2014 Anti-Piracy, Copyright and Trademark News


Record Labels Accuse Russia’s VKontakte with Piracy

According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music UK and Vivendi SA’s Universal Music Group are suing VKontakte (VK), the largest social network in Russia, for enabling copyright piracy. Music companies have struggled for years to control the distribution of their recordings online and safeguard royalties for themselves and their artists. VK, known as the Russian Facebook, has a service that allows massive copyright infringement, says the IFPI. The spokesman for Mail.Ru, the internet group that controls VK, refused to comment. Warner Music UK, Universal Music Russia and Sony Music Russia have filed separate lawsuits seeking to remove the infringing material from VK’s website.

Reuters, April 3, 2014 (Maria Kiselyova and Anastasia Teterevleva)

Artists and Tech Industry in Online Piracy Battle

The Congressional Subcommittee on copyright reform held hearings to discuss the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and proposed revisions. Artists and other pro-copyright parties as well as tech industry representatives were invited to testify. The DMCA was originally written in 1998 to protect both copyright holders and owners of websites, and has had a devastating effect on copyright holders’ rights. Napster was launched a year later, which marked the start of more than a decade of online piracy and artist abuse. Fifteen years later, as most piracy sites still operate under DMCA Safe Harbor protection, the Stay Down revision is an attempt to eliminate this loophole. The argument is that the current policy creates a whack-a-mole situation, where a website is served with a takedown notice, they take down the material, and it pops up in another location.

Huffington Post, April 3, 2014 (William Buckley Jr., Founder and President, FarePlay, Inc.)

Google Fails to Trademark “Glass”

Recent news headlines about Google Glass are often about where the product’s use has been banned, but soon these smart glasses may make an appearance at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), as Google tries to trademark the term “Glass.” So far, the company has had success in registering “Google Glass,” but the USPTO has so far turned down the attempt to register their stylized “Glass” typeface. Google’s lawyers responded with a 1,928 page letter, most of which were Google Glass news articles. Other tech companies have been able to trademark simple words (or letters) and terms, such as Candy Crush Saga (“Candy”) and Facebook (“F,” “FB,” “Facepile,” and “Face”).

FindLaw, April 7, 2014 (Gabriella Khorasanee, JD)

A related article is available here:
International Business Times, April 4, 2014 – “Google Fails in Attempt to Trademark the Word ‘Glass'”

Kim Dotcom and Megaupload Sued by Hollywood Studios

The online file-hosting platform was raided in January 2012 by federal authorities, but now the company and its owner, Kim Dotcom, are being charged in federal court by various Hollywood studios for copyright infringement. They’re facing both criminal charges and civil allegations. The film studios suing them include University City Studios, Twentieth Century Fox, Paramount, Columbia Pictures, Disney and Warner Bros. The lawsuit says that Dotcom and other company employees actively and intentionally encourage site users to upload copyrighted TV programs and movies. Their “Uploader Rewards” program, which gives users benefits for uploading popular files, encouraged approximately $150 million worth of subscriptions. This case is in queue behind the federal criminal case, which involves copyright infringement, money laundering and racketeering.

FindLaw, April 8, 2014 (Brett Snider, Esq.)

Related articles are available here:
The Hollywood Reporter, April 7, 2014 – “Hollywood Studios Launch Lawsuit Against Megaupload”
PC World, April 7, 2014 – “Movie studios sue Kim Dotcom, Megaupload for copyright infringement”
L.A. Biz, April 7, 2014 – “Hollywood studios sue Megaupload, Kim Dotcom”
CTV News, April 8, 2014 – “Hollywood studios sue Megaupload for copyright infringement”

‘Game of Thrones’ Purple Wedding Breaks Piracy Record

The latest installment of HBO’s Game of Thrones, “The Lion and the Rose,” featuring Joffrey’s wedding, had so many fans illegally downloading the episode that it broke records for torrent downloads, according to TorrentFreak, the blog that tracks piracy. Approximately 1.5 million people around the world downloaded that episode the day it became available, and 193,418 site users shared the file. It broke the record set by the Game of Thrones season finale last year, which saw 171,572 shares on one tracker. Sunday’s episode on HBO had 8 million viewers during three rebroadcasts. Last year, programming president of HBO, Michael Lombardo, said that the piracy was something of a compliment. This year, he isn’t as enthusiastic, saying that they’ll continue to stop piracy whenever it occurs.

