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First off today, Joe Mullin at Ars Technica reports that the plaintiffs in the Happy Birthday lawsuit claim to have a “smoking gun”, one that proves the song is in the public domain.
The lawsuit was filed by a filmmaker who was ordered to pay a $1,500 license to use the song in a movie. She filed it as a class action lawsuit so she could also help others who paid for a license recover their money. Warner/Chappell Music, the company that controls the rights to the composition, claims the song is copyright protected and backs up that claim with a 1935 copyright registration that is still valid.
However, the plaintiffs claim to have found a 1927 songbook that features both Happy Birthday to You and Good Morning to All, the song Happy Birthday is supposedly based upon. That book was published without a copyright notice, meaning that it is in the public domain and, further, the book dates back to 1922, meaning the copyright would have expired regardless of formalities. Warner/Chappell is yet to respond but a hearing on the case is scheduled for Wednesday.
Next up today, Eriq Gardner at The Hollywood Reporter Esquire reports that members of the MPAA have filed a lawsuit against the operators of several “MovieTube” websites that it claims are offering illegal streams of their films.
The lawsuit targets several domains under the MovieTube moniker but doesn’t name the defendants, rather, it lists them as “John Does” that they hope to identify later. The lawsuit also asks for $150,000 per copyright infringement, which focuses on the public performance of the works, and $2 million per trademark infringement for the use of the film’s titles in promotional materials. The lawsuit also seeks an injunction barring third parties, including domain registrars, advertisers and social media services, from working with these sites.
All of the sites listed in the domain are currently down, despite an injunction not being awarded yet. The lawsuit also points out that the defendants openly acknowledge that they are infringing copyright, claiming that they are not a U.S. company and are not bound by U.S. law.
Finally today, Vladimir Kozlova at Billboard reports that VKontakte, widely referred to as the Facebook of Russia, has settled a lawsuit with Sony Music over allegations VK encouraged and enabled users to illegally download infringing music tracks.
Sony, along with Universal Music and Warner Music, sued VK in April 2014 saying that the site was a haven for pirate downloads. Though courts had historically shown support to VK, which claimed to have no control over how users use its service, a separate case saw a court rule against VK and ordering it to pay approximately $12,000 in damages to a Russian record label.
Since the terms of the settlement are confidential, t is unclear what is in the settlement with Sony and what this means for the other two plaintiffs. However, it does appear that the settlement is part of a broader agreement between Sony and VK.
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.