Month: June 2015

Sirius catches sunshine in fight with ex-Turtles

A federal court in Florida has provided a ray of legal sunshine for Sirius XM , in a way that its counterparts in California and New York haven’t: The satellite music company finally has won a legal battle in the public performance war that Flo & Eddie have waged with Sirius over their pre-1972 sound recordings with The Turtles. As this blog has recounted since this case’s outset, musicians and composers have turned to a state by state campaign to protect their rights to classic tunes, finding a gap in federal copyright coverage. The courts holding sway over America’s two Entertainment capitals have viewed the creatives’ cause favorably but the Sunshine State, a judge in Miami has said, has no common law basis for a similar sunny view. What’s this cloudy Dixieland difference? While federal copyright law protects public performance for all sound recordings made after Feb. 15, 1972, prior works lack similar coverage. Instead, due to the way lawmakers penned copyright statutes and the courts have interpreted them, it falls to the individual states to grant copyright holders a defense of tunes from what many consider a golden era for rock, pop, soul, jazz, blues and other music. The artists known as Flo & Eddie, aka onetime Turtles Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman, have already taken their claims to California, the Entertainment Capital of the World, and New York. Federal judges in both states have ruled in...

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Canadians in TV case can’t elude jurisdiction

Although some entertainment industry types may belittle Los Angeles and insist that they can do business on their own terms elsewhere, all too many paths lead to and through what boosters blushingly have dubbed the Entertainment capital of the world (yes, even you die-hard Seattle grungers need to recognize that Nirvana’s iconic Nervermind was recorded in Van Nuys). So it wasn’t exactly a surprise when U.S. District Court Judge Ronald S.W. Lew ruled recently that LA, California, and the United States had powerful legal pull, aka jurisdiction, over some far northern business interests, specifically Canadian resident David Fortier and Canadian incorporated Temple Street Production Incorporated. Govern yourselves accordingly, out of towners, as to whether you think you can elude a legal challenge if it plops on your doorstep: Fortier and Temple Street are two of six defendants whom Stephen Hendriks has sued, asserting copyright infringement and breach of implied contract over BBC America’s popular Orphan Black show. Hendricks says Orphan Black has the same core, copyright-protected expression as a screenplay he had sent to Fortier a decade or so ago, long before Orphan Black came out; Fortier passed on Hendricks’ work. Fortier and Temple Street sought to get themselves dismissed from Hendriks’ suit, asserting lack of jurisdiction. Neither is located in California. But the court found that, in both instances, Fortier and Temple have the minimum contacts needed to be subject to California jurisdiction. It’s worth noting these contacts can be...

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Judge carves up claims in ‘New Girl’ case

Hollywood can be a small town, particularly when it comes to Entertainment Law practitioners at a certain level. This can cut both ways for potential clients, as plaintiffs Stephanie Counts and Shari Gold learned when U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson in Los Angeles tossed a big section of their suit, rejecting claims of idea theft and breach of contract over the popular Fox television program New Girl.  The judge–who had previously found their suit problematic–pointed out to Counts and Gold that, despite their complaints to him, they had been fully informed by their initial counsel of a potential conflict of interest before entering into talks about a potential settlement, which they rejected. Wilson found their attorneys were not “incapacitated” by the potential conflict, nor did they act in bad faith. Meantime, he reminded them that they had exceeded the statute of limitations for their action and, he, thus, granted defendants’ motion to dismiss part of their claim. How did this case get in such a muddle? Counts and Gold originally sued Fox and 21 other parties, asserting they had violated copyrights on Square One, their script for a pilot, which they claim was used to develop New Girl. Their script was based on Counts’ experiences and had been shopped around. But Counts and Gold have said they were shocked to see New Girl debut with Zooey Deschanel as its star because it...

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In big-dollar publicity rights bid, athletes lose

Onetime college athletes seemed to have gotten a big win over broadcast networks and video game makers last year when a federal judge in California ruled that the NCAA could not keep athletes from licensing their own names and images. But a different legal play hasn’t scored in similar fashion with a federal court in Memphis. There, a group of Tennessee athletes argued that they had publicity rights under common law and should be compensated for playing in televised games. Wrong call, said U.S. District Court Judge Kevin Sharp, who ruled that the players failed to present any valid theories about their publicity rights under Tennessee common law. State law prohibits use of a person’s name or likeness for advertising purposes but  allows their use for sports broadcasting. The athletes had brought both state and federal claims but the broadcasting defendants, including ESPN, ABC, CBS, and NBC, were granted their motion to dismiss. With the stakes so high,  it’s worth a little play-by-play in the running contest among jocks, broadcasters, and video game makers. In California, past and former NCAA athletes, video game makers and broadcasters have hotly contested control of jocks’ likeness as detailed in a case involving a former UCLA basketball star, O’Bannon v. the NCAA and Electronic Arts. The athletes won their case in a federal district court but the case is on appeal to the U.S. Ninth Circuit...

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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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