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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Judge clips VidAngel’s naughty wings


A streaming company that has tried to seize a higher ground, taking Hollywood movies from discs and “cleaning” the films of pornography, nudity, and violence and then providing them online to its customers, has itself acted in naughty, naughty fashion, a federal judge has found.

In Los Angeles, U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte Jr. ruled that VidAngel Inc. has infringed copyrights held by Disney, Warner Bros., and Twentieth Century Fox after failing to get appropriate licensing from them, which resulted in an order that the company stop all editing and streaming of the studios’ films.

Since the ruling, VidAngel has flapped its corporate wings and claimed technical issues in complying with the federal injunction – then flouted it. Who wouldn’t want to zap the sleaze straight out of a flick like Fifty Shades of Gray? But the company is finding that it can be costly to be righteous. Poking Hollywood in the nose and telling a federal court judge that “we’re right and you’re wrong” landed VidAngel in contempt of court. (more…)

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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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An appellate reverse on records law for movies

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The movie industry long has fought any efforts to impose content-based restrictions, with the courts and the law recognizing and giving wide berth to Hollywood’s First Amendment privileges.

But a surrogate sector of movie making–the billion-dollar adult entertainment industry–almost from its start has borne the brunt of efforts to impose government restrictions, also battling in the highest courts over whether blue laws are reasonable or outright censorship. These movies makers scored a win recently when the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals threw out a lower court decision and ruled in their favor on a case involving performers and film-makers’ need to maintain records about them.

Though proponents of the requirements said they provided a deterrent to exploitation of under-age actors and actresses and a tool to combat child pornography, which isn’t constitutionally protected, opponents said the rules edged into the territory of content controls barred by the First Amendment. (more…)

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Will cable boxes go bye-bye, content increase?

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Is it time to say goodbye to cable companies’ set-top transmission boxes, the monthly charges that come with them, and a possible entertainment content choke point?

The FCC has approved a Notice of Proposed Rule Making to allow consumers to access cable and cable programming through other means, not just cable companies’s set-top boxes.

The FCC had released a fact sheet in January that detailed the reasoning behind this shift. The agency says that “99% of pay-TV subscribers are chained to their set-top boxes,” that they pay “on average $231 in rental fees annually” per household, and that these new rules will “tear down anti-competitive barriers and pave the way for software, devices and other innovative solutions.” Like what? (more…)

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Justices decline Apple’s appeal on e-books

appleApple is on the hook now to the tune of $400 million to consumers after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up an appeal of an adverse decision against the tech company by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The appellate court upheld a lower court ruling that Apple conspired to fix the prices of some e-books in in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. The justices did not comment in rejecting Apple’s bid for certiorari. (more…)

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Pro librarian up for top job with copyright sway

25library-web-sub-superJumboThe Obama Administration has announced that Carla Hayden will be its nominee as the fourteenth U.S. Librarian of Congress. This is a position with great influence on copyright law, and, therefore of considerable interest to Entertainment Law practitioners.

She would replace James H. Billington, who was nominated by President Reagan and has come under fire for failing to keep up with technological advancements. Hayden must confirmed by the U.S. Senate, not an easy task these days. She would be the second professional librarian to hold the position, and her nomination has been applauded by both the American Library Association and the American Association of Law Libraries.

The U.S. Copyright Office, which administers and records copyrights and provides public services about these key elements of intellectual property law, is part of the Library of Congress. Hayden would be the first woman and the first African-American to be the congressional librarian. She also has deep experience updating library technology, sure to be a priority after the widespread criticism of her predecessor. (more…)

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Goliath of live concerts cleared on anti-trust

LNE_Logo_300_(10-2011)The way that fans interact with music has changed drastically in the decade, moving them away from getting them to form long lines at venues to buy tickets to concerts to doing so now online, at home, alone, instantly, and with a click of a mouse.  This also has meant that live performances sell out in mere minutes, whether they are music festivals like Coachella or  Adele’s upcoming tour.  The frenzy of camping out for shows has become antiquated. But has this technology-based change also given undue competitive advantage to big promoters with major name recognition? That has been a gripe of smaller players in the market, and it has become a more pressing issue to many as live concerts have become an ever more lucrative, central part of a music industry riven by streaming, recorded, published and performed ways of product distribution.

The complaint chorus rose to a crescendo about Live Nation, one of the leading companies promoting, orchestrating, organizing, and booking artists for concerts.  A federal district judge had dismissed on summary judgment an anti-trust challenge to Live Nation; appellate judges recently affirmed that ruling. The courts have found that the company’s size was neither inherently good nor bad but that plaintiff It’s My Part Inc. (IMP) had provided insufficient proof that its anti-trust claim could succeed.

The appellate opinion noted that IMP set up the case akin to a “David-and-Goliath battle between an industry behemoth and its regional challenger.” That wasn’t an apt analogy, said U.S. District Judge Harvie Wilkinson III, who wrote on behalf of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Weighing in on a key issue — whether the corporate giant illegally coerced bands to perform at its select venues — he wrote that “[j]ust as big is not necessarily bad, small it not necessarily weak.” He and his colleagues sided with the music industry Goliath not David. (more…)

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Password sharing has its legal risks but …

downloadCord cutters rejoiced this past Super Bowl Sunday. Not only is CBS creating its own streaming option, but the broadcaster went out of its way to make streaming the annual spectacle incredibly easy. Now, could streaming services make it even simpler: What about the legality of password sharing?

Cord cutting is the practice, relatively new and especially popular among millennial media consumers, to “cut” the cable cord, canceling pricey, bundled cable broadcast service. That’s because customers can access and consume media (including television shows, movies, video games, and music videos) cheaper and via other online services, typically streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. Cord cutting also fosters password sharing: providing services’ access information with friends, family, or significant others. It got a lot of attention when Emmy host Andy Samberg last fall gave out a working HBO password on air. Slate.com calls the practice “a telling step in contemporary coupling – a contemporary version of leaving an extra toothbrush in your partner’s bathroom.”

Although some estimates put the economic losses of this practice as high as a half-billion dollars annually, HBO and Netflix’s respective CEOs don’t see password sharing as a problem, even going so far as to say it helps create new subscribers. What are the legal implications? Does it violate the terms of service? Can I be arrested?! (more…)

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Slants ruling: troubling twist for Skins, TM law

Courtesy of redskins.com

I am going to admit my secret shame. I am a Washington Redskins fan. My father’s family hails from the District, and his grandfather had season tickets at one point. With the woeful lack of a LA football team (for now) the Skins were the only feasible fan option for me for pro football.

But I actually fit into an odd ‘Skins minority: I’d favor a name change for the team. Yes, it would be a shame to lose some franchise history — but not as much of a shame as rooting for a franchise with an odious name. As such, I was glad when a federal judge upheld the Federal Trial and Appeal Board’s 2-1 ruling that the team’s name is offensive to Native Americans, and, thus, ineligible for trademark protection under 15 USC §1052(a). That section of the Lanham Act states that offensive marks are not valid trademarks.

But then the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (the special court dealing mostly with appeals from the patent office) recently struck down 2(a) as an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment in the case In Re Simon Tam. Now my consternation applies not just to a football team and its name but also to the modernity, or lack of it, in trademark law. (more…)

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