France’s Digital Exploitation of 20th Century Unavailable Books

The title of France’s new law says it all:  Act No. 2012-287 of 1 March 2012 on the digital exploitation of twentieth century unavailable books.  (Website in French.)  The law will be enforced beginning six months from March 1, 2012.  According to literary scholar Gillian Spraggs, “[t]he law has been promoted by its supporters as a means to enable public access to literary works of the twentieth century that are still under copyright but no longer commercially available.”  See Spraggs’ post, France Guillotines Copyright.  As that title suggests, author groups now accuse France of stripping authors of their copyright rights.

The law sets out a scheme under which a collective management society grants publishers non-exclusive licenses to publish, in digital form, commercially unavailable books.  Commercially unavailable books are books that that were published in France before January 1, 2001 and are not currently published in paper or digital form.  The French National Library will manage a publicly accessible database of unavailable books.  Anyone can request that a book title be added to the database. 

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Sweden Eyes Outlawing Using Smartphones to Take “Insulting” Pictures

“Modern-day Peeping Toms snapping photographs of women in various states of undress in department store fitting rooms, public toilets, or showers” are creating trouble in Sweden.  Wendy Zeldin reports on this problem in Sweden:  Proposal to Outlaw Use of Smartphones to Take Compromising Pictures.  What we think of as voyeurism in the U.S. is apparently not unlawful in Sweden.

The Swedish government has been working to address the problem of privacy violations caused by secret picture taking since 2008.  The current proposal is an attempt to protect privacy interests, while also protecting the freedom of expression and legitimate photography, such as for news reporting.  What exactly is legitimate photography for news reporting in the Peeping Tom context?  The draft law focuses on “insulting picture-taking,” making that a crime, but does not ban taking “unauthorized” pictures.  The draft law leaves it to the courts to determine what an “insulting” photograph is.  Although the widespread use of smartphones makes secret picture taking easier, it appears that the concern involves all “insulting picture-taking,” not just pictures taken with smart phones.

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Multimillion Dollar Trademark Jury Award Upheld by the Ninth Circuit

Skydive Arizona sued defendants collectively doing business as SKYRIDE, alleging trademark claims of false advertising, trademark infringement and cybersquatting.  The district court granted partial summary judgment in Skydive Arizona’s favor on the false advertising claim.  The jury awarded damages to Skydive Arizona:  $1 million for willful false advertising, $2.5 million for willful trademark infringement, $2,500,004 for lost profits and $600,000 statutory damages for six violating domain names.  The district court doubled the false advertising and trademark infringement awards.  SKYRIDE appealed the judgment against it to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  Skydive Arizona appealed the district court’s grant of an injunction against SKYRIDE limited to Arizona, instead of a nationwide injunction.

Skydive Arizona is one of world’s most well known skydiving centers.  It hosts 145,000 to 160,000 skydives within Arizona each year and provides planes and personnel for skydiving events in 30 other states.  SKYRIDE is a third-party advertising and booking service for skydiving centers, but does not own skydiving facilities.  Customers pay SKYRIDE for a certificate that can be redeemed at drop zones across the country.  SKYRIDE owned and operated a number of website referencing locations in Arizona, such as PhoenixSkydiving and TucsonSkydiving, as well as domain names such as skydivearizona.net.  Both Skydive Arizona and SKYRIDE promote their businesses extensively on the Internet.

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VPPA Damages Remedy Not Available in Class Action Suit Over Personally Identifiable Information

The question before the 7th Circuit in this case was whether the Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA), 18 U.S.C. §2710, provides a civil damages remedy for violating subsection (e) of the Act, which requires the destruction of personally identifiable information as soon as practicable.  Plaintiffs are consumers who brought a class action suit against Redbox for failure to comply with subsection (e) of the VPPA.  Redbox rents DVDs, Blu-ray discs and video games to consumers from automated retail kiosks. 

The VPPA is codified in the U.S. Code under Title 18, Crimes and Criminal Procedure, Chapter 121, Stored Wire and Electronic Communications and Transactional Record Access.  Subsection (d) provides for the exclusion of personally identifiable information that is not obtained according to the statute as “evidence in any trial, hearing, arbitration, or other proceeding before any court, grand jury, department, officer, agency, regulatory body, legislative committee, or other authority of the United States, a State, or a political subdivision of a State.”  Accordingly, the VPPA does not provide for criminal fines or incarceration for violators.  However, subsection (c) does provide for damages and attorneys’ fees in a civil action.  The court’s discussion focused on whether the civil remedy provided in subsection (c) applies only to violations of subsection (b) and not to violations of subsection (e), since subsection (e) comes after subsection (c) and the subsection (c) civil remedy does not come after all of the Act’s prohibitions.

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“Stealing Idea” Suit Dismissed on Summary Judgment

Frank Coble accused Anita Renfroe of stealing his idea for a song and filed suit against her, alleging copyright infringement and the trademark law claims of unfair competition and false designation of origin.  The district court granted Renfroe’s motion for summary judgment on both the copyright and trademark claims.

Facts.  Coble and Renfroe are both comedians.  Coble performs standup comedy and is also a full time artist.  Renfroe is a full time professional singer, songwriter and comedian whose comedy is aimed at mothers.  This brand of humor has been her forte since 1998.

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