Author: Kasia Campbell

Film’s free speech KO’s killer’s publicity rights

The true life story of Chris Porco, a University of Rochester student convicted of killing his father and attempting to kill his mother, seemed like something out of a movie. The story was so horrific that it drew national attention. And soon followed a Lifetime Television film, Romeo Killer: The Chris Porco Story, depicting the notorious protagonist’s criminal investigation, trial, and conviction. Once Porco learned of Lifetime’s plans, however, he sued the cable network for violating his publicity rights under New York law and sought to enjoin the company from airing the movie. A New York state court ruled in Porco’s favor, banning Lifetime from airing and promoting its film. Now an appellate court has reversed that decision in a case that reminds about the conflicts when constitutional and individual (publicity) rights collide. After the New York state judge banned Lifetime from airing its television movie, the cable network immediately appealed. Lifetime asserted the ban was an unconstitutional restraint on its free speech and caused “irreparable damage… to the constitutional protections for speech” in general. A New York appellate court agreed, finding the temporary restraining order on Lifetime was “an unconstitutional prior restraint on free speech” because it suppresses speech based on its content before the expression of it has occurred. Since “prior restraints are the most serious and least tolerable of infringements on free speech,” Nebraska Press Association...

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Sony exec sees need for audience engagement

Hollywood has no choice but to engage with its audiences as part of its efforts to confront intellectual property piracy and to figure how to make user-generated content work for rather than against industry interests, Leah Weil, senior executive vice president and general counsel of Sony Pictures Entertainment, told an audience at the law school recent. Weil, who oversees all legal matters relating to Sony Pictures divisions worldwide, including motion pictures, television, and home and digital entertainment, spoke recently with Steve Krone, director of the Donald E. Biederman Entertainment and Media Institute as part of Southwestern’s “Conversation with…” speaker...

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In Big Easy, a big no to counterfeiter takedown

The WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.), like all big time entertainments like the NFL Super Bowl, College Football Championship games, and Beyonce concerts, suffers from counterfeit merchandise sales at its shows and live events. The WWE zealously has sought judicial orders permitting it to seize counterfeit goods and prevent their vending,  especially for its pay-per-view events like WrestleMania, SummerSlam, and the Royal Rumble. With its most successful such event upcoming, WrestleMania XXX at the Superdome in New Orleans,  WWE pulled out all stops to curb infringement on its intellectual property. But a federal court in Louisiana came off the ropes to block a proposed body slam of what WWE saw as prospective merchandise bootleggers and brand pirates (a tip of the hat to The Hollywood Reporter Esq. for posting the decision online). High stakes For WWE, the stakes were especially high for WrestleMania XXX, because it was billed as an event to surpass all predecessors with the return of Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Brock Lesnar, Batista, and Undertaker. The most talked about match in WWE history was the Undertaker vs. Lesnar, with many wondering if Lesnar could break the dead man’s 21-0 WrestleMania record. Spoiler Alert: He did. WWE has so many  trademarks and service marks in connection with its wrestlers and shows that it argued it needed to go straight to the Louisiana judicial system to...

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50 Cent rings up partial win over hip hop site

When hip hop artist, 50 Cent, first hit the music scene, many joked about his name and thought he would not last. But it looks like the joke’s on them as “50” has risen to the top, turning his rap career into a business empire, including a record label and clothing line, both labeled G-Unit, and an entertainment company, Tomorrow Today Entertainment. So when World Star Hip Hop, a website dedicated to hip hop culture, used Jackson’s and other G-Unit member’s images and likenesses without permission, you better believe “50” was all over that. The rap artist-actor, who is quickly becoming famously known by his birth name, Curtis Jackson, sued World Star for copyright infringement, violation of his publicity rights, and trademark infringement. The intellectual property at issue includes photos of Jackson and G-Unit members, Lloyd Banks and Tony Yayo, from their albums Beg for Mercy and Thoughts of a Predicate Felon, and the “G-Unit” trademark. The court granted summary judgment in part for Jackson on his copyright infringement claim and his right of publicity claim, however, the court found that issues of genuine facts exist under Jackson’s trademark infringement claim. Copyright, publicity concerns As to the copyright claim, the court found infringement. World Star contested the validity of G-Unit’s registration. It argued that an incorrect form was used to register pictorial matter with the sound recordings; the court...

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Legal love for ‘Somebody:’ Usher, the Biebs

Out of all the legal troubles Justin Bieber has encountered in the past few months, well maybe the past year, he gets off the hook in at least one of them. The pop singer, who is now turning his fame from pop sensation into troubled-star (with legal run-ins over accusations of egg throwing, driving under the influence  and paparazzi smackdown)  can now be referred to as a copyright infringement victor. We can call this a thing, right? You know that song we could not get out of our heads, nor stop dancing to, as much as we wanted to because we were too old to be listening to Justin Bieber? Actually, there were probably a couple of Bieb songs of that order but the tune at legal hand would be Somebody to Love? Bieber and Usher, born Usher Raymond IV, were sued over it by two men who claimed the international stars ripped off their song. The plaintiffs were rap artist, Devin Copeland, whose stage name is “Devin the Dude,” and songwriter, Mareio Overton. They claimed that three versions of Somebody by Bieber and Usher infringed on their similarly titled song. Defendant’s three versions are Bieber’s and Usher’s collaboration (“Bieber accused song”), Usher’s own version (“Raymond accused song”), and a remix of the Bieber accused song. Sorry Plaintiff, but you don’t get a cool and dramatic name for your...

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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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