One of my primary fitness activities this past winter has been riding our Peloton bike. Workouts on the bike are always interesting because Peloton has numerous great instructors, varied ride types for all skill levels, and great music. You may have seen in the news earlier this week that Peloton is being sued for using music without permission in its video fitness classes. The lawsuit was filed by a group of several music publishing groups, claiming that Peloton does not have licenses in place for more than 1,000 songs owned or administered by the groups over a period of years.

As an attorney that works with both businesses that use others’ intellectual property and creators of intellectual property, music licensing and other types of intellectual property licensing is a commonly misunderstood issue. Songs are protected by copyright law, which grants exclusive rights to the owner of the song. If you don’t own the copyright, you need a license from the copyright holder in order to legally play their songs. Small businesses that play music for their customers are no exception to this rule; in fact, they are often the target of litigation when they ignore these obligations.
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This is the final installment of a four-part series on the basics of intellectual property law. The goal of this series is to provide individuals and business owners with a primer on the different types of intellectual property in the United States, including patents, trade secrets, trademarks and copyrights. The previous posts in the series include the introduction, a discussion of patents and trade secrets and trademarks.

Copyright can be a tricky subject, but having an understanding of a few general rules can go a long way. Let’s start with a hypothetical:

In May, I went to Colorado to visit my friend Andrew. We went on a hiking trip with a few other friends and Andrew’s dog, Bear. Andrew has trained Bear well to out-hike us all, and to look good doing it. Sensing a great photo opportunity, Bear sat stoically on a rock with a backdrop of the Rocky Mountains. Andrew hands me his iPhone, and I take the following photo:

bear

Bear the Magnificent.

 

Who owns this photo? Andrew? Me? Bear? Read on to find out how copyright law applies to this photo and certain other creative works.
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Now that we are living in the age of the internet, businesses are discovering the importance of marketing themselves online. However, some businesses are finding themselves in trouble under the US Copyright Act for inadvertently posting images or photographs on their websites without the proper permission to do so.

The following is a typical scenario in