Second City’s new tax fails to amuse netizens


This guest post was written by Travis J. Sabaitis, a student in the Entertainment Law and Web 2.0 course at Southwestern Law School. 

It isn’t even Halloween yet, but already for those in the entertainment industry, a chill gust is blowing across the lake in Chicago: That’s because the cash-strapped Windy City has said it will adjust its amusement tax, which previously had been collected on items such as tickets to sporting events and live concerts.

The administration of fiery Mayor Emmanuel Rahm has decided to impose a new nine percent levy targeting those who access online “entertainments,” especially those who use popular cloud-based streaming websites; legal analysts say they know of no other local government in the U.S. that has pursued such a tax.

Consumers of television broadcasts, online video, sports programming, games, music, and any other entertainment content delivered electronically soon may have to fork over more money for their every day services. Companies like Netflix and Hulu will be subjected to the taxes on streaming services they offer and they say they will pass on directly these charges in the form of increased rates for consumers (according to a Netflix spokesperson).

It also may become more costly for Second City consumers to access their subscription-based news sites as a result of this tax, which some angry users already have challenged. (more…)

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What’s up with drones in skies over Hollywood?

DroneFilm1This guest post was written by Jason D. Knight, a Southwestern 2016 juris doctorate candidate.

Hollywood was sky high just six months ago when federal regulators recognized the need to support the industry’s global leadership by allowing select firms to fly unmanned aerial systems, aka drones, to shoot movies. Regulators promised to follow quickly with new rules for all drones and their flights but the months since have only proven to be full of ups-and-downs for policy-makers trying to figure how to deal with this fast-growing and novel technology.

It’s been nothing less than a bumpy ride, especially in the Golden State: Fire fighters battling record blazes have had to curtail their work due to illegal drone incursions; airports and commercial aviators are reporting illegal drone flights in regulated air space nationwide with frightening regularity; Los Angeles police say an illegal drone flight interfered with one of their investigations; and only the intervention of Gov. Jerry Brown’s veto has kept state lawmakers from stepping in a trying to impose their own rules about drone flights.

Is this technology dangerous, innovative, useful, or a nuisance? What, in short, is up with drones now? Let’s take off with some key information about them….. (more…)

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Queen of Soul takes on new role: doc blocker

This guest post was written by Sylvanna Le, a 2L enrolled in Southwestern Law School’s Entertainment Law and Web 2.0 course:

She’s a papal headline performer and has been crowned by critics as the Queen of Soul. But did a federal judge in Colorado accord singer Aretha Franklin excessive r-e-s-p-e-c-t when he recently issued a court order blocking a noted film festival from screening a documentary about the Motown legend? Yes, the judge also enjoined the producer of the work, who has been in long running and unsuccessful negotiations with Franklin for permission to use her name and likeness.

Now, however, concerns have been expressed that this dispute, which since has affected film festivals in Telluride, Colo., andToronto, and a potential showing in Los Angeles, has transformed into a potentially precedent-setting, First Amendment issue of prior restraint. It could pose a potential significant problem for those who screen movies at events and else wise. Although the parties have tried to step back from the legal cliff, it’s worth a deeper dive into this dispute. (more…)

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ICYMI (how?): ‘Happy birthday’ in public domain

birthday cupcakeAs many analysts predicted, and as the net has abundantly noted, a federal judge has given everyone but Warner-Chappell a reason to celebrate, tossing out the music publishing giant’s copyright claim to one of the world’s most performed favorites, the Happy Birthday song. The ruling may  yet be appealed, and the plaintiffs say they will pursue damages over years of collected royalties.

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Judge shuffles off T-shirt infringement claim

They don’t exactly trip off the tongue and their novelty already is suspect. But terse phrases such as Get it poppin, That’s what’s up, Fire in the hole, and You got the right one have been found by courts insufficiently original and distinctive for copyright protection. (See Prunte v. Universal Music Group 699 F. Supp 2d 15, 25-30 D.D.C. 2010)

Now, a federal court in Miami has expanded this lexicon to include four more words in sequence: every day I’m hustlin. That phraseU.S. District Court Judge Kathleen M. Willams found in a decidedly narrow ruling, cannot be copyrighted, and, therefore, rapper Ricky Ross cannot pursue infringement claims against defendant Stefan Gordy and others associated with the group LMFAO. They had slapped a similar phrase, every day I’m shufflin,  on a lucrative line of T-shirts and other merchandise, and Ross had claimed a copyright violation. (more…)

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Is this a case of misplaced musical razzberries?

For entertainment law practitioners, politics and the political season isn’t just about getting inundated with information, along with most Americans, about The Donald, The Doctor, Hillary, or the Bern. It may turn, instead, into an angry call from a creative client, demanding that some kind of legal action be taken to stop someone or some group from using a composer’s music, a lyricist’s words, or a film maker’s or photographer’s images and visual-sound displays.

So let’s see, so far the outraged creatives have included: members of the band Survivor, upset over use of their song, Eye of the Tiger at a rally for Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refuses to issues licenses so gay couples may be wed; musicians from R.E.M., angry at Donald Trump for using It’s the End of the World (as We Know It); and rocker Neil Young, blasting Trump, again, for Rockin in the Free World. (more…)

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Appellate court tosses PlayStation owner’s suit

playstationFor a PlayStation owner with a decidedly paranoid view as to what happened or what might occur with his personal information, especially data on his movie-viewing habits, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has just handed down a ruling that best can be summarized in two words: buzz off. The appellate judges based in California thereby joined judicial colleagues in a federal district court in Oakland as well as jurists on the appellate benches in the Sixth and Seventh circuits in tossing the lawsuits filed by PlayStation owner Daniel Rodriguez, who claimed that others should be allowed to join him in a class action against two Sony subsidiaries. (more…)

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Jordan’s rebuke for grocer’s ad? $8.9 million

michael-jordan-career-20-e1421440457181He has insisted all along the way that his long legal battle was all about the power and pride of his name and not about a monetary victory. But even in Los Angeles, almost any litigator would be pleased to be part of the recent, much publicized $8.9 million federal court jury award to basketball legend Michael Jordan in his right of publicity suit against Dominick’s, a now-defunct grocery chain in Chicago that published an advertisement in a Sports Illustrated  commemorative edition using the superstar’s likeliness. (more…)

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Foundation gets a say in Charles rights case

Ray CharlesThe late Ray Charles could set a concert house afire all by himself, just by sitting down and putting hands on the keys of an upright piano to bob, weave, and belt out a terrific tune. When it comes to straightening out the finances of his musical legacy, however, there soon may be enough attorneys in the court to fill the seats of a symphony orchestra.

Or so it may seem after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently granted standing to The Ray Charles Foundation in a lawsuit brought by Charles’ heirs over copyright termination rights. A passel of Charles children already were tussling with a major music publisher over copyrights. So the lawyers involved will need to pull up even more chairs to confer now that the foundation’s part of the party.

While Charles  composed some of the best music ever to grace the rhythm and blues charts, he lived a life of great complexity and it all has turned into some elaborate legal counterpoint that now returns for a coda for a U.S. federal court to play through. Let’s plunk through some of the disharmony in this noteworthy case … (more…)

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