Entertainment Weekly, April 15, 2014 (James Hibberd)

Copyright Galore: Vimeo, Aereo and Google Books Challenges

An abundance of copyright cases are in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, with some of them even reaching the Supreme Court. In one case, the Author’s Guild is hoping to reverse a judgment that was made in favor of Google, related to their practice of digitizing millions of books. In another, several record companies are suing Vimeo for copyright infringement that is being perpetrated by their users. The argument is that the DMCA’s safe harbor does not provide Vimeo with complete protection. For the third, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case between American Broadcasting Companies, Inc., and tech company Aereo, Inc. The U.S. filed a brief that supports the broadcasters.

FindLaw, April 16, 2014 (Gabriella Khorasanee, JD)

Music Companies Sue Pandora for Golden Oldies Royalties

A group of U.S. music labels have filed a lawsuit in New York state court to sue Pandora Media Inc. They accuse the online streaming service of broadcasting pre-1972 recordings by the thousands and not paying royalties. As the lawsuit states, the music includes the most iconic songs in the world, from artists like Marvin Gaye, the Beatles, Fleetwood Mac and Louis Armstrong. The record companies in the lawsuit include UMG Recordings, Warner Music Group Corp, Vivendi SA’s Capital Records Inc., Sony Corp’s Sony Music Entertainment and ABKCO Music & Records Inc. While federal copyright law doesn’t cover pre-1972 material, the plaintiffs state that copyright protection for these recordings is covered by New York state law.

Reuters, April 17, 2014 (Joseph Ax)


Online Piracy Supported by Legitimate Ad Revenue

Online music and movie piracy thrives in part because savvy website owners get advertising money from major corporations like McDonald’s, Comcast, and Ford. Recent reports uncover this source of revenue for Internet piracy. Illegal piracy sites lure visitors by promising them free streams and downloads of the latest hit songs, TV shows and movies. They also profit from ad revenue from all over the Internet, keeping their illegal activities secret so that the world renowned brands are unaware. Tricks include the launching of legit-looking pop-up windows that fool advertisers, pocketing checks for clicks and views. It’s estimated that this generates millions in ad dollars every year, which helps perpetuate copyright infringement activities.

USA Today, June 3, 2014 (Ryan Nakashima, AP)

Monster Case Awards Beastie Boys 1.7 Million

In today’s ruling, The Beastie Boys have been awarded $1.7 million in their case against the manufacturers of Monster Energy drink, for copyright violation. The court heard testimony from the two surviving band members, who are staunchly opposed to having their music used in commercials. The Monster Energy Co. admitted that they wrongly used the rappers’ music in an online video that was seen by the public for five weeks. The drink maker felt that they should owe the band no more than $125,000, a far cry from The Beastie Boys’ demand of $1 million. Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz and Michael “Mike D” Diamond testified, and the jury found that Monster willfully infringed upon the copyrights of five songs: “Make Some Noise,” “Sabotage,” “Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun,” “Pass the Mic” and “So What’cha Want.”

The Hollywood Reporter, June 5, 2014 (Andrew Flanagan, Billboard)

U.S. Patent Office Rules Against Washington Redskins Name

The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ruled that the Washington Redskins name disparages Native Americans that that the federal trademarks for the team’s name should be canceled. This 2-1 ruling follows a growing campaign to change the team’s name. They don’t lose trademark protection immediately, however, and are allowed to keep it during their likely appeal. Owner Dan Snyder cites “tradition” for his refusal to change the name, but pressure to do so continues, including from President Barack Obama and both Democrat and Republican lawmakers, as well as various civil rights groups. As the decision stands, the team can continue to be known as the Redskins, but they lose much of their ability to protect their financial interests if the name is used without permission.

