Disney. Inside Out. The Moodsters.

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Copyright Infringement.

copyrightHave you ever considered pitching a story idea to a big movie producer? If you have, you also have to think about ensuring that your concept doesn’t get stolen. Many times, an idea gets pitched, rejected and then later the producer uses a similar storyline.

Childhood development expert, Denise Daniels, co-founded the National Childhood Grief Institute which counsels children after tragedies such as Hurricane Katrina and 9/11.

In addition to National Childhood Grief Institute, Daniels created a children’s program called The Moodsters to help kids better manage their emotions. She pitched this idea to Disney-owned Pixar many times between the years of 2005 and 2009. Daniels states that there was an understanding that she and her team would be compensated in the event that the idea was used.

Fast forward to 2015, Disney launched the “Inside Out” animated program to explore children’s emotions through various characters representing different moods by using colors.

Daniels filed a lawsuit against Disney stating that her idea was used and she was not given credit or compensation.

Story Ideas.

According to Daniels’ attorney, Michael Geibelson, who writes that in The Moodsters “Each character is an animated, anthropomorphized figure representing a single emotion with a corresponding color, and specifically happiness (yellow), anger (red), sadness (blue), fear (green) and love (pink).”

In a statement to the press, a Disney spokesman said: “Inside Out was an original Pixar creation, and we look forward to vigorously defending against this lawsuit in court.”

A similar case was brought to court in March by Esplanade Pictures who claims that their writer, Gary L. Goldman, pitched Zootopia to Disney in 2000 and 2009, and was not compensated.

So, my advice to you is that if you are ready to pitch your idea to a producer, its best to hire an expert entertainment attorney to assist you before you have that first all-important meeting.

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Feel free to join my conversation on my Facebook Fan Page, on my Twitter page, in one of my LinkedIn Groups.

Copyright. Supreme Court. Is Fashion protectable?

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Fashion. Copyright.

The Supreme Court ruled on copyright and fashion.  Can fashion be protected by copyright? This landmark copyright case will impact the fashion design industry for decades to come. This case began 10 years ago when Varsity Brands, Inc. sued Star Athletica, LLC for copyright infringement. Both companies supply uniforms and other accessories for sport related events. The lawsuit centered on a copyrighted two-dimensional stripe pattern and colors used on Varsity Brand cheerleading uniforms which they claimed Star Athletica infringed upon.

fashion. copyright.

fashion. copyright.

The case was originally heard by a federal  district court sitting in Memphis, TN in 2014, where Judge Robert Cleland ruled that the designs were utilitarian, and since utilitarian designs are not subject to copyright law, the case was dismissed.

Fashion.

Varsity Brands appealed the ruling and the case went to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, where the district court ruling was reversed in a 2 to 1 decision. Among other findings, the court found that the designs in question could be separated from the utilitarian aspects of the uniform, and that the designs could stand on their own separate from the cheerleading uniforms, thus eligible for copyright protection.

Is Fashion Protected by Copyright?

The case then made its way up to the Supreme Court, where finally, a ruling was announced this Wednesday. Varsity Brands came up victorious, once again.  In short,  Judge Thomas, who delivered the opinion of the Court, affirmed the decision of the Sixth Circuit  Court, holding that

“a  feature  incorporated  into  the  design  of  a  useful  article  is  eligible  for copyright  protection  only  if  the  feature  (1)  can  be  perceived as a two- or three-dimensional work of art separate from the useful article and (2) would qualify as a protectable  pictorial,  graphic,  or  sculptural  work-either  on  its own  or  fixed  in  some  other  tangible  medium  of  expression if  it  were  imagined  separately  from  the  useful  article  into which  it  is  incorporated.”  The Court held that the test was satisfied in this case.

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Join my conversation on FacebookTwitter, or in one of my LinkedIn groupsGoogle+ Circles. Feel free to subscribe to my newsletter.

 

 

Difference Between a Trademark & Copyright

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Copyright

Copyright

Many online business owners confuse trademark registration with copyright registration. Trademark registration refers to protecting the brand name, color, design, and/or logo of your business, and provides a means to distinguish your product from others in the marketplace. Copyright registration refers to protecting original creative content, such books, articles, blog posts, photos, website content, videos, music, plays, movies, cartoons, and a number of other items. While both are forms of intellectual property, they are handled differently. Understand the difference.

