Copyright infringement class action lawsuits keypoints

Copyright infringement class action lawsuits keypoints

When someone create a new work of art, they are automatically granted a copyright to that art.  Art such as music, paintings, sculpture, books, movies are all granted copyright protection.  Registering the art with the United States Copyright Office is not required to be granted a copyright but it strengthen the rights of the copyright owner and is necessary to get certain damages in a copyright infringement lawsuit.  A copyright is a set of exclusive rights granted to a copyright owner.  A copyright in the United States gives a copyright owner the exclusive right to copy, distribute and sell a work within the United States.  If someone other than the copyright owner exercises one of these rights that is considered copyright infringement.  A copyright owner can file a lawsuit to stop copyright infringement with an injunction and can recover monetary damages for copyright infringement.

A lawsuit in the United States is a time consuming and expensive process.  Whether or not a plaintiff decides to file a lawsuit depends on a number of factors, most importantly the cost of filing a lawsuit versus the damages the plaintiff has suffered.  Frequently a plaintiff will not file a lawsuit because the cost of hiring an attorney is more than the damages the plaintiff has endured. Sometimes this means that a defendant will not be held accountable for damages it has caused others.

The United States recognized the problem of plaintiffs not being able hold defendants accountable and created what is known as a class action lawsuit.  If a group of plaintiffs all feel that they have been damaged by the same defendant in a similar manner the plaintiffs can combine their complaint into a single lawsuit.  In United States federal courts, class actions are authorized and governed by rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Copyright owners have used class actions several times recently to hold defendants accountable for copyright infringement.  The defendants in those cases did not commit copyright infringement to a degree which made sense for an individual copyright owner to file a lawsuit, but by banding together, the copyright owners were able to share the cost of litigation.

An example of a class action copyright infringement lawsuit is Ferrick v. Spotify USA Inc.  In that case several musicians felt that Spotify was not paying the proper mechanical licensing fees for distributing copyrighted music.  Spotify is an online music service which allows users to stream or download music.  Musicians David Lowery and Melissa Ferrick originally filed separate lawsuits against Spotify which were later combined into a class action.  The class action covers all copyright owners whose music was streamed or downloaded through Spotify between December 28, 2012 and June 29, 2017.  A settlement was recently reached between Spotify and the plaintiffs for $112.55 million.  Some musicians object that the payment isn’t enough, but they have decided to not be part of the class action so they can continue their own lawsuit.  For the musicians that decided to be part of the class action they benefit from the work started by Lowery and Ferrick.

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