Herald-Mail Media, June 18, 2014

Broadcasters Win Fight with Aereo

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled that startup Internet company Aereo must pay broadcasters when they allow subscribers to watch off-the-air television programs on smartphones and other devices. By a 6-3 vote, justices found that Aereo Inc. violated copyrights by grabbing the broadcasters’ signals and re-airing them. This ruling allows television networks to collect payment from satellite and cable systems for the privilege of transmitting their programs. Justice Stephen Breyer pointed out that Aereo looked very much like a cable system, while Aereo investor Barry Diller and company executives said that the decision is a loss for the U.S. consumer and the tech industry. Broadcasters in the case included NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS and Fox.

The case is ABC v. Aereo, 13-461.

Associated Press writers Nancy Benac and Anick Jesdanun in New York contributed to this report

The Seattle Times, June 26, 2014 (Mark Sherman, AP)


Beats Electronics Files Multimillion-Dollar Lawsuit Against Chinese Counterfeiters

A month after Apple acquired Beats Electronics, the headphone company is filing a case against Chinese counterfeiters. Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, the suit takes aim at online counterfeiters who offer counterfeit and unlicensed products that feature Beats’ trademarks. They state that there are hundreds and perhaps thousands of online stores that appear to sell genuine Beat products to consumers, but they’re in fact low-quality counterfeits. According to the lawsuit, counterfeit Beats headphones bring in as much as $135 billion in yearly sales. This makes it worthwhile to go after the admittedly elusive Chinese counterfeiters. In some cases, the sites offer fakes of originally $300 headphones for $5, while others call their Beats headphones “replicas” but still charge around $60.

Mashable, July 12, 2014 (Adario Strange)

The Alliance of Artists and Recording Companies Files Complaint Against Ford and General Motors Over Hard Drives in Cars

The Alliance of Artists and Recording Companies (AARC) is a non-profit that collects fees from home recording device sales. The organization has filed a class action complaint with the United States District Court that accuses General Motors and Ford of installing certain kinds of hard drives in their cars without paying the required fees. These drives are able to “rip” audio from CDs onto the cars’ hard drives. The music is then available for private use.

View the complaint, Civil Action No. 1:14-cv-1271


Lionsgate Sues Individual Who Leaked ‘Expendables 3

The studio discovered on July 24 that a high-quality digital file of their action film with Sylvester Stallone, “Expendables 3,” was leaked. They’ve filed the lawsuit against the anonymous person who stole and then uploaded the file. All online copies that are now circulating apparently can be traced to the stolen file. In the lawsuit, “John Does 1-10,” operators of hulfile.eu, limetorrents.com, swantshare.com, billionuploads.com, dotsemper.com and played.to are named. By downloading a torrent file associated with the film, users become part of a “swarm” where they can download different parts of the film from various users and upload other parts, until the entire film has been reproduced on individual hard drives. In addition to restraining orders and injunctions to stop selling and distribution of the film, ISP that host them are also being eyed and may be served subpoenas.

The Hollywood Reporter, August 1, 2014 (Eriq Gardner)

Kurt Sutter Says Google Profits from Piracy   

In an open letter to members of the creative community, American director, producer, actor and screenwriter Kurt Sutter attacks Google and tells them to stop profiting from piracy. He accuses them of misrepresenting facts about copyright laws and piracy and explains how they support those who infringe upon artists’ copyrights. According to Sutter, Google is systematically destroying the future of artistic works, manipulating public opinion and spending millions of dollars annually on eroding copyright laws. He compares their tactics to those of the tobacco lobby, and calls on creatives to step up and take a stand by joining the organization CreativeFuture. Kurt Sutter is executive producer and showrunner of “Sons of Anarchy,” the FX drama series.

Read Kurt Sutter’s open letter in Variety.

VARIETY, August 5, 2014 (Kurt Sutter)


Court Orders SiriusFM to Pay Turtles for Their Pre-1972 Recordings

The ruling by a federal judge in Los Angeles, who sided with sixties group The Turtles, is a major setback for digital radio. The copyright case was closely watched and could have serious implications for other digital radio providers. The U.S. District judge found that the company violated state laws by airing 15 recordings by the band, without a license, that dated prior to 1972. This lawsuit started in 2013 as a class action suit. Singers Flo & Eddie, members of The Turtles (famous for hits such as “Happy Together”) said that Sirius XM owed the band $100 million in royalties. The ruling will likely expand the scope of the music they are required to pay royalties on, adding further costs for digital services that AM/FM radio stations don’t have.

