Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

by
The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's judgment for Led Zeppelin in a copyright infringement suit alleging that Led Zeppelin copied "Stairway to Heaven" from the song "Taurus," written by Spirit band member Randy Wolfe. The panel held that several of the district court's jury instructions were erroneous and prejudicial. Therefore, the panel remanded for a new trial. The panel also held that the scope of copyright protection for an unpublished work under the Copyright Act of 1909 is defined by the deposit copy, and the sound recordings of "Taurus" as performed by Spirit could not be used to prove substantial similarity. The panel also held that the district court abused its discretion by not allowing recordings of "Taurus" to be played for the purpose of demonstrating access. Finally, the district court was well within its discretion when it chose to exclude expert testimony on the basis of a conflict of interest. The panel vacated and remanded the district court's denial of defendants' motions for attorneys' fees and costs. View "Skidmore v. Led Zeppelin" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Paramount in an action under section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act. AFM filed suit alleging breach of Article 3 of the Basic Theatrical Motion Picture Agreement, a collective bargaining agreement, in connection with the motion picture, Same Kind of Different As Me, which was scored in Slovakia. The panel held that the district court misinterpreted Article 3 to apply only if a signatory producer employs the cast and crew shooting the picture; Article 3 functions as a work preservation provision that dictates when a signatory has to hire those musicians; and Article 3 applied when a signatory studio produces a motion picture and has authority over the hiring and employment of scoring musicians. The panel held that there was a disputed question of fact as to whether Paramount produced the movie and had sufficient authority over the hiring of scoring musicians such that Article 3 applied. Finally, the panel rejected Paramount's affirmative defense that Article 3 violated the National Labor Relations Act's "hot cargo" prohibition and reversed two of the district court's evidentiary rulings. View "American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada v. Paramount Pictures Corp." on Justia Law

by
State-law claims brought against the NFL by former professional football players were not preempted by section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA). In this case, a putative class of retired NFL players alleged that the NFL distributed controlled substances and prescription drugs to its players in violation of both state and federal laws, and that the manner in which these drugs were administered left the players with permanent injuries and chronic medical conditions. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the action, holding that the players' claims, as pled, neither arose from their collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) nor required their interpretation. View "Dent v. National Football League" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to CBS in an action alleging violation of state law copyrights owned by ABS in sound recordings originally fixed before 1972. The panel held that the district court erred in finding that there was no genuine issue of material fact about the copyright eligibility of remastered sound recordings distributed by CBS and improperly concluded that ABS's state copyright interest in pre-1972 sound recordings embodied in the remastered sound recordings was preempted; the district court abused its discretion by excluding evidence of ABS's expert and reports that evidenced CBS's performance of ABS's sound recordings in California, and granting partial summary judgment of no infringement with respect to the samples contained in those reports; and the district court's strict application of its local rules with respect to the timeliness of ABS's motion for class action certification was inconsistent with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and thus an abuse of discretion. The panel reversed the striking of class certification and remanded for further proceedings. View "ABS Entertainment, Inc. v. CBS Corp." on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of an action alleging that USATF and the Olympics Committee engaged in an anticompetitive conspiracy in violation of antitrust law when it imposed advertising restrictions during the Olympic Trials for track and field athletes. The panel held that the Olympics Committee and USATF were entitled to implied antitrust immunity on the basis that their advertising restrictions were integral to performance of their duties under the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act. The panel noted that an injunction preventing enforcement of the advertisement regulation would open the floodgates to potential advertisers, some of which might enhance the Olympic brand and some of which might devalue the Olympic brand. View "Gold Medal LLC v. USA Track & Field" on Justia Law

