(CN) - Porn star Jules Jordan and his one-man production company can sue a Canadian distributor for copyright infringement for allegedly selling thousands of illegal copies of 13 of his adult DVDs, the 9th Circuit ruled.
Jordan, whose real name is Ashley Gasper, claimed 144942 Canada Inc., a distributor doing business as Kaytel Video Distribution, made and sold thousands of illegal copies of his films.
He said he found out about the scheme when customers began to return some of the counterfeit DVDs, which were inferior in qualify because they'd been compressed to fit on a smaller DVD.
Gasper sued Alain Elmaleh and his distribution companies, Kaytel and Leisure Time Video Canada, for allegedly violating the porn star's copyrights and publicity rights.
His was not the only lawsuit alleging counterfeit pornography. Porn producer John Stagliano sued Elmaleh on the same day, claiming Kaytel illegally copied and distributed a number of his copyrighted DVDs. The cases were consolidated with a third, but all claims were settled except for Gasper's.
After what the 9th Circuit described as a "lengthy and contentious" trial, a jury awarded Gasper and Jules Jordan Video $5.45 million in statutory and punitive damages.
A federal judge unraveled that victory, however, agreeing with the defendants that Gasper and his company lacked standing to bring the copyright claims. Because Gasper drew a salary from Jules Jordan Video, the judge explained, the company owned the rights to films, leaving Gasper without standing. And because the copyright registration in Gasper's name was invalid, the judge ruled, the company also lacked standing.
The judge added that Gasper's right-of-publicity claim under California law was not pre-empted by the federal copyright claim.
Both parties appealed, and the 9th Circuit panel flip-flopped the judge's ruling.
"We disagree with the district court on both issues, concluding that Gasper's right of publicity claim is pre-empted by the Copyright Act, but that Gasper and JJV had standing to assert the copyright claims in question," Senior U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman wrote for the three-judge appellate panel.