Sirius catches sunshine in fight with ex-Turtles

siriusA federal court in Florida has provided a ray of legal sunshine for Sirius XM , in a way that its counterparts in California and New York haven’t: The satellite music company finally has won a legal battle in the public performance war that Flo & Eddie have waged with Sirius over their pre-1972 sound recordings with The Turtles. As this blog has recounted since this case’s outset, musicians and composers have turned to a state by state campaign to protect their rights to classic tunes, finding a gap in federal copyright coverage.

The courts holding sway over America’s two Entertainment capitals have viewed the creatives’ cause favorably but the Sunshine State, a judge in Miami has said, has no common law basis for a similar sunny view. What’s this cloudy Dixieland difference? (more…)

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Canadians in TV case can’t elude jurisdiction

hollwoodAlthough some entertainment industry types may belittle Los Angeles and insist that they can do business on their own terms elsewhere, all too many paths lead to and through what boosters blushingly have dubbed the Entertainment capital of the world (yes, even you die-hard Seattle grungers need to recognize that Nirvana’s iconic Nervermind was recorded in Van Nuys).

So it wasn’t exactly a surprise when U.S. District Court Judge Ronald S.W. Lew ruled recently that LA, California, and the United States had powerful legal pull, aka jurisdiction, over some far northern business interests, specifically Canadian resident David Fortier and Canadian incorporated Temple Street Production Incorporated. Govern yourselves accordingly, out of towners, as to whether you think you can elude a legal challenge if it plops on your doorstep: (more…)

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Judge carves up claims in ‘New Girl’ case

New GirlHollywood can be a small town, particularly when it comes to Entertainment Law practitioners at a certain level. This can cut both ways for potential clients, as plaintiffs Stephanie Counts and Shari Gold learned when U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson in Los Angeles tossed a big section of their suit, rejecting claims of idea theft and breach of contract over the popular Fox television program New Girl

The judge–who had previously found their suit problematic–pointed out to Counts and Gold that, despite their complaints to him, they had been fully informed by their initial counsel of a potential conflict of interest before entering into talks about a potential settlement, which they rejected. Wilson found their attorneys were not “incapacitated” by the potential conflict, nor did they act in bad faith. Meantime, he reminded them that they had exceeded the statute of limitations for their action and, he, thus, granted defendants’ motion to dismiss part of their claim. How did this case get in such a muddle?

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In big-dollar publicity rights bid, athletes lose

college sports

Onetime college athletes seemed to have gotten a big win over broadcast networks and video game makers last year when a federal judge in California ruled that the NCAA could not keep athletes from licensing their own names and images. But a different legal play hasn’t scored in similar fashion with a federal court in Memphis.

There, a group of Tennessee athletes argued that they had publicity rights under common law and should be compensated for playing in televised games. Wrong call, said U.S. District Court Judge Kevin Sharp, who ruled that the players failed to present any valid theories about their publicity rights under Tennessee common law. State law prohibits use of a person’s name or likeness for advertising purposes but  allows their use for sports broadcasting.

The athletes had brought both state and federal claims but the broadcasting defendants, including ESPN, ABC, CBS, and NBC, were granted their motion to dismiss. With the stakes so high,  it’s worth a little play-by-play in the running contest among jocks, broadcasters, and video game makers. (more…)

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‘Wild Thing?’ He’s not golden in the legal ring

Steve “The Wild Thing” Ray, the popular professional wrestler with the shoulder-length golden locks, has gotten thrown out  of the legal ring, again. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit of Appeals has tossed the appeal of the onetime Universal Wrestling Federation star’s loss against sports broadcasting powerhouse ESPN.

Ray brought state claims against the network, for re-telecasting bouts from his early years of wrestling professionally. Although ESPN acquired the films of him legally, Ray said the broadcasts undercut money he might make from broadcasts of his UFW fights. He claimed in his Missouri case that the global TV and satellite channel had invaded his privacy, misappropriated his name, infringed on his publicity rights, and interfered with his prospective economic advantage from broadcasts of his fights.

ESPN got the case moved to federal court and a district judge granted its motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim; that decision was upheld by the federal appellate court, which said his state claims were preempted by the federal Copyright Act. While the appellate judges threw no chairs across the ring, didn’t slap the plaintiff in a headlock, nor did they twist his arm, just in case anyone’s unfamiliar with Ray’s entertainment skills:

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For ‘The Slants,’ an appellate trademark coda

Call this a surprising coda for an Asian-American dance rock band involved in a long-running effort to secure a federal trademark registration for its name:  The Slants. A federal appellate court has taken it on its own accord to reconsider en banc the three-judge ruling that just recently reafirmed the Trademark Trial and Appeals Board decision to deny mark registration to the founder of the Asian-American band.

While a certain pro football team can take the field in the nation’s capital and give wide offense, many say, to Native Americans, Simon Tam, the dance rock band’s founder,  twice was refused mark registration for his group’s name. On both occasions, the examining attorney refused to register it, finding it “disparaging to Asian Americans.” The case went up on appeal, here’s how it came down, then turned around–a little like watching a Washington linebacker running in circles in downfield. (more…)

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Pandora wins royalty rate appeal, radio license

pandoraascapIn the 1980s, video killed the radio star, and today, it’s streaming music services that are causing great pain for music creatives: Pandora has just won a big decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, beating down the American Society of Composers and Performers (ASCAP).

The appellate judges affirmed a lower court’s 2013 ruling, setting a 1.85 percent rate for public performance of songs in the ASCAP catalog for Pandora and other Internet radio services. The higher court also nixed an ASCAP move effectively to let music publishers negotiate directly with online services like Pandora for performance royalties, potentially increasing the difficulty and cost.

This controversial case has been closely watched and will please those favoring technology’s advance in providing music and other forms of entertainment in new ways, while leaving creative artists and sizable swaths of the music industry angry and glum. For Pandora, in particular, it was a second bit of promising news, as the company also has just won approval of its bid to acquire a South Dakota radio station, giving it a toe-hold into yet another way to secure lower royalty rates for music.

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In latest twist in ad suit, Jordan tastes defeat

As the San Antonio Spurs and Manny Pacquiao could well advise basketball legend Michael Jordan, even champions don’t win every contest. Jordan himself discovered this off the hard courts and in a court of law recently, when a federal judge in Chicago, dealing with matters from a case remanded to him by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, rejected the superstar’s motion for summary judgment in a lawsuit over a grocery ad that seemed to salute him. (more…)

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Judge KOs one of many ‘Manny’ skirmishes

While Manny Pacquiao will show this weekend if his often-unerring fists can win a fight with a total payday estimated at north of $400 million, a federal court in Miami recently told the legendary pugilist’s documentary film makers to pull the punches they planned to throw at unidentified parties they accuse of copyright infringement. The proposed high-tech hay-makers legally were off target, the court said (with thanks to Digital Music News for posting the ruling), even as the multiple lawsuits nationwide have started to trouble online observers. (more…)

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