by
Professional golf caddies filed suit against the PGA Tour after it required them to wear bibs containing advertisements at professional golfing events. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of all claims with prejudice, holding that the caddies consented to wearing the bibs and that they did not do so under economic duress. Therefore, the caddies failed to state claims for breach of contract and quasi-contract relief, California state law publicity claims, a Lanham Act false endorsement claim, or a plausible economic duress claim. The panel also held that the caddies failed to allege plausibly that the Tour secured their consent through economic duress, and thus the district court properly dismissed the antitrust claims for failure to state a relevant market and the California unfair competition claims for failure to plead that any of the Tour's conduct was unlawful, unfair, or fraudulent. The panel remanded to allow the district court to reconsider whether to grant the caddies leave to amend their federal antitrust and California unfair competition claims. View "Hicks v. PGA Tour, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of judgment as a matter of law to Jay-Z and other defendants in an action brought by the heir to the Egyptian composer Baligh Hamdy, alleging copyright infringement in the song Khosara. Jay-Z used a sample from the arrangement in the background music to his single Big Pimpin'. The panel held that the heir to Hamdy's copyright may not sue Jay-Z for infringement based solely on the fact that Egyptian law recognizes an inalienable "moral right" of the author to object to offensive uses of a copyrighted work. The panel held: (1) that Egyptian law recognizes a transferable economic right to prepare derivative works; (2) that the moral rights the heir retained by operation of Egyptian law were not enforceable in U.S. federal court; and (3) that, even if they were, the heir has not complied with the compensation requirement of Egyptian law, which did not provide for his requested money damages, and which provided for only injunctive relief from an Egyptian court. View "Fahmy v. Jay-Z" on Justia Law

by
These consolidated appeals stemmed from a jury's finding that Pharrell Williams, Robin Thicke, and Clifford Harris, Jr.'s song "Blurred Lines," the world's bestselling single in 2013, infringed Frankie Christian Gaye, Nona Marvisa Gaye, and Marvin Gaye III's copyright in Marvin Gaye's 1977 hit song "Got To Give It Up." The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court's judgment. The panel held that "Got To Give It Up" was entitled to broad copyright protection because musical compositions were not confined to a narrow range of expression; the panel accepted, without deciding, the merits of the district court's ruling that the scope of defendants' copyright was limited, under the Copyright Act of 1909, to the sheet music deposited with the Copyright Office, and did not extend to sound recordings; the district court's order denying summary judgment was not reviewable after a full trial on the merits; the district court did not err in denying a new trial; the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting portions of expert testimony; the verdict was not against the clear weight of the evidence; the awards of actual damages and profits and the district court's running royalty were proper; the district court erred in overturning the jury's general verdict in favor of Harris and the Interscope Parties; the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the Gayes' motion for attorney's fees; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in apportioning costs among the parties. View "Williams v. Gaye" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a copyright infringement action brought by renowned photographer Jacobus Rentmeester against Nike. Rentmeester alleged that Nike infringed a famous photograph he took of Michael Jordan when Nike commissioned its own photograph of Jordan and then used that photo to create the "Jumpman" logo. The panel held that, although Rentmeester plausibly alleged that he owned a valid copyright in his photo and a presumption that the Nike photo was the product of copying rather than independent creation, he failed to plausibly allege that Nike copied enough of the protected expression from his photo to establish unlawful appropriation. The panel explained that Rentmeester was entitled to protection only for the way the pose was expressed in his photograph, a product of not just the pose but also the camera angle, timing, and shutter speed he chose. In this case, Rentmeester's photo was entitled to broad rather than thin protection. Nonetheless, the panel held that the works at issue were as a matter of law not substantially similar, and thus the Jumpman logo was even less similar to Rentmeester's photo than the Nike photo itself. View "Rentmeester v. Nike, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a copyright infringement action brought by renowned photographer Jacobus Rentmeester against Nike. Rentmeester alleged that Nike infringed a famous photograph he took of Michael Jordan when Nike commissioned its own photograph of Jordan and then used that photo to create the "Jumpman" logo. The panel held that, although Rentmeester plausibly alleged that he owned a valid copyright in his photo and a presumption that the Nike photo was the product of copying rather than independent creation, he failed to plausibly allege that Nike copied enough of the protected expression from his photo to establish unlawful appropriation. The panel explained that Rentmeester was entitled to protection only for the way the pose was expressed in his photograph, a product of not just the pose but also the camera angle, timing, and shutter speed he chose. In this case, Rentmeester's photo was entitled to broad rather than thin protection. Nonetheless, the panel held that the works at issue were as a matter of law not substantially similar, and thus the Jumpman logo was even less similar to Rentmeester's photo than the Nike photo itself. View "Rentmeester v. Nike, Inc." on Justia Law