Author Sues Google For Copyright Infringement For Copying His 'Philosophy' In A TV Ad

from the living-life-to-the-max dept

Yeah, by now, we get it. The legacy copyright folks have spent decades beating into the minds of the public that every idea and concept and philosophy is "owned" and that you need to get permission for just about everything that it's no surprise to see crazy, nutty copyright lawsuits pop up every here and there. At least, usually, the really nutty ones are filed pro se (i.e., without a lawyer) and quickly dumped. However, it's doubly amazing when you get a lawsuit that feels like a pro se lawsuit, but is actually filed by a real lawyer. In this case, the lawyer is Joel D. Peterson, whose website lists "intellectual property" as one of his specialties. If that's the case, he may want to demand a refund from his law school.

Peterson has filed a lawsuit on behalf of author Erick DeBanff, who appears to be trying to build some sort of "self-help" empire around living your life "to the max." The lawsuit is against Google for copyright infringement, because it appears that Google used a kind of trite message in a commercial about making every moment matter -- and it was the same way that Debanff subtitled his book. DeBanff's book is called "Vie Max" which also seems to be the name of the movement/fad/concept/something that he's selling. But the subtitle is "How to live the next 2 billion heartbeats of your life to the max."
Meanwhile, a few years back, Google put out a commercial for its Google Play store, which you can see here:
It feels a little overly sentimental considering what it's advertising, but whatever. Still, at the end, you'll notice that it says "there are about 2 billion, 500 million heartbeats in a lifetime. You should feel every one of them."

And that according to DeBanff/Peterson (and basically no one else) is copyright infringement:
These words are essentially a direct copy of the words and philosophy in Mr. DeBanff's book and is a violation of the U.S. Copyright Act.
Except they're not. Yes, it sort of marginally conveys the same idea -- that there are ~2 billionish heartbeats in a standard lifetime and that that number means something, but... uh... that's not copyrightable. It's an idea and as any first year law student should have learned, ideas and philosophies are not copyrightable. Just the specific expression of the idea and a throwaway line that barely has any detail at all is not going to cut it. The fact that there are ~2 billionish heartbeats in a lifetime is also factual information and you can't copyright facts (also kind of something you're supposed to learn early on about copyrights).

In short, there is nothing here that is even remotely copyright infringing, and suggesting that there is is laughable. Such a lawsuit should get tossed out quickly.

Anyway, no, just because multiple people come up with the same kinda sappy/kinda silly concept around the same time (and express it in very different ways), that's not copyright infringement. And a lawyer with any knowledge in "intellectual property law" should know that.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Mar 2016 @ 9:14am

    Paragraph 12:
    The Google video and television advertisement and the Google Play campaign uses the words "Play Your Heart Out" and states, "There are about 2 billion 5 hundred million heartbeats in a lifetime. You should feel every one of them." These words are essentially a direct copy of the words and philosophy in Mr. DeBanffs book and is a violation of the U.S. Copyright Act (17 USC
    §101 et seq. — the "Copyright Act").
    Paragraph 18:
    Defendant has, without the permission of Mr. DeBanff, copied, duplicated, and distributed words and excerpts from Mr. DeBanffs book in violation of his exclusive rights as a copyright owner.
    Emphasis added.

    I propose the filing lawyer be strapped into a chair and be beaten on the head with a long green vegetable until he understands the essential difference between a cucumber and a pickle. Or, at the very least, the meaning of the word "essential" in a legal setting.

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