Recent Ninth Circuit Ruling Expands Copyright Protection for Actors

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently issued an important ruling touching on artists’ copyrightable interests in their performances in its decision in the case Garcia v. Google, Inc.  In its decision, the Ninth Circuit found that an actor may have a copyrightable interest in her filmed performance, and that such an interest may be enforced via a permanent injunction.  If you believe that a competitor is infringing on your business’s copyright, contact an experienced intellectual property lawyer.

The plaintiff in this case, Ms. Garcia, was an actress who was originally cast in a minor role in an adventure film called “Desert Warrior”.  Ms. Garcia’s understanding was that the film was intended to portray the lives of early Egyptians.  Unfortunately, the footage was used in a radically different, short anti-Islamic film called “Innocence of Muslims”, which was posted on the Google-owned YouTube.  Ms. Garcia did not find out that the performance would be used in such a manner until the content had already been posted online.  Her repeated requests to take down the video were denied, so Ms. Garcia sued Google, seeking a court order for the removal of the video.

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CA Employers Hit With Rash of Employee Pay Lawsuits

In California, there has been a recent wave of cases brought by plaintiffs who claim their employers have underpaid wages and cheated them out of benefits.  California state laws, in addition to federal laws, play a role in the legal standards an employer must follow when it comes to overtime and related entitlements.  Read on to learn about three cases that highlight the importance of employers’ maintaining an awareness of the nuances California and federal wage and hour laws, particularly when it comes to the issue of employee overtime pay.

The class action overtime lawsuit Sarah Chookey v. Sears Roebuck & Co. resulted in a $3.2 million settlement for the employees.  The case, which affected thousands of current and former Sears employees, alleged that Sears miscalculated employees’ overtime pay over a several year time period.  Federal law requires employees to be paid overtime at a rate of 1.5 times the regular pay rate of an employee.  The calculation is relatively uncomplicated when an employee is paid on a simple, hourly basis.  However, the correct overtime calculation can become more complicated when, as in Sarah Chookey, employees are paid commission on top of hourly wages.  When commissions are part of an employee’s regular pay, they must be included in the overtime calculation.

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Reason to Deny Class Certification: Lack of Common Injury

In a recent case against Home Depot (Berger v. Home Depot USA, Inc.,), the plaintiff alleged that Home Depot had violated various state laws relating to unfair competition and the like and sought to bring a class action to recover damages. In a class action lawsuit, the proposed class must consist of a group of individuals or business entities that have suffered a common injury or injuries. After the complaint is filed, the plaintiff must file a motion to have the class certified. This is where the plaintiff lost his case, as the court denied class certification.

According to the plaintiff, the Home Depot offers tool rental customers a “damage waiver” which, in exchange for a fee, relieves the customer’s liability if he or she returns the tool damaged. Home Depot does not deny this, nor the fact that its system defaults to adding the fee to the rental price.

At issue were the plaintiff’s allegations that he was misled into purchasing the damage waiver because the Home Depot failed to inform him he could decline it. In response, the Home Depot stated that it does notify customers of their opportunity to decline the waiver in one of three ways: 1) verbally at checkout, 2) via signs near checkout, and 3) on the receipt.

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What is a Class Action Lawsuit?

A class action lawsuit permits one or more plaintiffs (victims) to file and prosecute a lawsuit on behalf of a larger group, or “class” and can be a powerful tool for recovering damages for injuries suffered. Class actions can be brought in state or federal court. The general belief is that state court is more favorable for plaintiffs than federal court.

Where do I file a class action lawsuit?

Typically, federal courts are thought to be more favorable for defendants, and state courts more favorable for plaintiffs. Many class actions are filed initially in state court. A defendant will frequently try to remove the case to federal court, a process that was made easier with the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, which gives federal courts original jurisdiction for all class actions with damages exceeding $5,000,000 (exclusive of interest and costs). California has a civil procedure systems that deviates significantly from the federal rules, the details of which you can discuss with your class action lawyer.

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Privacy Issues a Business Must Consider

Privacy, both at the professional and personal level, is an increasingly hot topic. In this article, we will focus on privacy issues that a business owner must consider and leave the more personal privacy related questions (should I password protect my computer in case it is stolen?) to the individual.

What are the most critical areas relating to privacy that an Orange County business owner should consider in 2014? It seems as though the answers are endless, but if you are interested in learning the most pressing employee privacy-related issues, keep reading… For a more in-depth, customized answer, contact an experienced Orange County business attorney.

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