‘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:

Read More

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…)

Read More

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.

(more…)

Read More

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…)

Read More

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…)

Read More

A front-row view of Hollywood’s copyright fight

He never took a copyright nor a trademark course in law school, he said, and he intended to practice in the international or educational areas. A clerkship with a judge persuaded him he didn’t want to be a litigator. At one point, he pondered leaving the profession after practicing with a mid-sized firm that he loved, though he didn’t like the kind of law it handled. Instead, he sought a house counsel job and had the luck to interview with a Hollywood studio’s General Counsel, who liked his answer as to why he wanted to work at Warner Bros., because, this candidate said, “he loved Bugs Bunny.”

His initial, self-deprecating description may have thrown some audience members for a curve. But Dean Marks, an  entertainment industry expert on content protection and copyright law, then proceeded in his recent talk at Southwestern Law School to describe his ring-side seat to the enormous changes he has helped influence in working in intellectual property issues. He did so in speaking with Prof. Steven Krone as part of the Biederman Entertainment and Media Law Institute’s “A Conversation With” series. (more…)

Read More

For musicians, tax credits a new part of score

Musicians in the Golden and Empire states may be whistling a happier tune these days. That’s because lawmakers in both California and New York have looked at the value that entertainment enterprises add to their states’ economies, and, in accord with what many governments have done to support filmmakers, they’ve put in place or are pushing for tax credits for tunesmiths and their ilk. Let’s take note: (more…)

Read More

$27 million award affirmed in bogus film deal

220px-Stevekaplan2010Five years after striking two deals valued at the time at $300 million to finance 10 films to be made with his company Rainstorm,  Steven G. Kaplan has won a California appellate decision affirming a private arbitrator’s $27-million award to him after his big plans with foreign investor Fortnom fell through. It turns out that Fortnom didn’t exist and Kaplan since has pursued the duo who represented the firm, Anthony Lombard-Knight and Jakob Kinde. (more…)

Read More

In conversation: Film industry’s IP watchdog

dean marksOne of the movie industry’s top intellectual property watchdogs on Monday will join in Southwestern Law School’s  “Conversation With …” program: Dean Marks, executive vice president, deputy general counsel and chief of global content protection at the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) will chat about an array of topics in the 7:30 p.m. program with Steve Krone, director of the Donald E. Biederman Entertainment and Media Law Institute.

“Dean is one of the leading U.S. and international copyright experts in the entertainment industry, ” Professor Krone said. “In his work at the MPAA spearheading all content protection, I’m sure he’s bringing his deep knowledge to bear, along with his refreshingly pragmatic approach.” (more…)

Read More