Texas Appeals Court Finds Copyright Infringement By Government Does Not Constitute a Taking

Nearly everyone understands the concept of copyright. Individuals can obtain copyright protection for books, songs, computer software, and photos, among many other things. Once a copyright is obtained, the holder can seek compensation from individuals that unlawfully use the copyrighted work. This fairly straightforward legal concept was turned on its head recently when a photographer filed a lawsuit against The University of Houston System (a government entity) not for infringing upon his copyright, but alleging the university’s use of his photograph constituted a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights.

A Texas appeals court recently heard a case filed by Jim Olive Photography against The University of Houston System after the university used one of his photographs in advertising materials for its CT Bauer School of Business in 2012. Because the university is a government entity, it is immune from lawsuits, including copyright infringement lawsuits under the Doctrine of Sovereign Immunity, which protects all government entities from most lawsuits.

As a workaround to government immunity, Jim Olive Photography argued the violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from the unlawful seizure of property by the government without proper compensation. Jim Olive Photography argued that by using his photograph without his consent, the government (i.e. the university) took his property.

The Texas First Court of Appeals found “No Texas case appears to have addressed whether a copyright is property for purposes of the takings clause and whether copyright infringement by a state actor is a taking.” Because of this, the judges had to rely on federal cases to inform their decision. With guidance from similar federal lawsuits, the judges determined that using a copyrighted photo did not constitute a taking under the Fourth Amendment. In order for the claim to constitute a Fourth Amendment violation, the plaintiff would need to prove the government took the entire copyright interest. Because Jim Olive Photography was still able to use and license the photo itself, the government didn’t take all interests related to the photo. The court ruled the case was in fact a copyright infringement case, which the university is immune to.

Lawsuits With Government Entities

The takeaway from this lawsuit is that any legal action involving government entities will be incredibly complex. At Feldman & Feldman, our lawyers have extensive experience handling claims against governmental entities. We understand the nuances of this type of public interest litigation and can help you resolve these legal issues efficiently. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our government litigation lawyers.

Texas Dram Shop Law and Overserving Patrons

Drinking and driving is illegal, but in Texas, so is overserving patrons. The Dram Shop Act in the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code holds establishments such as restaurants, bars, and nightclubs liable for selling alcohol to patrons that are obviously intoxicated. Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg has stated the county is cracking down on offenders, having recently charged five bar employees for overserving a man who left the bar and was later involved in a fatal drunk driving accident.

Employees of the bar Servi-Car El 3 served 19-year old Erick Hernandez over a dozen drinks during the six hours he was at their bar. The bartenders failed to card Hernandez to check his age, an act that would have saved a life by preventing the subsequent fatal drunk driving accident. The bar only had a beer and wine license, but bartenders were seen on video serving Hernandez tequila shots, with some joining in and taking shots of their own. Just three minutes after Hernandez left the bar, he drove the wrong way down College Avenue and struck a car with a young mother, her one-year-old son, and the baby’s grandmothers. The young mother died at the scene of the accident.

Texas Dram Shop Law

While the bartenders that overserved Erick Hernandez will face criminal charges, Texas Dram Shop law also allows victims to seek compensation through a civil lawsuit. When filing a civil lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove the intoxicated individual was intoxicated to the extent that they presented a danger to themselves or others. Individuals injured in drunk driving accidents can seek compensation through the Texas Dram Shop law to help cover the costs of emergency medical treatment, property damage, lost wages, lost earning capacity, and pain and suffering, among other damages.

Texas Dram Shop Law Attorneys

Restaurants, bars, and nightclubs have no right to recklessly endanger the lives of the public by overserving patrons. If you or someone you love was injured in a drunk driving accident, the Texas Dram Shop law attorneys at Feldman & Feldman can investigate your case and help you obtain compensation. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced attorneys.

Feldman & Feldman Give Back This Holiday Season

Feldman & Feldman is happy to announce the viral success of its charity campaign benefitting the Animal Justice League. The entire legal team at Feldman & Feldman is honored to serve the Houston community, and we are proud to show our appreciation by giving back to a cause we care about. We will are donating money for every post reaction and share we received on our Animal Justice League related Facebook posts. By engaging with the post, users showed their support for this amazing charity. For every post reaction, Feldman & Feldman donated $1 and for every post share, we donated $3, up to a total of $1,000, which we were able to hit within 48 hours of launching our holiday charity campaign.

What Is The Animal Justice League?

The Animal Justice League (AJL) is a 501(c)3 tax exempt dog and cat rescue organization with a focus on Oak Forest and surrounding neighborhoods of Houston, Texas. Feldman & Feldman is particularly excited to work with AJL because the organization is solely run by dedicated volunteers. The organization operates with the help of over 400 animal loving volunteers to collect donations, foster, and adopt deserving animals.

The AJL has been extremely successful in helping animals in the Houston area. Their Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program has spay/neutered 885 animals since its inception in June 2014 and participated in Big Fix, which is an effort by multiple nonprofits and government agencies to provide spay and neuter services to Houston area animals. AJL has also microchipped 88 animals, transported over 200 animals, and has had over 400 adoptions. To learn more about the Animal Justice League, how you can help them, or check out their adoptable pets, visit their website.

Show Your Support For AJL Online

Helping Feldman & Feldman support AJL during the holiday season is really easy. Follow or visit our Facebook page to engage with our posts and help AJL improve the lives of Houston pets.