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Copyright is an exclusive right that is granted to an inventor of original work for a restricted period. The owner or the author bears the right to publish, produce, sell, license, and distribute a copyright protected work (Cheeseman, 2013). The Copyright Act was passed in 1976 to allow approval and protection of people’s works that are presented in books, newspapers, motion pictures, drawings, TV productions, journals, and articles among other forms of writings against infringement.
Original owners of works bear various rights that are stipulated by specific federal laws. At the outset, owners have the sole right to reproduce or alter their works through duplication and/or transcription. Furthermore, owners have authority to trade their patents protected works. The music industry is one of the most affected areas by patent infringement across the world (Hannah, 2014).
Copyright infringement is an unauthorized access and use of works that are legally guarded. This article elaborates on various infringements of business law cases that have been or are currently occurring in the United States of America. The article is based on the springboard article ‘Northwestern files suit against the author for patent infringement’ together with other articles that are related to the topic.
A copyright infringement occurs when a person copies a substantial part of a plaintiff’s copyright work without permission. The public domain should gain access to copyrights over a specified period. After a patent protection period, people can have access to the material without any permission from the previous holder.
Cheeseman (2013) contends that the usage of a fairness doctrine allows some limited use of a patent by another person, other than a copyright holder, without permission. Various exceptions of the federal law, which pertains to education or censorship, allow the public to use people’s works without infringing the breaking law.
Despite the enactment of laws that govern copyright protection, Cheeseman (2013) reveals that people are still involved in various lawsuits due to availability, accessibility, and use of unpermitted works. Infringement is a serious crime than can lead to penalties, forfeiture, and/or jail terms. The existence of patent laws protects the works of authors and innovators against fraudulent behavior of other individuals who, out of ignorance or inability to produce original work, counterfeit the work of other people.
The latest amendment of the Copyright Act led to the establishment of the Congress Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The purpose of the DMCA was to prevent illegitimate use of online content without the consent of owners (Cheeseman, 2013). According to Cheeseman (2013), the law also prohibits the distribution of technologies that are designed for circumventing purposes.
Various elements must be considered to conclude that a patent infringement act has been committed. First, the validity of a copyright must be bestowed upon a patent holder. Second, an infringer must be in a position to access the work illegally. Lastly, duplication of the original work must be beyond the exceptions that are stipulated by the law (Alistair, 2014).
The Northwestern University filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against its former employee on 25 July 2014. Barrette, a writer who worked for the University, was commissioned to compile a book based on the killing of Bobby Franks. However, she resigned from the job in December 2013 and retained the unfinished manuscript and other related files that she refused to return to the university (Rodriguez, 2014).
Although the work was an agreement between Barrette and the university, she illegitimately copied some of the information to her flash disk. This act was against the agreement between the two parties. The complainant also found that she had enabled restrictions on some of the files to confine the firm’s authority to access the documents. According to the allegations, the writer unlawfully duplicated the proposal document that was to be used for completion of the book. Above all, she was not a faculty member as the lawsuit alleges (Rodriguez, 2014).
Another case where copyright infringement is noted is in a legal battle that occurred between two research companies of Linden Research Inc.’s Second Life Virtual Anima Suppliers. Second Life is an online virtual company that deals with breeding, riding, and purchase of different animals.
The two companies that were involved in a lawsuit battle in November 2010 were Ozimals Inc. and Amaretto Ranch Breedable LLC. Ozimals who was responsible for creating virtual rabbits for Second Life claimed that Amaretto infringed a copyright law by copying its software some months after it launched its products. As per the allegations, the only change that had made was the alteration of the process of turning rabbits that were produced in horses (Justin, 2011).
A lawyer who was representing Ozimals Company wrote to the Linden Research Inc. demanding them to close Amaretto’s virtual stores since they had allegedly imitated patent software. However, Linden Research Inc. declined to honor the order. After a month, Amaretto Company filed a lawsuit against Ozimals for counterfeit claims (Justin, 2011).
Interestingly, the claim that was presented by a co-founder of Amaretto Company, Jason Jasdzewski, who alleged that he had designed the system from the scratch. Ozimals founder, Candace Sargent, responded to the case by stating that she was not going to care if Amaretto’s store continued to run Second Life as long as the goods were given away free of charge, instead of selling to earn good returns.
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Another incidence of patent infringement is revealed in a case between Mattel Inc. and MGA Entertainment Inc. Mattel Inc. sued MGA Entertainment Inc. for infringement over the possession of the Bratz franchise. Mattel Inc. claimed that one of its former employees and a Barbie line designer, Carter Bryant, began creating the Bratz line while he was still in an employment contract with the company.
Therefore, he violated his ‘invention agreement’ by taking the drawings of the dolls to MGA Entertainment Inc. (Ethan, 2012). MGA Entertainment Company denied the allegations and countersued Mattel Inc. for unfair business practices by using spies to steal its trade tactics. After a trial period of three months, a jury from California declined the ownership of the Bratz franchise to Mattel and approved MGA Entertainment Inc.’s counterclaim.
