Posts in Entertainment Law

Creators of This Is Spinal Tap sue Vivendi for $400M over breach of contract, declaratory judgment of copyright reversion claims

On Thursday, October 19th, the creators of the 1984 rock band mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap filed a second amended complaint against French mass media company Vivendi SA (EPA:VIV) in the Central District of California. The lawsuit, which includes trademark and copyright claims, alleges that Vivendi and its subsidiaries provided fraudulent accounting to the plaintiffs which resulted in greatly reduced royalty payments over the course of decades. The plaintiffs, which include the movie’s director Rob Reiner as well as performers/co-creators Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer and Michael McKean, are seeking more than $400 million in compensatory and punitive damages from Vivendi and Universal Music Group.

Did The Walt Disney Company and Pixar Steal the Movie Inside Out?

Robins Kaplan LLP filed an Amended Complaint detailing allegations that The Walt Disney Company and Pixar misappropriated the central concept and characters behind the animated hit movie Inside Out from a nationally recognized child development expert, Denise Daniels, who had pitched her uniquely original material and characters from her show The Moodsters to top studio executives… Ronald Schutz, partner at Robins Kaplan and lead trial counsel for Daniels and The Moodsters Company, sat down with IPWatchdog to discuss the copyright infringement claims.

Bill Nye files suit against Disney, Buena Vista for millions in underreported licensing payments

In the suit, Nye alleges that Buena Vista Television entered into an agreement in March 1993 to promote, market and distribute the Bill Nye the Science Guy television series. That agreement entitled the owners of the show to 50 percent of the net profits divided four ways, leaving Nye entitled to 16.5 percent of the total net profits earned by the show… Nye first became suspicious as to whether Buena Vista was upholding its end of the agreement in July 2008 after Buena Vista informed Nye they had made a mistake in calculating a participation payment sent to Nye that April; instead of earning $585,000 in net profits, Nye then owed Buena Vista nearly $500,000. Since that July 2008 statement recalculation, Nye alleges that Buena Vista ceased making participation or royalty payments, claiming that Nye first had to repay the $500,000 before receiving future payments. Nye’s suit specifically notes that Disney failed to act in good faith to resolve the dispute when counsel contacted them about the issue.

Showtime files copyright suit against Mayweather-McGregor livestreaming sites

There are major concerns that websites enabling consumers to access streaming video illegally without paying, in violation of copyright, could hamper the fortunes of those broadcasting the event. On August 15th, New York City-based television channel operator Showtime Networks Inc., the exclusive producer of the live transmission of the Mayweather-McGregor fight, filed a copyright infringement suit in the Central District of California. The suit is a preemptive strike against a series of John Doe defendants operating a few dozen websites offering illicit livestreaming of the Mayweather-McGregor fight.

In the Era of Spotify and Pandora Where Do ASCAP and BMI Fit?

In traditional music recording, artists have had to choose to license their music through major music industry organizations like ASCAP and BMI. In the age of streaming music through Spotify, Pandora and other services what is the purpose of these organizations? The licensing groups have served as clearinghouses for smaller players in the music industry who cannot feasibly deal with multitudes of licensees on their own. But with Taylor Swift and other “major” artists choosing to deal—or not deal—with the streaming services that opens the question about blanket music performance licenses.

Are Beyoncé and Jay Z committing fraud on the USPTO?

It appears that Beyoncé’s trademark filing activities raise the question as to whether she, through her trademark holding company, is attempting fraud on the USPTO. “Fraud” is a nasty legal word, but that is the proper term of art to use when there is a question about whether an applicant has been forthcoming and honest with the USPTO. Applicants before the USPTO owe a duty of candor, which if breached by the applicant is because the applicant is said to have committed fraud on the Office… It’s also possible that, if the couple never intended on making the goods and services claimed in the BLUE IVY CARTER application, they have no true intent to offer those same goods and services listed under the RUMI CARTER and SIR CARTER applications.

Inspiration vs. Copying: Where’s the Line in Hollywood?

When it comes to television shows, it not always clear what is “copyrightable.” Sometimes, filmmakers and screen writers can get into serious trouble if they don’t follow specific television copyright laws accordingly. Austin-based filmmaker Lex Lybrand watched the June 4th episode of the hit HBO series “Silicon Valley” to shockingly find strong similarities between the episode “The Patent Troll” and his own film “The Trolls.” Jed Wakefield of Fenwick & West recently sat down with IPWatchdog to discuss Lybrand’s case and the impact of copyright infringement when it comes to movie scripts.

