Author: Brandon Prior

Judge lets Batmobile copyright suit motor on

Holy, look-alike cars and copyright, Bat fans: a U.S. District Court in Pomona has in DC Comics v. Mark Towle batted away an attempt to derail a publisher’s lawsuit against the creator of replica kits for the Batmobile, the vehicle legend in comics, television shows and the movies. And there’s a twist in this not-so-comic case that a lawyer has blogged may raise some eyebrows among automakers and car fanciers. Although, as with many claims involving copyrights, the claims against the defendant largely revolve around money and damages, the opinion issued by U.S. District Judge Ronald S.W. Lew opens an interesting aspect of this area of law. Lew ruled that DC Comics’ claim against the defendant “alleged sufficient facts for a ‘reasonable inference’ that there may be nonfunctional artistic elements of the Batmobile that may possibly be separated form the utilitarian aspects of the automobile.'” His decision suggests the Batmobile’s design could be viewed as an independent aspect for protection, separate from the useful, utilitarian attributes of the car itself. Copyright law has long held that a work possessing functional, utilitarian, aspects is deemed to be a “useful article” and is precluded from Copyright law protection.  Exceptions though have been carved out specifically involving separately identifiable features that are capable of existing independently as a work of art.  Fabrica Inc. v. El Dorado Corp., 697 F.2d 890, 893 (9th Cir.1983). What might...

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Countersuit turns creator into a kind of ghost

The chief occupation of certain sous chefs and savvy top assistants is simple: Tell the boss to stop. We’ve got enough exotic ingredients in this dish, you’ve thrown enough wow components into that new product, you’ve hired enough pricey consultants. When it comes to lawsuits, it might also behoove some would-be plaintiffs to know when to say when. Take the case of comic book talent Gary Friedrich whose litigiousness has led him to a dramatic reverse:The blog techdirt  in recent years has chronicled the litany of litigious claims  by “Ghost Rider” original creator Friedrich. He sought to enforce copyrights on that work, claiming they had reverted to him in 2001.  His defendants became many:  studios (such as Sony Pictures), video game makers (such as Take-Two Interactive), comic book publishers (like Marvel) and interactive toy makers (like Hasbro). He claimed “an unauthorized ‘joint venture and conspiracy to exploit, profit from and utilize” his copyrights to the comic book character. With Marvel, Friedrich asserted not only infringement but diminution of value of the copyright for “failing to properly utilize and capitalize” the Ghost character. Friedrich’s claims were levied subsequent to the “Ghost Rider” film, which at the time of filing has grossed $214.6 million in worldwide box office ticket sales. But Marvel, a subsidiary of Disney, successfully countersued Friedrich.  That successful countersuit has lead to an interesting situation, in that the...

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Racy cable reality show tests legal bounds

The blogosphere and mainstream media alike have shone a light on the drug-influenced sexual exploits of some young teens — at least as they’re depicted in MTV’s latest reality-driven show, Skins.  While the idea of youthful sexual experimentation and recreational drug use is hardly novel in Hollywood plots, this latest eyebrow-raising endeavor has raised red-flag among many who question whether the legal lines have been breached between entertainment and exploitation and a protected expression about the state of society and outright bad taste. In an episode that aired recently,  the plot elements included a running punch-line about erectile dysfunction medication and a high school student’s persistent arousal.  The character, played by Jesse Carere, was shown, nude, running through the street. That wasn’t alarming — what was: His age. He’s 17 years old, making him a legal minor. MTV’s Skins is an adaptation that’s in its fifth season in Britain. While the Yanks may hope to capture audiences like those among the Brits,  in the United States, this production’s content could run afould of child pornography laws. Federal law defines child pornography as “any visual depiction, including any photograph, film, video, picture, or computer or computer-generated image or picture, whether made or produced by electronic, mechanical, or other means, of sexually explicit conduct, where (A) the production of such visual depiction involves the use of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct;...

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Got $100 billion in bank? Buy Hollywood!

Assume for a moment all antitrust and anticompetition laws have been set aside. You have earned and  maintained the distinction as a leader at the forefront of the technology industry for more than 30 years. The reaches of your body of work are wide and far ranging, touching all aspects of the digital information age. Your success has resulted in liquid assets reaching $100 billion. What’s your next step? This not-so-hypothetical situation confronts Apple Inc., which after long trailing ExxonMobil, has dethroned the energy conglomerate to become the most valuable company in the world; the two companies have sparred back and forth for the distinction of having the highest market value.  As of Jan. 25, Apple regained the distinction, reaching a market cap of roughly $419 billion. And Apple reported holding nearly $100 billion in cash. That tidy banked sum has prompted TechCrunch to spur intriguing online speculation as to what the Cupertino company ought to do next and some are looking to history for either a brilliant path forward or a negative precedent: First, it would be helpful to get a little perspective on Apple’s cash stash: Google, another tech titan, closed last year with $44.6 billion in the bank; recent figures indicate that Facebook’s IPO has a valuation ranging from $75 billion to $100 billion. Acquisition of one or both of these companies could  be a coup for Apple, though BGC Analysis Colin...

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A high legal kick for less than model conduct

Ever since a most-likely-to-succeed aspirant named Paula Abdul thrust herself from leaping about courtside with the Los Angeles Laker Girls into a considerable entertainment career, sneers have abated about the talent on professional sports teams’ cheerleader squads, be they the women who rah-rah-rah for the Dallas Cowboys, the Florida Marlins or whomever. But once cheerleaders also got into the 21st century business of promoting themselves and their entertainment endeavors online, was it inevitable, as recently occurred in Miami, that there would be instances of less than model behavior? Let’s look at Ordonez v. Icon Sky Holdings LLC., 10-cv-60156-PAS (S.D. Fla. Aug. 30, 2011) In a trademark dispute between two models vying for control of an online presence, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida recently awarded damages following the defendant’s efforts to destroy another model’s online social networking presence. As reported by Christopher Danzig, U.S. District Judge Patricia A. Seitz ruled for Elizabeth Ordonez, awarding $81,000 in damages and $25,000 in attorney’s fees for claims of common law trademark infringement, tortious interference, libel, among other claims. Ordonez, a native of Miami (shown at left in photos she has posted on a modeling site), is a singer-songwriter, model, dancer and choreographer and actress.  Fans know her  by her stage name “Elizabeth (Liz) Sky.” Nisha Elizabeth George, the defendant, knew of Ordonez’s “Elizabeth Sky” handle, and, after trademark registration...

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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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