By James Boyajian, Esq. Chief Judge Randall Rader doesn’t let his day job stop him from having some fun. He may not be the next Mick, but music industry professionals should take pleasure in knowing that the chief intellectual property decision-maker of our country brings the same energy to the law that he does to music. In an unexpected performance, America’s foremost IP law judge jumped on stage at a Beverly Hills Hotel ballroom as the lead singer of his band DeNovo. Rader stunned hundreds of lawyers attending the USC Gould School of Law IP Institute on last month by belting out classics from the ‘Stones, The Beatles, Roy Orbison, and Jimmy Buffett.
The surprise display of Jagger-like moves and feverish singing capped off a day of discourse by leading legal scholars, law professors, lawyers, and federal judges from around the nation – including Hon. William Alsup (N.D. Cal.), Hon. Rodney Gilstrap (E.D. Tex), Hon. Andrew J. Guilford (C.D. Cal.), and Hon. John A. Kronstadt (C.D. Cal). The annual USC IP Institute featured panels on patent, trademark, publicity, and copyright law.
Prof. Mark Lemley (Stanford Law), Prof. J. Thomas McCarthy (U.S.F. Law), and Prof. David Nimmer (UCLA Law) presented important cases decided this past year that involve right of publicity, trademark, and copyright issues on the Internet, Web-sites, and new technologies. Here are a few that may affect you:
- Right of Publicity: In a line of class-action lawsuits against Facebook, Inc., it was decided that everyone has a right of publicity (not just celebrities), meaning every individual has the right to control how his or her “persona” is commercialized by third parties. However, it was also decided that the right of publicity is not available where one consciously poses to paparazzi photographers, knowing full well that the photos are intended to be sold for profit.
- Trademark: Using a Web site as a specimen to seek trademark registration for goods is insufficient if the site does not have an online shopping cart or at least a sales order form.
- Copyright: Since 2010, the U.S. Copyright Office no longer considers “jail-breaking” one’s own mobile phone an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. In other words, hacking or “unlocking” your phone to install third-party applications or even to use it with a carrier other than the one from which you purchased it is now considered a crime. However, the White House and the FCC have publicly disagreed with this position so it is uncertain whether this law will even be enforced. Additionally, Hollywood studios and major Internet Service Providers signed onto the new Copyright Alert System – aka “Six-Strikes” initiative – to fight piracy.
Breakout sessions featured more specialized topics. One panel focused on elements of software protection. It included a prickly debate between in-house attorneys from Google and Oracle, each claiming he was speaking on behalf of himself and not on behalf of his company. The attorneys focused on the recent Oracle v. Google case, where Google allegedly copied “API” or non-literal elements of software into Android. Oracle recently lost its copyright case in a California jury trial. It is now appealing the decision to the Federal Circuit which must make an important decision on whether copying of software is illegal under current Copyright laws.
In a keynote address, Chief Judge Rader highlighted the fact that two judges on the Federal Circuit have the power to make decisions that bind the entire country on technology issues. These Federal Circuit Judges are specialists on issues of commerce and technology who set legal precedents for the whole country. Being one of them makes Chief Judge Rader one of the most powerful men in the world.
So, while Rader sings that he “can’t get no satisfaction,” his performance reminded me, a musician myself, that there are few things in life more gratifying than performing in front of a live audience.
About the Author:
A. James Boyajian, Esq. is an attorney in Downtown Los Angeles practicing Corporate, Entertainment, and Intellectual Property Law. He also serves as Editor in Chief of www.StreamIndustry.com – an online trade publication for communications, media, and entertainment professionals. Contact: James@StreamIndustry.com