A Legal Blog by Aaron | Sanders, PLLC


Descent into Madness: Publicity Rights and Free Speech

Rick is an experienced Nashville intellectual-property litigator and an erstwhile part-time professor at Vanderbilt University Law School whose writing and teaching focuses on copyright issues but whose law practice involves a wide variety of IP-related disputes.

Did the Ninth Circuit Contradict Itself?

A few days ago, we got two opinions handed down by the same court, written by the same judge, on essentially the same subject, involving the same defendant that reach seemingly contradictory results. On July 31, the Ninth Circuit handed down two decisions about the use of likenesses in video games: Brown v. Electronic Arts, which went defendant’s way, and Keller v. Electronic Arts, which went the plaintiffs’ way.

In both cases, football players sued video-game maker EA for using their likenesses in EA’s football video games. Jim Brown, perhaps the greatest football player ever*, objected to the use of his likeness in EA’s Madden NFL**. In Keller, several former college football players, none of whom will ever be considered one of the greatest of all time, objected to the use of their likenesses in EA’s NCAA Football.

* Before even my time, though.

** EA licenses with the NFL and NFL Players Association for the rights to use players’ likenesses, but Brown has been far too long retired to be covered by those licenses.

These guys might be suing next, when EA comes out with Old-Timey College…

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Throwing Back the Throwbacks on Is it Fair Use?

Rick is an experienced Nashville intellectual-property litigator and an erstwhile part-time professor at Vanderbilt University Law School whose writing and teaching focuses on copyright issues but whose law practice involves a wide variety of IP-related disputes.

When History Really Just Commercial Nostalgia?

Last week I wrote about a copyright lawsuit involving the Baltimore Ravens, and in so doing, managed also to mention the San Francisco 49ers*. They both won their respective games and will now meet in the Super Bowl. In the future, I will charge for this sort of thing.

* Because I digressed into the history of the Ravens, who kind of used to be the Cleveland Browns, who used to be in the rival All-American Football League, until it folded and the Browns were invited into the NFL, along with … the 49ers. It’s not very a very direct connection, but I never let directness or the lack thereof interfere with my discussions about professional football, which I discuss with the sort of passion reserved only for kids who were always about 20 pounds too light and a half-step too slow to have a reasonable chance at ever starting.

I also mentioned, in connection with said copyright lawsuit, that a recent decision in that lawsuit (only the latest of many) yielded not one but two separate fair-use rulings.* And that both of these rulings were worthy of inclusion in Is it Fair Use?,…

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Is It Fair Use? Fowl Doings in Raven-land`

Rick is an experienced Nashville intellectual-property litigator and an erstwhile part-time professor at Vanderbilt University Law School whose writing and teaching focuses on copyright issues but whose law practice involves a wide variety of IP-related disputes.

A Case that Just Keeps Giving to Copyright Lawyers

It’s been a long time since our last edition of the fast-paced game that’s sweeping the nation, Is It Fair Use? Yes, I’ve been busy, but the real reason is that there just haven’t been any really fun fair use cases in a while. It may turn out that 2011 was just a banner year for fair use cases, what with Elf off the Shelf (twice), Green Day’s screaming icon and the Rasta-rip-off case. And who could possibly forget the “What What in the Butt”/South Park case, which piled weirdness upon weirdness? 2012? Eh, not so much.

Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens is one of the most vigorously litigated copyright cases of all time. No fewer than seven published opinions have emanated from the case, including three published appellate opinions. I was a little surprised and delighted to find that it’s still going strong. What’s better is the most recent opinion involves not one but two issues of fair use, which went different ways. The opinion (which I’m not linking to now) provides handy insight into the sticky question of what is fair use.

Play part of two of this edition of Is it…

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