Another round of chasing the anonymous

Can you sue the nameless and faceless? In the entertainment industry’s most recent quest to curb internet piracy, a new solution — does this sound familiar? — to sue “Joe Doe” has arisen: In a recent high-profile hijacking of the new, Dumb and Dumber To film, thousands of John Does in Oregon are being sued for copyright infringement after illegally downloading the newest installment of the franchise. (more…)

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Appeals court stands up for Marley heirs’ rights

MarleySelect musicians cross genres and generations and their inspirational messages resonate widely, such as the great Bob Marley‘s mantra to “love the life you live, live the life you love.” While the late reggae master could wax philosophic with the best of them, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently offered a pragmatic view in protecting part of Marley’s legacy: The appellate judges affirmed a ruling by U.S. Senior District Judge Philip M. Pro in a case brought on by Fifty-Six Hope Road Music, which is owned by Marley’s children, holds the rights to his persona, and had sued A.V.E.L.A., Freeze, and JEM over T-shirts and other merchandise emblazoned with his image. In his written opinion for the appellate panel,  Judge N.R. Smith discussed important factors about the Lanham Act and celebrities’ Right of Publicity while also upholidng the award of more than $1.5 million to Hope Road in damages, wrongful profits by defendants, and attorney and other fees. (more…)

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Is Dish v. Fox a hop away from slinging to end?

You can’t always get what you want — that’s a lesson to be re-learned from long-running litigation between Fox Broadcasting and Dish Network. The case, involving technologies including “the Hopper” and Sling, has been contested for almost three years but finally appears to be be nearing an end. While a key recent ruling by U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee has been released, neither Fox nor Dish can claim victory. (Kudos to the Hollywood Reporter Esq. for  posting the decision). The parties just may be headed for a settlement over technologies that let consumers choose to “hop” over (skip) content they don’t want to see — such as commercials, key to broadcaster revenues — and to sling (send) programming to devices and at locations of their choice.

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For holy Moses, Left Shark, legal spats in 3-D

leftshark2AugustanaWhat in the world but legal claims could unite a left shark and Moses? How about 3-D printing controversies for both? As technology advances relentlessly — perhaps at the pace once described by Albert Einstein where “it has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity”–counsel are intervening left and right to assert protections on creative items, whether these exist in copyright law or maybe not. That these cases keep cropping up at all, however, testifies to the growing ubiquity of 3-D copying and to its importance as a wary, new intellectual property front for Entertainment Law practitioners and their creative clients . (more…)

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Are gamers’ tiffs just the edge of a net specter?

Who owns the technology that now is intrinsic to our daily lives? Chances are, it is not you. While users may own the physical devices, the technology that drives them, the intellectual property that they rely on, and their operating systems — surprise — likely are owned and controlled by their creators, not their buyers-users. That has really raised the hackles of video gamers of late. And while aspects of their immediate battles with manufacturers might fall within the portfolios of those specializing in Entertainment Law, technology’s advance and the rise of the rampantly web-interconnected world — the Internet of Things — may be blurring and broadening the legal issues involved.  (more…)

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LA launches crackdown on talent ‘scams’

feuerWhile California’s regulation of talent management has proved controversial for professionals in the Entertainment Industry, Entertainment Law attorneys included, there are reminders that show why aspiring dancers, singers, and actors need legal protection. In the latest instance, City Attorney Michael Feuer has formally charged a talent agent with illegally seeking $100,000 in up-front fees in a hair salon from a teenage singer and her sister. He has been joined by Hollywood’s actors’ union and a group advocating for child actors in launching a Public Awareness Campaign as part of a plan to crackdown on Hollywood talent scams. (more…)

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What might Zoe’s dispute tell about YouTube?

zoe keatinggoogle-youtubeYouTube once was an easy, fun spot where ordinary Janes and Joes could find fifteen minutes of fame with materials that were patently good and bad to even the least discerning eyes. The Google-owned, online service also was a place for folks young and old to do some comedic spouting and to offer how-tos, such as a step-by-step tutorial on knotting a tie. It since has become a major platform for musicians, both for the aspiring to share stuff in hopes of hitting it big and for fans to keep up with hot music videos by those who have.

But as the Tube has grown or grown up as a significant content channel, so too have its complications. And as creatives, like avant-garde cellist and netizen Zoe Keating have complained, YouTube may now be a worrisome legal thicket, with contracts, clauses, warnings, complexities, and uncertainties. Attention, Entertainment Law attorneys? Keating’s YouTube channel, for now, plays on. That’s  unexpected based on her viral beefs with YouTube’s new “terms” for musicians posting on its site. The Guardian neatly summarizes the parties’ positions — and what seems to be a big issue here: communication. Counselors, let’s look in on this notable online dispute for what it may say about new areas of opportunity: (more…)

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Petty, Smith restore harmony with rights accord

It was shaping up to be a big-time copyright clash, with the songs at issue curiously reflecting their artist’s positions: rocker Tom Petty, for example, had his legal weight behind his hit, I Won’t Back Down, while balladeer Sam Smith staked out a less combative position, as summed up in his chart-topping, Stay With Me.

In the end, as has been widely reported, the tune-smiths found harmonious agreement in a public, negotiated settlement that averted infringement litigation, the likes of which the courts are struggling in some other notable instances. Petty and Jeff Lynne, of ELO fame, each will receive a 12.5% writing credit and royalties for Smith’s Stay, whose similarities with Back Down rested in a stirring chorus and a verse. (more…)

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Court gets the wookies over a flying-car suit

Imagine a world where the sky is the limit and cars can take off from a vertical launching pad, shooting straight up into the heavens. If you’re a Star Wars fan, this type of technological advancement doesn’t seem far fetched: it’s the T-65 X-Wing Starfighter. And for Joseph Alfred, it doesn’t seem like an idea incapable of grasping here on this planet. So why on Earth did Alfred  sue the Walt Disney Co. in Delaware’s Court of Chancery? Because Disney wouldn’t accept his idea to build a real flying car. Make sense? The court didn’t think so either, and shot his plans down.  (more…)

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Contract holds on ‘Home Improvement’ profits

home improvementWhen some of Hollywood’s biggest players hunker down, strap on their legal tool belts and negotiate a deal that, court documents show, will be worth somewhere between $1 billion and $1.5 billion, it’s safe to assume that no comma in the contract will go without extra scrutiny and every why and wherefore in any document will be tussled over and clear as a bell, right? Well, after a protracted battle over who was owed what from the 1990s hit television show Home Improvement, a Superior Court in California has found it clear that Wind Dancer Production Group was a savvy party that knew exactly what it was getting into in its deal with Walt Disney Pictures. And gone with the breeze went Wind Dancer’s suit, in a grant of summary judgment that might give many an Entertainment lawyer pause to think even harder about their tool kits of negotiations and contracts. (more…)

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