25 October 2016Copyright

Warner Bros sues talent agency for copyright infringement

Warner Bros Entertainment has sued Innovative Artists Talent and Literary Agency for infringing its copyright and violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

The entertainment company filed its lawsuit at the US District Court for the Central District of California, Western Division yesterday, October 24.

Warner Bros brought the action against Innovative Artists because in 2015 the talent agency allegedly set up an “illegal digital distribution platform”, which was then accessed by people outside of the agency.

Warner Bros discovered the talent agency’s “unlawful conduct” after the entertainment company discovered that two of its films, “Creed” and “In the Heart of the Sea”, appeared online last year, shortly after Warner Bros distributed screeners of them to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The entertainment company added that as the screeners were “watermarked”, it could trace the copies to Innovative Artists, which had used “illegal ripping software” to bypass technical measures that prevent the copying of content onto DVDs.

Warner Bros is asking for maximum statutory damages, a permanent injunction against Innovative Artists, pre-judgment interest, attorneys’ fees and a trial by jury.

Innovative Artists was founded in 1982 and is an independent talent agency.

A Warner Bros spokesperson told WIPR it had no additional comment to make.

Claudia Ray, partner at law firm Kirkland & Ellis, told WIPR: “The complaint presents a good example of what effectively is an ongoing arms race between those who use copyrighted materials without permission and those seeking to protect such materials. The story that Warner Bros tells in its complaint is certainly enhanced by the fact that it adopted what seems to have been sophisticated watermarking that allowed it to trace and identify the user that posted the screeners without permission.

"At the end of the complaint there is a suggestion that the parties may have been trying to reach some sort of resolution before the complaint was filed, so it will be interesting to see whether this case continues or is quietly resolved," she added.

Mark Patridge, managing partner at Partridge & Partners, added: "Copyright infringement seems to be on the rise due to the growth of digital media and the internet. Digital copies of digital media are easy and quick to make and distribute. Warner Bros’ use of 'watermarks' or 'markers' in the originals is a wise practice. It makes identification of illegal copying much easier."

He added that the next step is probably settlement.

Claudia Ray and Mark Patridge are WIPR Leaders for 2016. Their profiles can be viewed  here and  here.

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