When you are threatened with litigation, whether it be in the realm of intellectual property or otherwise, you don’t need to sit around waiting and wondering if/when an action will be filed against you. Instead, there is a type of action called a Complaint for Declaratory Judgment that allows you to go on offense, essentially asking the court to intervene and solve a dispute that cannot be reconciled by and between the parties.
On October 22, 2019, the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act (the CASE Act), was approved by a 410-6 vote in the House of Representatives. The intention of the Act is to establish a small claims court for content creators to more easily take legal action against alleged infringers.
Carlton Ridenhour, better known as the rapper Chuck D., who founded hip-hop group Public Enemy, has filed a Complaint for declaratory relief regarding the ownership of copyrights, as well as causes of action for fraud and conversion against Michael Closter and Closter’s fully owned Reach Global, Inc. He claims that the defendants used false copyright registrations to fraudulently obtain ownership rights in certain musical compositions written by him.
Internet personality Logan Paul, who has millions of subscribers on his YouTube channel, has been sued for copyright infringement. The Complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, alleges that his composition “No Handlebars” willfully infringes on an original composition by Flobots titled, “Handlebars.” The original was written and recorded in 2005. Paul released “No Handlebars” in November 2017.
What do you need in place prior to bringing an action for copyright infringement? That specific question was decided by the United States Supreme Court in the case of Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp. v. Wall-Street.com, LLC, et al.
Copyright infringement lawsuits must be brought in federal court. These cases are often filed by lawyers who not only think their clients can score a sizable judgment, but also have the opposition cover legal fees and costs. However, a new United States Supreme Court decision places a limit on what a prevailing party can actually collect.
Is it true that no one can own a dance step? That is what video game publisher Epic Games is arguing in a motion to dismiss that it filed on February 11 in a federal case that was brought by Terrence “2 Milly” Ferguson.
Virtual private networks (“VPNs”) and other blocking proxies allow users to hide their IP address in order to make themselves appear to be in another country. People do this in order to access content not otherwise accessible in their country. For instance, Netflix provides different shows and movies depending on the country in which one resides in. The show Arrow is not available in England, but it is available in America. In order to binge watch Arrow, you can simply download a VPN which makes your IP address appear to be located in the United States. Viola, just like that you can access American content without physically moving.
Some have equated the use of VPNs to copyright infringement. In January, Netflix announced that it will stop the usage of its services to customers utilizing VPNs and blocking proxies to access content available outside of their own country. Although Netflix has not outright equated these acts to copyright infringement, people using such proxies have already been blocked from Netflix’s content.
Recently, Paypal followed suit and announced its initiative to discontinue services to those using VPNs. Unlike Netflix, Paypal has outright equated VPN use as a way to “circumvent copyright restrictions and violate intellectual property laws.”
In order to bring content to users, Netflix has to obtain content licenses to stream movies and TV shows. When users use VPNs to access content not available in their country, they technically do not have a license to watch that video, even though they pay a monthly subscription to Netflix. If no license exists, the idea is that users should not be able to watch the content.
So the question is, does a lack of the proper license equate to copyright infringement?
Music publishing companies are extremely valuable to the future of recording artists and groups in the music industry. Most artists are typically concerned about securing their first major recording deal with a top label; as a result, they fail to see the importance behind obtaining or forming a publishing company. There are many record labels that have expanded their services to be a full, one-stop shop for their beneficiaries. Nonetheless, for the most part, publishing companies and record labels fulfill different tasks for the artist.
Record labels are mostly focused on the recording, production, distribution, and marketing of an artist’s songs. Publishing companies, on the other hand, are more duly equipped to collect royalties for when the artist’s songs are performed, recorded, or otherwise played for another person’s or entity’s own commercial gain. By entering into a publishing agreement, the artist effectively grants the publishing company one of the following rights: (1) copyright to the songs; (2) partial copyright to the songs; or (3) a percentage of the revenue earned from the use of the artist’s songs. In exchange for one or more of the aforementioned rights, the music publishing company becomes obligated to seek opportunities on the artist’s behalf for licensing the right to use the songs and collect fees based upon the usage. The music publishing company’s share of royalties is usually 50%. When the contractual agreement comes to an end, all rights automatically revert back to the artist.
Music publishers advertise their artists’ songs to record labels, movie and television producers, and any others who may be in the market for a certain sound. The type of licenses dispensed by music publishers are the following: (1) Reproduction (Mechanical) licenses – for music distributed or recorded in physical and/or digital form by another artist; (2) Public Performance licenses – for music broadcast on radio, live venues and/or other public places; (3) Synchronization licenses – for music used in film, television, commercials, etc.; and (4) Folio licenses – for music published in written form as lyrics or sheet music.
As previously mentioned, publishing companies do not participate in the recording or production of the artist’s songs; artists who seek representation from a publishing company are either self-financed, self-recorded, or have received some form of financial backing from a record label. However, independent artists without funding should not be wary of pursuing assistance from a publishing company. Music publishers have the utmost interest in finding multiple, various avenues for the artist’s songs to be heard due to the fact that means more royalties for the artist and more commissions/fees for the company. Publishing companies are extremely beneficial to the artists’ brand and their ability to fully capitalize on their outreach potential.