2016 Anti-Piracy, Copyright and Trademark News


Who Gets Money? 50 Cent Doesn’t Have to Share ‘I Get Money’ Royalties with Rapper

An appeals court ruled in favor of 50 Cent, saying that he didn’t have to share proceeds from his  hit song “I Got Money” with Georgia rapper Tyrone Simmons, known as Young Caliber. Simmons said that he paid $600 for the beat in 2006, from producer William (Apex) Stanberry, and that Stanberry sold the same beat to 50 Cent, which resulted in a hit song that went double platinum. Simmons believed that since he was the first owner of the beat, he was entitled to some money. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals, upholding a lower court’s decision, ruled that the claim, first filed in 2010, was too old. New York Daily News, January 15, 2016 (Dareh Gregorian)

U.S. Commerce Department Wants ‘Kinder, Gentler’ Copyright Laws

The U.S. Department of Commerce, in a task force recommendation, is asking Congress to revise the Copyright Act so that it makes certain considerations before awarding filesharing copyright damages. The Internet Policy Task Force doesn’t want to remove the maximum $150,000 award per infringement to rights holders. However, they recommend that judges consider the actual value of the infringed works and the file sharer’s ability to pay, for a more appropriate award. The task force includes members from the National Communications and Information Administration, The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and representatives from the Commerce Department. They pointed out that inappropriate awards may weaken respect for copyright laws. Ars Technica, January 28, 2016 (David Kravets)


Authorities Seize Hoverboards with Counterfeit Batteries at New York Airport

At New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport, more than 1,000 hoverboards powered with potentially dangerous counterfeit batteries were seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The agency suspected that these Chinese-made hoverboards had batteries stamped with bogus trademarks. The estimated retail price for the nearly 1,400 devices is $500,000. Hoverboards, which are a trendy and popular holiday gift, have been in the news after reports of fire and injuries. Manufacturers and retailers have been asked to comply with safety standards, including those related to the lithium ion batteries. Failure to comply could lead a seizure or recall. Reuters, February 19, 2016 (Marcus E. Howard, reporting in New York; Edited by Frank McGurty and Leslie Adler)


Cruz Presidential Campaign Sued Over Background Music in Videos

Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign, now defunct, is being used over the music it used in two campaign videos—specifically, “Best to Come” and “Victories.” On Monday, music licensing firm Audiosocket, based in New Orleans and Seattle, filed the lawsuit in Seattle’s District Court. Audiosocket and advertising company Madison McQueen have an agreement that bans the use of their licensed songs for political campaigns. The companies seek damages amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars. There was no public statement from either party. AP News, May 9, 2016 (AP)

Anti-Counterfeiting Group Suspends Alibaba’s Membership

The International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition informed its members that it would suspend Alibaba’s membership and was hiring an independent company to review its own governance policies. They recently came under fire from companies that see the Chinese e-commerce powerhouse as the largest global marketplace for counterfeit products. The coalition told its members that they had not informed them about their president’s conflicts of interest concerning Alibaba. The company’s head of corporate affairs maintained that organizations like Alibaba were vital in the war against counterfeiting. Fake products hurt both consumers and businesses and help to bolster a huge underground money-laundering system that supports criminal enterprises. AP: The Big Story, May 13, 2016 (Erika Kinetz and Desmond Butler)


Madonna and Producer Victorious in Court Over ‘Vogue’ Sample

On Thursday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a small sampling of music is trivial and doesn’t rise to the level of copyright infringement. Madonna and producer Robert “Shep” Pettibone were given a victory in a lengthy lawsuit over her 1990 hit song “Vogue.” Upon listening to both parties’ recordings, the court concluded that the average listener would not be able to recognize the copied sample. This court decision affirms the 2013 ruling by a federal court in California, making it easier for a musician to sample small parts of song recordings. It does, however, disagree with a court ruling by the 6th Circuit (which includes Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee) on whether it is permissible to use even a small sampling without obtaining permission. The Hollywood Reporter, June 2, 2016 (Eriq Gardner)

Music Industry, Technology Leaders and Academic Institutions Launch Open Music Initiative to Resolve Media Rights Issues

The Berklee College of Music Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship (BerkleeICE) has announced The Open Music Initiative (OMI). This important initiative seeks to simplify how music creators and copyright owners are discovered and compensated. Since the start of the digital age, this issue has been a challenge for the music industry, and it has severely limited the income of creators and industry revenues. The initiative combines BerkleeICE’s music industry expertise with MIT Media Lab’s experience with decentralized platforms to help develop open source frameworks and music rights innovation. Founding members include the Berklee Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship, BMG, CD Baby, Harry Fox Agency, MIT Media Lab, Netflix, Pandora, SiriusXM, Sony Music Entertainment Warner Music Group, YouTube and many more. Business Wire, June 13, 2016


MP3tunes Copyright Case — U.S. Appeals Court Rules in Favor of Music Companies

On Tuesday, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled in a long-standing lawsuit that involved the now defunct online music storage company MP3tunes. They decided that music publishers and record companies that were once part of EMI Group Ltd could pursue copyright infringement claims, and they rejected the appeal by the founder of MP3tunes, Michael Robertson. This decision reinstated the verdict from 2014 that awarded $48 million to the music companies. This is the latest decision in lengthy court cases between online content providers and the music industry. Previous copyright litigation led to MP3.com being shut down, which was another company founded by Robertson. Reuters, October 25, 2016 (Nate Raymond, reporting in New York)

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