Happy new year! We’re starting off 2013 with opinion picks that cover four “c”s of legal practice areas: copyright, construction law, contracts, and criminal law.
Harney v. Sony Pictures Television, Inc., US 1st Cir. (1/7/13)
Plaintiff, a freelance photographer, took a photograph of a man, who called himself Clark Rockefeller, and the man’s daughter. Later, it was discovered that the man had abducted his daughter and that his real name was Christian Gerhartsreiter. The photo was used by the FBI in a “Wanted” poster and was distributed in the media. Appellee Sony Pictures Television, Inc. subsequently produced a movie based on Gerhartsreiter’s identity deception. In the movie, Sony pictured the photo using an image similar and pose and composition to Plaintiff’s original. The photo, however, was different in a number of respects. Plaintiff filed this infringement action, alleging a copyright violation. The district court granted summary judgment for Appellees, concluding that no reasonable jury could find substantial similarity between Sony’s recreated photo and Plaintiff’s original. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that no jury could properly conclude that Sony’s adaption of the photo infringed Plaintiff’s copyright in his work.
Read More: Appeals Court Rejects Photographer’s Claim That Sony TV Movie Stole Image
West Bend Mut.l Ins. Co v. Arbor Homes, LLC, US 7th Cir. (1/8/13)
Construction Law, Insurance Law
Arbor builds homes in Indiana and contracted with Willmez Plumbing, which was to obtain insurance naming Arbor as an additional insured. Willmez subcontracted to Alarcon. After the work was ostensibly completed, the buyers noticed a foul odor and felt ill. Alarcon had not connected the plumbing to the main sewer line. Raw sewage had discharged into the crawl space. Willmez corrected the connection. Arbor contracted for cleanup that required excavation and decontamination and cost about $65,000. The owners demanded replacement of the house. Arbor told Willmez to notify its insurer West Bend. Hearing nothing, Arbor assumed the insurer had no objections and agreed to build a new home, pay closing costs and moving expenses, and to compensate for any increase in mortgage rate. Arbor sued Willmez, alleging negligence, breach of contract, slander of title, and constructive fraud, and sent West Bend a copy. The district court granted West Bend summary judgment, finding that it was relieved of duties to defend or indemnify by “fungi and bacteria exclusion” and “voluntary payments” provisions. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Although Arbor’s quick and decisive action was laudable, failure to obtain West Bend’s consent to the settlement relieved it of any obligation.
Read More: 7th Circuit Holds Insured’s Voluntary Payments Barred Coverage