Category Archives: Advocacy

Ninth Circuit Affirms Right To Display, License And Sell Photographic Prints Without Violating Subject’s Publicity Rights.

Maloney v. T3Media 

By Brianna Dahlberg of Cowan DeBaets Abrahams & Sheppard LLP

On April 5, 2017, in a victory for visual content creators and licensors, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit brought by former college athletes alleging that T3Media had misappropriated their names and likenesses by selling licenses to photographs from the NCAA Photo Library. The Ninth Circuit held that the athletes’ claims for right of publicity and unfair competition under California law were preempted by the federal Copyright Act.

In their putative class action lawsuit, the athletes had sought to hold T3Media liable for displaying the photographs online and for offering non-exclusive licenses to consumers permitting them to download a single copy of a chosen image for non-commercial art use. The athletes did not own copyright to the photographs at issue—the copyrights were owned by the NCAA, who had contracted with T3Media to store, host, and license the images. T3Media responded to the athletes’ lawsuit by filing a special motion to strike under California law, which was granted by the district court. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision throwing out the athletes’ lawsuit and awarded attorneys’ fees to T3Media.

In its opinion, the Court clarified the test for determining whether a right of publicity claim is preempted by the Copyright Act. Section 301 of the Copyright Act provides a two-part test for determining whether a state law claim is preempted: first, the court asks whether the subject matter of the state law claim fell within the subject matter of copyright; and second, the court asks whether the state law rights asserted were equivalent to rights within the scope of copyright. Applying this test to the athlete’s right of publicity claims, the Court drew a distinction between claims based on the unauthorized use of a person’s likeness in advertising, and claims based on the mere display or distribution of an artistic work:

[A] publicity-right claim may proceed when a likeness is used non-consensually on merchandise or in advertising; but where a likeness has been captured in a copyrighted artistic visual work and the work itself is being distributed for personal use, a publicity-right claim is little more than a thinly-disguised copyright claim because it seeks to hold a copyright holder liable for exercising his exclusive rights under the Copyright Act.

The Ninth Circuit’s opinion in T3Media’s favor is consistent with longstanding practices in the visual content industry. It affirms that visual content creators and providers, by merely displaying and offering for license images that depict people, do not make any use that implicates the right of publicity. The decision provides clear guidance that will allow visual content creators and licensors to continue to offer creative, newsworthy, and culturally important images to the public.

Cowan, DeBaets, Abrahams & Sheppard LLP submitted an amicus brief in support of T3Media on behalf of the Associated Press, the Digital Media Licensing Association, Getty Images (US), Inc., the Graphic Artists Guild, the National Press Photographers Association, Inc., PhotoShelter, Inc., the Professional Photographers of America, Shutterstock, Inc., and ZUMA Press, Inc. [A copy of the amicus brief is here). We thank everyone who participated and joined the brief. The attorneys representing T3 Media were extremely grateful for our industry support to counter all the amicus briefs submitted by the various sports’ leagues.

 

DMLA Empirical Research Study for Section 512 Study

 On March 21, 2017 DMLA filed additional comments to our original comments filed with the  Copyright Office for the Section 512 Study.  These comments included the results of an empirical research study that we conducted of our members and their contributors.

The Survey asked whether respondents monitor the Internet for copyright infringements of their or their contributors’ work, and examines their reasons for deciding whether or not to monitor and their experiences if they do monitor, specifically with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s (“DMCA”) notice-and-takedown procedure.  We received over 1200 responses.

You can see the comments sent to the Copyright Office and the results to the survey here.

 

The Fight Against Google Continues in the EU

Thanks to our working relationship with CEPIC,  we are kept up-to-date on the latest in the EU fight against Google.  DMLA is been part of ICOMP, which has now joined forces with OIP (Open Internet Project) to bring more pressure on Commissioner Vestager.  There are two related articles to read.  Part of one is below and the link to one from Politico is here.

Welcome to Morning Tech, your beacon of truth when there is fake news around EU’s tech politics and policies.

