U.S. magistrate: Toss suit against Bieber, Usher

 

The superstars of the surprising and problematic Virginia lawsuit, of course, would be Justin Bieber and Usher Raymond. But for court scorekeepers, a copyright case brought by aspiring songsters Devon Copeland and his cousin Mareio Overton over the tune Somebody to Love has turned now into a judicial headcount: Let’s tally it as three appellate judges versus a federal district court judge and a federal magistrate.

This latest development has occurred as U.S. Magistrate Douglas E. Miller, acting as fact-finder, has recommended to U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen that she again dismiss the suit by the cousins seeking $10 million in damages from the Beebs and Usher. Copeland Overton claim the pop heavies infringed on their little heard song with their chart topper. Wright Allen earlier had tried to toss the case but was, curiously, overruled by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, where three appellate jurists somehow heard sufficient similarities in the two songs to reverse and remand.

Miller since has reviewed the evidence, and, on some critical issues, wrote in findings issued on Nov. 14 that Copeland simply presented no evidence that any of the defendants in the case ever had access to his song. He has recommended the federal district court dismiss the case on summary judgment, as requested by the superstar duo. Further, though the appellate judges ruled that a reasonable jury might find that the choruses of the versions at dispute were “intrinsically similar,” Miller said, basically, no way. (more…)

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Judge dissects, discards a ‘Machete’ claim

Danny Trejo, a Los Angeles native with a troubled past, has transformed himself into a Hollywood franchise by portraying some mean hombres all too willing to dispense rough vigilantism. But a Utah federal judge, weighing in on a copyright infringement claim vaguely tied to Trejo’s first starring role, has shown how tough the real law can be on unsupported claims.

U.S. District Judge David Nuffer took a legal machete and whacked apart a lawsuit filed by filmmaker Gil Medina, claiming Univision and its El Rey Network  infringed on his 2006 indie movie Vengeance, which he wrote and filmed. It also was the first movie in which Trejeo starred as the lead.

Medina claimed that the broadcasters’ 2010 televising of Machete, a different movie also starring Trejo, infringed on his Vengeance copyright because the two works shared a similar plot and had the same star. No es cierto, the judge ruled. (more…)

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Ollivierra, Lind named Institute co-directors

biederman-leadersSouthwestern Law School has announced that faculty members Neil Ollivierra and Robert Lind will serve as the new co-directors of the nationally recognized Biederman Entertainment and Media Law Institute.

Lind is a Southwestern icon, renowned entertainment law expert, prolific author of preeminent texts and treatises, and a mentor and champion of students and alums alike. Prior to his appointment at Southwestern,  Ollivierra served as in-house counsel to various motion picture and television studios at the highest level of business and legal affairs, including Lionsgate Entertainment (The Hunger Games, The Twilight franchise, Orange Is the New Black, Mad Men) and EuropaCorp (Lucy, Taken, The Fifth Element, La Femme Nikita).

Together, their combined expertise, experience, passion and industry affiliations will help to ensure the continued success and growth of the Institute in the spirit of its beloved namesake, Donald E. Biederman. He was a highly admired teacher, scholar, and pioneer in the world of entertainment and media law and the Institute’s founding director. (more…)

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Will studio win after a decade, 3 court rulings?

Wizard of OZThe solemn, esteemed appellate courts don’t get to tell parties to just buzz off, of course. But after a decade of litigation, will some movie memorabilia product-makers finally give up their campaign to tap images from some of Warner Brothers’ most iconic films and characters?

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, in a second adverse decision, has affirmed lower court rulings against plaintiffs Art and Vintage Entertainment Licensing Agency (AVELA), Dave Grossman Creations, X One X Productions and Leo Valencia. Instead, the court has given the studio yet another legal victory. Specifically, the appellate judges said AVELA et al can’t raise new arguments now and they owe Warner Brothers $2.57 million for copyright infringement.

The appellate judges upheld a permanent injunction in favor of Warner against the plaintiffs, a court order issued as part of a lawsuit launched in 2006, in which the studio accused AVELA et al of acquiring restored versions of movie posters and lobby cards for its films and extracting from publicity materials images of legendary characters like Dorothy, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, and Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz, Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler from Gone with the Wind, and Tom and Jerry from the eponymous cartoon show. Warner complained the images violated its intellectual property when they were used on products like T-shirts, lunch boxes, playing cards, and action figures. (more…)

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Tech mogul stays on the hook for $750,000

Michael Robertson (R), CEO of MP3.com, testifies before a Senate Judiciary committee on Capital Hill on the future of digital music, July 11, while Hank Barry (C), CEO of Napster Inc. and Roger McGuinn, member and co-founder of the band The Byrds, listen. MMR/RCSHe’s youthful, handsome, an entrepreneurial dynamo, and his personal wealth has been estimated at times at near a billion dollars. But even for a San Diego tech innovator like Michael Robertson (shown at right), a $750,000 copyright judgment against him personally has to sting, especially when it has been affirmed recently by an appellate court.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has ruled against Robertson and his defunct online music storage firm MP3tunes, allowing plaintiffs to pursue further  infringement claims in a long-running lawsuit involving record companies and music publishers once part of EMI Group Ltd.

