‘Bad Girl’ defeats, decisively, infringement claim

When a Club Girl became a Bad Girl, a songwriter got in a delayed huff. But he and his lawyer ignored a fundamental aspect of copyright law, a legal point on which an appellate court just offered a pointed reminder: “co-authors of a joint work are each entitled to undivided ownership and the joint owner of a copyright cannot sue his co-owner for infringement.”

That’s why crooner Usher Raymond is sitting prettier than ever as his 2004 derivative hit, Bad Girl, has won a decisive victory over an attack on it, with a ruling from the the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. U.S. Chief Judge Theodore A. Mckee wrote the decision on behalf of the three-judge panel, which included U.S. Circuit Judges D. Michael Fisher and Joseph A. Greenaway Jr.

They not only sent packing Daniel V. Marino, a co-writer  of Club Girl, a tune from which Usher’s successful record was derived, they also upheld sanctions against his counsel. What happened? (more…)

Read More

Appellate court gives boot to video game claims

If plaintiffs aren’t clever enough to present the courts with the basics, notably the materials that they assert that others exploited and owe them money for, then judges have no choice but to dismiss their royalties and copyright infringement claims, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has reminded a complaining party smart enough to help create a best-selling video game.

Unfortunately for Robin Antonick, the appellate judges recently blocked his attempt to recover royalties from Electronic Arts Inc. for his claimed work on the industry giant’s top-selling product, the John Madden Football video game.

Antonick was the coder who created the first Madden football vide game in 1988. It was played on the Apple II computer. After the immediate success of that debut version, EA asked Antonick in 1989 to jump on a second version, which would be played on the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo systems.

But in the middle of 1990, the company told him to stop his work because EA said it had decided to go in a different direction with the amusement. Then, in November, 1990 EA Sports released Madden II, and from 1992 until 1996, the company continued to release regular installments of the game each year for both the Sega and Super NES systems.

Now, more than two decades after creating the celebrated and highly profitable game with its cult following, Antonick sued EA, seeking royalties he claims he was owed on the Sega and Super NES console versions of the game under the contract he signed with the company. (more…)

Read More

Podcasts? Here are 3 on entertainment law

If you’re looking for a way to stay up to date in easy, convenient fashion with key developments in entertainment and media law, why not try a novel, different technology: Podcasts, which hit big in the early 2000s then seemed to fade a decade or so later, have reemerged to become all the rage again. We’re talking Serial, This American Life, Fresh Air, and the many offerings available through National Public Radio and Apple.

There also are at least a trio of Entertainment Law podcasts worth considering for some reasons described below: It’s a subjective call, and there may be options to add.

But in the upcoming downtime connected to the holidays, it may be worth devoting some moments to: the Entertainment Law Update Podcast, Laws of Entertainment with Lisa Bonner, and the Fordham Intellectual Property, Media, and Entertainment Law Journal Podcast. Here’s why, for those with long commutes or the need for informative diversion, to listen up! (more…)

Read More

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…)

Read More

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…)

Read More

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…)

Read More

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…)

Read More

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…)

Read More

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…)

Read More