Justia U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Copyright
Victor Elias Photography, LLC v. Ice Portal, Inc.
Plaintiff, a commercial photographer, discovered infringing uses of his copyrighted images on the internet. Instead of pursuing the infringing parties, Plaintiff brought a lawsuit against Ice Portal, Inc. – now a division of Shiji (US), Inc. (“Shiji”) – which acts as an intermediary between the hotels that licensed Plaintiff’s photographs and online travel agents (“OTAs”) like Expedia and Travelocity.In optimizing the photographs for use by the OTAs, Shiji’s software allegedly removed certain copyright-related information that Plaintiff had embedded within the metadata of the photographs. Defendant claimed that Shiji, therefore, violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”). The district court correctly granted summary judgment to Shiji because Plaintiff did not show an essential element of its claim – namely, that Shiji knew, or had reasonable grounds to know, that its actions would induce, enable, facilitate, or conceal a copyright infringement. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court held that Plaintiff did not meet its burden of coming forward with sufficient evidence demonstrating Section 1202(b)’s second scienter requirement, and judgment in Shiji’s favor was therefore appropriate. The court explained that the statute’s plain language requires some identifiable connection between the defendant’s actions and the infringement or the likelihood of infringement. To hold otherwise would create a standard under which the defendant would always know that its actions would “induce, enable, facilitate, or conceal” infringement because distributing protected images wrongly cleansed of CMI would always make infringement easier in some general sense. View "Victor Elias Photography, LLC v. Ice Portal, Inc." on Justia Law
MidlevelU, Inc. v. ACI Information Group
After a blog operator filed suit against a content aggregator for copyright infringement after the aggregator copied and published the blog's content, the jury ruled in favor of the blog operator. At issue is whether the district court should have allowed the jury to decide whether the aggregator had an implied license to copy and publish the blog's content.The Eleventh Circuit concluded that, although the district court employed a too narrow understanding of an implied license, a jury could not have reasonably inferred that the blog impliedly granted the aggregator a license to copy and publish its content. In this case, the district court erred by granting judgment as a matter of law against the aggregator on its implied-license defense; the district court did not err by instructing the jury that it could consider unregistered articles in its calculation of statutory damages; the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying the aggregator's motion for a new trial on the basis of the jury's statutory-damages award; the district court did not err by failing to consult with the register of copyrights about the alleged fraud on the copyright office; and the aggregator is not entitled to judgment as a matter of law on its fair-use defense. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment against the aggregator. View "MidlevelU, Inc. v. ACI Information Group" on Justia Law
Compulife Software Inc. v. Newman
Compulife Software, which has developed and markets a computerized mechanism for calculating, organizing, and comparing life-insurance quotes, alleges that one of its competitors lied and hacked its way into Compulife's system and stole its proprietary data. At issue was whether defendants crossed any legal lines—and, in particular, whether they infringed Compulife's copyright or misappropriated its trade secrets, engaged in false advertising, or violated an anti-hacking statute.The Eleventh Circuit vacated the judgment as to copyright infringement and trade-secret misappropriation, remanding for new findings of fact and conclusions of law. The court held that the magistrate judge committed errors of law and made insufficient findings, which tainted his conclusion that Compulife's copyright was not infringed. The court also held that the magistrate judge erred in his analysis of trade-secret misappropriation, both by failing to consider the application of several species of misappropriation and by committing legal error. The court found no reversible error in the magistrate judge's rejection of Compulife's other claims, affirming the remainder of the judgment. View "Compulife Software Inc. v. Newman" on Justia Law
Webster v. Guitars
Plaintiff, a successful guitar maker and technician, designed a lightning storm graphic that originally appeared on the guitar of Darrell Abbott, late guitarist of the heavy-metal band Pantera. This copyright registration action relates to the lightning storm graphic. Plaintiff filed suit against defendant and several others, alleging copyright infringement, unfair competition, and false endorsement.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants, holding that the district court properly concluded that plaintiff's copyright claim, primarily concerning copyright ownership, was time-barred; the district court correctly granted summary judgment in favor of defendants on plaintiff's false advertising and unfair competition claims because the statements he relies on were not false or misleading; and the district court properly granted summary judgment in favor of defendants on plaintiff's false endorsement claim, because plaintiff failed to establish a likelihood of consumer confusion, mistake, or deception. View "Webster v. Guitars" on Justia Law
Cambridge University Press v. Albert
Plaintiffs, three publishing houses, alleged that members of the Board of Regents at GSU infringed their copyrights by maintaining a policy which allows GSU professors to make digital copies of excerpts of plaintiffs' books available to students without paying plaintiffs. At issue on appeal was whether the district court misinterpreted the Eleventh Circuit's mandate in an earlier appeal and misapplied the defense of fair use.The court held that the district court erred when it made its new findings of fair use, but the district court did not abuse its discretion when it declined to reopen the record. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's order denying the publishers' request to reopen the record, but vacated the judgment entered on remand. Finally, the court vacated the district court's award of attorney's fees and costs and the underlying determination that the University was the prevailing party. View "Cambridge University Press v. Albert" on Justia Law
Code Revision Commissioner v. Public.Resource.Org, Inc.