Sirius 1972 Ruling

GIGAOM, September 23, 2014 (Jeff John Roberts)

Grooveshark Guilty of Massive Copyright Infringement

Are you a Grooveshark user? You’d better back up your collection. The U.S. District Court in Manhattan has ruled that music streaming service Grooveshark is guilty of colossal copyright infringement, based on the statements and internal documents from former executives. This direct evidence comes from company logs and deleted source code and files. CEO Samuel Tarantino and CTO Josh Greenberg face the most serious charges, which are yet to be determined. Music company plaintiffs were headed by representatives from Universal Music Group. It was determined that Grooveshark didn’t just know that their website hosted infringing content but directed their employees to upload such content to their servers. Grooveshark may appeal the decision.

Read the full decision.

Digital Music News, September 29, 2014 (Paul Resnikoff)


Don Henley of the Eagles Claims Copyright Infringement, Sues Clothing Maker for Shirt Ad

Founding member of the Eagles, Don Henley, has taken legal action against the Duluth Trading Co. in Wisconsin for an advertisement that he claims infringes upon his copyright. The musician is not happy by the clothing maker’s ad for their Henley shirts (men’s pullovers). The ad tells consumers that they should “Don a Henley and Take it Easy.” This enticement plays off the Eagles’ hit song, “Take It Easy” (as well as Henley’s name). A statement from a spokesman for the band says that they don’t like when someone tries to capitalize on their work. Duluth Trading is not commenting, citing pending litigation. The store has six locations in Minnesota and Wisconsin and primarily sells their merchandise through catalogs and online.

Information from Wisconsin State Journal, https://madison.com/wsj/

U.S. News & World Report, October 15, 2014 (Associated Press)  


Final Pirate Bay Founder Has Been Caught and Arrested

The last of the company’s three co-founders, Fredrik Neij, was found on the border of Thailand and Laos, and was promptly arrested. This signals the end of a long manhunt for the website’s creators. Neij’s capture follows the arrest of fellow co-founder Peter Sunde in June, and a 3.5 year sentence given to Gottfrid Warg in October. Neij had been living in Laos with his family, TorrentFreak reports, and has crossed into Thailand on various occasions, but his luck finally ran out. Officials marked the occasion of his arrest with a press conference and took photographs of Neij with officers. After changing leadership and many domain changes, The Pirate Bay continues to operate. The arrests of its founders have had little effect on the cloud service and their torrent links.

Source: TorrentFreak

Engadget, November 4, 2014 (Nick Summers)

Irving Azoff Says He’ll Pull 20,000 Songs Off YouTube

Music industry mogul Irving Azoff, who represents Pharrell Williams and other artists, accuses YouTube of not making the needed deals for its new Music Key subscription service and is ready to remove his clients from the platform. These may include works by Williams, Foreigner, Smokey Robinson, The Eagles, John Lennon, Boston, Chris Cornell, and George and Ira Gershwin. Azoff told The Hollywood Reporter that he would take the music of 42 of his clients away from YouTube, which represents approximately 20,000 copyrighted songs. Azoff, former chairman of Live Nation, now spearheads Global Music Rights (GMR), whose mission it is to obtain greater performance rights royalties for songwriters. While the major record labels have made deals with YouTube, smaller independents are unhappy with the licensing terms, and songwriters have yet to see significant payments from digital outlets.

The Hollywood Reporter, November 12, 2014 (Eriq Gardner)


NYPD Busts Counterfeiters in Queens, $2.2M in Fake Goods

The announcement was made by New York City Police Commissioner William J. Bratton, Special Agent of Homeland Security Investigations in New York James T. Hayes, Jr., and Richard A Brown, Queens District Attorney. They charged seven residents of Queens, which included three individuals and two married couples, with trademark counterfeiting and the sales of more than $2.2 million of fake designer merchandise, such as watches, gloves, handbags and wallets. These items bore the logos of the world’s top designers—Prada, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Gucci. They were seized from storage sites where they are said to have operated. Police Commissioner Bratton stated that trademark counterfeiting is a global problem that hurts manufacturers to the tune of millions of dollars. This causes job loss for hardworking people.

Women’s Wear Daily, December 10, 2014 (Rosemary Feitelberg)

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