Month: July 2013

Situation’s T-shirt claims found thread-bare

There’s, legally speaking, “no situation” when it comes to an Abercrombie & Fitch parody of MTV reality star Michael Sorrentino, aka “The Situation.”  A U.S. District Court in Florida has granted summary judgment in favor of  the controversial clothier, ripping the stuffing out of Sorrentino’s suit against it, asserting violations of the Lanham Act, right of publicity, unfair competition and injury to business reputation. Sorrentino appeared on the The Jersey Shore, the youth network’s reality show that debuted in December, 2009.  In reference to his well-worked abdominals, he nicknamed himself “The Situation” and “Mike the Situation” and sought to put those phrases in common use about himself on the TV show.  In February, 2010, A&F began selling “The Fitchuation” T-shirts exclusively through its branded stores and website. The retailer was frank about making fun of Sorrentino and said its nom de guerre was a play on words or parody of his nickname. To capitalize on its campaign, after A&F sold the last of its T-shirts in June, 2011, it wrote to MTV Networks on Aug. 15, 2011, about an Aug. 11, 2011, Jersey Shore episode, objecting to Sorrentino so prominently wearing its clothing on air. A&F offered to pay Sorrentino, MTV Networks and other Shore cast $10,000 forgo wearing its wares, contending to do so for its brand was inappropriate and might confuse consumers about endorsement. A&F even issued a news release...

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For Aereo, suprising shifts from TV ‘bad guy’

If you can’t beat ’em, cite ’em. Time Warner and Comcast seem to be following that modified maxim as it concerns their erstwhile media frenemy: the upstart streaming broadcast service Aereo. Since mogul Barry Diller and other venture capitalists launched Aereo in February, 2012, it has been a television industry bogey-man and “bad guy,” the legal bane of media companies, winning two key federal court decisions in New York and defeating lawsuits by twelve broadcasters over claims of copyright violations.  Major networks such as CBS, NBC and FOX see Aereo’s business model — retransmitting live television content through its small antennas without paying any licensing fees to broadcasters — threatening traditional means of content distribution and revenue generation; the broadcasters had gotten backing in their battle with Aereo from their distribution partners like Time Warner Cable and Comcast. But as the tech site The Verge has noted,  Time Warner Cable and Comcast have shown recent shifts in attitude  toward Aereo, possibly strengthening its legal arguments as it seeks to expand into new cities: As part of its battle with CBS over retransmission fees, Time Warner has turned to an Aereo-based bargaining tool, threatening to encourage subscribers to try online streams of  network broadcasts.  The cable provider sprung this tactic after failing to reach a deal with CBS over carrying its shows and facing a possible blackout of network programming....

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Kangaroo punch for Fox bid to bar ad-skipping

Though broadcasters may jump up and down and say it’s not right, Dish Network may keep letting its customers leap past commercials in television programming with its “Hopper” ad-skipping service for now, says the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  Fox Broadcasting Co., along with its affiliates, lost its appeal for a preliminary injunction against the service, because, the appellate court in Los Angeles held, the broadcaster failed to demonstrate it would succeed in its claims against Dish of copyright infringement and breach of contract. Fox Broadcasting, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. and Fox Television Holding Inc. own the copyright to TV shows, such as Glee and the Simpsons, broadcast on its network. Fox contracts with cable and satellite television providers — including Dish — to retransmit its broadcast signal.  Fox claims that Dish’s Hopper, by permitting subscribers to bounce past commercials and watch desired programming ad free, breaches contract provisions that limit recording, copying and duplicating; it also asserts that the service breaches an amendment that Dish could provide Fox Video on Demand to its subscribers but had to “disable fast forward functionality during all advertisements.” Fox had sued and, in the lower courts, failed to win a preliminary court order blocking Dish’s ad-skipping. That prompted its now also unsuccessful appeal. The three-judge appellate panel also rejected Fox’s request for a preliminary injunction, affirming and echoing the...

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Faulkner line ruled fine in Woody Allen film

“The past is never dead. It’s not even in the past.” Well, in legal terms, a cinematic citation of that famous line from author William Faulkner is now a dead claim for copyright infringement or violation of the Lanham Act. That’s what a U.S. District Court in Mississippi has decided, ruling the 2011 film Midnight in Paris, written and directed by Woody Allen, properly gave a nod to one of America’s literary lights by incorporating one of his memorable quotes. Faulkner — a Nobel Laureate and author of canon-changing books such as The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying and Light in August — wrote the disputed quote for his 1951 novel Requiem for a Nun. Gil Scott, a protagonist in Allen’s contemporary movie, finds himself traveling back in time to Paris of the 1920s where he socializes with writing giants like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemmingway.  And while at dinner in one scene, set in the present, Allen’s protagonist, portrayed by actor Owen Wilson, states: “The past is not dead! Actually, it’s not even past. You know who said that? Faulkner. And he was right. And I met him, too. I ran into him at a dinner party.”   Faulkner Literary Rights LLC, which claimed that the Sony-released film infringed due to a misquote, sued. It asserted violation: of its exclusive rights to reproduction and...

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An appellate dasvidaniya to infringment claim

There’s more than one way to croon in a love song about an impossible romance with a Russian muse, a Chicago appeals court says.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has affirmed a lower court’s decision dismissing a copyright infringement claim against Sir Elton John and writing partner Bernie Taupin, finding their song Nikita differed from the tune Natasha by songwriter Guy Hobbs. Hobbs says he based his 1982 composition on a brief love affair he had with a Russian waitress while working on a cruise ship.  He sought to get the song published by submitting it to several music publishers, including Big Pig Music Ltd.  He was unsuccessful. But in 2001 he heard John perform Nikita, which was registered for copyright by Big Pig and Hobbs saw infringement on his copyrighted Natasha. He first sought compensation from John and Taupin, listed on their song’s copyright application, then sued, asking for a constructive trust and an accounting. Hobbs identified elements found in both songs that he claimed were substantially similar, including: 1) a theme of impossible love between a Western man and a Communist woman during the Cold War; 2) repetition of the beloved’s name, the word “never,” and the phrases “to hold you,” and “I need you,” and some form of  “you will never know”; and 3.)  A title of one word, phonetically similar title, consisting...

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