Author: Jessica Villar

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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‘Wild Thing?’ He’s not golden in the legal ring

Steve “The Wild Thing” Ray, the popular professional wrestler with the shoulder-length golden locks, has gotten thrown out  of the legal ring, again. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit of Appeals has tossed the appeal of the onetime Universal Wrestling Federation star’s loss against sports broadcasting powerhouse ESPN. Ray brought state claims against the network, for re-telecasting bouts from his early years of wrestling professionally. Although ESPN acquired the films of him legally, Ray said the broadcasts undercut money he might make from broadcasts of his UFW fights. He claimed in his Missouri case that the global TV and satellite channel had invaded his privacy, misappropriated his name, infringed on his publicity rights, and interfered with his prospective economic advantage from broadcasts of his fights. ESPN got the case moved to federal court and a district judge granted its motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim; that decision was upheld by the federal appellate court, which said his state claims were preempted by the federal Copyright Act. While the appellate judges threw no chairs across the ring, didn’t slap the plaintiff in a headlock, nor did they twist his arm, just in case anyone’s unfamiliar with Ray’s entertainment...

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Pandora wins royalty rate appeal, radio license

In the 1980s, video killed the radio star, and today, it’s streaming music services that are causing great pain for music creatives: Pandora has just won a big decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, beating down the American Society of Composers and Performers (ASCAP). The appellate judges affirmed a lower court’s 2013 ruling, setting a 1.85 percent rate for public performance of songs in the ASCAP catalog for Pandora and other Internet radio services. The higher court also nixed an ASCAP move effectively to let music publishers negotiate directly with online services like Pandora for performance royalties, potentially increasing the difficulty and cost. This controversial case has been closely watched and will please those favoring technology’s advance in providing music and other forms of entertainment in new ways, while leaving creative artists and sizable swaths of the music industry angry and glum. For Pandora, in particular, it was a second bit of promising news, as the company also has just won approval of its bid to acquire a South Dakota radio station, giving it a toe-hold into yet another way to secure lower royalty rates for music. Heavyweights gird for battle Streaming services and the music industry have gone at each other for several years now, with ASCAP, the rights clearinghouse that represents roughly half of all composers and publishers in the U.S., caught up in the strife. In 2010,...

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For podcasters, a welcome patent reversal

If you’re a fan of Serial, This American Life, and National Public Radio, and if your day doesn’t really get launched without a laugh from the likes of Adam Corolla, well, all you podcast aficionados can take a deep breath: Personal Audio LLC, a patent claimant that had threatened to flip a fiscal off switch on many on the medium, has lost a key legal contest. Infringement claims The firm has pursued infringement and licensing fee claims against many podcasters, winning some cases and attracting the attention of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, whose attorneys appealed to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s  Patent Trial and Appeal Board. There, many of the key claims in the “podcasting patent” held by Personal Audio were invalidated by officials who decided that Personal Audio did not actually make anything new before filing its application; the board, therefore, found that the key patents at issue were “un-patent-able.” Personal Audio has asserted for awhile that podcasters like Corolla infringed on its broad claim to the technology and owed the firm licensing fees. These claims ultimately led to settlements with many podcasters, though these resolved cases likely proved less profitable to Personal Audio than it might have wished. The firm did end a much publicized battle with Corolla; no terms were disclosed. Personal Audio went to court over some of its   infringement claims and won a $1.3 million judgment against CBS (though, after costs, the...

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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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