Behind a fun festival season, legal lines in sand

For Coachella and other lucrative live music events, there’s no fiddling around in enforcing protections for brands, merchandise

Summer’s quickly approaching, and that means the music festival season soon will be rocking and rolling in its full glory. But there’s more than meets the eye in staging successful—read that highly lucrative—events, besides getting throngs out in Mother Nature’s splendor for a splendid series of hot performances by top artists of the moment.

For Entertainment Law counsel, protecting a festival’s name, brand, intellectual property, and associated merchandise can require a lot of non-musical movements, year-round overtures in copyright and trademark enforcement. They’re playing a big score, with events and goods representing a sizable part of pop music’s revenues these days.

That’s the prelude for this post, now on to seeing some of how it’s done, with a sampling of the legal fugues performed by a major player, the Coachella Music Festival LLC:


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Experts to focus on entertainment’s ‘crazy year’

As the digital age makes it easier than ever for anyone to generate original and derivative works while expanding the reach of such creations, how do artists protect their intellectual property? How do producers set up strategic distribution deals with international markets and deal with censorship and other adaptations that may need to be considered? How does the entertainment industry keep pace with the internet and contend with liability matters?

These issues will be the focus of Keeping the Beat in a Crazy Year: Blurred Lines and Border Crossings, the 14th Annual Entertainment and Media Law Conference presented by Southwestern Law School’s Donald E. Biederman Entertainment and Media Law Institute and the Media Law Resource Center (MLRC). The conference will be Jan. 19 at the Los Angeles Times Building. (more…)

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Entertainment, media law event’s on Thursday

SWevent_imageSouthwestern Law School’s Donald E. Biederman Entertainment and Media Law Institute and the Media Law Resource Center on Thursday will present the 13th Annual Entertainment and Media Law Conference, an all-day event in downtown at the Los Angeles Times building.

“I am particularly excited about the program where an all-star panel, including Aaron Sorkin, will debate the legality and ethics of the media’s publishing hacked material – from studio salaries, scripts and slanderous gossip to nude photos of celebrities, ” said George Freeman, Executive Director of the Media Law Resource Center. He added that there will be “a program on the steps companies can take to avoid being hacked – and what to do if disaster happens from legal and PR points-of-view – will be timely, enlightening and entertaining.”

Professor Steven Krone, Director of the Biederman Institute, said, “The Biederman Institute and Southwestern Law School are delighted to be continuing our long partnership with the MLRC, and we’ve put together another program that promises to be topical and useful for lawyers and anyone interested in the entertainment and media industries.

Three discussion panels will be presented:

  • “The Future of Theaters—The Role of Traditional Distribution in the Digital Era”
  • “On the Digital Battlements—Dealing with Hackers, Enemy States and the U.S. Government”
  • “From Your Hard Drive to the Front Page—Leaked Information, Journalism, and the First Amendment”

Besides Sorkin –Academy Award-winning screenwriter, producer and playwright —  scheduled speakers will include prominent entertainment attorneys, legal scholars and industry insiders including: Alisa Bergman, Senior Vice President and Chief Privacy Officer, Warner Bros. Entertainment; Mary Ellen Callahan, former Chief Privacy Officer, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and current Cahir of Privacy and Information Governance Practice, Jenner & Block LLP; Howard Cohen, Co-President, Roadside Attractions; John Fithian, President & CEO, National Association of Theatre Owners; George Freeman, Executive Director of the MLRC; B. James Gladstone, Executive Vice President, Business & Legal Affairs, Lionsgate Entertainment; Mark Haddad, Partner, Sidley Austin LLP; Blaine Kimrey, former journalist and current shareholder, Vedder Price; Douglas Kmiec, Professor of Law, Pepperdine Law School; Professor Steven Krone, Director, Donald E Biederman Entertainment and Media Law Institute at Southwestern; Christin S. McMeley, Chair of the privacy and Security Practice, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP; Andrew J. Thomas, Partner, Jenner & Block LLP; and Eugene Volokh, Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law.

The event, offering four hours of CLE credit, is scheduled from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. followed by a reception.

Event co-sponsors include: AXIS PRO Insurance; Davis Wright Tremaine LLP; Doyle & McKean LLP; Fox Networks Group & Fox Group Legal; Fox Rothschild LLP; Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz, PC; Hiscox Media; Jassy Vick Carolan LLP; Jenner & Block LLP; Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP; Kelley Drye & Warren LLP; Leopold Petrich & Smith PC; Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz LLP; QBE Insurance Corporation; and Sidley Austin LLP.

The conference will be at the Times, 202 W. 1st Street. There is a parking structure at 213 S. Spring Street.

