Author: Justin Jennings

1,000 words? Does ‘willful’ apply to 5 pictures?

Run-DMC, the iconic hip-hop trio, clearly realized the huge cool factor in the pictures taken of them by the renowned photographer Glen E. Friedman.  So, too, did Sony Music, which secured rights from him allowing Run-DMC fans to download his hot pictures as “wallpaper” for their computer screens. But the shooter, legally speaking, cried “Whaddup?!” when he learned that Live Nation Merchandise had found his images’ sufficiently compelling that it used five of his pictures on T-shirts and a wall calendar. The company said it had a process by which it asked Run-DMC to approve the sale of the goods. It wasn’t clear with the artists, though, that they needed to secure copyright approvals from Friedman. The colloquy over what went wrong got set right recently by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which rejected some of Friedman’s claims but left Live Nation open to potentially paying even more for a “willful” whoops — possibly removing copyright markings from the photographer’s works and infringing on his rights to them. The power of pictures The rise of popular music in the 20th century was fueled, in part, by the distinctive still and moving imagery depicting its top artists, with some cultural historians saying the entertainment industry wasn’t dubbed “show business” for naught. Where would hip hop be without fine photographers capturing it at its best? Friedman has...

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Judge pulps copyright suit against ‘Lemonade’

The critics went crazy with their raves when Beyonce Giselle Knowles-Carter, aka just Beyonce, let loose with a grim, discordant, pained blast with her latest album Lemonade. It was promoted with a broadcast HBO special, which, in turn, had a suitably moody, terse trailer. That tiny cinematic bit, however, especially flipped out an indie filmmaker, who sued Beyonce, asserting that her visual sip of Lemonade, 39 of the 60 seconds in the trailer, had infringed on his copyrights for his film Palinoia multiple times and in multiple ways. But a noted federal judge in Manhattan, displaying he could be quite the cineaste/critic, had not only a simple but also a fast and stinging reply: No way. U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff, just weeks after the case was filed, has dismissed the summer suit against Beyoncé, with prejudice. He ruled just before Labor Day but his 32-page opinion has now become available (thanks to SDNY blog for putting it online). It’s a detailed burn of the claims by Matthew Fulks, the Louisville, Ky.-based, independent filmmaker who sued Beyonce and five other defendants, claiming elements of the film trailer and the film itself promoting Lemonade infringed upon his short Palinoia. Fulks’ suit named Beyonce, Sony, Music Entertainment, HBO, S. Carter Enterprises, and the star’s entertainment and management company, Parkwood Entertainment. His original complaint was filed on June 8, and was amended on June 20, and July 13....

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‘Domino,’ Jesse J untoppled in copyright suit

  Although federal judges at two different levels were offered a glimpse of some top pop performers’ supposedly cozy creative lives, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has knocked down like so many dominoes the elements of a plaintiff-proffered conspiracy theory about alleged copyright infringement involving a hit song. That led the appellate judges, affirming a district court ruling, to give Jessica Cornish, the British singer, and chart-topping songwriter better known as Jessie J, a clear legal victory in early September over plaintiff Will Loomis. He was a rising star in the Santa Barbara indie music scene and had claimed that Jessie J’s 2011 hit, Domino, infringed on Bright Red Chords, a tune that he and his band, The Lust, had limited success with in 2009. A federal district court had tossed Loomis’ infringement suit against Jessie J, Universal Music, and its subsidiaries. The court did not buy his theory about how Jessie J had gotten access to his song—a critical element, of course, in an infringement case—even though he named several pop stars and others as possible intermediaries. Among the performers whose names filled his suit: superstar Katy Perry, guitarist Casey Hooper, and the noted songwriters known as Dr. Luke ( Lukasz Gottwald), Max Martin (Karl Martin Sandberg). Loomis told the court how these creatives moved in out of their circles, including the time that two Dr....

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