Arkansas IP Litigation Cases for the Week of November 24, 2007

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern or Western District of Arkansas was chosen as the forum for litigating the following case(s), as published by Justia:

  • Nelson Design Group LLC v. Puckett et al; No. 3:2007cv00177 (07-117); Filed: November 21, 2007; Court: Arkansas Eastern District Court; Office: Jonesboro Office; County: Craighead
    Not much to see here. Nelson Design Group filed a lawsuit for infringing the copyright in their home designs. The complaint alledges that Richard Puckett, a former employee, copied designs and gave them to his codefendants, Barry Phillips, Brent Phillips, State Development, LLC, and Phillips Investments & Construction Company, Inc., to use in their home building business. The Complaint alleges eight counts of copyright infringement (that would be eight houses, not eight designs) and that Puckett breached his employment contract. Nelson Design seeks a preliminary injunction and other remedies. In the complaint Nelson Design Group states:
  • Plaintiff immediately contacted the defendants, Richard Puckett and Barry Phillips, and asked how the house plans had been obtained. Both defendants asserted that the house was built from hand drawn prints. Upon further investigation, numerous plans owned and copyrighted by plaintiff are being used by the defendants to build homes. . .

    I would like to see what kind of investigation was needed. I imagine a 2 minute trip to one of the worksites and finding CAD drawing printouts was it took. Puckett had worked for Nelson Design since 2001 before being let go in 2006, and even presented his computer to Nelson Design to show he had none of their CAD drawings on his way out. I imagine, as the housing crisis heats up (oh, there is a long way for it to fall before it hits bottom) we will see more people cutting corners like this.

UMG v. Lindor: a minor victory

Ray Beckerman, attorney for defendant in UMG v. Lindor, an RIAA filesharing lawsuit, had a minor victory this week. Recording Industry vs. The People The judge in the case, Magistrate Judge Robert M. Levy, gave a partial grant to defendant’s motion to compel discovery. At issue is one of the defendants affirmative defenses, that the damages sought, $750 per song shared, are an unconstitutional violation of due process. As a result, the record labels, UMG Recordings, Warner Bros. Records, Interscope Records, Motown, and SONY BMG, must disclose and submit to deposition on the cost to the record company per song legally downloaded (at a cost of $0.99). While the $750 is a permissable statutory mininum, the Supreme Court held in State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co v. Campbell et al. 538 U.S. 408 (2003) that a punitive damage award greater than 10 times actual damages creates a presumtion of a violatoin of due process. Here then, the actual damages of $1, and punitives of $749, would be over that limit. This is obviously not information (the actual cost of production) that the labels want out. They previously filed a motion for a protection order to seal these records.

Copy of Grant of Motion to Compel Discovery

Copy of Defendant’s Motion to Compel – a good piece of lawyering needs to be recognized.

If anyone in Arkansas has been sued for file sharing, I would love to defend one of these cases. If you are an attorney who needs an expert witness, I am also available. See my resume.

Court dismisses Tur v. YouTube/Google suit

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Over a year ago, Robert Tur was the first person to bring suit against Youtube for copyright infringement. At issue, video coverage Tur shot of the 1992 Los Angeles riots (search Youtube for L.A. riot video). This week at Tur’s bequest, a Los Angeles federal court judge dismissed the suit.a copyright infringement lawsuit against YouTube in order to allow the plaintiff — a Los Angeles video news service — to join a proposed class-action lawsuit pending in New York against the site.

The dismissal, requested by Robert Tur and his Los Angeles News Service, was granted last Friday. YouTube opposed the dismissal arguing, among other things, that the class-action suit will proceed at a slower pace than the Tur case, which could result in increased liability for the site if an adverse judgment is entered against it

Capitol Records, et al v. Jammie Thomas – Full text of jury instructions

As there has been much talk about the validity of the jury instructions in Capital Records v. Thomas, especially instruction no.s 14 and 15 , I thought it would be nice for everyone to see them in their entirety. I think that jury instructions should be taken and evaluated as a whole, as the jury see’s them, not piecemeal. While each must be a correct statement of the law on its own, the effect on the jury is as a whole. All documents related to this case can be found at Justia.

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Capitol Records, et al v. Jammie Thomas – Jurors wanted maximum fine

Jurors from Capitol Records, et al v. Jammie Thomas are talking, and what they are saying is going to make a lot of people very angry. Several of the jurors wanted to give the maximum penalty of $150,000 per song for each of the 24 songs ($3.6 million total). In the end, they compromised at under $10k per song, for a total of $222,000.

[Juror] Reinke said she wasn’t sure at first how much Thomas should pay. The jurors wrote on unsigned slips of paper the amounts they thought were right, Reinke said. They piled the papers on a table, and the foreman read off the amounts.

“A few said we could go up to 150 (thousand), and then other people said, ‘No, that’s way too high,”‘ she said. “We just all discussed it and gave our views and came up with an agreeable amount.”

In short, the jurors wanted to both punish Thomas and deter others. Read the full story at “Juror: Some on music sharing jury wanted maximum $150,000 per song, $3.6M total”

Bourne Co. v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, et al. – “When you wish upon a Weinstein” lawsuit filed

family_guy_jew.jpgFiled last week in the Federal District court, New York Southern District Court was Bourne Co.  v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, et al, Case Number:  1:2007cv08580, Filed:  October 3, 2007. The owner of the copyright of the song “When You Wish Upon a Star” is suing 20th Century Fox (and others including Seth McFarlane personally) for their song called “I Need a Jew” included in an episode of Family Guy. The original episode, “When you wish upon a Weinstein,” debuted in 2003 (though created in 2000), so they are primarily concerned about reruns and DVD sales. Honestly, this episode is one of the funniest Family Guy episodes, second only the epic episode “Stewie loves Loise.”  

I would represent 20th Century Fox (or any of the other defendants) for free on this one. The U.S. Supreme Court said parody is protected in Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc., 510 U.S. 569 (1994), seems like a good place to start. I did like how the complaint (pdf) describes the original songs lyrics as “beautiful and heartfelt” and characterizes The Family Guy as an inferior rip-off of The Simpsons.  Articles about this at The Associated Press, MSN, and Undercover.

Capitol Records, et al v. Jammie Thomas – Guilty verdict.

A reprint of the AP newswire can be found at CNN Money: “Guilty verdict in music file-sharing case”. The bottom line is exactly what you thought it would be when you first heard about the case: guilty. The case focused on 24 songs, for which Thomas will now have to pay damages of $9,250 each for a total of $222,000. This is of course much better than it could have been, the plaintiffs had alleged she shared 1,702 songs online and the $9,250 is far below the statutory limit of $30,000 per infringment (see 17 U.S.C. 504(c)(1)). As the jurors found the infringment was willful, the actual statutory limit was $150,000 per infringment. Throughout Thomas denied sharing files or having a Kazaa account, a statement had to believe givent he account was setup using the same online handle, “tereastarr,” that Thomas had used for many years. The IP addresses matched. She replaced her hard drive after the infringment had taken place. In short, all evidence pointed to her (or her kids) and she may have destroyed evidence. I don’t see how, in a civil case, they had a chance to win this one on the arguments made.

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