Pattishall IP Blog

October 15, 2012

Motley Crue Successfully Moves for Dismissal of Suit Involving Copyright in “Too Fast for Love” Album Artwork

Filed under: Copyright, Litigation — Tags: , , , — Pattishall, McAuliffe, Newbury, Hilliard & Geraldson LLP @ 11:17 am

by Jeffrey A. Wakolbinger

On October 9, 2012, Judge Grady, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, dismissed a copyright-infringement action against rock band Mötley Crüe for lack of personal jurisdiction.[1]

The suit was brought by Ron Toma, who owns copyrights in certain photographs of band members Vince Neil, Nikki Sixx, Mick Mars, and Tommy Lee.  One of those photographs was a close up of singer Vince Neil’s waist area, featuring a prominent studded belt buckle (the “Belt Buckle Image”).

The photograph was taken by Michael Pinter in 1981 and used as the cover artwork for Mötley Crüe’s debut album, “Too Fast for Love.”  Toma acquired the copyright in that image in 2008 through assignment.  In September 2011, he filed a complaint in the Northern District of Illinois against Motley Crue, Inc., alleging that the defendants infringed his copyright in the Belt Buckle Image by projecting it on screen during live performances.  He later amended the complaint to add the band’s touring company, Red White & Crue, Inc, as a defendant.  The only specific example of alleged infringement in the complaint is a link to a YouTube video showing live footage from a concert in Las Vegas, during which the Belt Buckle Image was displayed on a screen while the band performed the title track of the album.  Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction.

Toma asserted the defendants were subject to general and specific jurisdiction in Illinois.  Relying on a declaration submitted by bass player, Nikki Sixx, Defendants asserted that they had no physical or legal presence in Illinois.  Toma argued otherwise, citing the band’s performances in Illinois, relationships with Illinois vendors, album and merchandise sales in Illinois, and activities related to a settlement agreement resolving a prior lawsuit with Toma in Illinois.  (This was actually Toma’s third suit against the band, notwithstanding that he apparently was a fan—his declaration stated that he attended Mötley Crüe concerts in Illinois in 1997, 1998, 2000, 2005, and 2006.)  The court found these contacts to be “extensive in the aggregate” but not “continuous and systematic” as required to meet “the demanding standard required to subject the defendants to general jurisdiction in Illinois.” (more…)

July 8, 2011

Copying a Photograph Openly Available Over the Internet Constitutes Copyright Infringement, Despite Attempted Fair Use Defense by Appropriation Artist

Filed under: Copyright, Internet — Tags: , , , , — Pattishall, McAuliffe, Newbury, Hilliard & Geraldson LLP @ 5:08 pm

Categories: Copyright, Internet
Tags: Copyright Infringement, Internet, Photograph, Fair Use, Phillip Barengolts

by Phillip Barengolts, Trademark Attorney

In 1985, Glen E. Friedman took a photograph of Run DMC, a then famous and now iconic rap group, standing shoulder-to-shoulder and wearing black Stetson hats (the “Friedman Photograph”).  The photograph itself became relatively famous.  Friedman published the photograph in a not-so-family-friendly titled book F**k You Heroes, and in 2003 obtained a copyright registration for the photograph.  Thierry Guetta, an appropriation artist[1] known as Mr. Brainwash,[2] found the Photograph on the Internet and, by his own admission, used a digital image of the Friedman Photograph in the creation of his own works.  Friedman sued Guetta.[3]

On cross-motions for summary judgment, the Court for the Central District of California found that Guetta’s works infringed the Friedman Photograph.  Friedman v. Guetta, 2:10-cv-00014 (C.D. Cal. May 27, 2011).[4]  The Court denied Guetta’s motion, which was based upon an argument that the works were not substantially similar in their original aspects and the fair use defense.  (more…)

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