This is the last blog post on major copyright decisions that were issued by the Supreme Court since 2010. It briefly addresses three decisions concerning the issues of laches, the restoration of works in the public domain and Internet broadcasting.
The Supreme Court limited the affirmative defense of laches in copyright infringement actions in Petrella v. Metro Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc. et al., __ U.S. ___, 134 S. Ct. 1962 (2014). The case is discussed in detail in my Dec. 17, 2015, blog.
Restoration of Public-Domain Works
The Supreme Court considered whether a certain provision of a statute that implemented a treaty was constitutional in Golan v. Holder, 565 U.S. ___ 132 S.Ct. 873 (2012). The statute was the Uruguay Round Agreements Act. The statute allowed copyright owners to “restore” copyrights in certain works that were in the public domain. The statute effectively removed millions of foreign works from the public domain via restoration. The Supreme Court determined that the Act was constitutional.
In American Broadcasting Companies v. Aereo, 573 U.S. ___ (2014), the defendant came up with a system that would allow users to view television broadcasts over the Internet. The system consisted of thousands of small antennas and other equipment housed in a centralized warehouse. Each antenna was dedicated to a subscriber. Each antenna could receive a broadcast for a particular show.
A server could receive the show for storage or for “re-broadcast” to the subscriber. If the server stored the broadcast, the server could “re-broadcast” the show to the subscriber at a later time (i.e., a time-shifted “re-broadcast”). The Supreme Court considered whether these “re-broadcasts” would constitute performances of the copyrighted material that were contained within the original broadcast.
The Supreme Court held that the defendant’s system clearly infringed the copyrighted material. However, the holding seemed to be very fact-specific to the defendant’s system, so it is unlikely to have a big effect on copyright law in general.
Thomas Joseph is a patent attorney in Pittsburgh, Pa. You can contact him at www.joseph-iplaw.com.