Month: April 2015

For podcasters, a welcome patent reversal

If you’re a fan of Serial, This American Life, and National Public Radio, and if your day doesn’t really get launched without a laugh from the likes of Adam Corolla, well, all you podcast aficionados can take a deep breath: Personal Audio LLC, a patent claimant that had threatened to flip a fiscal off switch on many on the medium, has lost a key legal contest. Infringement claims The firm has pursued infringement and licensing fee claims against many podcasters, winning some cases and attracting the attention of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, whose attorneys appealed to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s  Patent Trial and Appeal Board. There, many of the key claims in the “podcasting patent” held by Personal Audio were invalidated by officials who decided that Personal Audio did not actually make anything new before filing its application; the board, therefore, found that the key patents at issue were “un-patent-able.” Personal Audio has asserted for awhile that podcasters like Corolla infringed on its broad claim to the technology and owed the firm licensing fees. These claims ultimately led to settlements with many podcasters, though these resolved cases likely proved less profitable to Personal Audio than it might have wished. The firm did end a much publicized battle with Corolla; no terms were disclosed. Personal Audio went to court over some of its   infringement claims and won a $1.3 million judgment against CBS (though, after costs, the...

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Judge KOs one of many ‘Manny’ skirmishes

While Manny Pacquiao will show this weekend if his often-unerring fists can win a fight with a total payday estimated at north of $400 million, a federal court in Miami recently told the legendary pugilist’s documentary film makers to pull the punches they planned to throw at unidentified parties they accuse of copyright infringement. The proposed high-tech hay-makers legally were off target, the court said (with thanks to Digital Music News for posting the ruling), even as the multiple lawsuits nationwide have started to trouble online observers. Pacquiao’s rags-to-riches life was the subject of Manny, a documentary with middling  critical reviews by Manny Film LLC that lists Hollywood stars like Mark Wahlberg, Liam Neeson, and Jimmy Kimmel in its cast and credits. The documentarians’ lawyers have filed many lawsuits in several states, including Florida, accusing parties of infringement and failing to pay appropriate fees to see the work by using BitTorrent peer-to peer file-sharing technology. Geo-location for IP addresses The filmmakers have told courts that they hope to identify infringing parties by tapping geo-location and other technologies, and Manny Film LLC, argued to a federal judge in Miami that this approach against John Doe defendants had been accepted elsewhere. But the South Florida court held that case law knocked out the proposed approach, with U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungara saying she found it troubling to associate an internet protocol address with one person, when others might have had...

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A front-row view of Hollywood’s copyright fight

He never took a copyright nor a trademark course in law school, he said, and he intended to practice in the international or educational areas. A clerkship with a judge persuaded him he didn’t want to be a litigator. At one point, he pondered leaving the profession after practicing with a mid-sized firm that he loved, though he didn’t like the kind of law it handled. Instead, he sought a house counsel job and had the luck to interview with a Hollywood studio’s General Counsel, who liked his answer as to why he wanted to work at Warner Bros., because, this candidate said, “he loved Bugs Bunny.” His initial, self-deprecating description may have thrown some audience members for a curve. But Dean Marks, an  entertainment industry expert on content protection and copyright law, then proceeded in his recent talk at Southwestern Law School to describe his ring-side seat to the enormous changes he has helped influence in working in intellectual property issues. He did so in speaking with Prof. Steven Krone as part of the Biederman Entertainment and Media Law Institute’s “A Conversation With” series. Marks only recently left Warner Brothers, where he was senior vice president of intellectual property, to join the Motion Picture Association of America as its general deputy counsel for global content protection. He traced his own experiences as an industry IP watchdog to the good ol’ VHS days, when...

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For musicians, tax credits a new part of score

Musicians in the Golden and Empire states may be whistling a happier tune these days. That’s because lawmakers in both California and New York have looked at the value that entertainment enterprises add to their states’ economies, and, in accord with what many governments have done to support filmmakers, they’ve put in place or are pushing for tax credits for tunesmiths and their ilk. Let’s take note:   The Golden State In California, a bill recently introduced in the state Assembly, and backed by several musician unions, aims to alter how Sacramento supports the film industry by requiring that a percentage of music, post-production, occur in the Golden State for movies to qualify for tax rebates. AB 1199, its sponsors say, seeks to “close loopholes ” in the California Film and Television Job Retention Act.” It offers film makers a twenty percent tax credit on qualified expenses, up to $100 million, for feature films and television shows and a twenty-five tax percent credit for relocated TV series and independent films. While existing law allows for an addition five percent tax credit back for qualified expenditures, the law does not specify what part film or TV music scoring or music-track recording must be done in California to qualify. At issue are productions that receive California tax credits for music scoring that may be done almost exclusively outside the state. AB 1199 proposes...

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$27 million award affirmed in bogus film deal

Five years after striking two deals valued at the time at $300 million to finance 10 films to be made with his company Rainstorm,  Steven G. Kaplan has won a California appellate decision affirming a private arbitrator’s $27-million award to him after his big plans with foreign investor Fortnom fell through. It turns out that Fortnom didn’t exist and Kaplan since has pursued the duo who represented the firm, Anthony Lombard-Knight and Jakob Kinde. In 2008, Kaplan sought a funding deal with businessman Joao Vale e Azevedo, whom the lawyer-producer didn’t know previously was convicted of embezzlement.  Through Vale e Azevedo, the moviemaker met Lombard-Knight and Kinde and began his dealings with Fortnom. Kaplan struck and formalized two agreements with the company in 2010. But within a few short months, the representatives tried to force changes, including withholding performance bonds. In 2011, Kaplan initiated arbitration for breach of contract and subsequently won damages, a ruling that was enforced by British courts. Lombard-Knight and Kinde sought a trial in Los Angeles Superior Court, claiming that they weren’t responsible for the fictitious corporation and hadn’t been properly notified about the case against them. The trial court found for Rainstorm and Kaplan, with Superior Court Judge Malcolm Mackey ruling that Lombard-Knight and Kinde had failed to respond in timely fashion to and could not overturn the arbiter’s ruling against them. With the appellate court decision in hand, Kaplan has pledged...

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