Klein & Wilson

Hollywood goes on the attack against illegal use of content in apps

Think of the last time you used an app related to the film industry on your phone or tablet. Maybe you watched clips of a movie or made a scene from a television show as your phone's wallpaper. When scrolling through wallpaper options, the concept of whether this app used those images legally probably never crossed your mind. The illegal use of content produced by studios in Hollywood, however, has become a huge issue -- one that Hollywood is fighting to control.

Lately, Google has been bombarded by calls from entertainment companies in Hollywood and across the country for what have been termed "rogue mobile apps." These apps, according to the companies going after them, are committing copyright infringement by not paying the licensing fees required to use content legally. As the app market continues to expand at a seemingly exponential rate, it seems that some people will do whatever they can to get in on the $20 billion market and hope they don't get caught.

To give you an idea of the types of apps that companies like Walt Disney Co., Sony Corp and Paramount are going after, one app that has been taken down was called "Hobbit 3D Wallpaper HD." It was apparently using images from the recent film but did not pay the licensing fee. It was shut down by Google. According to IP Lasso, 90 out of 100 apps it reviewed that made reference to the Oscars may have used illegal content.

As entertainment companies start to be more proactive about going after these "rogue apps," it will be interesting to see what effect it has on the mobile app industry. Other companies who are facing this problem should know that there are legal options available to enforce a copyrighted product.

Source: Reuters, "Copyright pirates raise ire of Hollywood with unauthorized apps," Sue Zeidler, March 1, 2013

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