END OF A EUROPEAN SUCCESS STORY? After a year or so of relative silence, Google’s rivals and opponents are back in the streets, cranking up the pressure on Europe’s Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager to act. Last week, it was ICOMP and the Open Internet Project, this week it is Kelkoo tearing into the Shopping case.

The chief executive of Kelkoo, one of Europe’s largest shopping comparison websites, said his firm could go under next year if Vestager doesn’t take serious action in the six-year-old case. “We’ve got to the point where we have nothing left to lose,” Richard Stables told us.

Join the queue, Richard. Foundem, the original complainant, closed its website in December; Yelp announced around that time it was closing its European operations, complainant group ICOMP is pooling its resources with the Open Internet Project, while many other shopping websites have shriveled. And yet Kelkoo’s outburst is significant: It’s a big European player, with a presence in almost two dozen countries and 230 employees.

Rivals add to complaints against Google’s Android

By Nicholas Hirst/Politico

A tech lobby group filed a fresh antitrust complaint against Google with the European Commission, reiterating accusations the U.S. tech giant used its popular mobile operating system to protect its dominance over internet searches.

The Commission already has an ongoing probe into Android examining the issues raised by OIP. If the Commission accepts OIP, whose members include French-German search engine Qwant, as a formal complainant in the Android case, the lobby group would have access certain documents and could provide its views.

The OIP also announced Tuesday that it was integrating 20-plus companies from the Initiative for a Competitive Online Marketplace, a long-standing anti-Google group that is closing.

It used a press conference to criticize the length of the Commission’s probe into Google and to call on enforcers to impose “interim measures,” which could require Google to change its conduct pending a final decision. It also accused Google of acting in “bad faith.”

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

OIP’s members include German publishers Axel Springer (a co-owner of POLITICO in Europe) and Hubert Burda Media, Qwant, the French search engine in which Axel Springer has a stake, French shopping website leGuide.com, U.S. photo agency Getty Images, and German broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1.

To view online

Kelkoo CEO: Google is ‘screwing’ entire online shopping industry

From Politico

— By Nicholas Hirst

The head of one of Europe’s leading price comparison websites, Kelkoo, said it’s in danger of going under next year unless the European Commission takes market-stabilizing action in its six-year case against Google Shopping.

“We might not even survive another 18 months if there is not a decision soon,” Richard Stables, Kelkoo’s chief executive, warned in an interview Tuesday.

Stables accused Google of willfully destroying a series of budding online businesses and threatening to demote rivals that objected. Foundem, the first shopping website to formally complain about Google to the Commission, closed in December.

“This is about Google screwing over an entire industry and actually really hurting consumers,” added Stables, who said he decided to speak out because “we have got to the point where we have nothing left to lose.”

However, he said it was up to the Commission to decide what solutions would restore fair competition.

Google did not respond to a request for comment, but has vigorously resisted the Commission’s accusations it hurt competition. The Commission could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Commission opened its investigation in November 2010 and formally accused Google of hurting competition in the online price comparison space in 2015. The charges were updated last year. Margrethe Vestager, the commissioner for competition, told the European Parliament last month she was doing her “utmost” to wrap up the probe.

Citing documents released erroneously by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, Stables said Google had pursued a strategy to eliminate emerging rivals like Kelkoo since as far back as 2004. That included demoting comparison shopping websites in Google search results and luring away advertisers with the promise that they would appear in Google’s product search for free — only for Google to start charging once they had seized the market, Stables claims.

Stables also said Kelkoo’s subsidiary LeGuide had objected to Google scraping content like reviews. He claims Google responded that it would push the site down its search results if LeGuide resisted.

The price comparison sector has struggled over the past decade, forcing companies to sell off divisions and rivals to consolidate and stay afloat. After being snapped up for large sums, European websites Kelkoo, Ciao and LeGuide were sold. All are now managed under the Kelkoo umbrella by a U.K. investment group and employ about 230 people in Europe.

The company’s online shopping revenue continues to decline and time is running out.

