Five years ago, the trustee of the estate of a 1960s rock musician filed a lawsuit against members of the band Led Zeppelin, stating that their hit "Stairway to Heaven" infringed copyright by stealing its opening from an earlier song. During a 2016 trial, a jury found in favor of Led Zeppelin songwriters Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. Claiming that the jury had not received proper instructions, an appellate court ordered a new trial. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California has since taken the unusual step to hear the case en banc. In other words, the full panel of 11 judges will hear the case in the interest of determining authorship of the song.
California residents who have copyrighted work may think it has protection against all other use that the owner does not give permission for. However, copyright laws allow others to use copyrighted material in certain situations, and this is known as fair use.
It is important for many business owners in California to forge a unique brand identity and protect it with trademarks. However, are there limits to what you can register as a trademark? In addition to logos and slogans, can you also trademark a particular sound? According to the Huffington Post, it is technically possible to trademark a sound. However, it is extremely difficult to do so successfully.
Many people might understandably consider California the home of the computer software and hardware industries. Over the past few decades, Silicon Valley has launched an innumerable number of companies, ventures and technologies. This explosion of products onto the world market has brought with it the need to protect these products from being copied illegally.
Many people in California have at a minimum viewed a video on YouTube at least once. It is almost impossible to avoid having a video on the platform show up in a web browser search in some situations. The service offers companies and individuals a place to house and share their content. YouTube has also produced its own set of celebrities and an entirely new form of entertainment. Along the way, it has been plagued with problems related to copyrights and the protection of these rights on such a dynamic medium.
People in California may be aware that copyrights are the legal way of protection an artistic work from being used or promoted by someone other than the creator. However, there are many complexities when it comes to the ownership of a piece or body of work, especially in the music industry. The road from writing a song to having it played on the radio can be long and winding and involves multiple parties, including record labels.
California-based DC Comics has been publishing comic books and graphic novels featuring the character Wonder Woman for over 70 years. In the interest of protecting its intellectual property, the company has issued a cease-and-desist order against a New York-based bookstore that commissioned comic book cover art that depicts one of the state's congresswomen in the role. The order also applies to the rival comic book company that published comics featuring the controversial cover art.
Writing fan fiction is a popular hobby in California and most other areas of the country. While many writers create fan stories for personal enjoyment, there are others who choose to publish their work online. Some even attempt to charge money for their stories. What many people may not realize is that most fan fiction violates copyright protections, even if it is not sold for profit.
For years, Netflix has built up its reputation as a purveyor of streaming entertainment. While most of its customers in California and around the country consume its content online, Netflix still has ties to its roots as a DVD-by-mail company, and some 2.7 million customers around the country still consume its media that way to this day.
Ordinarily, if you create an original work of authorship in California and fix it in a tangible medium of expression, you automatically hold the copyright to it. That copyright is yours unless you transfer it to someone else. Otherwise, even when you die, your estate will retain the ownership of it for many years thereafter. However, there is one notable exception to this rule. If someone hires you to create a work of authorship for business purposes, it may be a work for hire, which means that the entity for whom you created the work holds the copyright, not you.