Posts in Entertainment Law

The Rise of IP Lawsuits When Posting Images: How to Navigate and Avoid Copyright Infringement Issues

Picture this: You own a women’s swimwear business. You engage your customers by curating eye-popping images on social media that exude athleticism and style. While browsing online, you find a photo posted by someone else of a woman in one of your pink swimsuits diving into a pool. You instantly know that this woman is exactly who your customers want to be! You share it on your profile with the caption, “Making waves wherever I go” and link to your swimsuit for purchase. Within hours the post racks up 50,000 likes and 2,000 swimsuit orders. But the excitement quickly wears off when you receive an email from a law firm representing the photographer, claiming you infringed her copyright.

An Independent Musician’s Perspective on the TikTok Legislation Before Congress

There are many loud voices making a lot of noise about TikTok right now, and as someone who makes “noise” for a living, I thought I’d provide an independent musician’s perspective on the TikTok legislation before Congress: I hope it passes, both as an American and as a music maker. First of all, this bill restricts TikTok, it does not “ban” the app. It forces the company to cut its ties to the Chinese Communist Party and prevents them from accessing the data of Americans. That’s a good thing. The bill doesn’t mandate or regulate speech, it’s focused on national security. The threat is no secret, it’s real: the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) called TikTok “a clear and present danger” to our country.

SCOTUS Won’t Rule on Whether Lanham Act Applies to Celebrity Personas

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday denied a petition asking the justices to weigh in on whether the Lanham Act prohibits “the unauthorized use of a celebrity’s persona advertising third party brands with logos in a commercial motion picture as a trademark infringement?” The case stems from a suit brought by the partner of Christopher Jones, an actor in the 1960s, who was referenced in the film Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood (the film), written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. Jones starred in the television series, The Legend of Jesse James, and movies including 3 in the Attic and Wild in the Streets.

Cold Open: The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Authorship in Film and Television Writing

Last week, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) reached a tentative three-year deal to resolve a writer’s strike following a labor dispute with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). The deal was reached on September 27, 2023, after a 148-day strike, which was the second-longest in the union’s history. According to USA Today, the WGA’s leadership board has lifted the restraining order barring writers from returning to work, and its members will vote to officially ratify the agreement between October 2 and October 9. In a storyline that at one time would have been considered science fiction, a major point of contention between writers and producers was the use of artificial intelligence in the screenwriting process.

Don’t Blame Barbie and Ken for Killing the Movies – And Don’t Blame IP

Reports of the death of the movies at the hands of IP have been greatly exaggerated. Movie ticket sales are down and may never recover from pre-pandemic highs. The actors and writers strike will not help but the scarcity of new product might. The studios are racing to screen franchise movies that put people back into theater seats. IP rights associated with franchises – Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Avengers, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Mission Impossible – are being blamed for turning the movies into a veritable video game more focused on effects than people.

Top Gun Copyright Lawsuit—A Real Dog Fight or Destined to Flameout?

On June 6, Paramount Pictures got its tower buzzed for copyright infringement in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California over the blockbuster film of the summer, Top Gun Maverick. According to the allegations in the complaint, in 1983, author Ahud Yonay wrote a magazine story about the real-life exploits of two naval fighter pilots entitled, “Top Guns.” Paramount allegedly secured the “exclusive motion picture rights to Ehud Yonay’s copyrighted story” and in 1986 released the motion picture Top Gun. Fast forward a few decades. In 2018, Yonay’s heirs (Plaintiffs in this action who are both Israeli citizens) allegedly served Paramount with a notice “terminating” the original assignment of the motion picture rights to Paramount. Paramount apparently took the position that the purported termination was ineffective and, over the Memorial Day weekend, launched Top Gun Maverick to critical acclaim at the box office (and to the delight of millions of fans of the original 1980s classic).

In Copyright Win for Ed Sheeran, UK High Court Says Differences Between ‘Shape of You’ and ‘Oh Why’ Outweigh Similarities

On April 6, the UK High Court issued a judgment of non-infringement in favor of artist Ed Sheeran over his 2017 song, “Shape of You.” The court held that Sheeran did not copy a part of Defendant Sami Chokri’s 2015 song called “Oh Why.” The ruling came nearly four years after co-writers Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue (collectively, Defendants) first accused Sheeran and his co-writers, Snow Patrol’s John McDaid and producer Steven McCutcheon (collectively, Plaintiffs) of deliberately and consciously copying from a part of “Oh Why.” Alternatively, the Defendants contended that he did so subconsciously.

