Month: May 2013

Ellington heirs lose claim for overseas royalties

It’s apparently not double-dipping when a domestic music publisher pays royalties to its own, affiliated, foreign sub-publishers: The New York County Supreme Court has affirmed a lower court’s dismissal of a breach-of-contract lawsuit filed by the Duke Ellington heirs, in which they accused EMI Mills Music of cheating them out their fair share of overseas royalties due under a 1961 songwriting agreement. That agreement, between the late jazz great and a group of music publishers in which EMI Mills Music is the predecessor in interest, specify that Ellington and his heirs are to be paid fifty percent of net revenue actually received by the publishers from foreign publication of his compositions.  The court describes this as a “net receipts” arrangement by which a composer, such as Ellington, would collect royalties based on income received by a publisher after the deduction of fees charged by foreign sub-publishers. Plaintiff Paul Ellington, the composer’s grandson, points out in his complaint that when the agreement was executed, foreign sub-publishers typically were unaffiliated with domestic businesses such as Mills Music.  EMI Mills, like other publishers, since has acquired ownership of the foreign sub-publishers that generated the earlier agreed on sums.  By paying commissions to its affiliated foreign sub-publishers before remitting the bargained-for royalty payments to Ellington’s heirs, EMI essentially gets seventy-five percent of the royalties, while only paying the heirs twenty-five percent, the plaintiffs argued....

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SW alum blasts porn trolls with legal phasers

A Southwestern Law School alum has helped hammer from the bench some notorious practitioners of what the blogosphere calls copyright trolling — the so-called Prenda porn cases in which a group of lawyers bought up rights to some online blue works, then sought mass infringment claims against their online viewers, all in hopes of embarrassing them sufficiently to settle for small sums that started to rack up to a lucrative and nefarious enterprise. U.S. District Judge  Otis Wright, a Southwestern alum, slammed the lawyers for their conduct in an order that fines them, says they will be referred to the appropriate bar groups for discipline, disbarrment and sanctions — and the key players in the case now will be subject to recommended criminal conspiracy probes by the FBI. The judge, by the way, displays a wry touch with his blistering order, (online copy courtesy of ArsTechnica) replete with Star Trek references and crafted in a way to maximize the sting against what His Honor clearly sees as lawyers who give a bad name to the profession.  As reported by various media (see here and here), the Prenda ploy, as the judge details it, involved lawyers creating a shell company to buy up copyrights to porn, then filing a raft of individual court actions against its suddenly red-faced online viewers, who were offered the chance to settle infringement claims for...

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Online tips to stay out of entertainment law woe

It’s a fiction based in fact: Yes, in Los Angeles, many waiters, taxi drivers, physicians, lawyers and others are wannabe authors of screenplays. The phones ring off the hook with daily calls from aspiring script writers trying to run down leads from every reporter in town who digs up, writes and gets published in some kind of fashion a decent human interest yarn. And the local court files are filled with true stories of disputes launched when an unknown slips her unsolicited manuscript in a weird setting to a Tinsletown mogul. The law can be a jungle to navigate and Entertainment Law is its own gnarly beast. And too often writers and Hollywood creatives can find themselves on the wrong side of a cease-and-desist letter or a more serious legal claim, which entertainment lawyers must ride in to the rescue with tedious or expensive work to try to resolve. So how  can Hollywood hopefuls stay one step ahead of a real legal or courtroom calamity? How about through some online advice from Mark Litwak, a seasoned, Beverly Hills Entertainment Lawyer who has provided legal services or represented producers on more than 100 feature films. On his blog  Entertainment Law Resources, Litwak has laid out useful tips to help artists avoid infringing on the rights of others. He touches on portraying fictional characters, using care about people who can be identified, defamation,...

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Aereo goes on the offensive with broadcasters

It appears as if Aereo is tired of being on the defensive. In a complaint filed in a U.S. District Court in New York, the embattled Internet streaming service has sought a declaratory judgment that its technology, which allows its customers to stream free, over-the-air broadcast TV via the net on their computers and other devices, does not infringe broadcasters’ copyrights. Here’s a quick recap of the Internet streaming saga if you haven’t been following along: In recent years, the broadcast television networks (i.e. Fox, ABC, CBS, NBC Universal) have fought in court to prevent services like Aereo from streaming what they assert is their protected television content over the net to paying subscribers without consent from copyright owners. On April 3, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision denying the networks’ request for a preliminary injunction against Aereo’s service. Plaintiffs in that case since have filed a petition for a rehearing en banc. Meanwhile, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is set to decide whether to uphold a lower court decision that granted plaintiffs’ request for preliminary injunction against a similar streaming service. The jurisdictional split is pivotal: As a result of its Second Circuit victory, Aereo CEO Barry Diller announced that by May 15, the company would expand to Boston, located in the First Circuit, a jurisdiction that has yet to rule on the legality of the business’ operations....

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Widow, laywers may smart from court’s rip

When the late singer-songwriter Abrim Tilmon Jr. (left) wrote his 1974 tune, You’re Getting a Little Too Smart, he laid down a message that a bunch of folks — including, now, his widow and her appellate attorneys — might have taken judicial note of. The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected legal moves under Federal Rule Civil Procedure 60(b) by the composer’s widow, Janyce Tilmon-Jones, to overturn default judgments in a copyright suit brought by Bridgeport Music and other assignees against a rapper and some recording labels for the unauthorized use of samples of Smart. Further, finding her litigation to be “frivolous and utterly without merit,” the appellate judges ordered Tilmon-Jones and her counsel to split Bridgeport’s damages and costs in the case, sums to be determined. This case has some history: Tilmon, a member of the Detroit Emeralds, wrote his song in 1974, when it was registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. In 1976, he assigned rights to the song to Bridgeport Music, which in 1998 filed a second copyright application for it. In 1997, a trial court determined, rapper Rashaam A. Smith used an unauthorized sample of the tune in his work You and Me. An employee of Bridgeport Music, in 2004, sought a copyright renewal, asserting she was the authorized agent of Tilmon-Jones. And in 2005, Bridgeport, Southfield Music and Westbound Records obtained default...

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Entertainment Law Blogs

The Biederman Blog is now ranked NUMBER ONE on Feedspot's Top 20 Entertainment Law blogs (May 2018). It is very exciting to top this list. We are extra proud of number six - Entertainment Law Offices of Gordon P. Firemark. Mr. Firemark graduated from Southwestern in 1992, and is a top entertainment blogger and webinar presenter in addition to being a world class entertainment attorney!

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