A Legal Blog by Aaron | Sanders, PLLC


The Force Toys Around: Can You Post a Picture of Your Favorite Star Wars Action Figure?

DMCA = Darth’s Malicious Copyright Attack

Warning: careful about clicking some of the links. There may be spoilers. Well, a spoiler.

I have it on good authority that Star Wars fans were surprised to discover an action figure of a major character from the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie for sale at their local Walmart. What’s more, said action figure might constitute something of a spoiler because the packaging depicts the character as holding … something that might give away a hitherto unknown secret about the character. Excited, these people took pictures of the toy (with packaging) and uploaded to websites, such as Star Wars Action News and plain-old Facebook and Twitter. Disney and/or LucasFilm then got those images removed by sending DMCA take-down notices to their hosts. TorrentFreak has details. Fortune and Ars Technica have also covered.

If you’re OK learning a possible spoiler, here’s the photograph at issue.

Ah, the delicate balance between fandom and intellectual-property enforcement! This seems a little heavy-handed, no? Maybe an instance of automation gone overboard? Or, perhaps the toy was mistakenly released early and someone wants to stop a certain spoiler from getting out? Relating to the last theory: the DMCA notifications have described…

figures1

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Cox Rocked but DMCA Safe Harbors Remain Unshaken

All We Really Learned Is that Even Big Corporations Don’t Always Run Things by Counsel.

We have learned quite a lot about the contours of the DMCA safe harbors over the last few years, thanks to record labels swinging for the fences, Viacom and Google’s tenacity in fighting over early-days YouTube, and a rare sighting of a certain kind of “red flag.” But these cases haven’t addressed the fuzziest area of the DMCA safe-harbors: the requirement for a “repeat infringer” policy. As I’ve argued before, this requirement is service providers’ greatest point of vulnerability. Because of the law’s fuzziness, service providers can’t be certain they’re in compliance. What’s more, if they’re, they lose all protection from DMCA safe harbors. But, for some reason, the rights holders have been reluctant to attack it.

To get clarity about a law, you need a case that is forced to address the difficult questions. Remember that courts only rule on the issues presented to them, and their findings and reasoning are only precedential to the extent they are necessary for the court’s decision. Courts don’t give advisory opinions, just because it would help clear things up. Thus, if there’s an easy way and a difficult…

Cox runs its graduated response to copyright infringement out of this trailer, far away from any legal counsel

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Lenz, the DMCA and Dancing Babies: Don’t Go Crazy, OK?

tl;dr Summary

Although the DMCA’s procedure for taking down allegedly infringing material is (ahem) nearly universally disliked. Rights holders can’t figure out why it’s so hard to take infringing material down, and consumers and service providers can’t figure out why it’s so easy to take obviously non-infringing down. Lenz v. Universal thus appeared a perfect test case for those who wished to clip the wings of the DMCA’s takedown procedure. When Universal saw Ms. Lenz’s video of her toddler dancing to “Let’s Go Crazy” in the background, it got the video removed. Although Ms. Lenz was able to get it put back up, she was angry enough to sue Universal under §512(f), which forbids knowingly representing that a work subject of a takedown notice is infringing. Her theory was that her video was so obviously a fair use, Universal’s takedown notice constituted a knowing misrepresentation. She knew, however, that she had a tough road, because at most all Universal had to prove was that it had a subjective belief that her video wasn’t fair use, a very low standard indeed.

At trial, she successfully fended off a motion to dismiss and a motion for summary judgment, in which Universal argued that…

This seismometer measures changes to copyright law, starting in 1909. The big disturbance is either the 1976 Act or possibly the Sony Betamax case. Note that it's been a while since the needle has moved significantly.

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DMCA Explainer: Why Chilling Effects Can Display Takedown Notices Complete with Pirate URLs

Wherein we Also Discuss Whether Hyperlinks Can Be Infringing

Ellen Seidler, an independent filmmaker with one movie under her belt, wonders why her attempt to get Chilling Effects, the aggregator of DMCA takedown notices, to take down her own earlier DMCA takedown notice has failed, just moments after she thought it had succeeded. From her perspective, Chilling Effects is “operating above the law.” It isn’t, but based on common misconceptions of how the DMCA takedown regime works, it sure looks that way. I hope she doesn’t mind, but I’d like to take Ms. Seidler up on her request to be “filled in” and explain generally how the DMCA takedown regime works and clear up some basic misconceptions.

The movie in question is And Then Came Lola, which was released in 2009. The filmmakers appear to have made the movie available through a wide variety of downloading and streaming channels. But, like roughly every other movie in existence, it is available on several pirate sites. My sense is that the income from the legitimate downloads and streaming is worthwhile but marginal, and the filmmakers are therefore especially sensitive to the illegal competition, which would be irritating in any event.

Chilling Effects: Bastion of…

© Dana Rothstein | Dreamstime Stock Photos

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RightsCorp’s Lawsuit Against Cox Is Only Partly About Repeat Infringers

RightsCorp Has Some High Hurdles to Clear Before it Even Gets to Repeat Infringers

Typical. I read about a truly significant lawsuit, start blogging about what is obviously the main issue—an issue that has significance beyond the lawsuit—only to discover in analyzing the pleadings that the lawsuit isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

RightsCorp: A Business Model in Trouble…

You’ve heard of the lawsuit against the major ISP, Cox Communications, for violating the repeat-infringer requirement of the DMCA? (Here’s the complaint.) If not, let me ’splain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up:

There is a company called RightsCorp that is in the business of enforcing copyrights for others. They make money by monitoring BitTorrent networks, finding files whose copyrights belong to its clients, identifying the IP address (and timestamp) and sending short little notices to the ISP that are supposed to be forwarded to the customer. The short little notice says the usual things that lawyers say in cease-and-desist letters that aren’t lies but don’t tell the whole copyright story, to wit: (a) you are a copyright infringer; (b) you “could be” liable for up to $150,000 per infringement; (c) your ISP service “could be suspended”; and (d) the actual…

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