2010 Media Year in Review


Now that 2011 is here, let's take a look back at 2010. In this issue of the Media Law Bulletin, we'll review some of the interesting legal developments of the past year: the Google Books lawsuit reached a settlement; a court decided when a claimed process is too abstract to be patentable; "safe harbor" protections were extended to YouTube; Eminem's royalty case hit a high note; and the U.S. Supreme Court deadlocked on a Costco copyright infringement case.

The Google Books Settlement

Authors Guild, Inc. v. Google Inc., Case No. 05 CV 8136 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 19, 2009) (order granting preliminary approval of amended settlement agreement), also known as the "Google Book Search Copyright Class Action" or the "Google Books lawsuit," reached an important settlement that has been preliminarily approved by the court. The Google Books lawsuit came about as a result of the Google Library Project. In 2004, Google announced that it had entered into agreements with several libraries to digitize books, including books protected by U.S. copyright law, in those libraries' collections. Several authors and publishers then sued Google, alleging that its digitization without permission infringed their copyrights. In response, Google argued that its digitization of the books and display of snippets, or a few lines, of the books is permitted under the U.S. copyright law's "fair use" doctrine. However, instead of resolving the legal dispute over whether Google's digitization and display of the books is permissible under U.S. law as a "fair use," the parties negotiated a settlement.......

Research Corporation Technologies, Inc. v. Microsoft Corp.

In Research Corp. Technologies, Inc. v. Microsoft Corp., No. 2010-1037, 2010 WL 4971008 (Fed. Cir. Dec. 8, 2010), the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals took on the issue of whether a computer-implemented process is a type of process on which an inventor can obtain a patent. More generally, it discussed how to determine whether a claimed process is too "abstract" to be patentable. This is one of the first appellate cases to interpret the recent Supreme Court decision in Bilski v. Kappos, 130 S.Ct. 3218, 3225 (2010), which addressed when a computer-implemented process is too abstract to be patentable. In Research Corp. Technologies, the plaintiff asserted six patents against Microsoft, all inventions relating to halftoning digital images. The trial court struck down two of the asserted patents as being fatally abstract processes. On appeal, the Federal Circuit reversed......

Viacom v. YouTube

In Viacom Int'l Inc. v. YouTube, Inc., 718 F. Supp. 2d 514 (S.D.N.Y. 2010), the District Court for the Southern District of New York found that video sharing site YouTube (now owned by Google) fell into the "safe harbor" provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and therefore was not liable for direct or secondary copyright infringement for hosting copyrighted material on its website. The DMCA clarifies the copyright responsibilities and liabilities of those who provide "online services or network access." 17 U.S.C. § 512(c) provides a safe harbor from copyright infringement against "service providers" whose infringement liability is by reason of providing certain core Internet functions, such as storage of material at the direction of a user......

F.B.T. Productions v. Aftermath Records (the Eminem case)

F.B.T. Productions, LLC v. Aftermath Records, 621 F.3d 958 (9th Cir. 2010), concerned the percentage of royalties due to plaintiffs F.B.T. Productions, LLC, and Em2M, LLC, under their contracts with defendant Aftermath in connection with the recordings of Marshall B. Mathers III, professionally known as the rap artist Eminem......

Costco v. Omega

Owners and sellers of copyrighted works have grappled for decades with the interplay between Section 602 of the Copyright Act, which gives a copyright owner the right to prohibit the unauthorized importation of its works, and the first-sale doctrine, which prevents a copyright owner from controlling downstream resales of the work once it has made an authorized first sale.....

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