Andy Warhol, Prince, and the First Amendment: U.S. Supreme Court Grants Review of Questions Concerning “Fair Use” Under Copyright Act

By Amanda Z. Weaver, Ph.D. and David G. Barker The U.S. Supreme Court recently granted a petition for writ of certiorari (docket, here) to review the extent to which a work of art is a “transformative” fair use under the Copyright Act. The Court will review a Second Circuit decision holding Andy Warhol’s set of silkscreened portraits of Prince (“Prince Series”), stemming from an original photograph, were not transformative. Lynn Goldsmith, who has photographed Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Madonna, James Brown, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones, photographed Prince originally in 1981.  In 1984, Prince released Purple Rain   Read More »

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Supreme Court: Mistakes of Law Can Excuse Inaccurate Copyright Registration

By Daniel M. Staren and David G. Barker The Supreme Court held today that lack of knowledge of either fact or law can excuse inaccuracies in a copyright registration under Section 411(b)’s safe harbor provision of the Copyright Act. Unicolors created fabric designs but did not publish them at the same time.  Later, in February 2011, Unicolors filed a single application seeking copyright registration for thirty-one designs published at different times. In 2015, Unicolors sued H&M in the Central District of California for copyright infringement. A jury found that H&M willfully infringed Unicolors’s copyright in one of its designs. H&M   Read More »

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Supreme Court to Review Copyright Statute Relating to Inaccurate Information Provided to Copyright Office

By Zachary Schroeder and Jacob C. Jones On June 1, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in Unicolors, Inc. v. H&M Hennes & Mauritz, LP.  The Court agreed to resolve whether 17 U.S.C. § 411(b) requires a district court to refer a matter to the Copyright Office where there is a claim the copyright registration holder made a knowing misrepresentation to the Copyright office in obtaining the registration, but there is no indicia of fraud or material error by the copyright holder.  H&M has asked the Court to interpret the statute as requiring referral merely upon a showing of   Read More »

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Led Zeppelin Ruling Overturns Ninth Circuit’s ‘Inverse Ratio Rule’

By Shalayne L. Pillar and David G. Barker On March 9, 2020, Led Zeppelin won a major copyright battle over claims that they stole part of their signature song “Stairway to Heaven.”  The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, ruling en banc, upheld a 2016 jury verdict that cleared the band of infringing a 1967 instrumental ballad titled “Taurus” by the band Spirit.  The ruling overturned a 2018 decision by a panel of three Ninth Circuit judges that held the trial judge failed to inform jurors that unprotectable elements could be protected by copyright law when arranged in creative ways (see   Read More »

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Supreme Court Copyright Decision Indicates Greater Proactivity by Would-Be Infringement Plaintiffs

Supreme Court Copyright Decision Indicates Greater Proactivity by Would-Be Infringement Plaintiffs

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