LeBron James barbershop copyright disagreement

LeBron James barbershop copyright disagreement

Copyright law is intended to encourage artists to create new works of art. United States copyright law describes the subject matter protected by copyright as: “original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression”. 17 U.S.C. 102(a).  Paintings, books, music, movies and television shows are a few examples of things which can be protected by copyright.  United States Copyright Law uses the word author to encompass all artists, no matter what type of art they create.

When a new work is created, the creator is granted several exclusive rights to their work.  Copyright grants the creator of a new work the exclusive right to copy sell and distribute the work.  Copyright law also grants the creator of a new work the exclusive right to make a derivative work.  A derivative work is a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted.  This means that a creator of a new song, which is written down as sheet music, is granted the exclusive right to make sound recordings of the song played on an instrument.

When someone other than the copyright owner exercises one of the rights granted by copyright law, that is considered copyright infringement.  A copyright owner can sue to get an injunction to stop copyright infringement and to get monetary damages for infringement which has occurred.

LeBron James is a famous basketball player.  Mr. James is a well respected athlete in the sports world.  Well respected athletes often try to translate their  athletic success into other ventures.  Mr. James has created a media company, Uninterrupted, which produces shows featuring Mr. James.  One such show is The Shop, where Mr. James interviews other famous athletes in a barbershop.

Nick Saban is the coach for  University of Alabama’s football team.  Mr. Saban is famous in his own right.  He is a well respected football coach, at a university with a very successful football team.  Mr. Saban has leveraged his fame and success into the media world also.  Mr. Saban also hosts an interview style talk show which takes place in a barbershop setting called Shop Talk.

Mr. James’s media company, Uninterrupted, feels that Shop Talk is too similar to The Shop.  Uninterrupted sent University of Alabama a letter expressing concern about the similarities between the two talk shows.  In the letter, Uninterrupted claims that Shop Talk copies ideas, concepts and format created for The Shop.  Uninterrupted claims that this activity is copyright infringement.

Does Mr. James have a valid claim of copyright infringement?  Based on the content of the letter Uninterrupted sent to University of Alabama, it is unlikely.

Copyright law in the United States protects the expression of ideas, not ideas themselves.  Ideas can be protected by patent law, but not copyright law.  17 U.S.C. 102(b) states: In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.  This means that two different creators are both allowed to host interview style talk shows set in barbershops.  The idea of hosting an interview style talk show set in a barbershop, in and of itself cannot be protected by copyright law in the United States.  Talk Shop is also not a derivative work of The Shop based on the facts presented in Uninterrupted’s letter because there does not seem to be any copying of content other than the barbershop setting.

Good luck to both men in the future endeavors, hopefully they can work out their dispute amicably.

If you have questions of comments for the authors of this blog please email us: admin@uspatentlaw.cn