Month: April 2014

Actor inks a day pact, signs face rights away

Can you imagine unknowingly giving away the rights for your face? Todd Duffey, aka: Chotchkie’s Waiter in Office Space, sued 20th Century Fox for using his face on both the book’s cover and one of the buttons, claiming false endorsement under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. §1125(a), which grants a claim only if the defendant is using his likeness without permission. Here, Duffey signed a one-page Day Player Agreement with Cubicle Inc., the production company behind Office Space, which granted Cubicle “all rights throughout the universe” to Duffey’s performance. A federal court in New York has dismissed Duffey’s claim (thanks to The Hollywood Reporter Esq. for posting the decision) because his agreement granted the production company “all rights throughout the universe in and/or to all results . . .  including, but not limited to, the rights to. . . exploit in any manner. . .  any pictures, likeness or representations made hereunder, of Duffey.” Duffey argues that the rights granted to Cubicle did not include use of images with consumer merchandise. The court applied the “objective intent” test to determine whether a contract is ambiguous. U.S. District Court Judge J. Paul Oetken also applied the contract interpretation that “contract terms are given their plain, ordinary, and generally accepted meanings unless the contract itself shows them to be used in a technical or different sense,” which it did not, in this case....

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Poof! Teller wins judgment over ‘Shadows’

  Shazam — a federal court in Las Vegas has granted summary judgment in favor Teller (one of the master magicians who make up Penn & Teller) on his claim that Gerard Dogge’s YouTube video performances of The Rose and Her Shadow infringes the master illusionist’s copyrighted (and signature) act, Shadows.  (Thanks to Hollywood Reporter, opinion can be read here.)   Seeing shadows  The court describes Shadows thusly: “[A] spotlight trained on a vase containing a single rose. The light falls in such a manner that the shadow of the rose is projected onto a white screen positioned some distance behind it. Teller then enters the otherwise still scene, picks up a large knife, and proceeds to use the knife to dramatically sever the leaves and petals of the rose’s shadow on the screen slowly, one-by-one, whereupon the corresponding leaves of the real rose sitting in the vase fall to the ground, breaking from the stem at the point where Teller cut the shadow.  The scene closes with Teller pricking his thumb with the knife, and holding his hand in front of the canvas. A silhouette of a trail of blood appears, trickling down the canvas just below the shadow of Teller’s hand. Teller then wipes his hand across the ‘blood’ shadow, leaving a crimson streak upon the canvas.” Whereas The Rose and Her Shadow consists of: “[O]pen[ing] with a spotlight trained...

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EU high court OKs steps to block infringement

The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that Internet Service Providers in Europe legally may block piracy sites. The decision came in a case involving Constatintin Film and Wega, two movie production companies that had sued UPC Telekabel, an ISP, to block access to the website, which illegally distributes copyright-protected material.   The court decided that because “Intellectual property has. . . .been recognized as an integral part of property. . . rights holders should have the possibility of applying for an injunction against an intermediary who carries a third party’s infringement of a protected work or other subject-matter in a network“ — meaning rights holders could seek injunctions against an ISP. As Entertainment Law Digest summarizes, the court reached its decision by “balancing the rights of copyright holders, the business interest of Internet providers and the right to information by EU citizens.” It concluded that, while rights holders may seek injunctions against them, ISPs also may put in place their own blocks, targeting only an infringing or piracy site. The service provider will be clear of liability, as long as it “does not unnecessarily deprive internet users of the possibility of lawfully accessing the information available.” It also must show that its blocking measures do, indeed,  prevent unauthorized access to the protected subject matter or at least make it difficult tough and discouraging to those who would use their...

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In Big Easy, a big no to counterfeiter takedown

The WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.), like all big time entertainments like the NFL Super Bowl, College Football Championship games, and Beyonce concerts, suffers from counterfeit merchandise sales at its shows and live events. The WWE zealously has sought judicial orders permitting it to seize counterfeit goods and prevent their vending,  especially for its pay-per-view events like WrestleMania, SummerSlam, and the Royal Rumble. With its most successful such event upcoming, WrestleMania XXX at the Superdome in New Orleans,  WWE pulled out all stops to curb infringement on its intellectual property. But a federal court in Louisiana came off the ropes to block a proposed body slam of what WWE saw as prospective merchandise bootleggers and brand pirates (a tip of the hat to The Hollywood Reporter Esq. for posting the decision online). High stakes For WWE, the stakes were especially high for WrestleMania XXX, because it was billed as an event to surpass all predecessors with the return of Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Brock Lesnar, Batista, and Undertaker. The most talked about match in WWE history was the Undertaker vs. Lesnar, with many wondering if Lesnar could break the dead man’s 21-0 WrestleMania record. Spoiler Alert: He did. WWE has so many  trademarks and service marks in connection with its wrestlers and shows that it argued it needed to go straight to the Louisiana judicial system to...

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In Britain, teen angst, more over ‘Glee’ ruling

Glee, the American TV show that has become a global hit by capitalizing on teen angst, is in the midst of its own high  legal drama in Britain where Gleeks breathlessly await a further High Court ruling and an appellate decision as to the pop series’ fate in the UK. This all traces back to a recent court case in which Comic Enterprises Ltd. prevailed  over 20th Century Fox Film Corp. in a suit over a trademark for The Glee Club. Comic Enterprises registered the mark in 2001 to cover the various entertainments it offers, this long before Fox’s show was so much as glitter in its creators’ eyes. The British company, which has said it sought to negotiate with the U.S. media monolith before the case ended up in the High Court, demonstrated a key element to persuade the judge to protect its mark: public- or wrong way– confusion, meaning the ordinary folk might think its comedy club was a show spin-off or somehow related to it. The court planned a later hearing to determine remedies.  Fox has said it will appeal the decision, which could keep the show off British TV for its sixth and final season and affect its  merchandising, ending up costing the media company even more beyond its legal fees, possibly to negotiate now with Comic...

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