In EMI Christian Music Group, Inc et al. v. MP3tunes, LLC et al,  music industry plaintiffs not only won what analysts say is their key dispute, the appellate opinion also narrows the circumstances in which Internet service providers (ISPs) can claim safe harbor from copyright liability. (more…)

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New Calif. law captures some of the burning anger about ageism, sexism in Hollywood

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Amy Schumer’s parody of Hollywood gender and age bias

Although the adage holds that “it’s never polite to ask a lady her age,” in Hollywood, the very point of view captured in that aphorism has itself become a new flashpoint. That’s because women, unions, politicians, industry executives, and those who run online sites are struggling with the unhappy reality that in Tinsel Town “leading men age but their love interests don’t.”

For many actresses, age isn’t simply a number— it is leading reason why some will be passed up for a role. Just ask Maggie Gyllenhall, who recently was  told that “37 is ‘too old’ for a 55-year-old love interest.” Ageism, as industry critics have decried, is widespread and rampant for actresses, especially for those older than 34.

As more headlines detail Hollywood’s woes with ageism and sexism,  in anecdotal tales from the industry’s leading ladies, in infamous corporate hacks, and in comedy sketches parodying the situation, the movie industry is showing how hard it is grappling for solutions to its long-accepted issues with biases.

But is the right response to these incendiary issues to be found in California laws? There’s a new one that will require select websites, starting in Jaunuary, to pull down performer’s ages upon request. Gov. Jerry Brown supported and recently signed AB 1687. Since its enactment, the Internet has been abuzz over this bill. Why? (more…)

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How offensive will high court allow marks to be?

The SlantsFour white men, two white women, a Latina, and an African-American soon will decide how blunt, vulgar, and racist trademarks in the United States may be. This esteemed, older, and not necessarily greatly diverse group will consider whether Asian American musicians may “re-appropriate” Slants, a traditional slur against their ethnic group, and obtain formal, legal exclusivity and commercial protections for that term.

But Redskins, another racial term deemed offensive and derogatory, especially to Native Americans, another minority group in this country, will not be part of the deliberations for now by, of course, the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Their impetus for examining the issue of “scandalous, immoral, and disparaging,” trademarks — a topic this blog has taken up before — resulted from an appeal by no less than Uncle Sam, who said the important issue had gotten unclear and messy for the multicultural nation. Here’s why: (more…)

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Oops, a contract lost: Jay-Z wins logo suit.

roc-a-fella_recordsShawn Carter — the man, the myth, the legend, and the hip-hop mogul better known in the music world as Jay-Z — seems to be in court a lot for something or the other. Recently he prevailed in a legal tussle over the logo used by the record label that made him famous.

When Roc-A-fella Records Inc. and Roc-A-Fella Records LLC were created in 1996 and 1997, respectively by the trio of Damon “Dame” Dash, Kareem “Biggs” Burke, and Carter, they needed a logo to set them apart from other labels in the music industry. Dwayne D. Walker Jr. claims the trio enlisted his services to accomplish this task. He may have assisted. But a federal judge has decided the entrepreneur trio did not owe Walker any money. The court dismissed Walker’s claim, seeking $7 million and accusing the trio of breaching a contract that Walker claimed only Dash signed two decades ago. No, the dog didn’t eat Walker’s homework. But he couldn’t find a crucial document. (more…)

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1,000 words? Does ‘willful’ apply to 5 pictures?

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Run-DMC, the iconic hip-hop trio, clearly realized the huge cool factor in the pictures taken of them by the renowned photographer Glen E. Friedman.  So, too, did Sony Music, which secured rights from him allowing Run-DMC fans to download his hot pictures as “wallpaper” for their computer screens.

But the shooter, legally speaking, cried “Whaddup?!” when he learned that Live Nation Merchandise had found his images’ sufficiently compelling that it used five of his pictures on T-shirts and a wall calendar. The company said it had a process by which it asked Run-DMC to approve the sale of the goods.

It wasn’t clear with the artists, though, that they needed to secure copyright approvals from Friedman. The colloquy over what went wrong got set right recently by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which rejected some of Friedman’s claims but left Live Nation open to potentially paying even more for a “willful” whoops — possibly removing copyright markings from the photographer’s works and infringing on his rights to them. (more…)

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