Author: Davina Dawson

Swift marks off more legal rights for music

Ever uttered or jotted down these phrases?   Party like it’s 1989. This sick beat. Cause we never go out of style. Could show you incredible things. Careful. Govern yourself accordingly: pop superstar Taylor Swift has laid legal claim to these words and more. Not as musicians typically do, just with copyright. Instead, she is pursuing a legal strategy that’s getting a lot of online attention. She’s seeking to trademark her lyrics, applying for legal protections for several catch lines from her newest album 1989 and especially as these might be applied to an array of goods or products. This isn’t an utterly unique legal tactic. But Swift’s raising eyebrows because of her market power and her aggressive protection of her works and more broadly her brand.   Swift already has gone after those she sees as undercutting her creative rights, getting her music taken down from Youtube and Spotify. But why pursue trademark versus copyright protections now? Trademark protection As Swift herself has observed, haters are gonna hate, but she has sold more than 4 million copies of 1989. The album has been such a hit that companies have tried to sell merchandise, without her approval, quoting her  lyrics. If she can trademark key lyrical phrases, this could help protect her brand from competitors, big and small, and, in theory, giver her exclusivity in marketing goods. For those who need a...

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En garde: legal duel over Zorro zips to Calif.

There is a saying, a very old saying: when the pupil is ready, the master will appear. The public is ready, so will the Masked Avenger appear? Could he finally be revealed and put into the public domain? A lawsuit is in the works to free Zorro from the ties it has to Zorro Productions Inc. and Sony Pictures Entertainment. The suit was originally brought in Washington, but has since fought its way back to sunny California. Robert Cabell, publisher of the musical, “Z- The Musical of Zorro,” is suing John Gertz, owner of ZPI over a threat of taking away Cabell’s musical licensing in Germany. In his 2013 action, Cabell argues the masked man was not in the public domain and that ZPI’s trademark on the character should be canceled. Why didn’t this suit initially survive? Because U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez in Seattle ruled that the avenger wasn’t at home in Washington. The judge since has reversed course, allowed the case to be revived, and said that courts in California probably had jurisdiction since ZPI’s principle place of business is Berkeley. Now that Zorro is being fought over in California, there’s a possibility that Gertz will try to dismiss the case, citing the statue of limitations. But if Sherlock Holmes is free for public use, why is this war over Zorro still an issue? The copyright had expired, and, as Judge Richard...

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LA launches crackdown on talent ‘scams’

While California’s regulation of talent management has proved controversial for professionals in the Entertainment Industry, Entertainment Law attorneys included, there are reminders that show why aspiring dancers, singers, and actors need legal protection. In the latest instance, City Attorney Michael Feuer has formally charged a talent agent with illegally seeking $100,000 in up-front fees in a hair salon from a teenage singer and her sister. He has been joined by Hollywood’s actors’ union and a group advocating for child actors in launching a Public Awareness Campaign as part of a plan to crackdown on Hollywood talent scams.   Paul Krekorian, now Los Angeles City Councilman for District 2, wrote and pushed through the state legislature the Talent Scam Prevention Act of 2009. The purpose of the act is to protect aspiring performers and their families from scams in which they are asked to pay talent agents without reason. The Krekorian Act prohibits talent agents and talent managers from charging advance fees for representation. His act also aims to ensure every contract with an artist provides notice for cancellation, with a refund procedure. Among the supporters of the act (AB1319) are the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and the BizParentz Foundation, an advocacy group that works on behalf of youthful performers. Both had representatives at Feur’s recent news conference. There, and in a news release, Feur stated that the act had been violated by Debra Baum,...

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Court gets the wookies over a flying-car suit

Imagine a world where the sky is the limit and cars can take off from a vertical launching pad, shooting straight up into the heavens. If you’re a Star Wars fan, this type of technological advancement doesn’t seem far fetched: it’s the T-65 X-Wing Starfighter. And for Joseph Alfred, it doesn’t seem like an idea incapable of grasping here on this planet. So why on Earth did Alfred  sue the Walt Disney Co. in Delaware’s Court of Chancery? Because Disney wouldn’t accept his idea to build a real flying car. Make sense? The court didn’t think so either, and shot his plans down.  The court dismissed the case for two main reasons: a lack of jurisdiction and failure to state a claim for which relief could be granted. (A mighty Mickey thanks to the Hollywood Reporter Esq. for posting the case decision online). None of the parties in the suit, including Alfred, had applicable legal ties to Delaware. Alfred tried his luck since Disney is a Delaware corporation. But the court also dismissed the case because of the absence of a claim. Meaning? Disney has a trademark in the design for a T-65 X-Wing Starfighter plane depicted in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. This means, basically, that only Disney can make anything that can easily be confused with its flying car, otherwise the other guy will be in for some major Mickey disapproval. Alfred asserted that a company that he pulled out of the...

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