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First off today, Eriq Gardner at The Hollywood Reporter Esquire reports that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned a 2016 summary judgment that found that CBS, and others, could enjoy perpetual copyright in musical works simply by remastering them at regular intervals.
The case pitted CBS Radio against ABS Entertainment, a company that owns recordings by Al Green and Others. ABS, much like other owners of pre-1972 sound recordings, began to assert their rights for royalties in state courts. Since pre-1972 sound recordings are not protected under federal copyright, their protection instead falls under state law. However, CBS made a novel argument saying that, since the recordings had been remastered prior to being aired, that they were actually post-1972 sound recordings and the state misappropriation claims were preempted by federal law. The trial court agreed and issued a summary judgment in CBS’ favor.
This ruling set of a wave of concern among copyright experts, who feared that it could lead to perpetual copyright for sound recordings. After all, if remastering a recording could create a new work for the purpose of copyright, one could simply remaster a recording at regular intervals to keep it out of the public domain. However, the Ninth Circuit has put an end to that, overturning the summary judgment and saying that it would be rare for a remaster to enjoy an independent copyright protection from the original song. This sends the case back down to the lower court for further proceedings.
Next up today, Jonathan Stempel at Reuters reports that a federal judge has sided with Take-Two Interactive in their legal fight against David Zipper, the seller of several programs that enable users to cheat at the hit game Grand Theft Auto 5.
Zipperer is accused by Take-Two of selling programs including Menyoo and Absolute, which it claims alters the game code to give their users unfair advantages. This prompted Take-Two to file a lawsuit against Zipperer over unfair competition and copyright infringement. Though the court dismissed an unfair competition claim, it still awarded Take-Two an injunction that bars Zipperer from creating or distributing the software.
According to Take-Two, the injunction was necessary because Zipperer, who claims to be unemployed, would not likely be able to afford damages. As such, it was necessary to secure the injunction to minimize the “irreparable” harm that his software was doing to the game and its online community.
Finally today, the BBC reports that former Prenda Law attorney Paul Hansmeier has pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud and money laundering in the Prenda Law “copyright troll” efforts.
Prenda Law was a firm set up in 2010 by Hansmeier and his partner John Steele. The two claimed to represent pornographic filmmakers by tracking down suspected pirates and sending them legal threats in hopes of collecting a quick settlement. However, it was revealed in 2011 that the lawyers were themselves often uploading the films and that many of their “clients” were actually shell companies they owned.
This resulted in the arrest of Hansmeier in 2016, following multiple court rebukes and Hansmeier’s disbarment. Steele pleaded guilty to the same charges in 2017 and agreed to help prosecutors in the case. With Hansmeier taking a plea himself, he has been promised a sentence no longer than 150 months though the exact punishment he will receive will be determined later.`
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.