Month: October 2012

NFL lockout: template for tackling talent tiffs?

Henry H. Perritt, Jr, law professor at IIT Chicago-Kent, predicts that lessons from the 2011 National Football League lockout litigation presage the future of entertainment disputes. He finds strong similarities between the economic structure of professional sports and theater, music and video entertainment. He foresees a blurring between the borders of employment-entrepreneurship and labor-product markets. Arguing that over-aggressive enforcement of copyright can poison the wealth promised by new technologies, Perritt prognosticates that antitrust laws will be adapted to accommodate both product markets and public welfare. Entertainment lawyers may find some insights in his cross discussion of antitrust prohibitions taken from product market restraints as applied to labor market restraints. Read Perritt’s conclusions and his...

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Appeals court backs city curb on star billboards

So you’re an entertainment lawyer with a client who is big. Like really big. Like so huge that the star team decides a sizable and suitable way to promote this celebrity is to go wall-sized. Billboard large. As is happening in downtown Los Angeles, the Westside, West Hollywood and Beverly Hills. The only problem is the city of Los Angeles has a smaller view of what’s permissible in outdoor display. And your case runs all the way up to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. And so what happens to that planned splash display of omnipresent broadcast host Ryan Seacrest? The appellate court has decided to uphold the District Court in this case related to speech, billboards and the governments’ ability to regulate in the interests of safety.  Wayne Charles sued the city of Los Angeles for a declaration that his billboard, featuring Seacrest as host of E! News, and other billboards, were exempt from city signage ordinances because the planned displays, they claimed were noncommercial, protected speech. Sorry, not, said the appellate court, which ruled on Oct. 15: the Constitution doesn’t protect a Seacrest billboard; that LA can refuse to permit certain kinds of signs in the interests of traffic safety or aesthetics. Charles claimed his signs would display content related to motion pictures, theatrical productions, television and radio programming, music, books, newspapers, paintings and...

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Race bias claim dismissed against ‘Bachelor’

Motion granted and case dismissed:  A producer’s creative control over casting on popular television show, “The Bachelor,” was challenged in a U.S. District Court in Tennessee earlier this year on the basis of racial discrimination (thanks to E! online for a copy of the complaint). The plaintiffs, who had auditioned for the show but didn’t fit within the producer’s vision, sued defendants ABC and Warner Horizon Television, alleging they didn’t get the role because they were African Americans.  The basis for their claim was that the defendants violated anti-discrimination laws and the civil rights act, refusing to contract with the plaintiffs because of their race. But a federal judge on Oct. 15 agreed with the defendants’ First Amendment free speech argument and dismissed the lawsuit.  ABC and Warner Horizon Television argued that casting decisions are essential to an entertainment show’s creative content and that any forced alteration in the end product would be a content regulation. U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger said: “In this respect, casting and the resulting work of entertainment are inseparable and must both be protected to ensure that the producers’ freedom of speech is not abridged.” Standards of constitutional review for First Amendment matters vary depending upon the type of regulation.  Content-based regulations affecting speech face strict scrutiny and rarely pass constitutional muster.  This ruling, if appealed and sustained, has novelty in that it deals with the...

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Kryptonite ruling for heirs’ claims on Superman

DC Comics has been granted summary judgment  (with thanks to the Hollywood Reporter Esq. for providing a copy of the ruling) by U.S. District Judge Otis Wright III in Los Angeles, ending the claims to some of the early works of Superman by the heirs of Joe Shuster, original illustrator and co-creator of Superman. The court found that the Shuster estate was bound by its 1992 Agreement and is not open to termination. Shuster and Jerry Siegel were the co-creators of the Superman character, first published in 1938 by National Allied Publications, the forerunner to DC Comics. They sold their Superman rights to National for $130 and a 10 year contract to provide more stories. In 1975, Warner Communications, then parent of DC Comics, gave both Shuster and Siegel lifetime pensions and health benefits. Their estates have been fighting separate battles with Warner Bros., current owner of DC Comics. The Oct. 17 Wright decision is independent of Siegel’s daughter’s current situation. The next installment comes Nov. 5 at an appeals hearing when Warner Bros. asks the court  to overturn her successful copyright termination, as discussed in this earlier post. Shuster died in Los Angeles in...

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What impact in $1M fine on fan sites for kids?

  Five days to come up with $1 million? It’s not the log line for a movie. Those are the terms of the settlement agreement between the Federal Trade Commission and the operator  of fan websites for artists such as Justin Bieber, Rihanna and Selena Gomez. It’s a penalty for improperly collecting information from children younger than 13 in violation of Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Just to be clear, the complaint was not against the artists like Rihanna or Bieber.  A few words are merited about what led to the stiff penalty against Artist Arena, the digital service provider to pop-stars. COPPA, enacted in 1998 and now under review, requires children-focused websites, general websites with a kid area or general audience websites that have actual knowledge that a visitor is younger than 13 to get parental consent before collecting or sharing information from children younger than 13. “Marketers need to know that even a bad case of Bieber Fever doesn’t excuse their legal obligation to get parental consent before collecting personal information from children,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz in a statement the day after the decree. As an exercise in morally neutral arithmetic, the price for acquiring the offending information to Artist Arena appears to have been $10 per child. How so? The FTC notes that the firm knowingly registered more than 25,000 children younger than 13...

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