For more information or to register online visit here. Questions about the conference may be directed to Southwestern’s Biederman Institute at (213) 738-6602 or

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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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Privacy event to address celebrity issues, rights

Neville_L_Johnson_JJLLPLAW_2015DroozDeborahGary_BostwickProminent scholars, lawyers and government officials will gather on April 17 at Southwestern for the Second Annual Online Privacy Conference, presented by the law school’s Donald E. Biederman Entertainment and Media Law Institute. Participants will explore a spectrum of privacy issues, including, notably for Entertainment Law practitioners, a session on  Celebrity and Privacy/Publicity Rights. (more…)

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For holy Moses, Left Shark, legal spats in 3-D

leftshark2AugustanaWhat in the world but legal claims could unite a left shark and Moses? How about 3-D printing controversies for both? As technology advances relentlessly — perhaps at the pace once described by Albert Einstein where “it has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity”–counsel are intervening left and right to assert protections on creative items, whether these exist in copyright law or maybe not. That these cases keep cropping up at all, however, testifies to the growing ubiquity of 3-D copying and to its importance as a wary, new intellectual property front for Entertainment Law practitioners and their creative clients . (more…)

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Why do U.S. TV networks kick up the costs for the rights to World Cup, other global sports?

grimesmugAs faculty adviser to Southwestern’s International Law Society, Professor Robert E. Lutz (right and below) has encouraged a fun discussion for students, faculty and practicing attorneys called Stammtisch, which is German for “main table” and connotes an informal, friendly group meeting held regularly. At the Sept. 17 Stammtisch, Professor Warren S. Grimes (left) of the law school sparked an invigorating discussion on his work concerning the cost of FIFA’s World Cup viewership rights internationally.

ESPN_Logo_CLR_PosNBC_2014_Indent_StyleIn the 2014 World Cup, the United States television networks, specifically, ABC/ESPN and Univision, paid roughly $212.5 million for broadcast rights. This compares to an estimated $205 million to $246 million paid by the German networks and $150 million paid by the French networks. It is estimated that for the next two World Cups, U.S. networks will pay an average of more than $500 million for broadcasting rights. The U.S. will be paying 2.3 times the former amount and likely will be the highest paying nation for broadcasting rights, by a wide margin. These high payments by the U.S. are not unique to soccer, as, for the last few Olympics, a U.S. network (NBC) has paid on average twice as much per resident as Canadian broadcasters. ‬

robertelutz00During the Stammtisch, the group discussed why the process leads to overpayment by U.S. networks, and how that cost is passed on to TV viewers in the form of cable fees and advertising. One likely reason for the high cost is American cable bundles provided by TV programmers, which force U.S. consumers to pay the cost of many channels they may not wish to watch. For those interested, Grimes has published in the Journal of International Media and Entertainment Law, The Distribution of Pay Television in the United States: Let an Unshackled Marketplace Decide, 5 J. International Media & Entertainment Law 1 (2014). He also has a forthcoming piece with particular reference to the World Cup in the Southwestern Journal of International Law. And if you are interested in joining ILS, please email


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Sony exec sees need for audience engagement

Leah Weil, Senior Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Sony Pictures Entertainment. Image Credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment
Image Credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment

Hollywood has no choice but to engage with its audiences as part of its efforts to confront intellectual property piracy and to figure how to make user-generated content work for rather than against industry interests, Leah Weil, senior executive vice president and general counsel of Sony Pictures Entertainment, told an audience at the law school recent.

Weil, who oversees all legal matters relating to Sony Pictures divisions worldwide, including motion pictures, television, and home and digital entertainment, spoke recently with Steve Krone, director of the Donald E. Biederman Entertainment and Media Institute as part of Southwestern’s “Conversation with…” speaker series. (more…)

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1.35 million reasons to rethink ‘stage diving’

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Kimberly Meyers, a middle-aged mother of three, went to hear live music at a Philadelphia club and did not know that Fishbone,  a punk-funk-ska band, would be performing. She was standing in the audience, when suddenly, to her surprise, band members hurled themselves from the stage and into the crowd. Meyers was flattened. Her skull and collarbone were shattered, her eardrum ruptured. The band played on as she was taken by ambulance for emergency care. She since has undergone three surgeries and is expected to undergo more because of her continuing pain, loss of motion, cognitive loss and subsequent development of both lupus and arthritis. And, in a later deposition, what did the musician who slammed into her have to say? “[W]hen you’re performing, . . . you don’t want to have anything stepping in your way of — of you expressing your true feelings and your true art . . . .” remarked Fishbone frontman Angelo Moore.

U.S. District Judge Jan DuBois recently had her say about the indie band’s antics and the dangers of the practice known as stage diving, issuing a default judgment against Moore and John Norwood Fisher, Fishbone’s bassist. The court awarded Meyers $1.1 million in compensatory damages and $250,000 in punitive damages solely against Moore for inflicting life-changing injuries on the New Jersey businesswoman in a case that also spotlights other instances where concert-goers have claimed great bodily harm after raucous performers have cannon-balled themselves from stage into crowd. (more…)

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Hollywood’s ever-changing, a legend observes

Hollywood is a surprising and always changing place, Bob Broder, a legendary talent agent and Entertainment lawyer, told an engaged audience at Southwestern Law School during a recent appearance. Broder long has specialized in representing television’s leading writers, directors and producers, working now with Chuck Lorre Productions, assisting the firm’s chief in the development and production of television series and other creative projects, including Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory, Mike & Molly and Mom. Broder, in a conversation with Steven Krone, the director of the Biederman Institute, said he never intended to be in the industry. He practiced as a public defender for two years before getting a job offer at 20th Century Fox. He  later founded the Broder Webb Chervin Silbermann Agency, which was acquired in 2006 by ICM Partners, where he rose to the post of vice chairman. In 2012, Lorre approached Broder with an offer to leave ICM, and to join him and to run his expanding company. (more…)

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