News

Judge Allows Copyright Suit Against Country Duet

Nashville-based U.S. District Court Judge Aleta Trauger ruled this week that a copyright lawsuit against country superstars Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood over their duet “Remind Me” could move forward. The ruling found that songwriter Amy Bowen, who performs as Lizza Connor, established a plausible claim of copyright infringement by Paisley and Underwood and songwriters John Kelley Lovelace and Charles DuBois. However, Trauger was clear that she was not ruling as a matter of law that the defendants infringed the copyright. Bowen claims she performed her song “Remind Me” at a songwriting workshop where Lovelace and DuBois were advisers three years before they penned a song with the same name. The defendants argue their song has a different melody, hook and lyrics. The Tennessean has more on the story.

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Email May Not Be Private, Paine Column About Perry March

Email communications -- even between attorney and client -- may be admissible. Find out how to protect electronic client communications in a Tennessee Bar Journal article by Nashville lawyers Kimberly Stagg and John E. Anderson Sr.  Also in the December Journal, read about the Perry March murder trial in a column by the late Don Paine, who died in November. Paine wrote several of his "Paine on Procedure" columns ahead of time, so readers will enjoy his writing for several more months.

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Elvis’s IP Rights Sold

Authentic Brands Group, a New York City intellectual property corporation, has bought Elvis Presley’s intellectual property and the right to operate Graceland from CORE Media Group, becoming the latest of four companies to own a majority share in the intellectual property assets of the late Memphis entertainer. Presley’s daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, continues to own Graceland and the artifacts of her father’s life, The Memphis Daily News reports. Authentic Brands will work with the licensing and merchandising rights, which come with a library of images, artworks, movie posters, recordings of Presley’s music and his television appearances.

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Google, States Settle Privacy Dispute

Tennessee today joined 36 other states in an agreement with Google that will send $17 million to the states and the District of Columbia. At issue between the states and Google were allegations that the company had issued misleading advice regarding privacy settings on some Safari web browsers, which allowed Google to operate user tracking devices without users' knowledge. Read more from the Tennessee Attorney General's office.

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Attorneys, Developers Discuss Rocky Top IP Issues

Intellectual property rights lawyers warned city officials and developers of Lake City that they could face legal action if they change the town’s name to Rocky Top. Knoxnews reports that Nashville firm Waddey Patterson is representing The House of Bryant LLC, which owns numerous trademarks and the copyright to the popular bluegrass ballad. The House of Bryant has agreed to enter into negotiations with the city regarding a licensing agreement but question whether the name change and planned tourist development project “would enhance the Rocky Top brand.”

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Copyright Infringement Awards, Increases for Appointed Counsel Covered in This Issue

Nashville lawyer Tim Warnock writes about the best ways to set an appropriate award of statutory damages in a copyright infringement case in the latest issue of the Tennessee Bar Journal. In his regular column, Knoxville lawyer Wade Davies discusses policy changes on mandatory minimum sentences in federal court, rate increases for appointed counsel and more. The Tennessee Supreme Court has raised the caps on payment for counsel representing indigent defendnats in non-capital first-degree murder and Class A and B felonies, Davies writes.  "If anyone thinks people are getting wealthy from representing poor people at state expense, take a look at the rule. The rates have not changed since 1994. The state pays $40 per hour for out-of-court work and $50 for in-court, which does not include the time spent in court waiting."

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Senate Approves NSA Surveillance Bill

After the global uproar over the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs, Congress is beginning to make some legal changes, CNN reports. The Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday approved a bill 11-4 to make some limited changes to the law that governs the NSA's surveillance activities. The proposed changes include requiring the NSA to publicize annually the number of telephone metadata inquiries from the NSA database and the number of times such queries led to an FBI investigation; a limit on the number of people who may authorize such queries; a requirement for a "reasonable articulable suspicion" that someone is associated with international terrorism; and a five-year limit on the retention of the records.

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'Mockingbird' Author Files Suit Against Hometown Museum

“To Kill a Mockingbird” author Harper Lee has sued the Monroe County Heritage Museum in her Alabama hometown for allegedly violating her trademarks and right to publicity, the ABA Journal reports. The museum touts its restored courtroom as the model for the fictional courtroom in the novel, and also uses the domain name tokillamockingbird.com and sells memorabilia. In the suit, Lee—who recently settled with her editor over copyright issues— claims trademark and right-of-publicity violations, cybersquatting, unfair competition and unjust enrichment.

