Copyright Infringement Cases: 2 Examples

Despite the fact that most people believe that content theft is a growing problem in the worlds of business and entertainment, most cases of copyright infringement are actually resolved through voluntary actions.

When it comes to copyright infringement, the law is not black and white. It’s a complex issue that can get very confusing for consumers. There are many different options when dealing with a copyright infringement claim and it’s important to know what your rights are, especially to learn them from a Copyright Lawyer Houston. Here are several examples of major copyright infringement cases that have been pursued in the federal courts, and the extent of success each party has achieved in a particular case.

Perfect 10, Inc. v. Google, Inc. (2007)

There is a fine line between “copyright infringement” and “fair use.” The Fair Use provision of the Copyright Act (section 107) indicates that a copyrighted work can be legally reproduced, performed, or broadcast by a third party without authorization under certain circumstances, such as for educational or informational purposes.

Perfect 10 is an adult website specializing in “natural,” unaltered pictures of women. The owner aggressively pursued copyright protection of its imagery, having filed more than 20 lawsuits for infringement, out of fear of a loss of revenue. 

One high-profile case involved Perfect 10 alleging Google of copyright infringement for displaying & indexing its subscription-only content on Google image search – as a byproduct of other infringing companies displaying this content.

Google’s image search algorithm automatically indexes and displays pictures from other websites in its search engine results. Google does this with a fair use intent: the images are simply links to the websites that host them. This provides searchers a further means to access & discover websites of interest. Nowadays, Google image search displays a notice that images displayed may be subject to copyright – meaning that if a searcher were to download and use the image themselves, respecting copyrights would then be the searcher’s responsibility.

The verdict of the case was ultimately that Google was not infringing on Perfect 10’s copyright, pointing out similar cases proving that the fair use of copyrighted material for information retrieval is a benefit to the general public. Any infringement would’ve been on the websites indexed by Google, not on Google themselves.

You can save many years and tons of money by consulting a lawyer first to determine whether a third party is infringing on your rights, or simply partaking in fair use. In certain cases, fair use can actually be of benefit to the copyright owner by encouraging & driving sales.

A&M Records, Inc. v. Napster, Inc.

By the start of the 2000’s, the internet was relatively in its infancy, and yet affordable enough for music to be easily streamed, shared & downloaded online at an accessible bitrate. Napster was a peer-to-peer MP3 sharing network that allowed users to upload music for others to hear for free. The efficiency of doing so even resulted in the “leakage” of then-unreleased songs by major recording artists, such as Metallica.

Within less than a year after its 1999 release, Napster exploded as the pre-eminent way for internet users to listen to bootlegged music. Before long, the perceived threat to music sales was large enough that numerous major record companies took legal action against Napster for copyright infringement. By 2002, after the case was closed, Napster had ceased to exist, though this lawsuit certainly did not deter free online music-sharing.

Today, an abundance of music can be viewed & shared on YouTube, largely as a result of licensing agreements between YouTube and record companies – where YouTube pays a portion of ad revenue to the record companies for streaming videos of music they hold copyright to, even when the uploader was not authorized to do so. Whether music on YouTube constitutes infringement or not is debatable, as some argue that it is “fair use” and actually encourages music sales.

If you want to protect your copyrighted material, or are being sued for infringement, we highly recommend consulting with and retaining a Lloyd & Mousilli copyright lawyer.

What Are Trademark Rights? Why Do You Need Trademarks?

A trademark is a visual design, phrase, symbol or graphic that is used to identify a business and its products or services. Trademarks can either be implied under common law by placing a “™” symbol next to the distinguishing mark; or one can go a step further and register it with a government office (in the United States, it would be the USPTO) for the ultimate protection & enforcement against competition or potential infringement. You do not have to know who makes Tide to know that’s a trademark, or a brand name.

A registered trademark user is given the sole right to utilize the trademark nationwide for the services or goods that are connected with the trademark. Trademark law provides the greatest protection to pieces of intellectual property that distinguish you from the competition. However, especially when you’re in a fiercely competitive industry, you should not try to register a trademark without first understanding the technical complexities. This is where firms such as trademark lawyer near Houston, Lloyd & Mousilli, come in.

You can claim trademark rights in your unregistered trademark as long as it identifies or distinguishes your products or services and is typical. A failure to police unauthorized uses of your trademark will lead to a loss of trademark rights.

A trademark owner can give another business or individual the right to utilize a trademark through a licensing agreement, or a licensing clause in another contract; such licensed use of material generally indicates “this is a trademark of Company ABC.” 

Once the copyright office files a trademark document, the owner gets an exclusive right to prevent others from making, using, importing, or selling the protected design.

Common law trademark rights are not on the same degree as federal trademark rights obtained through application.

Simply offering for sale goods/services will begin to establish trademark common law rights, because common law rights attach when you start using your mark. A prior user without a trademark registration has rights in its jurisdiction of use, prevailing over any rights of a subsequent trademark registration owner. 

When you imply a trademark but don’t register it, you cannot prevent a person in a different jurisdiction from using the same mark, since it’s a common law trademark, which only protects you in the local geographic regions where you really do business.

Willful copyright infringement occurs when a business knows about a document and returns with the infringing activity anyway.

After consulting a lawyer, the first step in registering a trademark is to do a basic search of the USPTO trademark system to be sure there are no conflicts with another trademark.

The proprietor of a trademark may obtain rights through registration with a recognized trademark office. Your USPTO trademark registration will last for 10 years as long as you continuously use your trademark in commerce, under current trademark law.

The discovery phase of a copyright litigation matter can be the most valuable part of a case and can last several months. To be prepared for anything when it comes to trademark enforcement, it is advisable to hire a firm such as Lloyd and Mousilli that is highly skilled in providing advice for corporate trademarks and intellectual property.