Tag Archives: copyright rules

Attack Blog’s Salvos against Corporation and Blogger’s Use of Copyrighted Photos in Parodies of Management Deemed Non-Actionable by California District Court

Attack Blog's Salvos against Corporation and Blogger's Use of Copyrighted Photos in Parodies of Management Deemed Non-Actionable by California District CourtMany blog sites on the Internet are devoted to complaints or criticism of the practices of businesses and their executives. For example, we recently blogged about a site that critiques the practices of beauty company Mary Kay, Inc. —www.pinklighthouse.com. Another site focuses on critiques of Starbucks’ operations —starbucksgossip.typepad.com. The authors of such blogs or websites frequently worry that their posts could subject them to ruinous liability for defamation, trademark infringement (for use of the company name), or copyright infringement (for reprinting company materials).

However, a recent decision by a District Court in the Northern District of California illustrates the protections the law affords attack blogs from such claims. In 2006, Robert Delsman, Jr., a former General Electric employee, submitted a claim for disability benefits to the firm that handled such claims for GE — Sedgwick Claims Management, Inc. Sedgwick is managed by David North (CEO) and Paul Posey (COO). Delsman grew dissatisfied with Sedgwick’s handling of his case and began to express his views about Sedgwick, North and Posey in a blog and a postcard mailing campaign called “Operation Going Postcard.”

The blog, which is currently hosted at https://www.gesupplydiscrimination.com/, accused Sedgwick of wrongfully denying benefits to claimants, violating various laws, and accused Sedgwick and its “minions” (which it termed “Sedgthugs”) of having committed “Sedgcrimes.”
Delsman also took two copyrighted photos of North and Poser and superimposed them on “WANTED” postcards, some of which he “morphed” to look like pictures of Adolph Hitler and Heinrich Himmler. The postcards contained messages next to the photos such as this: “WANTED FOR HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS. . . Have you been threatened by this man or his minions? The time for change is at hand!” On the reverse side, they read: “Have you been terrorized, threatened or lied to by Sedgwick Claims Management Services? The time to act is now! Report these despicable activities to the US Department of Justice and the Attorney General in your state. Sedgwick CMS can be stopped peacefully and purposefully if enough people act now! Get informed!”

That’s strong stuff!

Sedgwick filed suit against Delsman seeking to stop his damaging campaign. It claims included copyright infringement, for his use of the photos, and the usual panoply of defamation-related claims, including libel and interference with prospective business advantage. See Sedgwick Claims Management Services, Inc. v. Delsman, U.S.D.C. Northern District of California, Case No. C 09-1468 SBA, Order Granting Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss (July 16, 2009).

There is nothing wrong with the types of claims Sedgwick brought. I have successfully brought them myself on behalf of defamed plaintiffs. However, the circumstances have to be right. The reality is that the First Amendment protects a lot of damaging speech.

Pharrell Williams Speaks Out Against Copyright Litigation Verdict

Copyright LitigationIn a decision by a federal court in Los Angeles, singers Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke have been ordered to pay damages of $7.3 million to the Marvin Gaye estate. The jury has ruled that Williams’ single “Blurred Lines” infringed the copyright of Gaye’s song “Got to Give it up.”

The verdict may set a legal precedent for future as the two songs do have a similar sound but have different note and chord sequences. In light of this verdict, Williams has warned that the creative industries are now at a risk of copyright litigation. “The verdict handicaps any creator out there who is making something that might be inspired by something else,” says Williams.

Williams points out that if the creative industries (including fashion, music, design and many others) lose their freedom to be inspired by other work and material, then the entertainment industry may just end up frozen in litigation.On the other hand, Gaye’s lawyers defended their stand on the grounds that Williams’ song “Blurred Lines” copied elements of “Got to Give it Up.” During the trial, they called a music expert as a witness who testified that there was a constellation of similar elements in this song. The Gaye family has also fined a new injunction to prevent the further copying, distribution and performance of Williams’ song.

Williams however is still defending himself and claims he has not broken any copyright rules. According to him, it is not possible to own feelings or emotions. The notations and the progression were different and thus there was no infringement. Blurred Lines was one of the biggest hits of 2013 and generated approximately $17 million in profits. Williams has had a string of hits apart from Blurred Lines including “Get Luck” and “Happy.”

The music industry has also extended its support for Pharrell Williams. Paul McGuinness, the former manager of U2 points out that this verdict is peculiar since it does not refer to the usual infringement such as the writing of the song or the track. He finds it strange that a song has been penalized on the basis of its mood.

Producer Harvey Weinstein also highlights that if this is the verdict in this case, then there is no saying who might be next. Everyone quotes things, sometimes subconsciously. It does not make any sense to sue another filmmaker for making a movie that feels like another one.

Williams is adamant that the verdict is wrong and if you kill the ability for people to be inspired, the in essence you kill creativity.