U2 Seeks Dismissal of “The Fly” Infringement Suit

Earlier this year, a songwriter sued the members of U2, claiming that the U2 song, “The Fly” from the 1991 album “Achtung Baby,” infringed the songwriter’s 1989 song “Nae Slappin.”

The plaintiff songwriter, Paul Rose, claims that he sent a demo of his song to U2’s record label, that an undisclosed witness said that the members of U2 were often in the record label offices where the demo was played, and that there are numerous similarities between the two songs, including an “elaborate and distinctive guitar solo,” the “guitar hook,” the percussion accents, and the “dimensions of sound.”

On July 18, 2017, the members of U2 moved to dismiss the case.

Continue reading “U2 Seeks Dismissal of “The Fly” Infringement Suit”

Are Jokes Protected by Copyright? Court Allows Case Against Conan O’Brien To Proceed

The US District Court for the Southern District of California has allowed a case to proceed against Conan O’Brien and others for alleged infringement of jokes.

One of the issues in dispute was the extent to which jokes are entitled to copyright protection.  The Court noted that “there is little doubt that the jokes at issue merit copyright protection.”   However, such protection is limited by the nature of the jokes.   “Each joke begins with a factual sentence and then immediately concludes with another sentence providing humorous commentary on the preceding facts.”  Facts are not protected by copyright.  So, protection is generally limited to the way the punchline is expressed.  Therefore, the Court concluded that the jokes at issue were entitled to only “thin” copyright protection.

The Court rejected protection for one of the jokes at issue because, while the facts were the same, the punchlines were expressed differently.  However, the Court allowed the case to continue with respect to the other jokes, where the Court found similarities in the way the punchlines were expressed.

Want to see the jokes?  Check out the Court’s decision here.

 

Lil’ Jon and DJ Snake Sued for “Turn Down for What”

Earlier this month recording artists Lil’ Jon and DJ Snake were sued for copyright infringement over the international hit song “Turn Down for What.”

The complaint, which was filed by the publisher of a song also titled “Turn Down for What” as recorded by the artist Freddie GZ, alleges that the Lil’ Jon song intentionally infringed the Freddie GZ song.

In addition to having the same title and among other things, the complaint states that both songs contain a steadily/slowly rising synth line, that the phrase “Turn Down For What” starts on the same beat and uses the same rhythm in both songs, that the instrumental hooks are substantially similar, and that both songs contain the use of a short vocal on similar beats.

A copy of the complaint is available here.

Here’s the Freddie GZ version:

And here’s the Lil’ Jon – DJ Snake version:

What do you think?

INDEPENDENT LABELS SUE LIMEWIRE FOR THEIR SHARE OF SETTLEMENT

Earlier this year, the RIAA claimed a victory against LimeWire for a $105 million settlement of its copyright infringement case against the late P2P giant.  In the highly publicized copyright infringement case, LimeWire agreed to pay up to settle the claims of major record labels that it was responsible for widespread music piracy.  Now, smaller independent record labels are seeking an equivalent share.

Continue reading “INDEPENDENT LABELS SUE LIMEWIRE FOR THEIR SHARE OF SETTLEMENT”

Jury Awards DJ A Million Dollar Verdict Over “My Humps”

Earlier this month, a New York jury awarded nearly $1.2 Million to former DJ Orrin Lynn Tolliver, Jr. in a dispute over a sample used in The Black Eyed Peas’ hit song “My Humps.”

Tolliver, who formed an early hip-hop group in the 80’s called Sexual Harassment, collaborated with his friend and producer James McCants to record a song called “I Need A Freak” at McCants’ studio in Cleveland.  Tolliver composed the music and lyrics for the song, but worked with McCants at his studio to record the song.  McCants registered the song with BMI, giving songwriter credit to Tolliver.  Years later, McCants granted licenses for use of the song, infringing on Tolliver’s copyright as songwriter and denying him his share of the royalties. Continue reading “Jury Awards DJ A Million Dollar Verdict Over “My Humps””

ISPs Agree to Alert Piraters in New Copyright Enforcement Plan

Last week, a group of major internet service providers (ISPs)—including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Cablevision, and Time Warner Cable—all agreed to a new enforcement plan against music and movie piracy. The internet giants signed a voluntary “Memorandum of Understanding” with content owner representatives (including the RIAA and MPAA) to create standard practices of “copyright alerts” directed at users flagged for possible infringement.

