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.
In a recent public comment addressed to the United States Copyright Office, the Federal Trade Commission seemingly expanded upon remarks made at the National Advertising Division back in September that it will aggressively and proactively challenge alleged unfair practices involving artificial intelligence, even if that means stretching the meaning of “unfair” to increase its jurisdiction over such matters.
Generative AI has taken the world by storm since OpenAI launched ChatGPT in November 2022. But the buzz and excitement of GAI has come with difficult legal questions that threaten the new technology. Several lawsuits—some of which we have discussed in detail—have been filed against companies whose GAI products have been trained on copyrighted materials. Up until now, we have only been able to speculate how courts will handle GAI as the industry has held its collective breath.
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.
Competition between Amazon’s third-party merchants is notoriously fierce. The online retail giant often finds itself playing the role of referee, banning what it considers unfair business practices (such as offering free products in exchange for perfect reviews, or targeting competitors with so-called “review bombing”). Last month, in the latest round of this push and pull, the online retail giant blew the whistle on several merchants who Amazon claims crossed a red line and may now have to face litigation in federal court.
On October 4, 2022, a Second Circuit panel affirmed the lower court’s decision that defendant Sirius XM Radio Inc.’s ads showcasing The Howard Stern Show do not violate plaintiff John Edward Melendez’s publicity rights. The ruling affirmed the Southern District of New York’s grant of defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s claims under California common and statutory law, agreeing that plaintiff Melendez’s claims were preempted by the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 301.
Bucking a legal trend in Europe, the United States Copyright Office recently recommended against adopting additional copyright-like protections for news publishers that would require online news aggregators to pay publishers for news content shared on their platforms. In a report published on June 30, 2022, the Office found such protections to be unnecessary in light of copyright protections currently held by publishers in connection with their works, and noted that any change to U.S. copyright law that would increase publishers’ ability to block or seek compensation for the use of their works by news aggregators would “necessarily avoid or narrow limitations on copyright that have critical policy and Constitutional dimensions.” Instead, the Office suggested that funding challenges faced by publishers would be better solved through other legal means, such as changes to competition law or tax policy.
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.