In another superhero summer, adult woes fester

Will Hollywood finally hit a day of reckoning with ageism and sexism?

Hollywood may be happy this summer that Wonder Woman, one of its box office blockbusters not only has sustained a seemingly endless parade of comic superhero sagas, it also has given the industry a success story to— weakly— fend off long-standing, self-evident claims about sexism in the movie business.

But ageism, a twin bane of Tinsel Town, festers still. And with 1 in 3 prime occupants of theater seats in the United States 50 or older, and the business under legal fire for discriminating against its seasoned talent, can the major studios, in particular, quell seasons of discontent just with a slate of noisy, youth-oriented offerings that movie executives pray will shower revenue: Can yet more Cars, Aliens, Transformers, Caribbean Pirates, and Spider Men keep not only kids but also grownups, especially those with a little gray in their hair, enthralled with the movies?

Or might Hollywood, with introspection and creativity, overcome its issues to better portray characters who are older than 60 without demeaning or comedic stereotyping? Aren’t there profit-generating and great roles—neither sexist nor ageist—on the silver and broadcast screens for revered stars like Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon (shown above)? Aren’t there affluent, powerful markets to be expanded with benefits to the business and to older Americans, too? (more…)

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We’re ranked among top 50 copyright blogs

Well, that’s good news to be thankful for: The Biederman Blog has been ranked among the “best copyright law blogs on the planet” by Feedspot, a global content-sharing enterprise.

Feedspot said it reviewed thousands of sites that it indexes before rating the Southwestern Law School student-run project No. 30 among its top 52 blogs focusing on copyright law, a key component of Entertainment Law practice, based on its: reputation and search ranking by Google; influence and popularity on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites; quality and consistency of posts; and the company’s editorial team and expert review.

The Southwestern blog shares outstanding multinational company on the Feedspot list with top law firms, copyright law practitioners, legal reporting companies, government and nonprofit organizations, and just two other academic institutions: It ranks ahead of a student-run, online, scholarly journal of intellectual property and entertainment law at NYU Law and a Stanford University copyright and fair use site supported pro bono by Justia.com. (more…)

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‘Panda’ suit hits grizzly end for artist-fraudster

Jayme Gordon, an artist who claimed he was the creator of the smash cartoon character Kung Fu Panda and whose lawsuit against the DreamWorks studio had made a rare advance toward trial, has gotten an unusual legal comeuppance.

The courts have booted his litigation. And prosecutors have kicked Gordon into the can, with a judge recently sentencing him to two years in prison for fraud.  

Did Grand Master Oogway and Master Shifu magically materialize out of the movie and into real life to reverse the fortunes of Gordon, who actually had gotten the wealthy and powerful Jeffrey Katzenberg in a deposition? What mysteries did criminal sleuths unwind?

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Who gets last laugh in battle over Conan jokes?

U.S. judge, ruling jests can get ‘thin’ copyright protection, advances to trial a writer’s suit claiming that O’Brien, his team infringed on timely quips posted on Twitter about Tom Brady, Caitlyn Jenner, Washington Monument

Comedian Conan O’Brien, NFL quarterback Tom Brady, transgender celebrity Caitlyn Jenner, and the Washington Monument all walk into a bar one day. And O’Brien says … Wait, wait, why is gag-writer Alex Kaseberg not laughing at or liking much this joke set up?

It may be because the one-time writer for comic legend Jay Leno has accused O’Brien and his one-liner squad of  stealing jokes from him for the lanky red-head’s TBS late-night show off of Twitter.

U.S. District Court Judge Janis L. Sammartino in San Diego has rejected two of Kaseberg’s claims but has found that three jokes involving Brady, Jenner, and the capital landmark pose genuine issues of material facts. The judge has snapped off any laugh tracks and sent comedy into a new legal realm by allowing for now Kaseberg’s suit against O’Brien to proceeed to trial. Pa-dum. So when a comic star and writer walk into court, what might be said, or, um, argued?

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Lionsgate hit with a $5.8 million ‘Biggest Loser’

Arbitrator rules studio undercut profit potential of fitness guru Jillian Michaels’ recorded workouts with free YouTube postings

Fitness guru Jillian Michaels has found a legal workout that may make skinnier the wallets of Lionsgate Films Group while also putting more muscle behind performers’ options to protect their works from popping up for free on YouTube.

Entertainment law experts are watching closely Michaels’ recent favorable decision from an arbitrator, awarding her $5.8 million in her dispute with the studio over fitness videos tied to the hit TV weight-loss show Biggest Loser.

What led her to get so exercised about how Lionsgate treated her workouts, and how might this tighten up some commercial online video practices?

