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.

Wild Thing. Shoes. Ivanka Trump. Aquazzura Italia.

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Legal Battle.

Ivanka trumpControversy seems to follow the Trump name, whether it’s in Washington D.C. or the halls of the fashion industry in New York City.

This time it’s Ivanka Trump who is in the middle of a legal battle over the design of a shoe. Ivanka Trump’s clothing brand has been sued by an Italian footwear company, Aquazzura Italia, alleging that their shoe design was copied and sold under a different name. The suit was filed in June of 2016.

The lawsuit accused Ivanka Trump and her licensing partner, Marc Fisher, of plagiarizing a shoe design marketed under the name of “Wild Thing.” Aquazzura Italia claimed that the shoe in question, called the Hettie sandal, was identically copied, which included distinct details such as the shape, silhouette, fringe covering the toes, and tassel on the heel.

Since the filing of the suit, the lawyers for Ivanka Trump have been fighting to keep Ivanka from being deposed and filed a motion to prevent her testimony on grounds that Ivanka did not possess any “unique information” relating to the design of the shoe. Furthermore, they claimed “special circumstances,” arguing that her testimony would “distract” from her duties in the White house.

Sandals.

After almost a year of legal wrangling, on June 23rd judge Katherine Forrest of the Southern District of New York ruled that Ivanka Trump must submit to a deposition. The ruling stipulates that the testimony must be limited to only two hours and held in Ivanka’s new residence, Washington, D.C. The judge also decreed that the testimony must take place before October 31st, 2017.

Judge Forrest acknowledged that Ivanka Trump divested herself from her fashion company in January, but was still the CEO at the time the lawsuit was filed.

The shoe in question is no longer listed on the Ivanka Trump website and the company and its attorneys have refused to comment on the recent ruling.

This isn’t the first lawsuit filed against Ivanka Trump’s fashion company. This past March her clothing brand was hit with a class-action filed on behalf of women’s clothing retailers throughout the state of California. The suit contends that her company unfairly benefits from her relationship to President Donald Trump. It points out that Trump advisor, Kellyanne Conway, promoted Ivanka’s brand on an appearance on Fox News.

The lawsuit seeks monetary damages, as well as a restraining order barring the sales of Ivanka’s clothing line in the state of California.

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.

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.

 

 

Children’s Book. Dr. Seuss. “Oh the Places You’ll Go”

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Who hasn’t read, or at least heard of the iconic children’s book, “Oh the Places You’ll Go” by the famous children’s author and illustrator, the late Dr. copyright puzzleSeuss? The book, published in 1990 by Random House, has sold over 11 million copies. According to Time Magazine, it is number 72 on the top 100 children’s books sold.

Mashup.

The copyright holders of the works of Dr. Seuss, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, filed a preemptive copyright lawsuit against publisher ComicMix. The company is planning to release a “mashup” book titled “Oh, the Places You’ll Boldly Go!”

The title of this upcoming book is a play on the Dr. Seuss book “Oh the Places You’ll Go” and a famous tag line from the Star Trek TV show “To boldly go where no man has gone before.”  The publisher plans to release the book for the holiday season.

Kickstarter. 

Beside the title, the lawsuit contends that the book infringes on a number of aspects of the Dr. Seuss book, including specialized fonts and illustrations unique to the style of Dr. Seuss and found throughout his work. The complaint also points out that the Kickstarter page for the publisher admits that there may be copyright issues saying, “there may be some people who believe that this might be in violation of their intellectual property rights.”

In light of the suit, the Kickstarter page is no longer viewable. It has raised nearly $30,000 for the project, so far.

They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery, but the estate of Dr. Seuss does not take imitation of the author’s work lightly. Dr. Seuss Enterprises also filed a lawsuit several years ago against publisher Penguin Books for copyright infringement over a book called “The Cat NOT in the Hat! A Parody by Dr. Juice” The defendant claimed that the book was merely a parody mocking the O.J. Simpson trial. However, The Ninth Circuit court was not amused and ruled against the publisher.

Not Child’s Play.

Once again, we see that copyright infringement is not child’s play, but serious business that needs serious attention from the copyright holder. Protect your original works because there is no shortage of those who will willingly copy it if you don’t.

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