If you're a regular visitor to our blog, then you've probably read a number of our posts where we illustrate an aspect of entertainment law by using court cases that have been resolved or are still waiting for a court decision. One such aspect of entertainment law we have focused on in recent months is intellectual property rights and what legal standing copyright owners have when it comes to their creative works.
As you may know or remember from an Oct. 28 post, a copyright is granted to an individual once their creative work has been fixed in a medium such as written on paper or saved as an audio file. To truly protect your rights though, an artist may also request a copyright from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, giving them further protections from duplication or reproduction of their work without their expressed permission.
As we explained back in October, getting a copyright from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office can be very helpful when proving copyright infringement because it can establish a timeline that can show whether infringement occurred or not. By looking at a recent federal case, we can see how this plays out in real life.
Some of our California readers may have heard about the recent lawsuit that was filed against Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment and FX Networks for their use of three paintings by artist Michel Leah Keck. The paintings, as the lawsuit explains, appear in the cartoon show called "Archer" in one of the show's fictional offices. Not only does Keck claim to have registered copyrights for her three paintings, she also claims the defendants used her works "without even seeking the necessary permission to do so."
Her case, which can be found on several sites, including Courthouse News Service, shows that civil litigation is possible when an individual reproduces another person's copyrighted work without their permission. The person whose work has been infringed upon may seek compensation totaling thousands -- if not hundreds of thousands -- of dollars. On both sides, lawyers are highly recommended as this does involve an area of the law that can be particularly complex.