Walmart rears up against cartoonist’s site

When a cartoonist decides to horse around, must a mammoth corporation react as if an online site is a horse of a different color, and whinny to the jest, nay, nay, neigh? With the Entertainment industry seeking to protect its intellectual property, especially in response to lucrative merchandising issues, it’s worth seeing that copyright and trademark issues create legal issues for other enterprises, too–and that the cyber chatter can be just as robust over the online world’s perception that corporations may feel their oats too much and might consider a wee bit more horse sense about aggressive protection of brand.

Today’s publicity-attracting incident involves Walmart, from which Jeph Jacques, creator of the comic strip Questionable Content, received a recent cease and desist letter  after he launched his Walmart.horse website via the Tumblr photo-sharing and blogging software.

Jacques insists his is a protectable fair use of Walmart’s trademark. In the C&D notice, Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, says the site, among other mark infringement claims, particularly “weakens the ability of the Walmart mark and domain name to identify a single source… [and] tarnishes the goodwill and reputation of Walmart’s products, services, and trademarks.”

What legal issues will prevail, so one of these conflicting parties happily and triumphantly rides off into the sunset?

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What happens when auditors dog tv, film deals?

Knowledge. Experience. Background. And relationships. These qualities and capacities make a world of difference for third-party profit participants who turn to experts to scrutinize the books of the entertainment industry to ensure everything adds up and they’re receiving their fair share, according to Steven Sills, an accountant, Southwestern Law School graduate, and partner and renowned motion picture and TV audit expert at Green Hasson Janks .

Sills, with more than three decades of entertainment accounting experience and having done myriad audits with studios and distributors, walked an audience at Southwestern Law school through his work as part of the “Conversation With” speaker series with Professor Steve Krone, director of the Biederman Institute. (more…)

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Court says arrivederci to La Dolce Vita case

ladolceIf there ever was a sweet life to a long-running lawsuit over a legendary film icon, a federal judge in Los Angeles has said basta finito to it: U.S. District Judge S. James Otero  recently granted Paramount and Melange Pictures  summary judgment  against International Media Films Inc. (a tip of the hat to Courthouse News for posting the court notes on the case). IMF had failed to reply to the latest moves in contentious claims over director Federico Fellini’s famed La Dolce Vita, a 1960 narrative of a journalist’s week in Rome. (more…)

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Oprah, on remand, owns her own power slogan

oprahThough David and Goliath’s combat ran brief and turned on a small stone, a trademark version of the legendary story has taken four years and it wasn’t David left standing after sheaves of paper got tossed about. The case involves Oprah, one name, one woman, and a lifetime of accomplishments to go with it.  She harnessed a descriptive phrase “Own your Power,” and began to build part of her Goliath-sized empire around it.  But Simone Kelly-Brown,  a life coach and motivational speaker, owns and runs “ownyourpower.biz.” Kelly-Brown sought and won a trademark on that phrase. She battled O for use of the words, prevailed briefly, but since has lost.

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More blues for Toyota over B.B. King ad

Toyota has failed to get a federal judge in Nevada to dismiss a copyright complaint from Eric Dahl, who wrote in his book B.B. King’s Lucille and the Loves Before Her, about finding and returning blues legend B.B.King’s cherished guitar. Dahl not only is an author, he is a guitar collector and frequent pawnshop patron, always on the lookout for unique instruments. When he found in a Gibson Lucille in Las Vegas shop with Prototype 1 written on it, he could not shake the feeling the ax belonged to King. Dahl met with King and returned the instrument, a gift for the bluesman’s 80th birthday that had been stolen. King sent Dahl home with an autographed guitar for himself. (more…)

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A Ranger fan-vid morphs past takedown

Mighty morphing… Lawsuit Rangers? A recent Power Rangers’ fan-created video, posted on YouTube and Vimeo, quickly was taken down after the copyright owner claimed infringement, sparking an ongoing debate about such creations and fair use. The 14-minute work, starring Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica) and James Van Der Beek (Dawson’s Creek), garnered several million views in the two short days it could be seen on the sites before representatives of copyright owner Haim Saban contacted both services claiming infringement.

The short, with a grown-up approach to a kids’ character franchise, then was  yanked, resulting in a copyright strike for the producer under YouTube’s terms of service. It since has gone back up, albeit with disclaimers and age-related safeguards. Should fans blame some evil galactic force or what, in legal terms, befell this bit of pop production, causing it to yo-yo around online?

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Village People cop wins bigger share of YMCA

Village PeopleAll good things come to those who wait — and this seems especially to apply to musicians and artists covered under the termination rights section of the Copyright Act, as added and made effective Jan. 1, 1978. They may need to wait 35 years but they eventually can seize back copyrights on their original works. One of the first and public instances of this process occurred recently when Victor Willis, the cop in the vintage disco boogie band, the Village People,  publicly reclaimed his rights in an action before Chief Judge Barry T. Moskowitz in a federal court in San Diego.  And now Willis has extended his legal winning streak, with federal jurors deciding his rights’ ownership should be broader than he had been awarded before. (more…)

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Swift marks off more legal rights for music

tswiftEver uttered or jotted down these phrases?   Party like it’s 1989. This sick beat. Cause we never go out of style. Could show you incredible things.

Careful. Govern yourself accordingly: pop superstar Taylor Swift has laid legal claim to these words and more. Not as musicians typically do, just with copyright. Instead, she is pursuing a legal strategy that’s getting a lot of online attention. She’s seeking to trademark her lyrics, applying for legal protections for several catch lines from her newest album 1989 and especially as these might be applied to an array of goods or products.

This isn’t an utterly unique legal tactic. But Swift’s raising eyebrows because of her market power and her aggressive protection of her works and more broadly her brand. (more…)

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Boom! Artist boxes record label for infringment

A quick verdict by a Manhattan jury last week cost Soul Temple, Wu- Tang Clan rapper RZA’s record company,  $200,000 after jurors found the label guilty of willfully infringing on artist Lyle Owerko’s copyrighted work. The lawsuit stemmed from the record label’s use of two images of vintage boomboxes produced by Owerko from his “Boombox Project.” The images were taken from an Internet search and featured on Wu-Tang rapper  U-God’s 2013 solo album and promotional merchandise. (more…)

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Film, TV audit expert will speak at law school

SillsIf Hollywood’s all about The Deal, then understanding entertainment industry finances and especially following the money really matters. Southwestern Law School, as part of its “In Conversation” series, will feature a leading expert in this area: Steven Sills ’87, partner and motion picture and TV audit expert at Green Hasson Janks (right). He will participate in a moderated chat with Professor Steve Krone, director of the Biederman Institute, on March 19 at 7:30 p.m. at Southwestern Law School. The free event will offer one hour of CLE credit and will be in the law school’s Bullocks Wilshire Building (3050 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles). Reservations are requested and can be made through the Donald E. Biderman Entertainment and Law Institute office: institute@swlaw.edu. (more…)

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