The company was to be compensated with 88.5 million dollars for damages. After the verdict, Annette, Hurst, and MGA Entertainment Inc.’s attorney stated that no employer was in a position to bind ideas of its workforce to pose risks to employees when they shifted to work for other companies (Ethan, 2012).
Lawsuit for copyright infringement is also noted where the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) filed a complaint against Google Inc.’s attempt to create a digital library and sell books online. Photographers claimed that Google infringed on its copyrights (Lucy, 2014).
They further claim that if their work posted on the Google’s digital library, then they will be denied reparations for the losses. The lawsuit also seeks over 150,000 million dollars for statutory damage for each instance in which Google has infringed on the plaintiff’s copyrights. Gabriel Stricker, Google’s spokesperson reiterated that Google Inc.’s books complied with both the United States and the international patent laws since no images in the online store’s books were available for viewing.
Elsewhere, many users unknowingly violate patent laws when they use Pinterest. Pinterest is a virtual scrapbook that allows users to post images on their profiles. It also allows them to compile ideas that they find on different websites into a collective online album (Poletti, 2012). Pinterest is in the process of identifying how users can avoid copyrighting others’ works.
At the end of the day, Pinterest will not experience the legal problems that have arisen from similar cases such as the case of Napster, the music-sharing website. However, Pinterest has not yet concluded on the rationality of the usage of the photos that are posted on its website. Although there is no litigation on this issue, Kirsten Kowalski, a Pinterest user and practicing attorney claimed that the first person who will file a suit against the use of the photos would have found the basis of the law (Poletti, 2012).
In another instance, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) filed a lawsuit against Lime Wire and the founder Mark Gorton. Lime Wire was a free plan that enabled peer-to-peer file exchange until Judge Kimba Wood ordered permanent closure of Lime Wire on allegations that the company was involved in massive patent infringement in 2010 (Ethan, 2011).
The RIAA claimed that Lime Wire had abused the copyright protection law by allowing users to share and download music on the internet freely. In the next four months, Mark Gorton and Lime Wire came to a covenant, where a record label of 105 million dollars was realized (Ethan, 2011). In this agreement, Joseph Baio, the lawyer of Mr. Gorton, said that this agreement had no confirmation of infringing the law.
In the recent past, the RIAA sued Jammie Thomas-Rasset for patent infringement of over twenty songs. After four years, Ms. Thomas-Rasset was found guilty of patent infringement for sharing the songs a certain file-sharing platform and was ordered pay 1.5 million dollars as a fine. Her attorney, Kiwi Camara, planned to appeal against the ruling on grounds that the fines that were allowed under the federal copyright laws were unjustifiable. Ms. Thomas-Rasset disputed the claims that were against her (Hannah, 2014).
The incidences that have been aforementioned reveal the various acts of copyright infringement and penalties that are extended to the offenders who infringe patent laws. The law protects the originality of work, extending various charges on infringers. For instance, an infringer is liable to pay an owner the cost of the original work in various forms as per the Copyright Act. However, infringement of patent laws has remained an impasse amongst authors and innovators.
Advancement of technology has significantly changed the copyright protection landscape due to the establishment of complex software that expose patented material to the public irrespective of the protection by patent laws. However, infringement can lead to a jail term. Therefore, the public must be aware of all the federal laws that govern copyright issues, especially those that deal with infringement.
Cheeseman, H. (2013). Business Law: Legal Environment, Business Ethics, and International Issues (8th Ed.). New York, NY: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Ethan, S. (2011, April 05). Corporate News: Holly wood Studios Sue Start-Up Zediva. Wall Street Journal.
Justin, S. (2011, July 30). You Can Lead a Virtual Horse to Water, But You Might Get Sued Along the Way: Disputes Over Online Animals End UP In Real – World Court, Fretting Over ‘Star’. Wall Street Journal.
Ethan, S. (2012, March 12). Puzo Family Goes To the Mattresses. Wall Street Journal.
Poletti, T. (2012, March 14). Is Pinterest the Next Napster? Wall Street Journal.
Lucy, C. (2014, July 08). Kim Dotcom Extradition Decision Delayed; Megaupload Founder Will Stay in New Zealand Until Next Year. Wall Street Journal.
Rodriguez, M. (2014, July 25). Northwestern files suit against author for copyright infringement. McClatchy.
Alistair, B. (2014, September 26). Corporate News: Google Official Responds to Criticism. Wall Street Journal.
Hannah, K. (2014, October 28). Disharmony in the Music World Over Which Day to Release Tunes — Labels’ Friday Push Hits Wrong Note With Retailers; ‘Thank God It’s Tuesday?’ Wall Street Journal.