Continue reading “ISPs Agree to Alert Piraters in New Copyright Enforcement Plan”

Beach Boys vs. “California Gurls”

Singer Katy Perry, of “I kissed a girl, and I liked it” fame, has been threatened with a lawsuit over her use of the Beach Boys’ timeless line, “I wish they all could be California Girls,” in her hit song “California Gurls.” Rapper Snoop Dogg recites the Beach Boys’ classic lyric at the end of Perry’s summer anthem, which has sold more than 3 million copies to date.

Rondor Music, who owns the rights to the Beach Boys’ “California Girls,” has sent a letter to Capitol Records, Perry’s record label, demanding that Mike Love and Brian Wilson – the two Beach Boys who actually scribed the 1965 Billboard hit – be given a writing credit and a portion of the royalties for Perry’s chart topper.

In a recent E! News interview, a spokesperson for Rondor Music chastised Katy Perry, as well as the writers and publishers of “California Gurls,” saying, “Using the words or melody in a new song taken from an original work is not appropriate under any circumstances, particularly one as well-known and iconic as ‘California Girls.’” The spokesperson elaborated, stating that “Rondor Music…is committed to protecting the rights of its artists and songwriters, and with the support of the writers, that is exactly what we are doing.”

The Beach Boys, however, are singing a decidedly different tune. When asked for his thoughts on “California Gurls,” Mike Love insisted that “[t]he Beach Boys are definitely not suing Katy Perry, in fact we are flattered that her fantastically successful song is bringing to mind to millions of people our 1965 recording of the Beach Boys’ ‘California Girls.’” In harmony with his co-writer and band mate, Brian Wilson similarly stated, “We think her song is great and wish her all the success in the world.”

As with any copyright infringement case, the legal issues that would need to be addressed if this case were to proceed include whether the lyrics “I wish they all could be California Girls” are sufficiently original to be entitled to copyright protection.

Jeopardy Facts about the Beach Boys’
“California Girls”

“California Girls” is part of the The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of the “500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.”

In 2004, “California Girls” was ranked #71 on Rolling Stone’s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”

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Whoomp! (There It Is): The Importance of Contract Drafting

People often assume lawyers just use “form books” for contracts. I’m sometimes asked questions like: Don’t you just have a form for that? Can’t you just send me the standard form agreement? Can you quickly look over this agreement I did myself on the internet?

The fact is that virtually every contract involves unique circumstances. In the case of copyright transfers and licensing, contractual language can be critical. Under the Copyright Act, a written and signed document is required to transfer ownership of a copyright or to transfer exclusive rights to a copyright.

A recent case from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals demonstrates the pitfalls of an ambiguously drafted copyright transfer. Continue reading “Whoomp! (There It Is): The Importance of Contract Drafting”

Kanye’s Still Living The “Good Life”

kanye_westKanye West’s label, Universal, scored a legal victory last week in securing partial dismissal of a lawsuit concerning Kanye’s 2007 hit song “Good Life.”

Dayna Staggs, a singer and songwriter, filed a copyright infringement action in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland claiming that “Good Life” was identical in sound and melody to the chorus of Staggs’ song, “Volume of the Good Life.”  On August 14, the Court granted, in part, Universal’s request to dismiss the case.   Continue reading “Kanye’s Still Living The “Good Life””

Is “Promotional Use Only” A Defense?

So, here’s an interesting case pending in Federal Court in Texas:  EsNtion, a dance music record label, has sued TM Studios, the maker and distributor of PrimeCuts, HitDisc, and other “Promotional Use Only” CDs, alleging copyright infringement for copying and distributing EsNtion’s songs (US District Court, Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division, Civil Case No. 07-CV-2027-L). Continue reading “Is “Promotional Use Only” A Defense?”