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Court Accepts 8 Cases; Likely Will Work During Shutdown

The U.S. Supreme Court today granted review of eight new cases, including one from Tennessee seeking to clarify when an individual commits a crime for having a gun after being convicted of domestic violence. Other cases involve questions about the award of attorneys' fees in patent cases; whether it is unconstitutional for a state to require home-care providers to pay a union to represent them before state agencies; whether the federal government has a right to reclaim lands abandoned by a railroad; whether shuttered businesses must pay Social Security and Medicare tax on severance checks; and whether police, after receiving an anonymous tip, must observe drunken or reckless driving before stopping a vehicle. The final case seeks to resolve a long-running copyright dispute in Hollywood over the screenplay for the 1980 movie Raging Bull. Although much of the government is closed because of the budget impasse, the Supreme Court is going ahead with its work, SCOTUSblog reports.

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Remote Video Interpreter Program Launches in Sumner County

A pilot program allowing language interpreters to provide services remotely through internet connection was launched this week in Sumner County General Session Judge James Hunter’s courtroom. The first remote session was held for five cases this week. The interpreters worked via laptop using a video and audio feed of the court proceedings. The interpreter can see and hear the courtroom activities, while those in the courtroom can see and hear the interpreter. The Administrative Office of the Courts received funding from the Office of Criminal Justice Programs to launch the one-year pilot project.

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Belmont Student New Chair of ABA IP Group

Belmont University College of Law student Franklin Graves (class of 2014) has been nominated to chair the Communications Subcommittee of the ABA Intellectual Property Section’s Law Student Action Group. Graves will be responsible for the group's communications and social media campaigns.

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Court Rules Privacy Case Against Google Can Proceed

A federal appeals court ruled yesterday that a lawsuit accusing Internet giant Google of illegal wiretapping could proceed, the New York Times reports. The ruling has its origins in a much-publicized Google initiative, Street View, which tried to map the inhabited world. In addition to photographs, Street View vehicles secretly collected e-mail, passwords, images and other personal information from unencrypted home computer networks. “This is an important opinion for privacy rights,” said Nashville attorney Kathryn E. Barnett of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, one of the law firms working for the plaintiffs. “It says that when you are in your home, you have a right to privacy in your communications. Someone just can’t drive by and seize them.”

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'Mockingbird' Author, Agent Settle Lawsuit

Nelle Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, and literary agent Samuel Pinkus reportedly have reached an “agreement in principle” to settle a copyright suit brought by Lee. Counsel for Pinkus said a settlement had been reached and papers dismissing the case would be filed in federal court next week. No details were disclosed, The Tennessean reports. Lee, who won the Pulitzer Prize for the book in 1961, has alleged that Pinkus “duped” her into signing over the copyright to his company in 2007. Pinkus assigned the copyright back to Lee in April 2012. The suit sought forfeiture of any commissions Pinkus or his company may have received since 2007.

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Magazine Predicts 12 ‘Hottest’ Practice Areas

The September issue of The National Jurist predicts the 12 "hottest" practice areas for the next decade. Those deemed to be “super hot” were health care, administrative, intellectual property and family law. Food and drug law, tax litigation, privacy law and compliance law were ranked as “hot.” And employment, energy, manufacturing and immigration law were judged “somewhat hot.”

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Commerce Secretary to Tour Nashville’s Music Row

Newly appointed U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker will travel to Nashville this week to meet with business leaders, primarily in music publishing, as part of a listening tour that has included stops in Colorado, Connecticut and upstate New York. Pritzker’s Nashville trip will take her to Loud Recording Studios to meet with heads of the Recording Industry Association of America and Sony Music. The Commerce Secretary also plans to see the Nashville Entrepreneur Center. Nashville Public Radio has the story.

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Nelson Mullins Moves into New Nashville Office

Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP has moved into a 17,000-square-foot office space at One Nashville Place at Fourth Avenue and Commerce Street. Although about the same size in square footage as the firm's previous office at the Regions Center, managing shareholder Larry Papel noted that the new space is "lighter and brighter and newer and nicer." The new space can accommodate up to 25 attorneys. Nelson Mullins, which opened in 2012 with six attorneys, added two more in April of this year and expects to add at least three more attorneys within the next few months. The Nashville Business Journal has the story.