Marketing With the Stars of March: NCAA Athletes and the New ‘NIL’ Policy

Name, Image, and Likeness, or “NIL,” is the buzz word spinning around college athletics. In July 2021, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) adopted its Interim NIL Policy (“the Policy”) which allows, for the first time, student athletes to monetize their NIL rights without losing scholarships or eligibility. Fans love college sports and cheering on athletes who play for their alma mater or favorite school teams, which creates collaboration opportunities for athletes and brands alike. In an attempt to connect their products and services with college athletes—who are the face of a billion-dollar industry—brands are jumping on the college-athlete bandwagon.

Live, Work and Play in a Legal Metaverse: Preparing for a New Online Existence

Companies spend billions and invest heavily in technologies that offer greater telepresence and enable an individual’s digital life. Will humans interact with each other via avatars in a three-dimensional virtual space?  The “Metaverse” has ramifications for everything people do to live, work and play together digitally. The Metaverse is a digital shared space where everyone can seamlessly interact in a fully immersive, simulated experience. The Metaverse increases the permeability of the borders between various digital environments and the physical world. In the Metaverse, you can interact with virtual objects and real-time information. A place where people join together to create, work, and spend time together in an environment that mixes what is virtual and what is real.

Stars, Paparazzi, and the Puzzling Law of Copyrights

Picture this: A paparazzo snaps an unauthorized photo of a celebrity and sells it to a media outlet, making a tidy profit. As unfair as that may sound to the celebrity, most stars are well-aware of the established law that a photograph—even an unwanted one—can be monetized by the paparazzi. The law also is clear that, absent permission, the celebrity cannot monetize the photograph herself. Photographs, like other works of art, can be copyrighted by the paparazzi and, as with copyright, the owner possesses the famed “bundle of rights,” including the right to prohibit others from displaying the photograph for money.

Tarantino Pulp Fiction Dispute Spotlights the Contentious Relationship between NFTs and IP Rights

Director Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 Pulp Fiction, considered among the most influential films in modern history, has emerged as a test case of sorts for issuing non-fungible tokens (NFTs) that relate to a copyright-protected work. The NFTs are being sold independent of Miramax, the producer and owner of the rights to the film, who says its ownership rights are being violated. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California last week, also accused Tarantino of breach of contract, trademark infringement and unfair competition, according to court documents.

Third Circuit: Facebook Not Immune to Right of Publicity Claims Under IP Carve-Out of Section 230

On September 23, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed in part a decision by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, ultimately holding that Karen Hepp’s complaint against Facebook was not barred by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.In 2018, Hepp was informed by a coworker that a photo of her was being used online. The photo of Hepp was taken without her knowledge or consent and she never authorized the use of the image in any advertisements.

Hepp’s complaint cited two sets of posts online of the photo, which Hepp alleged under Pennsylvania law violated her right to publicity. The first post appeared on Facebook as an advertisement to a dating app. The advertisement encouraged Facebook users to use the app and used the image of Hepp to promote the dating service. The second post appeared on Reddit, where a user linked to a post on Imgur. The Reddit post was upvoted hundreds of times and incited indecent user commentary regarding the photo of Hepp.

Infringing Influencers? Federal Judge Says Sponsored Blogger Can Face Trademark Infringement Liability

When an influencer is paid to promote a brand – and the brand’s name is trademark-infringing – can the influencer be on the hook for the infringement? A federal district court just said yes. The result could widely expand trademark litigation against influencers – and could reshape how companies and their influencers relate to one another contractually.

Fueled by BTS and K-pop, South Korea’s IP Economy is Thriving

The arts and entertainment industry has boosted South Korea’s economy and produced some of the country’s key products and exports. The country’s population of 51 million people was the sixth largest music market in the world in 2020, according to IFPI’s Global Music Report 2021. Also in 2020, South Korea had a $160 million surplus in cultural and arts intellectual property (IP)-related assets trade, according to South Korea’s Maeil Business Newspaper. It was the first time a surplus in such a category was registered. However, entertainment-related IP assets have been big Korean exports for years: in 2019, the country exported $8.62 billion in copyright-protected content, according to Yonhap News Agency. South Korea also has proven itself to be a prolific environment for creating music, film, content, and experiences for fans, and also to be great at making the most of their intangible assets through IP strategies.

Senator Ron Wyden, Stop Harming Independent Creators

As the current pandemic eviscerates jobs throughout our economy, Congress has a rare opportunity to improve the lot of one long-besieged group of workers: creators. Authors, songwriters, photographers, artists, filmmakers, and many other creative professionals are the lifeblood of American cultural innovation. For decades, however, unfettered copyright infringement online has undermined their livelihoods. The effect is especially pronounced for “creative upstarts”—independent creators who rely on copyright income. Many creative upstarts report widespread piracy of their works but feel powerless to stop it. Now, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) seems intent on unilaterally terminating a bill that if passed would give indie creators—thousands of whom live in Wyden’s state of Oregon—much needed access to justice.

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