Author: Karen Hao

Get it in writing? It’s a $1 million Geraldo tale

What happens as an actor if your agent leaves his agency? Do you go with your agent? Or are you considered an actor for the agency? As the recent ruling shows in a New York state case involving William Morris Endeavor v.  Geraldo Rivera, a little bit of writing can be worth a lot — say, $1 million in commissions the agency said it was owed by the Fox television news host. Rivera’s agent, Jim Griffin, left William Morris in 2009, but the agency asserts that the broadcast personality should continue to pay it 10 percent of his gross compensation, says the Hollywood Reporter. Rivera in 2005 signed a four-year agreement, which was renewed in 2009 for three more years.  The agency claimed that Rivera owed it commissions from February, 2010, to December, 2011. The two parties had signed an AFTRA Contract on Oct. 14, 1985, giving the agency a ten percent commission from this client. Rivera renewed in September, 1994, and his contract “made clear that only Jim Griffin was to be responsible for handling my representation… and that the Agreement would terminate if Griffin did not remain at WM.” Rivera further said he struck names of other agency employees proposed in the September, 1994, AFTRA contract, designating only Griffin. The court in New York rejected the agency commissions for two reasons: (1) The state statute of frauds...

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Elves, trolls, IPs and real identities, oh, my

It’s not some kind of J.R.R. Tolkien scenario. But a federal district court effectively has united what netizens have termed trolls with some aggressive elves from the magical realm of Hollywood — and the judge has waved a wand and told both that their legal tactics with mass lawsuits against John Doe defendants need to get better or disappear. OK, Gandalf, this is a Hobbit-sized bit of good news for those who download entertainment surreptitiously but it surely will be displeasing to the wizards of content creation, including mainstream film-makers in Hollywood and porn shooters in the Valley. The latest developments start in in March 2013, when the makers of the box-office hit Elf Man sued 152 Doe defendants, identified only by an IP address linked to the online sharing of the movie. While a federal district court granted the elves’ motion to initiate discovery to unmask the IP address, U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik warned that “it is not clear that plaintiff could. . .  make factual contentions regarding an Internet subscriber’s infringing activities based solely on the fact that he or she pays the Internet bill.” Meaning because home wireless networks can support multiple computer devices, unmasking an  IP is not enough to prove infringement. His ruling, though it involved BitTorrent, a particular bane of Hollywood, is in keeping with what has come down from courts in...

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YouTube finds puerto seguro in rights case

In the copyright battles among television networks and Internet Service Providers, the Court of Appeals in Spain has found that YouTube is sheltered from liability by the hosting, safe harbor in Article 16 of the Spanish Information Society Services Act. YouTube cannot be enjoined generally to present future instances of infringing content being uploaded. In Telecinco v. YouTube, the court in Madrid found that for the safe harbor to apply, the provider must have a “mere technical, automatic, and passive nature,” implying that the provider “has neither knowledge of nor control over information which is transmitted or stored.” YouTube fulfills these criteria. The court ruled  (the case in Spanish) that YouTube is shielded because it lacks actual knowledge of specific instances of infringement. While Telecinco argued that the presence of its logo stamped on its content should suffice to indicate ownership and thus provide those potentially infringing on its material with actual knowledge, the court said requiring YouTube to hunt for such content would entail a general obligation for monitoring. The court declined to grant Telecinco an injunction to suspend YouTube’s carrying the copyrighted material, saying that “imposing such a general injunction would . . .  entail a duty of monitoring all contents on the platform, presently and in the future…” What path, then, does this leave for content creators in Spain? As with their American counterparts, they can, of course, pursue...

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Ruling on infamous film sparks yet more ire

It’s a scary rabbit hole. The Hollywood Reporter says Cindy Lee Garcia was told she would star in an “innocent adventure film Desert Warrior, but instead was “duped into providing an artistic performance … that led to serious threats against her life.” The infamous film, Innocence of Muslims, was viewed by the faithful as blasphemous to the Prophet Muhammad and protests against it have led to hundreds of injuries and more than 50 deaths worldwide. Now the film and an actress’ performance in it has become a matter judicial, with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and Chief Judge Alex Kozinski holding recently that just because thespian Garcia isn’t a joint author doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a copyright interest in her own performance. Kozinski further said an actor’s fixed performance may be copyrighted if it meets a minimum level of creativity and rejected the possibility that Garcia’s performance was a work for hire. This all means, the 2-1 divided appellate court said, that Google must yank all copies of Innocence from all of its platforms, including YouTube. Though the court issued a gag order so parties can’t comment on the case, the Internet’s full of Netizen’s bile about this case. Google filed an emergency motion for a stay pending disposition of petition for rehearing en banc requesting that the video remain accessible while the net giant seeks further review. The appellate court denied the emergency motion, ordering Google...

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Video game addiction? Court dings dad’s claim

While video gamers can go on outlandish binges of play — take the fatal, 50-hour ordeal undertaken on  Aug. 5, 2005 by Seung Seop Lee — can someone pursue legal action, asserting harm from another’s video-game addiction, more particularly claiming bystander emotional distress? Gregory Cherms, who represented himself in a state Superior court in Sacramento, sued Sony Online Entertainment, Warner Brothers, and Electronic Arts, asserting they were responsible for his adult son being hooked on video games and seeking that the makers be required to provide  warnings that the games can be addictive. Cherms said he endured emotional distress as  a “bystander.” Sorry, no case here, the court said, granting a SLAPP motion to dismiss the suit swiftly to protect the game makers’ First Amendment right to pursue constitutionally protected expression. The court also said that for Cherms to have a valid claim for bystander emotional distress, he had to be physically present at the scene of the injury-producing event when it occurs and he had to be contemporaneously aware it was causing harm.  While the court noted that Cherms failed to produce admissible evidence in this instance that could support a judgment in his favor (besides a dubious article he submitted after finding it on the Internet), the judge surprisingly did not expressly bar future claims, leaving the possibility this case might come back in the future. Would...

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