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Review: 'Zubulake's e-Discovery' a Must-Read for Lawyers

If your practice involves e-discovery at all, you know the name Laura Zubulake. Read a review of her new book, Zubulake's e-Discovery: The Untold Story of My Quest for Justice, in this issue. "Her lawsuit resulted in a historic jury verdict and landmark e-discovery opinions that have proven influential not just nationally but also in Tennessee, having been cited by courts across the state," Nashville lawyer Russell Taber writes in his review. "While the Zubulake decisions are well known, her book reveals for the first time what really happened behind the scenes and how she did what she did."

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Judge Rules Apple Violated Antitrust Laws

Southern District Judge Denise Cote ruled this morning that Apple violated antitrust laws when it orchestrated a conspiracy to fix e-book prices with major publishers Penguin, Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster, the National Law Journal reports. Cotes's ruling came in an action brought by the U.S. Justice Department's Antitrust Division and State of Texas v. Penguin Group (USA), brought by 33 states and U.S. territories. In a statement, Assistant Attorney General William Baer called the decision "a victory for millions of consumers who choose to read books electronically."

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Exhaustion Doctrine Detailed in July Issue

Recent court decisions decided the 'Exhaustion Doctrine' differently: soybean seeds went one way and imported textbooks went another. James R. Cartiglia and Nina Maja Bergmar explain it in the latest Tennessee Bar Journal. Also, new TBA President Cindy Wyrick makes her case for this year's work ahead, encouraging lawyers to work together to make a difference.

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Judge Blocks Cracker Barrel’s Grocery Plans

A U.S. District Court judge granted a preliminary injunction to block Tennessee-based restaurant chain Cracker Barrel Old County Store from selling branded meat products in grocery stores. The Memphis Daily News reports that food giant Kraft Foods argued that the line would infringe on its own Cracker Barrel-trademarked cheese products, which registered the Cracker Barrel trademark more than a decade before Cracker Barrel Old Country Store used the name.

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Supreme Court Rules DNA Not Patentable

A unanimous Supreme Court ruled today that “naturally occurring” DNA segments cannot be patented, the Blog of the Legal Times reports. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the opinion for the court in Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, which is considered by some a victory for civil liberties and consumer groups that argued corporations should not be able to lock up the uses of new DNA that could benefit patients if widely available. The Myriad patents at issue in the case were for BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene segments which, when mutated, can increase the risk for breast and ovarian cancer. Myriad developed diagnostic tests from the segments that could reveal cancer risk in women.

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Patent Push Causes Debate on Legal Authority

The Obama administration announced a plan on Tuesday to lift the veil on patent ownership. As part of the plan, the president said the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is drafting a rule that would require patent applicants to disclose who actually owns them. While proponents defend the action as falling within the scope of the executive rule-making authority, critics of the proposal have suggested the new disclosure rule may be an overreach. The Legal Blog of the Wall Street Journal has the story.

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Court Will Not Consider Challenge to Copyright Board

The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear a challenge to the authority of the Copyright Royalty Board, which sets royalty rates for musical works. The high court today refused to hear an appeal that the panel – made up of three copyright judges appointed by the Librarian of Congress – should be appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The company bringing the suit also wanted to overturn the panel’s decision that noncommercial educational webcasters pay an annual fee of $500 per channel for a license authorizing the webcasting of unlimited amounts of music. The Memphis Daily News has this Associated Press story.

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Event to Benefit Volunteer Lawyers & Professionals for the Arts

Arts Immersion, presented by the Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville and the Nashville Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, will take place June 19 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the W.O. Smith School. The event will feature live performances, visual art and a silent auction – including opportunities to co-write with top songwriters. All proceeds benefit Volunteer Lawyers & Professionals for the Arts, which has provided $1 million worth of free legal and business help to over 1,000 low-income artists and 300 nonprofit arts organizations over the past five years. Tickets are $40 and are available at the door or online. Food, beverages and valet parking will be provided.

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'To Kill a Mockingbird' Author Sues Literary Agent for Royalties

Acclaimed author Harper Lee is suing her literary agent Samuel Pinkus, alleging that he tricked her into signing a document transferring the royalties from her 1960 novel “To Kill A Mockingbird.” The 87-year-old was recovering from a stroke and says she did not understand what she was doing. “Pinkus knew that Harper Lee was an elderly woman with physical infirmities that made it difficult for her to read and see,” her lawyer, Gloria Phares, wrote in the suit. “Harper Lee had no idea she had assigned her copyright.” The ABA Journal has the story.

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