Related stories on these topics: CompetitionDigital IndustryGoogleMediaOnline shoppingStartups

 

 

 

 

DMLA OPPOSES MARYLAND COPYRIGHT DEMAND LETTER BILL

On January 25, 2017 Nancy Wolff, along with representatives from Getty Images, the Copyright Alliance, MPAA, Comcast, BMI Music and others representing creators and owners of content, testified at a hearing against bill HR65 before the Maryland State Senate Finance Committee.

The Bill was trying to regulate copyright demand letters by preventing copyright owners from “making certain assertions of copyright infringement in bad faith”.  It also stipulated that a court might consider, among other factors, the absence of a certificate of copyright registration accompanying the letter s evidence of bad faith.  Read the entire story here.

 

 

DMLA Oppose MD State Law to Regulate Copyright Demand Letter

by Nancy Wolff, DMLA Legal Counsel

Sending copyright demand letters to users of images where no license is apparent has been a common practice of many DMLA members, even before images were distributed digitally. These demand letter s have been part of the copyright boot camp and form letters available to members to contact users and educate them about copyright misuse and to seek compensation if the images are not licensed.

On January 11, Maryland State Senator Edward Reilly (R) introduced a bill, HR 65 before the state legislature to regulate copyright demand letters. The bill is aimed at preventing copyright owners from “making certain assertions of copyright infringement in bad faith” and stipulates that a court may consider, among other factors, the absence of a certificate of copyright registration accompanying the letter as evidence of bad faith. The proposed remedies include the possibility of courts costs, attorney’s fees, and treble damages, including fees up to $50,000. On January 25, 2017 the Maryland State Senate Finance Committee held hearing on the bill. DMLA; Getty Images, the Copyright Alliance, MPAA, Comcast, BMI Music and other s representing creators and owners of content testified at the hearing as to the problems and burdens imposed by such a bill and provided written opposition. A copy of DMLA’s letter to the finance committee opposing the bill is [here]. The associations representing all the visual artists unanimously joined in the opposition as it would subject all copyright owner to unfair burdens in seeking compensation for infringements and violate federal copyright law. Joining our letter were the Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), Professional Photographers of America (PPA), North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA), American Photographic Artists (APA), the Graphic Artist Guild (GAG) and Shaftel & Schmelzer.

Last week we learned that the Maryland Senate Finance Committee was not going to vote on the bill and as to not embarrass the member of the Finance Committee who had introduced the bill. Thanks to the Copyright Alliance for alerting us to so promptly so we could respond so quickly and for Getty Images for attending and speaking directly with Senator Reilly before the hearing. The entire content community mobilized to avoid a very problematic state bill. We will need to stay alert for other state legislatures who may feel the need to protect their citizens if complaints arise over copyright enforcement. Copyright is very different from patents and there is a push to stem what is known as patent trolling. We need to avoid being swept into the same category of bad actors. . The underlying cause in this bill seemed to be a lack of understanding as how images are licensed and the value of a rights managed image.

Response to Copyright Office on Group Registration of Photographs

DMLA together with various other visual arts associations (what we are loosely referring to a Coalition of Visual Artists –DMLA, APA, ASMP, GAG, NPPA, NANPA, and PPA) filed a joint response to a proposed rulemaking by the Copyright Office on Group Registration of Photographs.

The proposal seeks to establish new online registration procedures for groups of unpublished as well as published photographs. The proposal was quite in-depth, including an extensive history of group registration of photographs regulations and the requirements for a new proposed system. In general the coalition was in favor of improving the electronic registration process for registration of all photographs, but had some recommendations for the Copyright Office on as to how to improve the proposed system. Read more here.

GROUP REGISTRATION OF PHOTOGRAPHS

DMLA together with various other visual arts associations (what we are loosely referring to a Coalition of Visual Artists –DMLA, APA, ASMP, GAG, NPPA, NANPA, and PPA) filed a joint response to a proposed rulemaking by the Copyright Office on Group Registration of Photographs.

The proposal seeks to establish new online registration procedures for groups of unpublished as well as published photographs. The proposal was quite in-depth, including an extensive history of group registration of photographs regulations and the requirements for a new proposed system. In general the coalition was in favor of improving the electronic registration process for registration of all photographs, but had some recommendations for the Copyright Office on as to how to improve the proposed system.

