Zillow Digs. Copyright Infringement.

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Copyright Internet Pics.

Copyright Infringement

Copyright Infringement

Taking a picture off of the Internet without permission and adding it to a website or blog seems harmless, right? Well I’m here to tell you that it’s quite harmful. When you use works protected by copyright law without permission, you are indeed infringing on a copyright. The penalties for infringing on a copyright can range anywhere from $200 to more than $150K for each work that was infringed upon. Plus, the infringer must pay all court costs and attorney’s fees.

To this day blogs, small companies as well as giants are not taking copyright infringement quite seriously. Case in point, the home listing giant Zillow was sued for “brazen theft” of interior design images.

The infringement lawsuit was brought by VHT Inc., a photography and image management services company, in United States District Court in Seattle in July of 2015. VHT alleged that the images that were being displayed or saved on Zillow Digs, a home design site, as well as on the main Zillow site, violated their copyrights.

In December of 2016, the courts dismissed the claim of infringement on Zillow.com.  However, the infringement claim with Zillow Digs continued and the trial began on January 23rd, 2017. In mid-February, the jury finally came to a verdict.  The jury ordered Zillow to pay a whopping $8.3 million in statutory damages.

VHT’s CEO Brian Balduf said to the press the jury’s decision “protects the interests of real estate photographers and their clients. We look forward to continuing to work with our team of nationwide photographers, as well as our industry counterparts, to create a rights management organization to ensure that all real estate photographs are managed properly and protected against unlicensed uses.”

In a statement to GeekWire, a Zillow representatives said: “We have persistently maintained our belief that this suit was without merit. While we are pleased that the majority of original claims were dismissed in this case, we regret that the jury did not find for us completely on those that remained, and will vigorously pursue all options to overturn their verdict. We take copyright protection and enforcement seriously and will continue to respect copyright permissions across our platforms.”

Copyright Infringement Steps To Take.

So, what should you do if you notice that someone is infringing on your work? Here are some steps to take:

  • Ensure you have a copyright notice on all of your copyrightable works. A copyright notice is not required for protection, but does help to prove an infringement.
  • Register your Copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office, and once completed, the copyright office will send you a certificate.
  • Prepare and mail a warning letter to the infringing party. In the letter identify your work and inform the party that it’s copyrighted.
  • If you do not hear from the infringing party favorably, file a copyright lawsuit in your federal district court.

You have worked too hard not to protect your intellectual property – don’t wait until it’s too late!

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.

 

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.

 

 

Website. Copyright Protection.

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Do you have a fabulous website that YOU created, with YOUR original content? Have you thought about protecting that website and its component parts?  If you’ve not given much thought to the protection of your website, now is the time to change your thinking.
website
Your website, like your blog posts, books, articles, videos, screenplays, music, marketing materials other valuable content, in some cases can be protected by copyright.

Copyright for Website.

While the Copyright Office does not register websites, per se, it does allow you to register the copyrightable content that is on your website.  For example, did you know that you can register the source code, the audio visual material (e.g., videos), text, and any visual content (e.g., cartoons, photos)? Don’t wait until someone has copied your website to take action. Register it with the US Copyright Office now.

In order to obtain a copyright registration for your website, here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Your website content MUST be original,
  2. You (not your web designer) must own the content,
  3. If you handle the registration yourself, make sure you do it right or you won’t have a valid registration,
  4. Read Copyright Office Circular 66 carefully
  5. Make sure you use the correct form,
  6. Remember, update your registration whenever you make significant revisions to your website

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.

Trademark? Copyright?

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What is the difference between a Trademark and a Copyright?

While speaking at conferences  and webinars a frequent legal question that continuously  seems to come up is the difference between a trademark and screen-shot-2017-01-08-at-6-59-07-pmcopyright.

And there is indeed a distinction between a copyright and a trademark. And although both are forms of intellectual property, they each are distinctly different types of protection.

Copyright

Copyright – is a legal form of protection afforded to any original work of art or authorship that has been reduced to a tangible form. Examples again are books, articles, eBooks, photos, videos, poems, jewelry, and choreographed works. For more information on copyright, take a look at this page and check out the U.S. Copyright Office website.

Trademark

Trademark – a name, word, phrase, logo, or a combination of those things that identifies the source of a product or a service. Examples are Nike, Microsoft, Apple, the golden arches, the Nike swoosh symbol. For more information on trademark, take a look at this page and check out the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office website.

If your logo is important to you, and if it is at the core of your business, you should speak with a lawyer on a one to one basis and get some specific legal advice regarding your situation. Any information provided here is purely general informational and not legal advice.

You can read more in detail on the distinctions of both on the United States Patent  & Trademark Office website here.

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward providing you with useful information to help you protect what’s yours. If you have a question you want me to answer in general terms, feel free to post the question on the comment section.  You can also connect with me through my Legal Facebook Page, my Legal Twitter Page, one of my Google+ Circles, or through one of my LinkedIn Group discussion.

Copyright Lawsuit. “We Shall Overcome.”

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People who were of age during the civil rights era and history buffs alike will surely recognize the iconic protest song, “We Shall Overcome.” Folk Singer Joan Baez sang the civil rights anthem during a 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial during a march in Washington. Forty-seven years later in 2010, she sang the anthem for President Obama at a civil rights celebration at the White House.

Martin Luther King Jr. recited the lyrics to the song during his final sermon in Memphis on March 31st 1968, just four days before he was assassinated.

The song goes……..

We shall overcome,
We shall overcome,
We shall overcome, some day.

Oh, deep in my heart,
I do believe
We shall overcome, some day.

We’ll walk hand in hand,
We’ll walk hand in hand,
We’ll walk hand in hand, some day.

Oh, deep in my heart,
I do believe
We shall overcome, some day.

We shall live in peace,
We shall live in peace,
We shall live in peace, some day.

Oh, deep in my heart,
I do believe
We shall overcome, some day.

 We are not afraid,
We are not afraid,
We are not afraid, TODAY

Today this inspirational anthem is back in the news regarding a copyright lawsuit questioning its copyright protection. On Monday, November 21st, a New York federal judge rejected a motion to dismiss the case by the Publisher (The Richmond Organization and Ludlow Music) that has supposedly held the rights since the early 60’s.

The plaintiffs in the case claim that the lyrics in the first verse of the song were copied from a song that was already in the public domain, thus making the copyright registration fraudulent. One of the plaintiffs is Lee Daniels, the producer and director of the 2013 film, “The Butler.” Daniels claims that his production company was asked to pay $100,000 to use the song in their film.

The plaintiffs argue that some of the lyrics of the song were already in circulation way back in 1946 when it was used by striking African-American tobacco workers and that the words and composition were published in a periodical and the authorship was credited to FTA-CIO Workers Highlander Students. Over the years, verses and lyrics were added to the original composition, according to the lawsuit.

U.S. District Court Judge Denise Cote wrote in her opinion, “The Defendants’ arguments to the contrary are unavailing. The Defendants’ argument that the copyright registrations are entitled to a presumption of validity does not compel dismissal of the claims. A certificate of registration does constitute prima facie evidence of the validity of a copyright.”

So now, this case will go forward through the legal system and we will have to wait and see if the plaintiffs are able to overcome the copyright registration held by the defendants.

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