We will be discussing two recent copyright cases during our weekly SoCal IP Institute meeting on Monday, March 5, 2012. Brief synopses are presented below.

UMG Recordings, Inc. et al. v. Shelter Capital Partners, LLC, Case No. 09-55902 (9th Cir. Dec. 20, 2011) (attached).  UMG is a record label based in Los Angeles. Veoh Networks owns and operates a video sharing website.  Individuals can upload videos to Veoh which may then be viewed by others searching for those videos or by sharing of those videos via social media sites, email and other methods.  UMG claimed that many Veoh videos include songs for which UMG owns the copyright.

UMG filed suit against Veoh as both a direct and indirect copyright infringer.  The district court granted summary judgment on the basis that Veoh was protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) safe harbor provisions.  These provisions limit the liability of service providers, subject to their compliance with DMCA take down notices, their lack actual knowledge of the infringement and if when they obtain such knowledge, they move swiftly to remove infringing content.  The district court found that Veoh met all of these limitations.  On appeal in a very detailed decision, the 9th Circuit agreed.  The only issue remanded for further consideration was as to whether Veoh was entitled to “costs” as a prevailing party.

Golan v. Holder, Case No. 10-545 (U.S. Sup. Ct. Jan. 18, 2012) (attached).  A group of orchestra conductors, musicians, publishers and others sued Attorney General Eric Holder.  The plaintiffs, who formerly enjoyed free access to musical compositions (among other things) created by foreign entities that were not protected under U.S. copyright law because their countries of origin did not grant reciprocal rights to U.S. entities seeking copyright protection in those countries.

In 1989, the U.S. entered the multilateral Berne Convention.  In anticipation of entering Berne, the U.S. passed the Berne Convention Implementation Act wherein the U.S. agreed to make only changes that were necessary for “minimal’ implementation of Berne.  In 1994, the U.S. joined in the World Trade Organization and in the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights.  These gave teeth to the Berne convention requirements and prompted the U.S. Congress to “restore” foreign works that were previously unprotected by U.S. copyright law if they met certain preconditions.

The plaintiffs in this case sought an order stating that Congress had exceeded its authority to regulate U.S. copyright law in “restoring” these works because, in part, it had removed works from the public domain.  The chief argument was that Congress exceeded the scope of the Copyright Clause of the U.S. Constitution.  After appeal, a First Amendment argument was also added.  The Tenth Circuit eventually held that Congress had not exceeded its authority and that the change in the law was narrowly tailored to serve an important governmental interest of protecting U.S. copyright holders in foreign countries.  Accordingly, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed.

All are invited to join us in our discussion during the SoCal IP Institute meeting on Monday, March 5, 2012 at Noon in our Westlake Village office. This activity is approved for 1 hour of MCLE credit. If you will be joining us, please RSVP to Amanda Jones by 9 am Monday morning.