May 5, 2016

Universal Music and Capital Records Clip the Wings of IFP in Copyright Infringement Case

Inflight Productions (IFP) and its parent company Global Eagle provided inflight entertainment services to American Airlines (later US Airlines).   In a recent decision they were found guilty of infringing the rights of the copyright owners of the music and broadcasts they provided.

IFP Services

The inflight entertainment IFP offered consisted of a broadcasts of music and music videos which passengers could listen to. To create the programmes, IFL purchased CD's and downloaded music and then copied the music onto an internal hard drive.  The files were then sent to be encoded according to the airlines' technical requirements and then sent back for sale to US airlines.

Licensing

In 2008 IFP employed a licencing expert to assess its position regarding potential copyright infringement.  The expert informed IFP that it would need to obtain licenses from US record companies and publishers and on instructions from IFP the expert attempted to negotiate such licences.

IFP did not have licence agreements in place with any of the copyright owners of the music and broadcasts they provided.  Universal Music and Capitol Records (the claimants) are record companies and music producers that claimed that IFP infringed their copyright.

Judgment

The claimants applied for and were awarded summary judgement in respect of the infringements.

At the hearing IFP unsuccessfully argued that the infringement claim was out of time because the claimants had known about the infringements following the licence expert's attempts to secure licences.  This argument failed because although the claimants only had a three year time period in which to bring about an infringement claim, the period does not start to run until the claimants should have discovered the infringement.

IFP also unsuccessfully claimed that they had an implied licences due to the negations.

In the judgment, Judge George Wu found that IFP had "wilfully infringed" the copyrighted works.  This means that IFP had known or should have known that they were infringing the claimants' copyrights.  The fact that IFP had employed a licencing expert, yet continued to infringe during the licensing negotiations, confirmed the finding of wilful infringement.  IFP had also collected royalties from the airlines on the advice of the expert.

Damages Assessment

The award of damaged to the claimants will be decided on 10 May.   A single copyright infringement could potentially receive an award of 150,00USD.  Therefore, as 4500 copyright works are involved, the damages award could reach $675,000,000.

in: Case Law, Copyright, News

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