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Weekly Issues in the News

By Geisa Balla

White v. West Publishing
Edward L. White, an Oklahoma attorney, and Kenneth Elan, a New York attorney, filed a class action copyright infringement lawsuit against West Publishing Corp. and Lexis Nexis in the United States District Court, Southern District of New York on February 22, 2012. The complaint alleges that the Plaintiffs and all class members own the copyrights to their legal work product, such as pleadings and memoranda of law. It further asserts that the Defendants infringe on the Plaintiffs' copyrights by willfully copying and distributing such works in their databases. The Class is defined as "all attorneys and law firms . . . through which attorneys are authorized to practice law in the United States, and its states and territories that authored works (including but not limited to, legal briefs, motions memoranda and other legal documents) that are contained in Defendants' searchable databases."


Google's Privacy Policy and the European Union
Google's new privacy policy potentially violates European Union law. The European Commission asked the French privacy agency, the National Commission for Computing and Civic Liberties (CNIL), to conduct an initial assessment of Google's privacy changes. After its investigation, CNIL wrote a letter to Larry Page, Google's co-founder, expressing its concerns that Google's privacy policy was unclear: "Our preliminary investigation shows that it is extremely difficult to know exactly which data is combined between which services for which purposes, even for trained privacy professionals." CNIL has stated that it would send Google a full questionnaire about its privacy policies by mid-March. CNIL has the power to fine companies up to $400,000 for privacy breaches in France.


Shepard Fairey
Shepard Fairey, the Los Angeles street artist who became widely known in the 2008 U.S. presidential election for the Barack Obama "Hope" poster, pleaded guilty in New York to one count of criminal contempt for destroying documents, manufacturing evidence and other misconduct in his case involving his "Hope" poster. The charges stem from his civil lawsuit with the Associated Press. The Associated Press had claimed that Fairey used a copyrighted photo to create his "Hope" poster, while Fairey claimed that his work was protected under the fair-use doctrine. Fairey admitted in 2009 that he destroyed documents and submitted false images during the lawsuit, which was settled in 2011. A sentencing date has been set for July 16, 2012. Fairey could face a maximum fine of $5,000, a maximum prison sentence of six months, and a maximum term of supervised release of one year.


Harper Collins v. Open Road
On February 16, 2012, Open Road Integrated Media (Open Road) answered the complaint filed by HarperCollins Publishers (HarperCollins) in the United States District Court, Southern District of New York. HarperCollins filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Open Road on December 23, 2011, regarding Open Road's publication of an e-book edition of the book Julie of the Wolves, by author Jean Craighead George. The lawsuit alleged that HarperCollins had a contract with the author, signed in 1971, giving it the right to publish the book "in book form," including via "computer, computer-stored, mechanical or other electronic means now known or hereafter invented." Open Road released the following statement: "We are confident that we have secured all necessary eBook rights from the author Jean Craighead George and that we will prevail. HarperCollins' claim is nothing but an attempt to seize rights that were never granted to it and to change the existing law with respect to eBook rights." Author Jean Craighead George added: "I have asked to intervene in this action to protect my rights under copyright and under my original contract with HarperCollins. When I signed that contract in 1971, eBooks did not exist so I could not have granted those rights. I am with Open Road all the way."


Hathi Trust
The Authors Guild filed a Motion for Partial Judgment on the Pleadings on February 28, 2012, in its lawsuit against HathiTrust. HathiTrust is a digitization initiative of over 60 partners and university libraries, including content digitized via the Google Books project. The Authors Guild filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against HathiTrust in the United States District Court, Southern District of New York, in November 2011, claiming that HathiTrust's scanning program constituted copyright infringement. HathiTrust answered the complaint in December 2011. The Author's Guild Motion for Partial Judgment argues that HathiTrust admitted to most of the allegations, and the Court should hold that HathiTrust's digitization projects are "not protected by any defense recognized by copyright law."


Urban Outfitters and the Navajo Nation
The Navajo Nation filed a complaint against Urban Outfitters Inc., on February 28, 2012, in the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico, alleging trademark infringement and violations of the federal Indian Arts and Crafts Act. The dispute began in 2011, when Urban Outfitters began selling a line of Navajo-branded products, particularly underwear and liquor flasks. The Navajo Nation sent a cease-and-desist letter to Urban Outfitters, demanding it pull the name "Navajo" from these products. The Navajo Nation claimed that the use of "Navajo" was "derogatory and scandalous," and Urban Outfitters removed the product names from its website. The lawsuit claims that Urban Outfitters is still selling "Navajo" branded items through its other company brands, in catalogs, and in retail stores. The Navajo Nation, which has 10 registered trademarks of the Navajo name, alleges in its lawsuit that the "fame and reputation of the Navajo name and marks is such that, when defendant uses the 'Navajo' or 'Navaho" marks with its goods and services, a connection with the Navajo Nation is falsely presumed."


Interpol has arrested 25 suspected members of the hacker group Anonymous in Europe and South America with the help of local law enforcement agencies. Those arrested are suspected of planning coordinate cyber-attacks against institutions such as Columbia's defense ministry and presidential websites, Chile's Endesa electricity company and national library. Among those arrested were four individuals who are suspected to have attacked Spanish political party web sites. These four are suspected of publishing information about police assigned to the royal palace. As authorities have made arrests of Anonymous members, Anonymous has made increasing attacks on law enforcement and military targets.


Madonna allegedly changed the title of her new single her upcoming album MDNA from "Girls Gone Wild" to "Girl Gone Wild" to avoid legal action from "Girls Gone Wild" founder Joe Francis. Mr. Francis claims that he threatened legal action against Interscope Records if the single was released with the original title. In a statement, he claims that the change from "Girls Gone Wild" to "Girl Gone Wild" was "an immediate solution form to thwart any injunctive relief." "Clearly her label was trying to avoid legal action surrounding the song," "[b]ut this is still infringement as far as the law is concerned and we have been in touch with Madonna's representatives in an effort to resolve this issue." Madonna's manager Guy Oseary claims that Francis had no impact on the name change as the song titles have been in constant flux for weeks, and that Madonna does not even know that Joe Francis exists.


On March 1, 2012, multiple television networks filed two separate lawsuits against start-up company Aero for wanting to broadcast without having "licensed this television programming from those who own it." Aereo is a small company that plans to launch its services on March 14, 2012, providing live streaming of major networks to mobile devices for a monthly fee. The first lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of New York by networks including Fox, Univision and PBS, claims that Aereo's planned re-transmittal is unlicensed and without consent. The complaint lists three causes of action: copyright infringement of the public performance right under 17 U.S.C. §§ 106(4), 501, copyright infringement of the reproduction right under 17 U.S.C. §§ 106(1) 501, and unfair competition under New York common law.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 4, 2012 8:56 PM.

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