Copyright

Overview

Copyright law has an increasingly broad effect on modern life and business, as websites and social media have generated cutting edge issues involving the online use and reuse of copyrighted content. 

Schiff Hardin has the capability to handle the full range of copyright issues faced by clients. Our experience covers a cross-section of areas that includes architectural works, fine art, motion pictures, television, music, publishing, software, fashion, accessories, consumer products, and online content. Our team represents a variety of clients ranging from multinational corporations to small start-ups and from authors and artists to software developers. We handle both copyright transactions and dispute resolution.

We focus on building long-term client relationships. Relying on the experience, knowledge and accomplishments of our lawyers, we staff our clients’ matters leanly, work cooperatively to achieve efficiencies for our clients, and price our work fairly and competitively. Our attorneys handle both copyright transactions and dispute resolution.

Copyright Matters

Our Copyright team regularly assists clients on a wide range of copyright matters involving a variety of industries:

  • Fashion & Accessories: We have in-depth experience in protecting jewelry, textile, accessory and fashion designs. We help clients enforce their rights as well as negotiate agreements for the commercialization and distribution of their designs. Our clients range from well-established jewelry designers to individuals just starting their first fashion studios.
  • Software and Information Technology: Combining our substantial capabilities in copyright and technology law, we prepare, review and negotiate software and information technology licenses, including Software as a Service (SaaS), cloud computing, maintenance and support agreements and other documents relating to copyrighted technology. We counsel software developers and vendors as well as software licensees, and represent corporate and institutional customers as well as individual end users. We provide strategic software counsel to clients in a variety of fields including medical devices, print technology, web services, health care, financial services, and education.
  • Architectural Works: Our team assists developers, contractors and owners on a variety of copyright matters relating to buildings and architectural elements. We provide advice regarding the protection of blueprints and building designs and the redesign and copying of architectural elements.
  • Fine Art: Our lawyers provide legal services for artists seeking to protect and exploit their painting, photographic, sculptural and other works. We also provide advice to groups interested in investing in fine art.
  • Music: Schiff Hardin attorneys have a broad base of experience in helping artists to manage and protect their music portfolios. We also help producers, publishers and content providers obtain permission to use copyrighted music in other works.    
  • Online Content: We regularly help website operators and content providers secure rights to use copyrighted works and provide online services. We provide advice on content issues such as fair use and nominative use of content, as well as negotiate licenses and strategic alliances between content providers. Our clients operate websites in such areas as online services, data services, online publishing, distance learning/online education and the sale of consumer products.
  • Media: Schiff Hardin represents media and entertainment companies in protecting copyright assets related to motion pictures and television programs. We help our clients negotiate film and television deals and secure permission for the use of copyrighted works in media productions.

Copyright Counseling

Clients benefit from our practical and cost-effective counseling on a wide range copyright issues relating to websites, social media, open source licensing, user generated content, content distribution and international enforcement. We have undertaken chain of title reviews, counseled with respect to creating and maintaining copyright registration and administration programs and advised on the scope of parody and fair use issues.

Copyright Registration

Our Copyright group has extensive experience counseling clients on the creation of copyrighted works and protection of the rights in those works. We regularly review and negotiate development and publishing agreements that address issues involving joint ownership, derivative works and revenue sharing. We have represented a number of authors on copyright matters in connection with book, film and television deals. We also have considerable experience registering copyrights in literary and graphic works, music compositions, software and websites.

Copyright Licensing

In addition to activities involving the procurement of copyright rights, we regularly prepare and negotiate licenses and other agreements to exploit such rights. These activities have involved a variety of licensing, merchandising and promotional agreements with a range of consumer product, media and entertainment companies. We also secure permission for national advertisers to use copyrighted works from clearing agencies, publishers and authors.

Our copyright team also has an extensive technology licensing practice that involves the negotiation and review of agreements involving proprietary and open source software programs, online content and web services. Experienced with complex royalty and licensing structures, we excel at working with clients to negotiate and implement licensing terms that fit each client’s individual needs and objectives. 

Copyright Litigation

When it comes to litigating copyright issues, Schiff Hardin attorneys have been involved in numerous copyright infringement cases in the entertainment, financial services, publishing, software, manufacturing and design industries. We have handled cases involving:

Cutting-edge Representation
Schiff Hardin has represented Warner Bros. in several important and cutting-edge copyright cases. We recently represented Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc. in its suit against a distributor of novelty items and related goods for unauthorized use of trademarks and copyrighted images owned by Warner Bros. The images and trademarks at issue include reproductions of images taken from the movies The Wizard of Oz and Gone With The Wind and the Tom & Jerry cartoons. Warner Bros. has obtained summary judgment on its trademark and copyright claims and has been awarded injunctive relief and damages. The proposed terms of the final injunction are now before the court.

We also successfully represented Warner Bros. in 2011 when it was sued by the tattoo artist claiming to be the owner of the copyrighted design on Mike Tyson’s face, which was allegedly used without authorization on the actor Ed Helms’ face in the movie The Hangover Part II. Warner Bros. successfully defeated the plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction, which, if granted, would have required Warner Bros. to cease its nationwide release of The Hangover Part II immediately before its scheduled blockbuster release on the Memorial Day weekend. 

Publishing
We provide advice and related legal services for authors, artists, book and magazine publishers, and others in print and new media. We advise on copyright, parody, defamation, privacy and fair use law. We handle both contract matters and disputes and prepare publishing, content acquisition and licensing agreements. We assist clients who publish materials relating to technology, health care, education and other subjects.

  • Disputes over motion picture distribution rights
  • Infringement claims relating to works of art, uniforms, jewelry, textiles, fragrance, packaging, designer clothing and household goods
  • Joint authorship of architectural works
  • Claims of software infringement
  • Copyright infringement litigation for a rock band
  • Open source software compliance
  • License agreements of various types