Author: Kasia Campbell

KC and the Sunshine Band suit boogies anew

The 70’s were a decade of bright clothes, tight bell bottoms, platforms and disco music, and we have KC and the Sunshine Band, in part, to thank for that. With classic hits from that day, such as Get Down Tonight and That’s the Way I Like It, the band now may have to shake shake shake its booty back to court to defend an infringement suit. That’s because the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has has reversed a district court decision that said the son of a former KC and the Sunshine Band member lacked standing to sue the group and others for copyright infringement. And now who will get the legal Spank in this matter? In the late 70’s, Ronald Louis Smith Sr., the former band member, wrote the song Spank for Jimmy Bo Horne. Harrick Music, an affiliate of Sunshine Sound Entertainment, registered the tune naming Smith as the composer and indicating it was not a work for hire. Smith eventually left Sunshine Sound Entertainment with no agreement as to who owned the copyrights to Spank but it was agreed that he would receive royalties for it. He never received royalties and before his death sent a cease-and-desist letter revoking Harrick Music’s authority to administer the song, which the company continued to exploit. After Smith’s death, his son Ronald Louis Smith Jr. sued on behalf of his father’s estate...

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What’s super fair, legal on big football Sunday?

It will be a super Sunday for more than just Seahawks and Broncos: For those focused on intellectual property protection — hello, Entertainment Law practitioners — it’s worth looking at how vigorously the National Football League pursues those who get offsides on matters legal and linked to the brand, whether through references to the game to chasing down illegal merchandise. Super Celebration Fair? Really? Let’s explain: It is no secret that the pro football league aggressively enforces its trademarks, including the shield logo, the letter combo NFL  and itts team logos. And in advance of the event at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., there is no question that many will or already have made counterfeit memorabilia to capitalize on the hype surrounding this big game. Knowing that millions of fans will watch the Super Bowl and thousands more will be participate in events, official and unofficial, throughout New York and New Jersey, what should local and national advertisers and merchants do to get their share of the pigskin dough — legally — when they are not an official sponsor? As the  Intellectual Property Brief points out, the New York-New Jersey Super Bowl Committee says  the term, “Super Celebration Fair,” or references along those lines are OK. But look out for more than referees’ flags to fly — can we guess nasty letters, or squads of lawyers bursting through the lines — for those...

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It’s yet another big Na’vi ‘no’ in `Avatar’ suit

While Avatar may have made movie-goers globally swoon for a world blue, a parade of claimants have pursued director James Cameron for reasons green — seeking to claim a share of the box-office smash’s billions in gross. The latest nyet, however, for someone seeking some of that Na’vi cash came on Jan. 17, when a federal court in Maryland ruled in Cameron’s favor in a copyright infringement suit. In that action, Bryant Moore asserted that Cameron created Avatar by copying his screenplays. If you have been following the stream of lawsuits filed against Cameron over Avatar, Moore was yet another plaintiff contesting the originality of Cameron’s gilt-producing film. Gerald Morawski’s claim was kicked out on summary judgment last February and Eric Ryder’s claim was dismissed last October. No ultimate decision was made in a Vancouver man’s claim against Cameron in 2012. Kelly Van’s claim was dismissed on summary judgment in September, 2011. A Chinese writer’s claim was dismissed in Beijing in March, 2010. Moore asserted that Cameron got a hold of his screenplays through his True Lies film production assistant, through a Fox Broadcasting employee, and/or through a development executive at Cameron’s production company, Lightstorm; he said they all had copies of his screenplays. Further, Moore claimed that Avatar has substantial similarity to his screenplays, Pollination and Aquatica: “upside down trees with plants growing out of them,” a love affair set in a sci-fi futuristic setting, and main characters...

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Here’s the rap on what’s in a (notorious) name

It’s not every enterprise where criminal notoriety may offer a superhighway to a greater reputation and increased commercial success. But for a rapper and a convicted cocaine-dealing street magnate the power of negative reputation was part of a legal fight — and the scuffle over a nom de guerre has ended with an appellate court issuing summary judgment favoring the musician and based in the First Amendment. Let’s start with the legal basics: rapper William Lenard Roberts II and his music label, Maybach Music, were sued in California by Ricky D. Ross, aka the real Ricky Ross, for misappropriating his name and gaining commercial success. Let’s introduce the heavyweights. For those not steeped in rap,  Defendant Roberts (stage name Rick Ross) saw his music career blow up when he came out with his first single, Hustlin. The song may be an ear worm, even to non-rap fans because of its oft-repeated lyric, “Everyday I’m hustlin.’ ” The rapper asserts he derived his performance identity as a play off his high school football nickname, “Big Boss.” The plaintiff, meantime, has achieved felonious notoriety in Los Angeles,  especially, as Ricky Ross, Rick Ross and Freeway Ricky Ross. This guy made millions of dollars trafficking cocaine from California to Ohio, selling up to $3 million worth of cocaine a day. He has been linked to the Nicaraguan Contras,  the Iran-Contra scandal  and a media...

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