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First off today, Eriq Gardner at The Hollywood Reporter Esquire reports that a New York federal judge has ruled that the unlicensed use of a song in a documentary was fair sue and even did so before any discovery had taken place.
The case deals with the documentary Burlesque: Heart of the Glitter Tribe. Part of the film captured a performance where the song Fish Sticks n’ Tater Tots could be heard playing in the background. Though only playing for eight seconds, the song’s writers filed a lawsuit alleging that its use was a copyright infringement.
However, the judge ruled that the use of the song was transformative and that, despite claims the film had taken the “heart” of the song, that the use was a fair use. The judge dismissed the claim with prejudice, meaning they can’t refile the claims, but they do have the option to appeal.
Next up today, Gene Maddaus at Variety reports that a California judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed against Apple and director M. Night Shyamalan over the Apple TV+ original series Servant.
The lawsuit was filed by Francesca Gregorini, who is the writer and director of the 2013 film The Truth About Emanuel. Both Servant and Emanuel are about grieving mothers who care for a doll as a substitute for a real child. According to Gregorini, the Apple TV+ series was a “bastardization” of her story and an infringement.
The judge, however, disagreed. Noting that the similarities are not protectable under copyright law and that the stories diverge from those similarities. Furthermore, the judge notes they have very different tones and feels overall. The judge dismissed the claim with prejudice but Gregorini has vowed to appeal.
Finally today, Andy at Torrentfreak writes that a judge has ruled a series of DMCA subpoenas filed by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society are unenforceable, bringing an end to a long-running and vulgarity-laced battle over unmasking an alleged infringer.
The notices were filed by the Tract Society, which sought to unmask an alleged infringer who published Jehovah’s Witness sermons to YouTube. The respondent, who remained anonymous through the process, argued to quash the subpoena, arguing that his use was a fair use and that the organization was attempting to unmask him not for a lawsuit, but to harass him. He also argued that the subpoenas were unenforceable since he had removed the videos before YouTube had received the notices.
The case became as well known for the respondent’s vulgarities as the legal issues. Ultimately though, the judge sided with the respondent. Though she denied the motion to quash, saying the Tract Society had adequately explained both its stance on fair use and the other issues around the case, she agreed that the subpoenas were unenforceable and declined to compel YouTube to take action. However, the judge did take time out to admonish the respondent for his language saying that, “Inflammatory, vulgar and abusive language in court filings is not a good idea.”