Justia U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Copyright
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This appeal stemmed from litigation regarding the ownership of the composition copyright to the song Whoomp! (There It Is), writen and produced by Tag Team. The district court concluded that plaintiff owned the copyright and DM Records was liable for copyright infringement, and the jury awarded $2 million in damages. DM Records appealed on several grounds. In regards to DM Record's arguments related to the district court's interpretation of the Recording Agreement as assigning a single fifty percent interest to Alvert Music, the court concluded that none of the pieces of allegedly conflicting evidence cited by DM Records presents a factual issue, and Bellmark Records waived its right to bring a Rule 50(b) motion by not raising its second argument at trial. In regards to DM Records' challenge to the district court's denial of its Rule 60(b) motion for relief from judgment based on fraud and lack of standing, DM Records is not entitled to Rule 60(b) relief on the basis of the allegedly withheld Security Agreement because standing is determined at the time of suit and the 2006 Security Agreement does not establish that plaintiff did not own the copyright in 2002 when he commenced the suit. The court also concluded that the district court did not plainly err in instructing the jury and that the jury could have determined that plaintiff was properly awarded 100 percent of the royalties from which it could pay Tag Team its share. Finally, it was not plain error for the district court to allow plaintiff's closing statement and not to grant DM's motion for a new trial. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Isbell v. DM Records, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a general partnership comprised of two musicians, filed suit alleging copyright infringement against defendant, Lakewood Church, over the use of a song entitled, "Signaling Through the Flames." Plaintiff later voluntarily dismissed the complaint without prejudice. Subsequently, plaintiff filed a motion to vacate its voluntary dismissal under Rule 60(b), which the district court granted. Defendant appealed. The court affirmed the judgment, concluding that a voluntary dismissal without prejudice was a final proceeding under Rule 60(b) and the district court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing the case. View "Yesh Music, et al. v. Lakewood Church, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, the host of a nationally syndicated radio show and the author of several books, appealed an adverse judgment in his suit against various defendants for copyright infringement, breach of contract, and tortious interference. Defendants cross-appealed the denial of attorneys' fees. Because the court agreed that the facts of this case supported the creation of an exclusive license as to the first work at issue, and an implied nonexclusive license as to the second work at issue, the court affirmed the jury's verdict that defendants did not infringe on plaintiff's copyrights. The court rejected the remaining challenges to the district court's judgment and affirmed in all respects. View "Baisden v. I'm Ready Productions, Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, developer of a passive radio frequency identification (RFID) system for commercial use, alleged a number of Texas claims against a group of software companies in state court. Defendants moved the suit to federal court and obtained a dismissal from the district court on the basis that all of plaintiff's claims were preempted by the Copyright Act, 28 U.S.C. 1338. The court held that the complete preemption doctrine applied in copyright preemption cases; plaintiff had pled factual allegations that at least in part fell outside of the scope of copyright; and defendants have argued enough of a basis for preemption on plaintiff's conversion claim to stay in federal court. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "GlobeRanger Corp. v. Software AG, et al." on Justia Law

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Evan Stone, counsel for Plaintiff, appealed sanctions imposed on him. The underlying case involved Plaintiff's lawsuit alleging copyright infringement against 670 persons who allegedly unlawfully downloaded Plaintiff's film using an online file-sharing program. After the case had been dismissed, Defendants, through attorneys ad litem, moved for sanctions based on Stone's misconduct in violating Fed. R. Civ. P. 26 and 45 by issuing subpoenas to Defendants' ISPs. The district court granted the sanctions motion, finding that Stone had issued subpoenas in violation of court order, thereby grossly abusing his subpoena power. The Does, through the attorneys ad litem, then moved the court to impose further sanctions based on Stone's failure to comply with the first sanctions order. The court granted the motion for additional sanctions. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the sanctions imposed by the district court, holding (1) all the issues Stone raised on appeal had been waived; and (2) no miscarriage of justice would result from the sanctions imposed. View "Mick Haig Prods. E.K. v. Does 1-670" on Justia Law

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LRK, an architect firm, brought this action for copyright infringement against a former client and his affiliated building companies (collectively, Bryan defendants). Lafayette and State Farm, insurers of Bryan's Cypress Lake Development, sought declaratory judgments that, by virtue of exclusions set forth in their respective insurance policies, they have no obligation to provide coverage or duty to defend in LRK's suit. LRK appealed the district court's summary judgment ruling that Lafayette and State Farm have no duty to provide coverage, and Lafayette and State Farm appealed the district court's summary judgment ruling that they have a duty to defend. The court concluded that the exclusions relied upon by the insurers did not preclude coverage of LRK's copyright infringement claim and therefore, that the insurers owed both coverage and defense under their respective policies. Accordingly, the court reversed in part and affirmed in part. View "Looney Ricks Kiss Architects v. Bryan, et al." on Justia Law

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This case arose when Ford sent a cease-and-desist letter to NBFP, demanding that NBFP pay damages and refrain from using Ford's trademarks on its websites. NBFP sued Ford in Texas state court, seeking a declaratory judgment that its online printing operations did not infringe Ford's trademark rights. NBFP subsequently appealed the district court's partial grant of summary judgment for Ford; the district court's final judgment holding NBFP liable for trademark infringement; and the district court's order denying NBFP's motion to amend its complaint. Ford cross-appealed from the district court's final judgment, disputing that court's findings on infringement, dilution, and attorney's fees. The court held that the district court's grant of partial summary judgment to Ford was affirmed. Because there was no likely threat of consumer confusion as to NBFP's sale of products bearing the Ford marks to three independent used car dealers, the court reversed the district court's judgment finding that NBFP's sale of these products amounted to trademark infringement, the court remanded to the district court with instructions to enter judgment for NBFP on this category of products. The court affirmed the district court's judgment in all other respects.