The annotations contained in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA), authored by the Georgia General Assembly and made an inextricable part of the official codification of Georgia's laws, may not be copyrighted by the State of Georgia. The Eleventh Circuit held that the annotations in the OCGA are sufficiently law-like so as to be properly regarded as sovereign work; the People are the ultimate authors of the annotations; and as a work of the People, the annotations are inherently public domain material and uncopyrightable. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment of the district court and directed the judgment be entered for PRO, vacated the district court's order granting Georgia injunctive relief, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Code Revision Commissioner v. Public.Resource.Org, Inc." on Justia Law
Roberts v. Gordy
Appellants, artists in the hip hop industry, appealed the dismissal of their copyright infringement case, arguing that their copyright registrations for a song were improperly invalidated under 17 U.S.C. 411 without a showing of scienter and that they made a proper showing of copyright ownership. The Eleventh Circuit held that it need not reach a decision on the ownership issue because the district court misapplied the law by invalidating the copyright registrations. In this case, the district court erred by sua sponte raising the issue of registration validity. Furthermore, the good faith inaccuracies in the song registrations should not preclude the undisputed authors from copyright protection, and appellants have met their burden of production for establishing a prima facie case of ownership and copyright validity. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Roberts v. Gordy" on Justia Law
Fourth Estate Public Benefit v. Wall-Street.com, LLC
Registration of a copyright has not been made in accordance with 17 U.S.C. 411(a), until the Register of Copyrights registers the claim. Filing an application does not amount to registration. Fourth Estate filed suit against defendants, alleging that Fourth Estate had filed an application to register its allegedly infringed copyrights, but that the Copyright Office had not registered its claims. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the action where Fourth Estate has not alleged infringement of any registered work, and this appeal did not involve the ongoing creation of original works, or potential future infringement of works not yet created. View "Fourth Estate Public Benefit v. Wall-Street.com, LLC" on Justia Law
Flo & Eddie v. Sirius SM Radio
Flo & Eddie, a California corporation, filed suit against Sirius, a satellite and internet radio provider, claiming that Sirius violated Flo & Eddie’s rights as owner of sound recordings of musical performances that were fixed before February 15, 1972. Because the issues in this case have not been addressed by the Supreme Court of Florida, the court certified the following questions to that state court: 1. Whether Florida recognizes common law copyright in sound recordings and, if so, whether that copyright includes the exclusive right of reproduction and/or the exclusive right of public performance? 2. To the extent that Florida recognizes common law copyright in sound recordings, whether the sale and distribution of phonorecords to the public or the public performance thereof constitutes a “publication” for the purpose of divesting the common law copyright protections in sound recordings embedded in the phonorecord and, if so whether the divestment terminates either or both of the exclusive right of public performance and the exclusive right of reproduction? 3. To the extent that Florida recognizes a common law copyright including a right of exclusive reproduction in sound recordings, whether Sirius’s back-up or buffer copies infringe Flo & Eddie’s common law copyright exclusive right of reproduction? 4. To the extent that Florida does not recognize a common law copyright in sound recordings, or to the extent that such a copyright was terminated by publication, whether Flo & Eddie nevertheless has a cause of action for common law unfair competition/misappropriation, common law conversion, or statutory civil theft under FLA. STAT. 772.11 and FLA. STAT. 812.014? View "Flo & Eddie v. Sirius SM Radio" on Justia Law
Home Design Serv., Inc. v. Turner Heritage Homes Inc.
Home Design filed suit against Turner for copyright infringement on Home Design’s architectural floor plan HDS-2089. A jury returned a verdict in favor of Home Design, awarding $127,760 in damages. Turner moved for judgment notwithstanding the jury’s verdict under Rule 50(b) and the district court granted the motion. The court held that architectural floor plans are not protected by copyright to the extent that they portray ideas, rather than expressions of ideas. The Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 10, restricts which elements of architectural floor plans are protectable through its definition of a copyrightable “architectural work.” The court concluded that Intervest Construction, Inc. v. Canterbury Estate Homes, Inc. and Zalewski v. Cicero Builder Dev., Inc. control this case. In light of the constraints imposed by a four–three split style home, the court concluded that the differences between HDS-2089 and the Turner plans demonstrate the absence of copyright infringement. The differences between HDS-2089 and the Turner plans are differences in dimensions, wall placement, and the presence, arrangement, and function of particular features around the house. Because the same sorts of differences indicated no infringement in Intervest, that result follows in this case as well. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Home Design Serv., Inc. v. Turner Heritage Homes Inc." on Justia Law