Overview

Mayer Brown understands that copyrights can be an integral part of a company’s intellectual property portfolio and that copyright issues are often inseparable from concerns involving software, digital media and the Internet. We handle a wide variety of copyright matters for our clients and are highly skilled at counseling on copyright protection issues. We understand the legal issues from both sides, having represented copyright owners and parties defending against copyright claims.

We enforce copyrights on software, product appearances and databases, and have developed particularly effective anti-piracy strategies. We have obtained numerous pre-judgment seizure orders against pirates of computer software, high-technology products, luxury goods, and celebrity merchandise. Our lawyers have supervised and coordinated international anti-piracy actions in East Asia and other parts of the world.

Thanks to our ongoing representation of music publishers, we have a thorough understanding of the music industry, and music copyright in particular. We represented EMI Music Publishing in the proceeding before the Copyright Royalty Board to establish royalty rates to be paid to music composers for the “mechanical” royalty. Our significant involvement in software copyright disputes has made us a leader in that field as well.

Our representation of Google and YouTube not only put Mayer Brown at the forefront of digital media copyright controversies, but also cemented our role in helping to define the legal landscape of emerging areas of Internet copyright law. In addition to providing core copyright services—such as counseling to avoid infringement of existing copyrights and registering copyrights—we have developed a sophisticated copyright licensing practice. In such matters, we often work closely with our colleagues in our highly regarded Business & Technology Sourcing practice and have repeatedly achieved excellent results for our clients.

Highlights

Experience

  • Google and YouTube. The US District Court granted summary judgment in lawsuits brought by Viacom and a putative class of copyright holders who claimed to have been harmed by alleged copyright infringement on YouTube. The plaintiffs sought more than $1 billion in damages. In a significant ruling, the district court held that YouTube is protected by the safe harbor provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act for all claims asserted by plaintiffs. The court noted that the DMCA’s notice-and-takedown procedure, which puts the burden of policing copyrights on the content owner, “makes sense, as the infringing works in suit may be a small fraction of millions of works posted by others on the service’s platform, whose provider cannot by inspection determine whether the use has been licensed by the owner, or whether its posting is a ‘fair use’ of the material, or even whether its copyright owner or licensee objects to its posting.” And this case “shows that the DMCA notification regime works efficiently,” because YouTube has always responded quickly and effectively to takedown notices—even when Viacom sent a single notice identifying 100,000 alleged infringements all at once. The court also rejected the plaintiffs’ assertion that YouTube should be held liable as an inducer of infringement under the Supreme Court’s Grokster decision.  The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s key holdings regarding service providers’ obligations under the DMCA’s safe harbor.  In addition to winning summary judgment and subsequent appeal, we scored several important victories for our client, including one that clarified that punitive damages are not available under the US Copyright Act, and another that established that foreign copyright owners cannot obtain statutory damages under the US Copyright Act absent registration of their copyrights in the United States.  The case has been described by Legal 500 as “arguably the most high profile and momentous case in the copyright market.”

  • Google. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed a district court’s denial of plaintiff Perfect 10’s motion for injunctive relief based on its claims of copyright infringement, ruling that Perfect 10 had not met its burden to show irreparable harm caused by Google’s operation of its search engine. 
  • Cablevision Systems Corporation. We negotiated a favorable settlement for Cablevision in a suit brought by Viacom plaintiffs concerning Cablevision’s launch of a computer application to display cable content on a popular tablet.  Plaintiffs asserted claims for breach of their licensing and distribution agreements, copyright infringement, trademark infringement, and unfair competition and sought declaratory judgment.  The settlement allowed cable television subscribers to view cable content on additional display screens within their home, including their tablets.
  • EMI Music Publishing. We represented EMI in a proceeding before the Copyright Royalty Board establishing the royalty rates to be paid to all music publishers for music subject to the Section 115 compulsory license. We also represented EMI Music North America in a putative class action brought against the major record companies alleging price fixing on digital downloads and compact discs.  Our long-standing relationship with EMI also encompasses numerous other representations, including the noteworthy settlement of the high-profile Beatles litigation in both the United States and the United Kingdom.  We are also presently advising a major music company on global transactional copyright matters.

  • Capital Records. We secured an important victory enabling owners of classic sound recordings to obtain protection for pre-1972 works not protected under federal law. The New York State Court of Appeals decision has broad significance for the recording industry because it firmly establishes state common-law copyright protection for pre-1972 sound recordings, which are not protected by the federal copyright statute. Under this decision, the Court of Appeals clarified that pre-1972 recordings, including popular recordings by such artists as the Beatles, will be protected by New York common-law copyright until state law is preempted by federal law in 2067. Adobe Systems Incorporated. We secured summary judgment for Adobe against a claim brought under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Plaintiffs claimed that by permitting a Preview & Print embedded TrueType font to be used for filling out forms or annotating a document, Adobe Acrobat 5.0 circumvented the embedding bit in violation of the DMCA.  The court granted our motion for summary judgment on the grounds that a single-bit flag disclosed in a public specification could not “effectively” protect a copyright under the DMCA and, alternatively, that because Adobe Acrobat 5.0 was not primarily designed or marketed for circumventing the embedding bit, Adobe lacked the intent necessary to violate the DMCA. Although the anticircumventionprovisions of the DMCA can be an effective tool to protect certain copyrighted works, we protected Adobe from an improper extension of the reach of the statute.