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‘Empire’ strikes back in City of Brotherly Love

U.S. judge in Philly becomes latest of several to reject claims about originality of hit TV series

Rome not only wasn’t built in a day, it also took centuries and legions of soldiers to defend its expanding glory. TV’s Empire, it turns out, is requiring its own formidable legal forces to fend off its attackers.

And Lee Daniels, the hit Fox series’ ceasar, may be singing Philadelphia Freedom after shaking off the latest assault with a federal district court in Pennsylvania dismissing a copyright infringement suit by former actor Clayton Prince Tanksley.

Tanksley lacked much brotherly affection for Empire, which he claimed copied his TV drama Cream. How did his suit, and several others, curdle, legally speaking? (more…)

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Court sorts out rights tiff in a mod, mod world

U.S. judge denies summary judgment in video gaming dispute, in which he dissects unitary vs. collective works and their implications for copyright, infringement claims

With a cast of characters rivaling a Tolstoy novel, and almost as many iterations and spin-offs as Pride and Prejudice, a recent video game dispute involving modification or modding has come down to concepts that underlie a good old-fashioned night at the movies. These led U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer in San Francisco to deny summary judgment in a suit by video game maker uCool against distributor Valve for copyright infringement of its characters. (A tip of the hat to the Hollywood Reporter for posting the ruling).

What lessons can makers and distributors in the red hot 21st century video gaming industry draw from the practices of the likes of Johannes Gutenberg and Cecil B. DeMille? (more…)

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As star marks abound, are they too ordinary?

With billions of dollars at stake, celebrities’ lawyers have been beating down the door at a surprising government office in hopes of advancing clients’ economic interests by staking exclusivity claims on everything from dolls to dresses to perfumes. That gold rush-style boom, not in copyright requests but rather in mark applications to the U.S. Patent and Trademarks Office, (shown right) also keeps bumping against some hard realities that may make some female stars, especially, and their counsel rethink the supposed advantages of marks versus copyrights.

Although conventional wisdom among barristers may hold that marks may be the better way to build a brand because they permit legal protections for phrases that aren’t exactly unique, it may be that some names, words, sayings, and coinages are just too common or close to material that Uncle Sam already has allowed to be stamped with the signature TM.

This legal speed bump may be especially timely and pertinent for Entertainment Law practitioners to ponder in the wake of the recent decision by a federal court in Manhattan, asking if the intellectual property rights of screen legend Marilyn Monroe, for her estate, may be too generic for protection. Other celebs also have hit some TM woes worth noting.    (more…)

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Appeals court, at least, sees talent act clearly

U.S. Ninth Circuit judges reject managers’ attack on California law but disputes keep surfacing over representation, commissions

Saunter down the street in Des Moines or Poughkeepsie and ask the first passer-by about who engages in the “procuring” business and be glad not to get a punch in the nose for asking about something that sounds like it’s part of the world’s oldest profession. But at least in Hollywood, and for especially for those in the entertainment industry, this practice—part art and part commerce—is so common that it should be legally plain and it is clearly understood, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has declared.

The judges in the appellate court for the stars have upheld the dismissal of a suit by the National Conference of Personal Managers, a group aggravated by still controversial state statute(s) that they argue keeps clients from showing them the money—the California talent agencies act. The appellate judges concurred with a lower court ruling rejecting the managers’ claims, and finding that the act does not violate due process, equal protection, or free speech of talent managers in the entertainment industry.

The law says that only state-licensed agents may procure work for clients—the legions in Los Angeles of actors, directors, writers, and, yes, wannabes. The problem with the half-century old talent sections of the state labor code is that they also bar non-agents, including managers, attorneys, and the unlicensed from obtaining work for clients. This can and has created ned in the Biz, sparking significant protests before. The personal managers’ complaint provides a timely reminder that the griping about the act not only isn’t going away, it provides a recurring reason to keep re-examining the historic but also changing representation of talent in the Golden State. (more…)

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Shooter’s infringement claim fails to develop

Art student, school find fair-use shield for photo used in class assignment and posted on Flickr

Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst. These artists, and many others, have famously exploited existing images in their own works. While such “appropriation” operates in a gray area of copyright law, iconoclastic pop-artists remain undeterred.  And as aspirants follow their role models, it’s unsurprising that challenges arise—notably and recently in an an art class at the Watkins Institute.

Students at the Nashville school were given photos and asked to create a mock product ad. So, très, Warhol, right, and are legal eagles already seeing the court case brewing?

Fortunately for the school and the student, both of whom ended up as defendants in the recently decided copyright infringement case Reiner v. Nishimori, some sorta ivy tower defenses came to their rescue. Let’s focus on academic fair use and its role in this visual controversy, shall we?

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