In another superhero summer, adult woes fester

Will Hollywood finally hit a day of reckoning with ageism and sexism?

Hollywood may be happy this summer that Wonder Woman, one of its box office blockbusters not only has sustained a seemingly endless parade of comic superhero sagas, it also has given the industry a success story to— weakly— fend off long-standing, self-evident claims about sexism in the movie business.

But ageism, a twin bane of Tinsel Town, festers still. And with 1 in 3 prime occupants of theater seats in the United States 50 or older, and the business under legal fire for discriminating against its seasoned talent, can the major studios, in particular, quell seasons of discontent just with a slate of noisy, youth-oriented offerings that movie executives pray will shower revenue: Can yet more Cars, Aliens, Transformers, Caribbean Pirates, and Spider Men keep not only kids but also grownups, especially those with a little gray in their hair, enthralled with the movies?

Or might Hollywood, with introspection and creativity, overcome its issues to better portray characters who are older than 60 without demeaning or comedic stereotyping? Aren’t there profit-generating and great roles—neither sexist nor ageist—on the silver and broadcast screens for revered stars like Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon (shown above)? Aren’t there affluent, powerful markets to be expanded with benefits to the business and to older Americans, too? (more…)

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‘Ironman’ infringment claims stripped down


Court tosses lawsuit over suit but keeps alive tiff over movie poster

When a super hero upgraded from spandex and metal to hard-core gear, that spawned a lawsuit over a suit. But almost two years after Horizon Comics Productions, Inc. (“Horizon”) sued Marvel Entertainment, LLC (“Marvel”) for copyright infringement, a federal judge has unzipped the claim that one of the planet’s leading character-based entertainment companies stole the body armor design for Iron Man from two comic book artists.

U.S. District Court Judge J. Paul Oetken scrapped most of the suit by Horizon and onetime Marvel artists Ben and Ray Lai, finding iron-clad dissimilarities between Ironman’s ever-evolving garb in a $318 million-dollar movie and the attire of  the protagonists in a 2001 comic book series “Radix.”

But the judge also left a glimmer of possibility for the Lais and Horizon, allowing their claims to go forward that the Iron Man movie poster may have infringed on their intellectual property. How did this suit clang its way into court for so long? (more…)

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Actors’ ages can be posted online, court says

Is it proper to ask thespians their age? It is, a federal judge in San Francisco says.

U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria recently ruled on a request for an injunction against it that a California law, which prevents the film and television information website IMDB from posting actor’s real ages, is out of bounds and cannot be enforced.

While the law’s aim was to prevent age and gender discrimination in casting, the judge held that the law likely abridges expression of non-commercial free speech, writing,  “it’s difficult to imagine how AB 1687 [the law] could not violate the First Amendment.” (more…)

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Infringement makes federal court Krabby

Cartoon eatery wins mark protection

With its corps of intellectual property lawyers, Viacom, the entertainment giant, somehow didn’t legally shield the Krusty Krab— and some interlopers soon had plans to have their way with it.

Unfamiliar with this famed eatery, and maybe not savvy about the Sponge Bob Squarepants universe, too? Well, the Krusty Krab is the fictional, featured workplace of SpongeBob and the ever acerbic Squidward. Their famous joint also has its own legendary burger: the Krabby Patty.

Both were in danger, in Viacom’s view, of falling into the nefarious mitts of IJR Capital Investments, an LLC that proposed to open a Krusty Krab restaurant and to trademark that name.

As Mr. Bill, another notable fictional character, would exclaim: Oh, no!

Fear not sea sponges. Viacom pulled up its legal big boy pants and fought back – winning its case recently with a reminder from a federal court in Houston about critical components of IP and trademark law. Hint: Use in the market matters.


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‘Oh, Really?’ Pokemon chased by legal reality

508800-pokemon-goIn our ‘Oh, Really?’  feature, the Biederman Blog’s editors and alumni— voracious consumers of trendy matters — cast a curious, skeptical, fun and smart end-of-the-week eye on popular culture and its entertaining products, sharing their keen observations about legal matters these raise.

Who knows how many millennials and youngsters spent the long Labor Day holiday chasing Pikachu, Eevee, and Jigglypuff? Who knows how many will race out this weekend to pursue Squirtle, Bulbasaur, and Charmander? And where’s Tauros or Mr. Mime?

“Gotta catch ‘em all, Pokémon!” rang out the ’90s theme song every Saturday morning on the cartoon show iconic to a  generation fully coming into its own. Now, history is repeating itself, as  kids, teens, and, yes, some adults repeat that tune as they zip around trying to “catch” Pokémon on the hot smartphone game app Pokémon Go.

