Month: November 2012

Hearings set in L.A. on copyright proposal

The Copyright Office will conduct public hearings in Los Angeles on Monday and Tuesday to explore ways to handle copyright claims with “relatively small” economic value. Congress asked the office to determine how the  system now creates barriers for copyright owners seeking relief from infringement and to recommend improvement. A proposal under consideration calls for a small copyright claims tribunal, akin to small claims court, where cases would be heard by three presiding judges. Carolyn E. Wright, a photo attorney with offices in Nevada and Georgia, will serve on the Los Angeles panel and is seeking online  views about the possible tribunal. The hearings will be in Room 1314 at the UCLA School of Law, 405 Hilgard Ave., Los Angeles, 90095, on Monday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and on Tuesday from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. More information: https://www.copyright.gov/docs/smallclaims/. Among the parties who already have weighed in before Congress on whether the current system proves daunting for costs and other reasons: representatives for groups of authors, songwriters and...

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Double-bogey email, no copyright ‘Match’

Let’s tee off on whether an email binds: Justice Madeleine Flier of the California Appeals Court has affirmed the finding of Superior Court Judge Richard A. Stone in summary judgment, regarding MVP Productions Inc., a film and television production company, and a copyright transfer of the rights to Mark Frost’s book, The Match. MVP had sent an email to Frost’s attorney, Alan Wertheimer, that proposed certain terms and stated, “Let me know if this is okay and we’ll send paperwork…” Wertheimer responded, “done…thanks! Werth.” So was that a binding agreement?No, said Judge Stone — and Justice Flier concurred. Both courts’ rulings were predicated on Title 17 Section 204(a)of the Copyright Act which states “A transfer of copyright ownership, other than by operation of law, is not valid unless an instrument of conveyance, or a note or memorandum of the transfer, is in writing and signed by the owner of the rights conveyed or such owner’s duly authorized agent.” There was no evidence that Wertheimer was Frost’s duly authorized agent, so there was no triable issue of material fact. MVP argued that Wertheimer had ostensible if not actual authority; under Section 204, however, ostensible authority is insufficient, as only a writing signed by the copyright holder or his duly authorized agent is acceptable. Wertheimer did not have express authorization from Frost, so he was unable to transfer the copyright. The...

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Mass filing in video case draws judge’s ire

As has occurred, notably in print and photo matters, copyright trolls seek to make money by suing multiple defendants for infringement. The main intent in these cases is to make ISP address-holders pay to settle. This litigation should require finding the actual infringer, who can be held liable, but often results in demands for tracking IP addresses to an ISP account holder, who may not be the infringer. The blog We R’ Pirates reports that Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Leo T. Sorokin in Massachusetts denied motions for early discovery and tongue-lashed plaintiffs in three copyright suits (documents courtesy of Beckerman Legal) involving claims of infringement over alleged downloads of porn movies; all sought discovery for names of account holders, while showing no interest in finding infringers. As Sorokin noted: “The omission of any written request for depositions in the Plaintiffs’ renewed motions for discovery speaks volumes about the Plaintiffs’ lack of interest in actually litigating these cases.” He also rebuked “Plaintiff Patrick Collins, Inc.[who] has sued at least 11,570 John Doe Defendants in litigation around the country without ever serving a single defendant.” He expressed his displeasure that the litigation aimed to settle with the defendants rather than amend complaints to seek infringers. Further, he said, plaintiffs showed no “reasonable discovery plan” to identify   defendants, so there was “no path forward for service” of them. He gave them a...

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‘Village People’ trademark claim rejected

The U.S. appellate court for the federal circuit in Washington has rejected the appeal of Karen Willis, wife of the original policeman of the Village People, to cancel two trademarks for the musical group. The case has been reported by Law 360, among others, and the TTABlog offers a wry, um, lyrical take on this matter. It has wended its way through courts, with some key takeaways along the way.Willis lost her first battle with the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeals Board, which ruled that she had not established grounds for her case to cancel two Village People trademarks for live performance and recorded music. The Board granted summary judgment against her three claims of fraud and misrepresentation including that the term “VILLAGE PEOPLE” is a generic term for musical recordings, that Can’t Stop Productions had abandoned the trademark, and that Village People is not a “musical and vocal group” as claimed in the trademark registrations because the members lip-sync rather than sing as a group. The Board allowed her to file an amended petition for her fraud claim that the “VILLAGE PEOPLE” mark has not been used on audio recordings since 1985, so that issue was not part of the appeal. Federal Circuit judges Prost, Moore, and O’Malley found her arguments lacking merit and affirmed the Board’s earlier decision. The Willis family has had mixed results in litigation. ArtsBeat reported that earlier this year, Victor Willis won a copyright...

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Star bounty hunter dogs producer over fees

Here are 534 thousand reasons not to ignore the  California Talent Agencies Act: It became a key, pricey part of a dispute between  Duane “Dog” Chapman, the A&E reality TV star bounty hunter, and Boris Krutonog, an executive producer on the long-running series Dog the Bounty Hunter.  As noted by the Hollywood Reporter, Krutonog sought not only an executive producer credit on the hit show but also a fee.  A producer’s fee taken by a talent agent isn’t typically a big deal. But at all pertinent times mentioned in a complaint filed by the Chapman, he asserted that Krutonog was unlicensed to procure employment for an artist (as set forth in Labor Code §1700.4(a).) To seek fees without such license violates section §1700.5 of the Labor Code, in connection with the definition of talent agency as defined in §1700.4(a). The Commissioner ruled he had to give up his producer fees because unlicensed Krutonog could not lawfully collect any fee.  The Labor Commissioner ruled the fee was akin to a disguised agent’s commission, collected by an unlicensed agent procuring employment for his talent, Dog. The remedy — give up $534,450. That decision came five years after Chapman submitted his claim and almost three years after it was submitted for a decision.   Provision §1700.5 of the Labor Code says “no person shall engage in or carry on the occupation of a talent agency without...

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