Month: October 2016

How offensive will high court allow marks to be?

Four white men, two white women, a Latina, and an African-American soon will decide how blunt, vulgar, and racist trademarks in the United States may be. This esteemed, older, and not necessarily greatly diverse group will consider whether Asian American musicians may “re-appropriate” Slants, a traditional slur against their ethnic group, and obtain formal, legal exclusivity and commercial protections for that term. But Redskins, another racial term deemed offensive and derogatory, especially to Native Americans, another minority group in this country, will not be part of the deliberations for now by, of course, the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. Their impetus for examining the issue of “scandalous, immoral, and disparaging,” trademarks — a topic this blog has taken up before — resulted from an appeal by no less than Uncle Sam, who said the important issue had gotten unclear and messy for the multicultural nation. Here’s why:   How the ‘disparaging marks’ case arose The high court, which has become active in taking on free speech and First Amendment-related issues in recent times, didn’t surprise many analysts when it announced recently that it would hear Michelle K. Lee v. Simon Shiao Tam, a challenge to the constitutionality of key provisions of the 1946 Lanham Act. The act gives the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office the authority to deny registration to potential marks because they “may disparage […] persons,...

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Oops, a contract lost: Jay-Z wins logo suit.

Shawn Carter — the man, the myth, the legend, and the hip-hop mogul better known in the music world as Jay-Z — seems to be in court a lot for something or the other. Recently he prevailed in a legal tussle over the logo used by the record label that made him famous. When Roc-A-fella Records Inc. and Roc-A-Fella Records LLC were created in 1996 and 1997, respectively by the trio of Damon “Dame” Dash, Kareem “Biggs” Burke, and Carter, they needed a logo to set them apart from other labels in the music industry. Dwayne D. Walker Jr. claims the trio enlisted his services to accomplish this task. He may have assisted. But a federal judge has decided the entrepreneur trio did not owe Walker any money. The court dismissed Walker’s claim, seeking $7 million and accusing the trio of breaching a contract that Walker claimed only Dash signed two decades ago. No, the dog didn’t eat Walker’s homework. But he couldn’t find a crucial document. U.S. District Judge Andrew Carter in Manhattan faulted Walker in a late September ruling because the plaintiff could not produce a contract to substantiate his royalties claim. Walker filed his suit in July, 2012, asserting he created the legendary 1995 artwork depicting a vinyl record. That design was the basis for Roc-A-Fella’s logo. Walker said he was paid $3,500 two decades ago...

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1,000 words? Does ‘willful’ apply to 5 pictures?

Run-DMC, the iconic hip-hop trio, clearly realized the huge cool factor in the pictures taken of them by the renowned photographer Glen E. Friedman.  So, too, did Sony Music, which secured rights from him allowing Run-DMC fans to download his hot pictures as “wallpaper” for their computer screens. But the shooter, legally speaking, cried “Whaddup?!” when he learned that Live Nation Merchandise had found his images’ sufficiently compelling that it used five of his pictures on T-shirts and a wall calendar. The company said it had a process by which it asked Run-DMC to approve the sale of the goods. It wasn’t clear with the artists, though, that they needed to secure copyright approvals from Friedman. The colloquy over what went wrong got set right recently by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which rejected some of Friedman’s claims but left Live Nation open to potentially paying even more for a “willful” whoops — possibly removing copyright markings from the photographer’s works and infringing on his rights to them. The power of pictures The rise of popular music in the 20th century was fueled, in part, by the distinctive still and moving imagery depicting its top artists, with some cultural historians saying the entertainment industry wasn’t dubbed “show business” for naught. Where would hip hop be without fine photographers capturing it at its best? Friedman has...

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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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