If you need someone to perform a trademark search or if you need help with filing a trademark application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, CLICK HERE NOW.

Do you know if you are infringing on a copyright?

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Here are Three Tips to avoid breaking the law with Copyright Infringement:

Copyright infringement

Copyright Infringement

Legal Copyright Infringement is honestly an oxymoron- if it qualifies as Copyright Infringement, then it is, by definition, illegal. This being said sometimes it’s hard to know where the gray area of legal vs. illegal starts.

What is a Copyright?

A Copyright is an exclusive right granted to an artist or author, pursuant to Article 1, §8, Clause 8 of the US Constitution, which protects any original work of art or authorship reduced to a tangible form.

What is Copyright Infringement?

Copyright infringement is a violation of that right; it is THEFT; it’s stealing.  Copyright infringement is using someone else’s copyright protected material without permission, without a license, or without that use falling within an exception, such as fair use or the public domain.

A lot of times, people don’t even realize that what they are doing is illegal, thinking what they are doing is harmless, with no thoughts to the potential consequences. For this reason, I have put together a list of 3 tips for judging whether what you are doing is copyright infringement or not…

Legal Copyright Infringement Tip #1: If it does not belong to you, assume it belongs to someone else.

Legal Copyright Infringement Tip #2
 If it belongs to someone else, assume you need permission or a license to use it.

Legal Copyright Infringement Tip #3 Be aware of ways you can inadvertently infringe someone’s copyright,

    1. Downloading music from the Internet,
    2. Photocopying portions of a book or articles from magazines,
    3. Duplicating testimonial  letters & inserting them in your media kit on web site,
    4. Inserting popular music into your video,
    5. Performing someone’s music in public,
    6. Reproducing a photograph,
    7. Allowing someone to download your copy of software without buying their own license

Until next time, THINK before you USE!

IP Copyright. The Copyright Act.

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screen-shot-2017-01-08-at-6-59-07-pmThe Copyright Act provides the copyright owner with many safeguards to ensure that our content is protected.  Our job is to discover that copyright information, and use it to our advantage.  A thorough knowledge of the legal safeguards is important, which can come from law seminars, reading current legal information, and/or hiring a competent copyright attorney, who focuses on copyright law and copyright protection issues.

It is also important, as creative entrepreneurs and small business owners to avoid those actions that can get YOU into trouble.  It’s easy to inadvertently infringe someone else’s rights.  A person is said to be an infringer if he or she is found to have violated any of the exclusive rights of the copyright owner such as,

  1. Right to reproduce or duplicate their work
  2. Right to display or post their work publicly
  3. Right to distribute copies of their work
  4. Right to perform their work publicly
  5. Right to sell, license, rent rights to others
  6. Right to create a derivative work (create a new work from an existing work, repurpose)

Some specific copyright  infringement examples:

  1.  Photocopying material (i.e., articles, testimonial letters, cartoons, website content, blogs), without permission, a license, or it falling within a legal exception (fair use, public domain)
  2. Downloading music from the Internet without permission, a license, or it falling within a legal exception (fair use, public domain)
  3. Copying other content from the Internet without permission, a license, or it falling within a legal exception (fair use, public domain)
  4. Synchronizing music to (adding copyright protected music) your user generated videos, without permission, a license, or it falling within a legal exception (fair use, public domain)
  5. Going beyond the scope of a license agreement (e.g., the license says you can use a video for a specific purpose, but you use it for something else; you have a license to make 10 copies of a book, article, etc., but you make 100 copies)
  6. Reproducing / uploading / Posting videos to your site, without permission, a license, or it falling within a legal exception (fair use, public domain)

Who can sue for copyright infringement? The general rule is that the copyright owner can sue.  But, as always, within the law, there are many exceptions and nuances.  For example, a person who was not the creator of the work, but who is considered the “beneficial owner” can also sue.  A beneficial owner is the person who has an interest in the property—even though they didn’t create it—such as an assignee, a trustee, or a legatee (an heir).