Universally, everyone agreed that the arbitrary limitation of 750 images per registration would be burdensome to visual artists and would discourage registration. This limit would be unworkable for many photographers who register all the works in an assignment in one application, and is much lower than the number of images submitted by many members of DMLA when submitting database registration of images uploaded to websites. In addition, the Copyright Office proposal specifically would discourage this database registration in favor of the group registration of unpublished and published photographs regimes. Database registrations were specifically crafted by the Copyright Office at the request of DMLA to assist DMLA members register photographs on behalf of contributors before ingesting them into their database for licensing on the web based platforms. The DMLA’s legal committee, and in particular Dan Pollack, Masterfile’s attorney assisted in responding to that aspect of the proposed rulemaking and expressed DMLA’s concern as this registration has been a key factor in many successful enforcement programs to deter infringements and encourage licensing.

The Coalition also urged that the provision to permit group registration of unpublished photographs and published photographs be expanded to include all forms of visual art, regardless of format, whether photographs, illustration or otherwise.

Other recommendations related to improving the application process to be compatible with typical visual artists’ workflows and promoting the use of APIs that may be developed to allow the seamless registration of photographs and visual artworks, and that both published and unpublished photographs can be registered at the same time.

The joint response was a result of corporation of all the associations and was quite extensive. A copy of the full response can be found here (you’ll have to scroll down to Amicus Briefs and Notices of Inquiries). This is a great example of the joint efforts of the various visual art association coming together with one voice. The Copyright Alliance also adopted the position set out in the coalition of visual artists’ response to the proposed rulemaking as well.

COMMENTS ON THE REFORM OF U.S. COPYRIGHT OFFICE

On January 30, 2017 DMLA joined with the other members of a Coalition of Visual Artists (APA, ASMP, GAG, NPPA, NANPA, and PPA) in a joint response to the House Judiciary Committee with comments to the first proposal by Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers “Reform of the U.S. Copyright Office.”

After months of hard work to reach consensus and a united voice, our comments, entitled “Creating a USCO Capable of Succeeding in A Changing World”, begins “Collectively, all members of the signatory associations depend on effective copyright protection and enforcement for their livelihood.” To ensure that happening we continue “We join with the Judiciary Committee’s call for greater autonomy for the Copyright Office. Regardless of whether the Office remains an independent agency housed in the Library of Congress, or an independent agency under the Legislative Branch with no connection to the Library of Congress, history has demonstrated that it is essential that it have autonomy over the its budget and its technology needs as well as its operational procedures (staffing, fees, structure, etc.).

The comments of the coalition also address the issue of the Register of Copyrights:
“We further support the selection of the Register of Copyrights as a Presidential appointee. If the judiciary committee decides to pursue this approach, we urge the Congress to move with great alacrity in passing the necessary legislation and respectfully urge the Librarian to refrain from appointing a new Register and instead await such legislative action. We fear that otherwise, many qualified candidates may not be willing to take the position of Register under existing procedures, uncertain whether that their appointment may be just months long.”
The Small Claims System Hosted by the United States Copyright Office” is also addressed “For the members of the visual arts community the overriding purpose of a copyright small claims proposal is narrow and straightforward: to end a longstanding inequity in our copyright system and finally provide photographers, illustrators, graphic artists, other visual artists and their licensing representatives with a fair, cost-effective and streamlined venue in which they can seek relief for relatively modest copyright infringement claims.
Under current law, too many legitimate copyright claimants are unable to pursue a copyright infringement action in federal court. This is due primarily to the prohibitive cost of retaining counsel and maintaining the litigation for some of these high volume, relatively low value claims brought by visual artists—a situation exacerbated by the fact that “they are often opposed by large corporations with limitless resources and the resolve to complicate and protract a case in hopes that the plaintiff runs out of patience, money or both.”

A full copy of the Coalition of Visual Artists comments can be found here. (You will need to scroll down to Amicus Briefs and Notices of Inquiries)