On 12 December 2016, the PRC Ministry of Culture released the Administrative Measures for Business Activities of Online Performances (the “Measures”). The Measures target providers of live performances broadcast or streamed over the Internet or a mobile network (“Streaming Services Providers”) who derive a profit from such activities through advertising, sponsorship or by charging for access. The Measures will come into effect on 1 January 2017.
Continue Reading

For many people, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year: decorating the house, wrapping presents and, last but not least, listening to cheesy Christmas songs, some of which are among the highest-earning songs of all time. When Santa Claus comes to town, however, he might bring some gift-wrapped intellectual property lawsuits with him. The European Patent Office, for example, records many patents that mention Christmas in their title. Most of these patents relate to Christmas trees or their decoration. But patents are not the only kind of intellectual property right that could cool your Christmas cheer.
Continue Reading

It is only one example of many, but it grasps the very essence of the issue: In 2013, a New York City coffee shop owner got a tattoo on his right hand saying “I [coffee cup] NY.” Cool, if you are a tattoo fan who also loves coffee. Then he started using an illustration of his tattooed hand as a logo for his shop. Not cool, if you are the New York State Department of Economic Development, which served him with a cease-and-desist letter. In the eyes of the state agency, the use of the tattoo design on the shop’s window was less a reference or a tribute to the famous “I love NY” slogan but rather a plain case of trademark infringement.

Yes, copyright and trademark issues may even emerge from someplace as personal as your skin and the ink decorating it. But there is more to the story.
Continue Reading

When cobwebs and tombstones start to show up in your neighborhood, probably something wicked is coming your way—except that one night of the year, on Halloween. Even though Halloween involves frightening things—haunted houses, the undead, tricks in response to no treats—it is ultimately about carefree fun. And there’s candy! But if you are in a Halloween-related business, there is a genuinely scary side to the holiday—IP issues that, if ignored, could lead to a wicked lawsuit.
Continue Reading

On 15 September 2016 (C-484/14), the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that the operator of a shop, hotel or bar that offers free Wi-Fi to the public is not liable for copyright infringements committed by the network’s users. However, the operator may be required to password-protect its network in order to prevent—or cease—these infringements.
Continue Reading

On 8 September 2016 (C-160/15), the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that the posting of a hyperlink to copyright-protected works located on another web site does not constitute copyright infringement when the link poster does not seek financial gain and acts without knowledge of the illegal publication. However, when the posting of a hyperlink is carried out for profit, it has to be presumed that the posting has occurred with the full knowledge of the protected nature of that work and the possible lack of consent from the copyright holder to publication on the linked web site.
Continue Reading

The Olympic Games 2016 which take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 5 to 21 August are supported by a huge volume of marketing and advertising campaigns. As many countries have done before, Brazil enacted special legislation to protect the Olympic symbols and expressions specific to the games hosted in Rio. The protection offered in these Olympic-special legislations often can go beyond what would normally be available under trademark or copyright protection laws. For example, the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006 created a sui generis right of association to prevent the use of any representation that is likely to suggest an association between the London Olympics and goods or services.
Continue Reading

On 31 May 2016, the Regional Court of Berlin (15 O 428/15) ruled that photographs of public domain paintings ‎are, in principle, protected by a copyright-related right in section 72 of the German Copyright Act. The case involved a request to take down several pictures hosted on Wikimedia Commons as public domain images that had been taken by a photographer employed by the Reiss Engelhorn Museum in Mannheim, Germany. Responding to the judgment, the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikimedia Germany wrote that the decision did not pay adequate attention to the long-term damage this judgment represents to accessing public domain works.

The Wikimedia Foundation already announced its plans to appeal the case to the next level of appellate court—the Kammergericht Berlin—and, if necessary, to take it all the way to the Federal Court of Justice.
Continue Reading

On 23 June 2016, a US federal jury concluded that Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and Robert Plant did not copy the opening guitar riff in “Stairway to Heaven” from the song “Taurus,” an earlier tune by US rock band Spirit. The latter song, a 2-minute 27-second instrumental, was recorded nearly four years before “Stairway,” and was released on Spirit’s self-titled debut album in 1968.

The conclusion of the “Stairway” case comes a little more than a year after a federal jury in Los Angeles, California, awarded millions to R&B-soul singer Marvin Gaye’s family. The jury decided that recording stars Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams had plagiarized Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” in creating their hit single “Blurred Lines.”
Continue Reading

In 2013, several artists and music production companies filed a constitutional complaint with the German Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht, BVerfG) against two Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof, BGH) rulings (I ZR 112/06I ZR 182/11) that held that the sampling of a two-second sound sequence was not admissible under the German Copyright Act (UrhG). In music, “sampling” is the act of taking a portion of one sound recording and reusing it in a different song or piece. Sampling is particularly common in modern hip-hop and electronic music.

The complainants argued that the Federal Court of Justice rulings violated their fundamental right to artistic freedom enshrined in Art. 5 para. 3 of the German Basic Law (Grundgesetz, GG). On 31 May 2016, the First Senate of the Federal Constitutional Court granted the constitutional complaint.
Continue Reading