To hear fans of Pokémon Go tell it, its rising technology–augmented reality (AR)–promises everything from mesmerizing new diversions  to innovative ways to present information and content to 100 percent Bar pass rates. But AR, as happens with many novel entertainment technologies, also has run smack into legal reality. (more…)

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Legal phasers fired to protect Klingon language

vubpu’ jon nuchpu’. jonbe’ tlhInganpu. That translates to “Cowards take hostages. Klingons do not.” The Language Creation Society, based in Ridgecrest, Calif., has declared war. The group, as Randazza Legal Group PLLC, has filed an amicus brief to speak up on behalf of the Klingon language, which is under fire as part of the lawsuit Paramount Pictures Corp. v. Axanar Productions Inc.

The brief, liberally sprinkled with the language spoken by characters like Commander Worf (actor Michael Dorn) from the long-running hit TV and movie franchise, Star Trek, essentially argues that no one can copyright a language, even one that has been entirely artificially created.

In their continuing mission to explore strange new worlds and protect their copyrights, CBS and Paramount sued Alec Peters and his crowdfunded production Axanar late last year in a Los Angeles federal court. The studios seek damages for direct, contributory and vicarious infringement as well as an injunction to stop production.

Let’s translate what’s going on here–minus the requisite insults, (as described in the video above by a German lecturer on Klingon in a promotion for a video game): (more…)

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Barbs over ‘safe’ arrows raise legal quivers

The movie studios, television networks, video game makers, and big-time music businesses on both coasts may wish to take note of a curious case playing out in the nation’s heartland. It’s raising some novel issues about how small defendants soon may fund and sustain themselves in lawsuits with powerful plaintiffs over a range of IP disputes, including contested copyrights, trademarks, and patents.

The defendant in this peculiar matter has taken to, a popular online crowdfuding source, to raise money for his case. Is this a new way to level the playing field between corporate IP Goliaths and David defendants? Could this create a new way for IP suits to make it to trial rather than settling out? Or could crowdfunding become a way for attorney’s to take on challenging cases–while ensuring they’ll get paid? And what are the ethics of fund-raising for lawsuits?

The controversies have gotten sufficiently acute that the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which calls itself the “leading nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world,” has asked to enter the case, particularly over questions it may raise about litigants’ First Amendment rights. What case could parties to take arms in such noisy fashion? This one, no kidding, involves safe arrows and fans who like to play fantasy games with them. So come, shall we, upon a quest to discover this new source of magical power?


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Will nine black robes retool Batmobile ruling?

IMG_0313Na-na-na, Batman! Or should we say  Dark Knight or Caped Crusader? There have been many versions of Batman since the character launched in 1939. Each new Batman movie or television show brought not only new nicknames and new actors but also various Batmobiles. Each vehicle has differed — from Adam West’s convertible to George Clooney’s limo to Christian Bales’ motorcycle tank to Ben Affleck’s  dune buggy.

But now the U.S. Supreme Court has been asked to decide if the car that helps the caped crusader thwart evil is so distinctive to Batman to merit copyright as an intrinsic part of the literary character. As this blog noted earlier, the appellate decision that prompted this high court appeal was a surprise because it extended copyright where it never had gone before — to a car and its design. (more…)

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Pow! Batmobile’s character earns it copyright


This guest post was written by Hayk Stambultsyan, a PLEAS student in Southwestern’s Entertainment Law and Web 2.0 course:

Bam! said the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. And Ow! was what auto designer Mark Towle likely felt in his Gotham Garage as the appellate judges in Pasadena, Calif., recently decided his replica Batmobiles infringed on copyrights held by DC Comics.

The appellate court rejected the arguments by Towle’s attorneys that the super hero’s legendary vehicle, as seen in a Sixties television series and in movies, varied in looks and design between 1969 and 1989, and, that, at the end of the day, it was just a car. Notably, automotive design has not been afforded protection under the Copyright Act. (more…)

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3-D printing opens a thorny, new legal frontier

Iron Throne Dock

Game of Throne- Iron Throne ReplicaIt prompted a take-down demand from the folks behind Tintin, a cease-and-desist command from those associated with Game of Thrones and no less than the President paused to give it a shout-out in his recent State of the Union: 3-D printing and printers are not just here, they’re falling in price, becoming a more ubiquitous technology and they’re just starting to become a potential new sore spot for Hollywood and creative types concerned about protecting intellectual property. (more…)

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