Judge Tosses Out Foreign YouTube Lawsuits; Points Out Basic Copyright Law [Updated]

from the you-would-think-their-lawyers-would-notice-this dept

Admittedly, parts of copyright law are quite complicated, but there are some basics that are rather simple and straightforward: such as that you cannot sue for statutory or punitive damages if you haven’t registered your copyrights with the US copyright office. So, when the Premiere Football League sued Google/YouTube for hosting some videos of matches two years ago, I assumed at the very least that it had registered its copyrights in the US. Apparently not. A judge has tossed out pushed back on the Premier League’s attempt to get higher damages awards, along with some other foreign claimants’ for not being covered by US copyright law. You would have thought this was something the Premier League’s lawyers would have noticed before filing the lawsuit. Update: Eric Goldman has a lot more details on the specifics of the case, which the original News.com article was a bit misleading. Definitely make sure you read Goldman’s post to understand the mixed nature of the ruling. Also, based on this we’re updating some of the points in the post to clarify. Thanks to everyone who pointed out some of the specifics. Update 2: After discussing this with a few different lawyers (as per usual — none of them agree with each other!) it seemed best to just point people to Eric’s analysis of this decision. Once again, this is what’s great about using this blog as a conversation, helping us all to learn. Thanks to everyone who chimed in and contributed (whether via comments or email).

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Companies: google, premiere league, youtube

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Comments on “Judge Tosses Out Foreign YouTube Lawsuits; Points Out Basic Copyright Law [Updated]”

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JP_Fife says:

Perhaps not, being UK (most likely English) lawyers they’d know that in the UK copyright is automatic with no need for registration. No doubt they should have checked the situation in other countries but the English do have some funny characteristics, including the ones which assumes that everyone likes them and they are the masters of all they survey.

MC says:

Bern Convention

This is against the Bern Convention, which US is a part. It mentions that the only requirement to enforce a copyright is to have the name the owner in the work, and that’s all. No registration is required. Below is the relevant part of the Bern Convention:

“In order that the author of a literary or artistic work protected by this Convention shall, in the absence of proof to the contrary, be regarded as such, and consequently be entitled to institute infringement proceedings in the countries of the Union, it shall be sufficient for his name to appear on the work in the usual manner. This paragraph shall be applicable even if this name is a pseudonym, where the pseudonym adopted by the author leaves no doubt as to his identity”

Michael L. Slonecker says:

It would be helpful to have a copy of the purported court decision. Any link?

The law is not as complicated as some might believe, and applies with equal force to domestic and foreign authors. However, there are requirements under the law that must be met for a court to have jurisdiction over a copyright infringement action, as well as requirements in order for a rights holder to be able to avail itself of the statutory damages provision. No registration as a general rule means no lawsuit. Not registering a copyright claim within the time set by statute limits damages to only actuals.

The formalities existing before the adoption of the new copyright act in 1976 (and as subsequently amended) have been loosened significantly, but fortunately they have not been eliminated entirely.

To practice copyright law in a competent manner one must have an intimate familiarity with Title 17. Unfortunately, this point all too often is lost on certain members of the bar who maintain a general practice and only on occasion dabble in copyright law. Of course, it is their clients who pay the price in these circumstances.

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