Month: January 2014

What’s super fair, legal on big football Sunday?

It will be a super Sunday for more than just Seahawks and Broncos: For those focused on intellectual property protection — hello, Entertainment Law practitioners — it’s worth looking at how vigorously the National Football League pursues those who get offsides on matters legal and linked to the brand, whether through references to the game to chasing down illegal merchandise. Super Celebration Fair? Really? Let’s explain: It is no secret that the pro football league aggressively enforces its trademarks, including the shield logo, the letter combo NFL  and itts team logos. And in advance of the event at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., there is no question that many will or already have made counterfeit memorabilia to capitalize on the hype surrounding this big game. Knowing that millions of fans will watch the Super Bowl and thousands more will be participate in events, official and unofficial, throughout New York and New Jersey, what should local and national advertisers and merchants do to get their share of the pigskin dough — legally — when they are not an official sponsor? As the  Intellectual Property Brief points out, the New York-New Jersey Super Bowl Committee says  the term, “Super Celebration Fair,” or references along those lines are OK. But look out for more than referees’ flags to fly — can we guess nasty letters, or squads of lawyers bursting through the lines — for those...

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Doink! An $11-million ‘Madden’ reverse play

Envision the big fellow, hands waving, he’s a little wheezy and loud as he pronounces: “So this guy goes this way, and then this one that way, and, everyone’s running around and… Boom! Suddenly you have what looks like money! Then, doink! Flags fly, whistles blow and, Bang! Suddenly everything’s going in reverse…” Thanks, John Madden. That might be the legendary coach and broadcaster’s distinctive description for action in Sunday’s NFL Superbowl. It also could serve as the play-by-play for a recent legal upset and remand involving Electronic Arts, a lawsuit over its Madden video football game and an $11-million judgment awarded by a jury against the manufacturer and to game developer Robin Antonick. It’s hard to believe that the ever-popular Madden NFL video game prototype originally was developed more than 20 years ago.  Antonick was hired in 1984 and signed a development contract in 1986 that entitled him to royalties on derivative versions of Madden. He later became aware of the continued use of his intellectual property in 2009 when Electronica Arts (EA) celebrated its 20th anniversary and its publicity materials traced its current software back to his software, not the version that was subsequently developed by Park Place. Antonick sued EA in 2011 for breach of contract and the judge allowed the case to go to trial.  The case included copyright issues as to whether it was...

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Why tiny TV antennas will get big legal review

In a time of year when the big stakes contest for many is the Superbowl and the NFL’s Richard Sherman seems to have garnered more online buzz than any Seahawk could stuff in its bill, the U.S. Supreme Court has said it would take up a case that holds potential to reshape another game, er, industry — that would be television broadcasting, of course. And it’s worth recapping American Broadcasting Companies Inc. v Aereo Inc. for this very reason of its much publicized significance. Barry Diller, the billionaire entertainment mogul, plays a Sherman-esque role in this matter, upsetting many in the business with his assertion that what his company terms a new technology can take-down some of the soaring costs of content access for Americans weary of a big monthly bill. If you’re keeping score in the legal contest, this also is a case where 2+9 doesn’t add up to 11 but rather a straight path to the high court to resolve conflicts between Aereo-related rulings in the Ninth and Second circuits. Let’s run the game-study tape:  Who are the parties? Aereo:  Chet Kanojia founded Aereo in 2012, with the support of Barry Diller, chairman of InterActive Corp and former co-founder of Fox network.  Aereo, which has won plaudits in some creative quarters where big broadcasters aren’t always beloved, says it uses tiny antennas to grab local broadcast stations’...

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It’s yet another big Na’vi ‘no’ in `Avatar’ suit

While Avatar may have made movie-goers globally swoon for a world blue, a parade of claimants have pursued director James Cameron for reasons green — seeking to claim a share of the box-office smash’s billions in gross. The latest nyet, however, for someone seeking some of that Na’vi cash came on Jan. 17, when a federal court in Maryland ruled in Cameron’s favor in a copyright infringement suit. In that action, Bryant Moore asserted that Cameron created Avatar by copying his screenplays. If you have been following the stream of lawsuits filed against Cameron over Avatar, Moore was yet another plaintiff contesting the originality of Cameron’s gilt-producing film. Gerald Morawski’s claim was kicked out on summary judgment last February and Eric Ryder’s claim was dismissed last October. No ultimate decision was made in a Vancouver man’s claim against Cameron in 2012. Kelly Van’s claim was dismissed on summary judgment in September, 2011. A Chinese writer’s claim was dismissed in Beijing in March, 2010. Moore asserted that Cameron got a hold of his screenplays through his True Lies film production assistant, through a Fox Broadcasting employee, and/or through a development executive at Cameron’s production company, Lightstorm; he said they all had copies of his screenplays. Further, Moore claimed that Avatar has substantial similarity to his screenplays, Pollination and Aquatica: “upside down trees with plants growing out of them,” a love affair set in a sci-fi futuristic setting, and main characters...

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A YouTube-network win for music publishers

 It’s not often that a major publishing studio reaches a settlement with a YouTube video network. The network’s business is booming — unfortunately for most traditional studios, there are still blatant copyright issues. With web browser extensions that convert YouTube music files to mp3’s and users uploading everything from TV episodes to movies, it’s often tough for publishing studios to enforce copyright claims. Publishing companies often would rather file DMCA take down notices. On Jan. 8, however, Fullscreen and the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) reached a settlement agreement after the association sued Fullscreen in August, 2013, over its claimed use of unlicensed musical works in videos uploaded by video creators. This is coincidentally around the same time the association reached an agreement with Maker Studios, another multichannel network that allowed music publishers to get paid for past infringement and ensure licensing going forward. Similar to the agreement with Maker Studios, this settlement with Fullscreen will allow music publishers that opt in to receive compensation for previous use of their works and Fullscreen will work with music publishers to license musical works under YouTube’s direct licenses. Further, Fullscreen agreed to remove video content containing unlicensed music on Fullscreen managed channels. The NMPA represents American music publishers and their songwriting partners. Fullscreen is a multichannel network that helps independent creators reach larger audiences and monetize videos. Fullscreen is home to...

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