3 Count: Obituary Piracy

A truly heinous kind of infringement...

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1: Visual Arts Groups Applaud Release of New Small Claims Legislation

First off today, A press release has announced that Copyright Alternative in Small Claims Enforcement Act (CASE Act) has been introduced to Congress again and aims to offer rightsholders a means to enforce their rights without the expense of going through a federal copyright lawsuit.

The act, if it becomes law, would create a small claims tribunal that would be housed under the United States Copyright Office. Damages before it would be capped at $30,000 per proceeding. It was introduced by a bipartisan group of legislators including Congressmen Jeffries, Collins, Johnson, Roby, Chu, Cline, Lieu, and Fitzpatrick as well as Senators Kennedy, Tillis, Durbin and Hirono.

The act is enjoying broad support from creators and rightsholders but has already been criticized by those that are concerned such a small claims court could be a tool to file abusive copyright cases. However, according to rightsholders, most creators are disenfranchised from enforcing their rights due to costs and this would provide much-needed mechanism to handle smaller infringements.

2: Duffer Brothers Ask Court to Trim ‘Stranger Things’ Trial Topics

Next up today, Ashley Cullins at The Hollywood Reporter Esquire reports that Matt and Ross Duffer may be headed to a trial over the origins of their hit TV series Stranger Things but they are asking the court to limit the scope of what the jury can hear.

The brothers were sued by Charlie Kessler, who alleged that the series is based on his short film Montauk and subsequent scripts. According to Kessler, the duo stole the basic concept for the series from him after he approached them with the idea and sought to create a partnership. The lawsuit survived the summary judgement phase and is now headed for a trial next week.

However, in that trial the Duffers are asking the judge to exclude any evidence involving Kessler’s later scripts, any evidence that he emailed an agent at their production company or about Kessler’s intent to “form a partnership” as, according to them, it would simply serve to bias the jury. Likewise, Kessler is asking the court to exclude any evidence about the series itself, saying the issue involves the brothers’ actions before it went into production and the series itself was heavily reworked.

3: ‘Obituary Piracy’ Website Ordered to Pay $20M to Grieving Families

Finally today, Ryan Cooke at the CBC reports that the Canadian company Afterlife has been ordered to pay $20 million ($14.8 million USD) to victims in a class action lawsuit over the company’s infringement of obituaries written by family members of the recently-deceased.

The company would take obituaries and photographs from Canadian newspapers and republish them on their site, where they would offer memorial products for purchase, with the profits going to them. Afterlife did not offer a defense in the case, resulting in the default judgment in favor of the plaintiffs.

The judgement includes $10 million ($7.9 million USD) in statutory damages and another $10 million in aggravated damages. It also includes an injunction that bars the site from operating.

The 3 Count Logo was created by Justin Goff and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License.

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