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First off today, Tamlin Bason at Bloomberg BNA reports that the Supreme Court has heard oral arguments in the “Raging Bull” case, which raises the question about how much the doctrine of latches can bar claims of copyright infringement.
The case centers around Paula Petrella, the daughter of Frank Peter Petrella, who along with Jake LaMotta wrote the original story, which is about LaMotta’s boxing career. Petrella, through copyright termination, secured the rights to the story in 1991 and, though she corresponded with MGM about their continued use of the story in the movie, she didn’t file a lawsuit until 2009. This prompted both the district and the appeals court to reject her claims on the grounds of the doctrine of latches, which prevents individuals and companies from waiting excessive amounts of time to enforce their rights.
However, according to Petrella, the separate accrual rule, which says that each new use of a copyright work is a separate claim, overrides the doctrine of latches. There is also a split among the circuit courts on this issue, which is a large part of why the Supreme Court has agreed to hear and rule on this case. However, that ruling is not expected for several months.
Next up today, Dominic Patten at Deadline reports that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has declined to rehear an appeal by the estate of Joe Shuster, effectively putting an end to the estate’s claims on the rights to the comic book icon Superman.
Shuster was one of the two co-creators of Superman. His estate attempted to terminate their Warner Brothers under the copyright termination clause. However, the courts, after a lengthy battle, ruled that newer agreements between the family and Warner prevented such a termination from being made.
In November, the 9th Circuit Court of appeals affirmed the lower court on this issue. The attorneys representing the Shuster estate attempted to ask the court to rehear the opinion but the court has unanimously decided not to do so, likely ending the case for good.
Finally today, Courthouse News writes that a Seattle judge has dismissed copyright infringement complaints against four alleged file sharers on the grounds that an IP address is not enough, by itself, to move forward with a copyright infringement claim.
The case was brought by Elf-Man LLC, which is the company behind the movie “Elf-Man”, a holiday film starring Jason “Wee-Man” Acuña. Often described as copyright “trolls”, Elf-Man has filed lawsuits against a large number of suspected file sharers based upon IP address alone. While the judge granted discovery against many of the defendants, he also dismissed the case against four of the named ones because, according to him, the evidence against them was not adequate to sustain the claim.
The judge also ordered for default judgment against two of the known defendants and dismissed the claims against the other Doe defendants involved. However, in the cases that he dismissed, the judge did leave the door open for Elf-Man to file an amended complaint with new information, possibly reopening the lawsuit.
That’s it for the three count today. We will be back tomorrow with three more copyright links. If you have a link that you want to suggest a link for the column or have any proposals to make it better. Feel free to leave a comment or send me an email. I hope to hear from you.
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