My Top 25 Songs of All Time

I took Gene’s request to heart and really tried to capture my top 25 songs. To be honest, however, I had a very difficult time narrowing the list to “all time” top songs. There are no true 25 best songs as proven by the various music Halls of Fame. I even had a hard time listing my top bands/artists. I enjoy many different genres and the list changes as I discover, or re-discover, music. In a pinch, however, I tend to gravitate to classic rock stations playing songs from the 70’s and 80’s. These are the songs that I grew up with. With that as a preface, here is my list for this July 4th!

Court finds that use of unpublished Tommy DeVito bio in ‘Jersey Boys’ musical is fair use

In mid-June, this case was overturned on appeal after a federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada (D. Nev.), entered a finding of judgement as a matter of law in favor of defendant DeVito’s fair use defense. As the judge noted, at most 145 creative words from the biography, constituting about 0.2 percent of the 68,500 words comprising that work, was the plaintiff’s basis for copyright infringement. “This factor strongly weighs in favor of a finding of fair use, at least where the ‘heart’ of the Work was not infringed,” the order reads. Further, the biographical nature of the work meant that uncopyrightable facts about DeVito’s life, and not the author’s writing style, comprised the heart of that work. As well, the 12 similarities between the biography and the musical accounted for 0.4 percent of the musical’s script and 0.2 percent of the running time, according to the recent court order.

Is There Such a Thing as “Entertainment Law”?

A lot of law students and young attorneys aim to get into the field of “entertainment law.” Today, entertainment law is more of a combination of contract law, intellectual property law, accounting and just about every other area of law for which an individual or company requires legal services. So, if someone wants to work specifically in entertainment law, there are a few things he or she needs to do. 

How New Musicians Can Protect Their Music’s Intellectual Property

It’s not just businesses and corporate environments that need intellectual property protection – artists of all kinds must protect their work too. Specifically, musicians have a lot to copyright and trademark – band names, original music, and album art, to name a few… When it comes to YouTube, today, musicians should pay close attention to monetization of their IP rights, according to Umanoff. This means making sure that YouTube has reference files, which are samples of the copyrighted materials, so that YouTube can attempt to recognize an artist’s work when incorporated in user-generated content.She said, “The artist must also ensure that their reference files contain accurate metadata so that YouTube knows who to pay when copyrighted works are streamed. Independent companies specializing in confirming that YouTube content is monetized by uploading reference files and manually checking metadata are emerging and growing a new frontier of music technologists.”

Aaron Liskin Elevated to Partner at Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert

Entertainment and business litigation law firm Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert LLP announces that Aaron Liskin has become a Partner of the Firm. Mr. Liskin handles a wide range of litigation matters, including entertainment, intellectual property and general commercial litigation. Most recently, he represented screenwriter Nicholas Kazan in his lawsuit over compensation for writing services and executive producer credits on the recently released Martin Scorsese film, Silence.

New England Patriots earn trademarks to promote a 19-0 perfect season that never was

On December 6th, 2016, the USPTO registered U.S. Trademark Registration No. 5095619, which protects the use of the standard character mark “PERFECT SEASON” in commerce. One week later on December 13th, the USPTO registered U.S. Trademark Registration No. 5100521, which protects the use of the standard character mark “19-0” in commerce… And trademarks only exist so long as they remain in use, so to keep the 19-0 registration the Patriots will have to use it in commerce or risk it going abandoned. So it will be interesting to see how the Patriots continue to use 19-0, or if they continue to use 19-0.

Paul McCartney fights Sony/ATV over copyright termination notices to reclaim Beatles copyrights

In the official complaint filed by McCartney, the British rock legend is seeking to reclaim ownership of the Beatles copyrights under provisions of the Copyright Act, as amended in 1976. Section 304(c) of that legislation gives authors the right to terminate transfers to reclaim copyright interests for copyrights that were assigned to transferred to third parties before January 1st, 1978. Living authors, or surviving family members of authors who have died, have a five-year period starting 56 years from the date the copyright was secured during which they can send advance notice to copyright holders notifying them of an intent to terminate the copyright transfer.

Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau registers trademark for nickname “Johnny Hockey”

One of the more exciting young talents currently playing in the National Hockey League is Johnny Gaudreau, a forward for the NHL’s Calgary Flames who is also known by the nickname “Johnny Hockey.”… U.S. Trademark Registration No. 4992448 protects the use of the standard character mark “JOHNNY HOCKEY” on goods in trademark class 25, which includes marks registered for clothing, footwear and headgear. Specifically, the mark has been registered for use on clothing goods such as shirts, sweatshirts and coats as well as footwear goods like shoes and boots.