Author: Nicole Christman

In ‘Blurred Lines’ suit, court won’t ‘give it up’

Pharrell Williams, Robin Thicke, and Clifford Harris, Jr. (a/k/a T.I.) have taken Marvin Gaye’s family to court after receiving threats from the family that the hit song Blurred Lines was a knockoff of Gaye’s Got to Give It Up. The contemporary crooning trio filed a motion for summary judgment hoping this would settle the dispute. But U.S. District Judge John A. Kronstadt has written that he is likely to deny the motion, finding genuine issues of material fact that the songs were substantially similar as to protected elements. The ruling is not a full-on defeat, and it is unclear if the case proceeds to trial, though Kronstadt also has ruled on other case motions to compel further responses.  The case has attracted considerable attention, with both sides using musicologists and mashups to debate copyright law. Gayes’s family accuses Thicke of having a “Marvin Gaye fixation.”  What’s at legal issue? Give a listen and compare the songs in...

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Movie theaters here to stay, lawyers told

In a world in which consumers can access movies in multiple ways — including with on-demand streaming services like Netflix or through cable or satellite providers and on an array of devices and locations –movie theaters will continue to thrive for now, despite some troubling long-term audience and revenue trends, a panel of experts told a recent, major gathering of Entertainment Law practitioners. It’s inarguable that many people still like the experience of going to movie theaters, John Fithian president and CEO of the National Association of Theater Owners, told the legal audience at the “Now and Future of Movie Theaters” panel, part of the 2014 Institute on Entertainment Law and Business, a program hosted by the USC Gould School of Law and the Beverly Hills Bar Association. And USC Communications Prof. Jeffery Cole, underscoring that point in an earlier in a different discussion, said that a night at a  movie theater is still the best first date experience. Fithian (at right in U.S. News & World Report photo) displayed charts with statistics demonstrating that Latinos in the United States are the most avid movie theater goers, and he noted this population is one of the fastest growing groups in the U.S.  There were suggestions that there may be greater marketing of films and theater-going to target Latinos. Veronika Kwan Vandenbergon, president of International Distribution for Warner Bros. Pictures...

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Court order a sharp arrow for fading Aereo

Although Aereo has said it is taking “just a pause” from providing customers Internet-based streaming of broadcast television — a service that has relied on the notion that thousands of tiny antennas are each dedicated to capturing and singularly transmitting a live public signal to customers — a federal judge in New York has issued a preliminary injunction that many industry analysts see as a potential legal terminus for the company and its vaunted high-tech end-around copyright laws. U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan in Manhattan issued the order last week barring Aereo from “streaming, transmitting, retransmitting, or otherwise publicly performing any Copyrighted Program over the Internet (through websites such as, or by means of any device or process throughout the United States of America, while the Copyrighted Programming is still being broadcast.” He effectively shut the door on Aereo’s latest gambit to deem itself akin to a cable company and to seek to pay providers for their content. Aereo had claimed it did not need to fork over broadcast fees because its novel technology pulled in publicly available programming and it should be free, in keeping with copyright laws. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected that argument, finding the Aereo service violated the Copyright Act of 1976’s Transmit Clause. The High Court remanded the case back to the lower federal court in New York. Based on the case’s current...

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IP protection overseas not easy, experts explain

How do companies or individuals protect their intellectual property overseas? This has been the topic for robust discussions among content producers, providers, and distributors in the entertainment industry for some time. Complications exist in protecting IP rights abroad in countries such as China. The various international agreements do not always provide seamless protection of IP across boarders, as they do not always conform to the laws in each member country. A distinguished group of experts tackled issues of international Intellectual Property for an audience of JD candidates at Southwestern Law School recently, with the speakers including: Professor Robert E. Lutz, recently honored as “International Lawyer of the Year” by the State Bar of California International Law Section; Professor Silvia F. Faerman, (right) author of many scholarly articles concerning international trademark and patent protection with a focus on Argentine law; and Chris Reed, Senior Counsel of Content Protection Policy with Fox Entertainment Group and formerly Senior Adviser for Policy to the Register of Copyrights at the United States Copyright Office. Lutz (left) discussed how the United States signed the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) accord as a non-self-executing agreement. That is, he explained, typical of these kinds of agreements with respect to the U.S.: A non-self executing treaty does not become judicially enforceable within a country until its provisions have been further implemented by legislation. So even though...

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For animators in TV work, a new labor accord

While many of the Entertainment Law matters that dominate the daily headlines involve litigation, a number of Entertainment’s legal issues also get settled through private negotiations outside the media glare: Just this weekend, for example, SAG-AFTRA’s Executive Board ratified new contracts –the TV Animation Agreement and Basic Cable Animation Agreement. Negotiations that led up to these accords lasted three days. The agreements address pay raises, increased contributions to Pension & Health/Health & Retirement Funds, and reduction in unpaid free streaming, as well as a new, residual from free, on-demand viewing through cable boxes. SAG-AFTRA also said in a statement that it is beginning negotiations for The National Code of Fair Practice for Network Television Broadcasting, which covers syndicated dramatic programs, daytime serials, promotional announcements, variety, quiz, game, reality, talk, news, sports and other non-dramatic programs. The current contract expires Nov. 15 and negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers are set to begin Nov. 3. For those of you who need reminding, in 2012, the two labor unions, the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artist (AFTRA), merged to form SAG-AFTRA. It represents more than 165,000 actors, and various other performers. The 2012 merger involved extensive negotiations, and now, the unions work together to negotiate the best wages, benefits and working conditions for their members. Meantime, while the real labor action was under...

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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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