordings v. Kurbanov


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”äóñall 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.