Author: Jessica Villar

Q.-&-A.: Bert Fields on post-mortem rights

When legendary Entertainment lawyer Bert Fields recently addressed the Harvard Law Association at the Beverly Hills Bar, he, of course, brought down the house, delighting his audience with his comments on an array of topics. His views on a particular subject resonated for the editors of this blog, because it has arisen in posts before (see here and here): Are there legal rights that need protecting for deceased entertainers? Fields was kind enough to answer a few questions posed by email by Biederman Blog Editorial Board member Jessica Villar regarding this topic: Question—When you spoke recently to the Beverly Hills Bar, you mentioned new kinds of entertainers’ rights, particularly as these might apply to their post-mortem performances as what you called synthespians. Were you specifically addressing the advent of holographic characters performing entertainers’ known works in shows? Or are there other technologies you had in mind? Answer—I was talking about buying the rights of living performers to use their computer generated images to make new movies or perform in new concerts when they’re too old to do so or after their deaths.  Synthespians are a stage later.  They are computer generated actors and performers who will appear human, but are not.  They never die and when the audience tires of them, we create new ones. Q.—Are synthespians’ rights a big and new potential area of Entertainment Law or are they...

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Individual copyright claims in films? Nope.

It took a year, two U.S. District Court judges, eleven judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, two judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and officials from the U.S. Copyright office. But, finally, a long-standing copyright standard in film making has been restored, and, at least for now, the legal view, again, is that individuals who are involved in the making of a finished movie may not assert that they have a separate, stand-alone infringement claim. This stance, of course, not only got a powerful recent en banc ruling in the appellate courts that oversee Los Angeles, the movie-making capital of the world, it also was affirmed by the appeals judges who oversee the nation’s other entertainment hub: New York. So for now, Google and its mighty YouTube subsidiary needn’t yank a video that caused a global firestorm and the makers of the movie Heads Up will be headed for further court proceedings. How did both go round to get back to what many in the industry have seen as an important copyright standard? In Los Angeles, a controversial film, a hotly disputed appellate ruling, an en banc reversal As this blog has recorded (here and here), actress Cindy Lee Garcia found herself on a hot world stage when a minor production she played a tiny part in blew up over...

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With infringement claims, appellate discord

Location, location, location. It matters not just in real estate but also for a legal venue, as creative artists Devin Copeland and Mareio Overton were reminded when a federal appellate court overturned a lower court’s dismissal of their case against pop stars Usher, Justin Bieber, (shown in video above) and others, asserting copyright infringement with the pop hit Somebody to Love. Now fans, composers, lyricists, musicians, and other performers may not find this music to their ears: But the Copeland-Overton-Usher-Bieber case provides a sound illustration of let’s call it jurisdictional discord, with appellate judges in scattered parts of the country ruling off of different, um, scores. Take note, please, that judges have their ears open for some different things when creatives pursue legal claims and this may result for them in judicial harmony or cacophony. Legal overture Copeland and Overton had recorded and copyrighted their song in 2008, and then they shopped out the demo. That demo found its way to Usher, who went on to record his own three versions of Somebody to Love, two with Bieber; one of the Usher-Biebs versions made Billboard’s Top 100, coming in at 15. All three launched a suit from Copeland and Overton. A federal district court originally granted a motion to dismiss by counsel for Usher and Bierber, with the judge finding that no reasonable jury could find the works sufficiently similar. The judge said the...

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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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