PUBLISHED BY HEATHER M. MORADO

I am an attorney at Morado Law, PLLC.  I practice in the areas of entertainment and intellectual property law.

Monday
Mar022015

"Blurred Lines" copyright infringement trial

In a rare copyright infringement case that has reached the trial stages, this week, jurors will decide whether the song “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke, Pharrell, and T.I. infringes on the Marvin Gaye song, “Got to Give it Up.”  In response to cease and desist letters from the Gaye estate, Thicke, Pharrell, and T.I. preemptively brought suit in March of 2013, asking the Court for a declaratory judgment that the song “Blurred Lines” was non-infringing.  In response, the Gaye estate brought counterclaims alleging intentional copyright infringement.

In order to prevail on their infringement claims, the Gaye estate must show: 1) ownership of a valid copyright; 2) the defendants had access to “Got to Give it Up;” and 3) that “Blurred Lines” is substantially similar to “Got to Give it Up.”  Of these three elements, only the third is at issue in the case. 

Earlier in the case, the defendants unsuccessfully moved for summary judgment that “Blurred Lines” was non-infringing.  Although the motion was unsuccessful, the judge’s ruling contained a silver lining.  In his decision, Judge Kronstadt ruled that because the Gaye estate had failed to make sufficient sound recording deposits as part of their original copyright registration (governed by the former 1909 Copyright Act), at trial, the Gaye estate will only be allowed to cite to elements of the copyright that were included in their sheet music deposit.  This ruling will likely prove advantageous to the defendants, because the sound recording of “Got to Give it Up” contains numerous elements (including some of the vocals, the percussive instruments, keyboards, and bass parts) that were not included in the plaintiffs’ sheet music deposit accompanying their federal copyright registration. 

The case has also had its share of curiosities, including wild deposition testimony in which Thicke claimed that he was continuously high on Vicodin, vodka, and cocaine for an entire year and as a result, couldn’t have possibly written “Blurred Lines.”  In opening statements, counsel for the Gaye estate cautioned the jury that Pharrell and Thicke “will wink at you and they’ll be charming.  But keep one thing in mind.  They are professional performers.”   The trial is expected to be concluded this week.  Stay tuned for the verdict – and judge for yourself whether “Blurred Lines” is derivative of the Gaye original, below:

 

Thursday
Jul312014

Congratulations to client Perfume Genius

Congratulations to client Perfume Genius on the release of his subversive music video for the single “Queen,” from his upcoming LP “Too Bright.”  The song reached #6 on the Billboard emerging artists chart, and has also received favorable reviews by Pitchfork, Time Magazine, and Rolling Stone.  

The video explores the underlying rage caused by “gay panic,” with “an alternative universe Forrest Gump and Jenny, except with fluid genders and ever-shifting identities,” according to the press release.  Among other things, the video features a pack of baby pigs, a one-legged Elvis impersonator, computer smashing, business executives chowing down on giant shrimp, and more.  Enjoy:

Thursday
Jun192014

Court affirms that Sherlock Holmes characters are public domain

The estate of Arthur Conan Doyle, owners of the rights to the original Sherlock Holmes novels, threatened to sue author Leslie Klinger if he didn’t obtain a license to publish “In the Company of Sherlock,” an anthology based on the characters Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson.  In response, Klinger sued the estate, seeking a declaratory judgment that the copyright to the Sherlock Holmes characters had expired, placing them in the public domain.  The trial court found in favor of Klinger, and the Doyle estate appealed the decision.

In its appeal, the estate argued that although the copyright on all but ten of the Sherlock Holmes novels had expired, the copyright on the characters themselves had not expired because they were “round” rather than “flat” characters.  In other words, since the complexity of the “round” characters was not fully revealed until the characters evolved in Doyle’s later novels, Sherlock and Watson should remain protected by copyright until the later novels became public domain.   

The Court of Appeals rejected the estate’s novel argument, finding no basis under either the Copyright Act or the case law to extend the copyright protection of the Sherlock Holmes characters past their original date of expiration.  The Court noted that although Doyle had clearly added additional, distinctive features to his characters in his later novels, these alterations did not revive the expired copyrights on the original characters.  The case is Klinger v. Conan Doyle Estate Ltd., accessible here.

 

Wednesday
Feb262014

Showbox Presents: Roast the Keblas

This evening, I’ll be joining my Seattle entertainment industry friends to celebrate James Keblas for his nine years of service as the director of the City of Seattle Office of Film and Music. A self-described "punk rocker in a suit," James has been a tireless, dedicated, and effective advocate for the Seattle creative community, and he will most definitely be missed!   

The event is at Showbox at the Market, doors at 6pm, free and open to the public. For those that can’t attend, the good folks over at Lively will be recording the event as well.

 

 

Thursday
Jan092014

Congrats to client Leona X

Congrats to client Leona X on the release of her music video for “Ready For This?” Her music has been described as a mix of Joan Jett, AC/DC, and Angus Young.  Leona's EP was produced in Seattle at the legendary London Bridge Studios.  Enjoy: