Author: Jessica Villar

Village People cop wins bigger share of YMCA

All good things come to those who wait — and this seems especially to apply to musicians and artists covered under the termination rights section of the Copyright Act, as added and made effective Jan. 1, 1978. They may need to wait 35 years but they eventually can seize back copyrights on their original works. One of the first and public instances of this process occurred recently when Victor Willis, the cop in the vintage disco boogie band, the Village People,  publicly reclaimed his rights in an action before Chief Judge Barry T. Moskowitz in a federal court in San Diego.  And now Willis has extended his legal winning streak, with federal jurors deciding his rights’ ownership should be broader than he had been awarded before. While this case seemingly may be just one musician reclaiming his copyright rights, as the statute allows, the coverage that Willis’ action has received may prove key to spreading the word to other artists and musicians whose works only now are qualifying for similar consideration. Willis said he knew about this aspect of copyright law only because his wife is a lawyer. Creatives’ right to reclaim their works is not open-ended; original author-creators get only five years after the copyright’s initial, 35-year grant of exclusivity in which they may terminate and reclaim their rights. There’s potentially substantial sums of money involved, for many affected parties. In Willis’ case, it...

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Appeals court stands up for Marley heirs’ rights

Select musicians cross genres and generations and their inspirational messages resonate widely, such as the great Bob Marley‘s mantra to “love the life you live, live the life you love.” While the late reggae master could wax philosophic with the best of them, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently offered a pragmatic view in protecting part of Marley’s legacy: The appellate judges affirmed a ruling by U.S. Senior District Judge Philip M. Pro in a case brought on by Fifty-Six Hope Road Music, which is owned by Marley’s children, holds the rights to his persona, and had sued A.V.E.L.A., Freeze, and JEM over T-shirts and other merchandise emblazoned with his image. In his written opinion for the appellate panel,  Judge N.R. Smith discussed important factors about the Lanham Act and celebrities’ Right of Publicity while also upholidng the award of more than $1.5 million to Hope Road in damages, wrongful profits by defendants, and attorney and other fees.   Dead celebrities still have rights –or their persona does The courts have treated celebrity persona as an identifiable intellectual property protected under the Lanham Act; death does not preclude protections under the law, as can be found under §1125 (a).) All successors in interest should pay heed to these rights, especially as marketers seek to exploit dead celebrities, particularly as an emerging fashion trend. H&M, for example, carries a whole section of shirts with images of Tupac Shakur, Biggie Smalls, Kurt Cobain, and many others...

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For holy Moses, Left Shark, legal spats in 3-D

What in the world but legal claims could unite a left shark and Moses? How about 3-D printing controversies for both? As technology advances relentlessly — perhaps at the pace once described by Albert Einstein where “it has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity”–counsel are intervening left and right to assert protections on creative items, whether these exist in copyright law or maybe not. That these cases keep cropping up at all, however, testifies to the growing ubiquity of 3-D copying and to its importance as a wary, new intellectual property front for Entertainment Law practitioners and their creative clients . Sculpting a claim Let’s look first to see whether a replica statue of a biblical titan can be sheltered from copying. A few weeks ago, Michael Weinberg blogged about a local photographer and his enthusiastic efforts to hone his 3-D scanning skills on a well-done copy of Michelangelo’s “Moses,” owned by Augustana College. The Sioux Falls, S.D., school had a fit, asserting violations of copyright law and claiming that the scans could lead to 3-D printing of its reproduced work. The photographer pulled his scans down from the Internet after legal threats from Augustana. The school stuck, steadfast, to its vague position that its permission was required for the 3-D scan, which Weinberg — invited in to the online controversy by an onlooking artist who...

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What might Zoe’s dispute tell about YouTube?

YouTube once was an easy, fun spot where ordinary Janes and Joes could find fifteen minutes of fame with materials that were patently good and bad to even the least discerning eyes. The Google-owned, online service also was a place for folks young and old to do some comedic spouting and to offer how-tos, such as a step-by-step tutorial on knotting a tie. It since has become a major platform for musicians, both for the aspiring to share stuff in hopes of hitting it big and for fans to keep up with hot music videos by those who have. But as the Tube has grown or grown up as a significant content channel, so too have its complications. And as creatives, like avant-garde cellist and netizen Zoe Keating have complained, YouTube may now be a worrisome legal thicket, with contracts, clauses, warnings, complexities, and uncertainties. Attention, Entertainment Law attorneys? Keating’s YouTube channel, for now, plays on. That’s  unexpected based on her viral beefs with YouTube’s new “terms” for musicians posting on its site. The Guardian neatly summarizes the parties’ positions — and what seems to be a big issue here: communication. Counselors, let’s look in on this notable online dispute for what it may say about new areas of opportunity:   Confusing contract terms As the British news outlet makes clear, Keating has expressed her displeasure with YouTube’s announced...

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Contract holds on ‘Home Improvement’ profits

When some of Hollywood’s biggest players hunker down, strap on their legal tool belts and negotiate a deal that, court documents show, will be worth somewhere between $1 billion and $1.5 billion, it’s safe to assume that no comma in the contract will go without extra scrutiny and every why and wherefore in any document will be tussled over and clear as a bell, right? Well, after a protracted battle over who was owed what from the 1990s hit television show Home Improvement, a Superior Court in California has found it clear that Wind Dancer Production Group was a savvy party that knew exactly what it was getting into in its deal with Walt Disney Pictures. And gone with the breeze went Wind Dancer’s suit, in a grant of summary judgment that might give many an Entertainment lawyer pause to think even harder about their tool kits of negotiations and contracts. Superior Court Judge William F. Highberger in Los Angeles granted summary judgment in part for Disney in early January, in a suit that brought against it by Wind Dancer over the sitcom contracts (a tip of the hat to the Hollywood Reporter for posting his honor’s rulings online.) Disney had licensed the show for syndication in various territories for less than the market value and did not consult with the show’s creators. While Wind Dancer received financial summaries...

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