Overview

Pryor Cashman has been nationally renowned for its expertise in copyright law for over 50 years.  The firm’s litigators have argued so many seminal copyright cases they could fill a law school textbook.  From prosecuting the landmark “My Sweet Lord” plagiarism suit against George Harrison, to defending infringement claims against box office hits such as "Raiders of the Lost Ark", "Ghostbusters," "Driving Miss Daisy," "Groundhog Day" and "The Expendables" and cases involving the “fair use” defense in films about Muhammad Ali and Linda Lovelace, to obtaining a rare recall order of CDs using WWE’s musical compositions, Pryor Cashman attorneys have been involved in the cases that make both the law and the news.  Continuing its work at the cutting edge of copyright, Pryor Cashman is presently litigating cases that will establish whether music publishers may, consistent with the consent decrees that govern the performing rights organizations ASCAP and BMI, withdraw certain digital rights from those PROs so that they may license them exclusively (Pandora v. ASCAP; BMI v. Pandora). 

The emergence of the Internet created a host of new business and legal risks and concerns for copyright owners.  Copyrighted content can now be perfectly reproduced and virally transmitted around the world with the click of a mouse.  At the same time, the Internet has created new business opportunities for owners of content.  And, once again, attorneys in our Copyright, Intellectual Property Litigation and Digital Media Groups have been at the forefront of litigating seminal cases that have established more stringent protections for copyright holders whose works are used on the Internet, including, in particular, those cases that have involved defining the scope of the so-called “safe harbor” protections provided by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (or “DMCA”).  During the nearly two decades that have passed since the DMCA was signed into law, our attorneys have been involved in, among other cases:

  • The first case to successfully enforce the anti-circumvention pro­visions of the DMCA (Universal City Studies v. Reimerdes)
  • The first case to challenge DVR functionality (Paramount v. ReplayTV)
  • All of the seminal peer-to-peer file-sharing cases (Napster, Aimster, Grokster, Limewire)
  • The first case to find an Internet service provider liable under the willful blindness and red flag knowledge exceptions to the DMCA safe harbor (and one of the first large-scale digital copyright infringement cases to be tried to a jury) (Capitol Records v. MP3tunes.com)
  • The first case to find that an ISP was not eligible for DMCA safe harbor protection because it failed to reasonably implement a repeat infringer policy (Capitol Records v. Escape Media Group)

The firm continues to lead the way in defining the scope and application of this important law. We actively pursue those who produce technologies, devices or services that enable infringers, and we guide copyright owners through the process for requesting removal of their works from infringing sites. Our results in this area have cemented Pryor Cashman as the premier law firm for those asserting and defending copyright infringement claims.

Pryor Cashman’s leadership in the field of copyright goes beyond just pursuing and litigating against infringers.  Skilled in all aspects of copyright protection and optimization, our attorneys regularly assist clients with registering their copyrights; negotiating copyright purchase, sale, and license agreements; and navigating the complexities of copyright law to preserve the value of their assets. In the music space in particular, we have negotiated licenses for the reproduction, distribution, and public performance of copyrighted musical compositions and sound recordings on a myriad of digital music platforms. In fact, we negotiated the original “New Digital Media Agreements” that are now recognized as the “template” agreements by which record labels may obtain rights from music publishers that they may then bundle in licenses with music service providers for certain types of digital music products. And we have negotiated licenses with virtually every type of digital music service entering the marketplace, including on-demand streaming services, non-interactive streaming services, cloud locker services, user-generated video services, lyric services, crowd-sourced music information services, and sheet music and guitar tab apps and services. 

We are also thoroughly versed in the intricacies of the statutory termination provisions of Sections 203 and 304 of the Copyright Act and have been actively involved in advising clients seeking to understand these provisions so that they may value assets accordingly.  We have resolved conflicts between intellectual property rights and the First Amendment, and have evaluated the rights of historical figures depicted or referred to in factual and fictional works.  

We also routinely conduct large-scale, complex legal due diligence on copyright assets that are the subject of a potential purchase or sale.  For example, we recently performed the seller’s side due diligence on both the EMI Music Publishing catalog – one of the world’s largest collection of musical works – which was ultimately sold to a consortium led by Sony Music, and the EMI Recorded Music catalog – which included works by The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Queen and Katy Perry, among others – which was ultimately sold to Universal Music Group.

Our attorneys are considered leaders in the copyright law community. We are routinely asked to speak on panels and to author articles and book chapters discussing hot-button copyright issues, including at PLI and the Copyright Society of the USA.  In sum, our strength comes from understanding the full spectrum of copyright law and being able to anticipate issues, rather than simply react to them. 

With a team of experienced litigators and seasoned intellectual property attorneys, our strength comes from understanding the full spectrum of copyright law and being able to anticipate issues, rather than simply react to them. Our attorneys help content creators, licensees and owners assert and defend infringement claims alleging unauthorized reproduction, distribution and performance. We have also resolved conflicts between intellectual property rights and the First Amendment, and evaluated the rights of historical figures depicted or referred to in factual and fictional works.

Establishing the Boundaries of Liability

With so many imposters and wannabes attempting to break into the media and entertainment industry or cash in on the fame of others, we are frequently called on to represent major motion picture studios, screenwriters, directors, musicians and artists in defending their work. Our lawyers have litigated cases that have established more stringent protections for copyright holders, particularly in the area of digital media rights and enforcement. We move quickly and efficiently to clear competing claims before a release date.

Further, representing governing bodies such as American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers and the Recording Industry Association of America, we have helped to set industry standards.

Leaders in Establishing New Law

Nearly two decades have passed since the DMCA was signed into law, and our Digital Media attorneys have played an integral role in both crafting the initial Act and defining its application. At the forefront of this quickly evolving area of copyright law, our attorneys have handled:

  • The first case to successfully enforce the anti-circumvention pro­visions of the DMCA The first case to challenge DVR functionality
  • The first case to find a peer-to-peer file-sharing service liable for its contribution to copyright infringement
  • The first digital copyright infringement case tried to a jury

The firm continues to lead the way in defining the scope and application of this important law. We actively pursue those who produce technologies, devices or services that enable infringers, and we guide copyright owners through the process for requesting removal of their work from infringing sites. Our results in this area have cemented Pryor Cashman as the premier law firm for those asserting and defending copyright infringement claims.

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