Judge Jeffrey White of the Northern District of California recently dismissed toy manufacturer Tangle’s copyright and trade dress suit against fashion retailer Aritzia. The suit was brought over Aritzia’s use of sculptures resembling Tangle’s toys in its window displays. Judge White’s decision serves as a reminder that copyright protection only extends to works that have been “fixed” in a tangible medium of expression; an artist’s “[s]tyle, no matter how creative, is an idea, and is not protectable by copyright.” Tangle Inc. v. Aritzia, Inc.
Sandra A. Crawshaw-Sparks is a partner in the Litigation Department. Sandy handles a wide variety of litigation and transactional matters in the entertainment industry, with a special focus on music. She maintains a bi-coastal practice and has represented many clients in connection with matters involving recording, publishing, licensing and management contracts, copyrights, trademark rights, unfair competition claims, and the rights of privacy and publicity.
Sandy typically handles copyright infringement, trademark infringement, enforcement of personal services contracts, accounting and royalty disputes, and matters involving the rights of privacy and publicity.
As a regular and substantial part of her practice, Sandy counsels clients in connection with transactions, negotiates pre-litigation resolutions of accounting and royalty disputes, negotiates licensing arrangements, and handles applications for court approval of personal services contracts with minors.
Sandy is ranked by Chambers USA having been described by clients as “brilliant at resolving key points.” She is also the Deputy National Legal Counsel to the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, Inc. (the GRAMMY® Award organization).
Sandy's clients have included: Amerie; Fiona Apple; Hall & Oates; Matisyahu; Meat Loaf; Madonna; Lady Gaga; The Police; Debbie Gibson; Sally Hershberger; Judd Hirsch; Britney Spears; Shania Twain; the recording group “Living Colour”; Trent Reznor (of “Nine Inch Nails”); Just Blaze; Sting; Luther Vandross; and the recording group "U2." Sandy has also represented numerous entertainment industry leaders, including: Chris Blackwell; Jimmy Iovine; and Russell Simmons. The music industry companies she has represented include: American Recordings; BMG Music Publishing (including FirstCom music and Zomba Music Publishing); Cash Money Records; Def Jam Recordings; EMI-Capitol Music Group (including Capitol Records, EMI Records, SBK Records, and Virgin Records); EMI Music Publishing; Gee Street Records; IslandLife; the Island Trading Company; JB Music Publishing; Jellybean Recordings Inc.; the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences; Palm Pictures; Maverick Recordings; Prime Wave Music Publishing; Rykodisc, Inc.; Sony BMG Music Entertainment Group (including Arista Records, J Records, Jive Records, Provident Music Group, RCA Records, Zomba Recording Corp., and Verity Records); Universal Music Group (including Interscope Records; Geffen Records; GRP Records; MCA Music Publishing; MCA Records; Island Pictures; Island Music; Island Records; Mercury Records; Motown Records, and PolyGram Records); Vagrant Records; Warner Bros. Records; Warner/Chappell Music; and Wind-Up Records.
On May 18th, the Supreme Court handed down its much‑anticipated opinion in Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. v. Goldsmith. We’ve tracked the progress of this case through the trial court, Second Circuit, and Supreme Court.
The case concerns whether the Andy Warhol Foundation violated a copyright held by photographer Lynn Goldsmith when it licensed a Warhol work called Orange Prince, based on Goldsmith’s photo, to Condé Nast for use on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine. Goldsmith’s photo of Prince was the basis of a series of silkscreen portraits and drawings by Warhol known as the Prince Series. The work at issue was created without Goldsmith’s knowledge or consent. She received none of the $10,000 licensing fee paid to the Warhol Foundation for use of the image.
On March 28th, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Warhol Foundation v. Goldsmith, a case involving the core issues around copyright fair use. The case involves a series of Warhol drawings and silkscreen prints adapted from an original photograph of Prince taken by Lynn Goldsmith. Likely to interplay with the recent fair use decision in Google v. Oracle, the Supreme Court’s decision in this case has the potential to reshape the contours of fair use and the fate of the transformative use test. The outcome of the decision will have a widespread impact on how artists, particularly appropriation artists and creators of “fan art,” draw from other works.
Judge Jed Rakoff of the Southern District of New York recently denied a motion to dismiss in a copyright dispute involving the unlicensed “embedding” of a social media video. In doing so, the court explicitly and definitively rejected the Ninth Circuit’s “server rule,” under which the Ninth Circuit held that re-posting of online content does not constitute a separate act of infringement where the infringing copy is stored only on third party servers. Instead, Judge Rakoff held that by re-posting the copyrighted content online, defendants had implicated plaintiffs’ exclusive display right – regardless of whether they created and stored a copy on their own servers. The opinion states that to hold otherwise would be to “make the display right merely a subset of the reproduction right.” Nicklen v. Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc., et al.
The Second Circuit recently upheld a ruling that streaming giants Apple, Amazon, and Netflix engaged in fair use, in a case concerning the use of plaintiff musicians’ song in a documentary film available for viewing on defendants’ streaming platforms. In doing so, the Court found the eight-second snippet of the song was performed in a way that was transformative, and reasonably necessary to convey the film’s message. Brown, et al. v. Netflix, Inc. et al.
Judge Dolly M. Gee of the Central District of California recently awarded singer Lizzo a major victory in a copyright dispute concerning the artist’s hit song “Truth Hurts.” In her ruling, Judge Gee dismissed with prejudice a claim that Lizzo must share copyright ownership of “Truth Hurts” with the plaintiffs in the case, because the co-ownership claim was based only on the plaintiffs’ contributions to a prior independent work. See Melissa Jefferson v. Justin Raisen et al.