Author: Nicole Christman

Netflix urges FCC to block net mega-merger

Mergers are like marriages and sometimes all the related parties do not agree with the union. Since Comcast and Time Warner announced their proposed merger early last year, Netflix has publicly opposed this deal, calling the Comcast-Time Warner merger “anti-competitive.” Netflix has recently taken a more official step by submitting a Petition to Deny with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Also, sixty-five other organizations representing consumers and content producers have submitted similar notices of opposition. In its petition, Netflix — which many industry watchers note already has created its own revolution in the broadcast world — argues that the merger would provide the proposed giant company monopolistic power with control over half the U.S. broadband in households. The proposed merger, Netflix also contends, would allow the new company to dominate the cable television industry, turning “a consumer’s experience into something that more closely resembles cable television.” Moreover, Netflix says that streaming services (including it), will lose their negotiation power to pay for better streaming quality for its subscribers. Netflix is already engaged in contracts with the four biggest Internet Service Providers  including Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T, and recently a new deal was signed with Time Warner Cable for faster streaming after a kerfuffle over slowing of streaming content. But, Netflix claims the merger will allow the ISPs to impose higher prices for better Internet speeds. Comcast and Time Warner,...

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Eminem raps are OK but Facebook posts aren’t?

The world has heard an earful from Marshall Bruce Mathers, the recording artist also known as Eminem aka Slim Shady. Since he broke out in the rap and hip hop scene as a pale poet from Motown with lots to say, Mathers also has done his share of aggravating audiences with his pointed and profane views, which women and gays have found hateful and offensive. Look online and it’s also clear that Eminem’s lyrics lean far out on themes of violence and harm to others. As with others in his genre, however, no one has ever suggested stuffing a sock in his utterances, legally speaking, no matter how disturbing his words. It’s music and free speech and protected, right? Well, what happens when those very same lyrics get put to page, on Facebook specifically, and they’re thrown in with other messages targeted at an individual? What happens then? That issue has made its way through an appellate court and heads to the U.S. Supreme Court this fall. A little over 10 years ago, the Supreme Court determined in Virginia v. Black, 538 U.S. 343,  that the First Amendment might not protect hate speech or a hate symbol, if a “reasonable person” would deem it was a threat. However, will the Supreme Court consider this issue in an online context? Anthony Elonis, a Pennsylvania man, said to be distressed about...

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In limbo: ‘Ohio Players’ financial legacy

The entertainment scene seems to feed a tabloid-style world enmeshed in divorce, bankruptcy, and scandal — and the complicated, troubling nature of the scene may be underscored when its business heads to the court room: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit recently reversed a federal bankruptcy court’s decision favoring debtor Lisa Ann Galaz over her  former husband Raul, who had worked with music producer Julian Jackson and eventually created a Texas limited-liability company  to collect royalties from the music of the famed funk band, the Ohio Players. During the couple’s marriage, the royalties did not generate any revenue. But as soon as they divorced, the royalties began to tally again, totaling nearly $1 million. Lisa Ann Galaz sought her share, and recently filed bankruptcy, hoping this would help her collect. However, rapidly evolving case law has limited bankruptcy courts’ jurisdiction, the appellate court noted. Raul Galaz appealed the decision, which the appellate court vacated and remanded for further proceedings involving both the U.S. district court and bankruptcy court that had handled the matter earlier. Meantime, the royalties for the Ohio Players’ remain in limbo — a sad state for a pioneering group, most of whose members are deceased and whose seven, No. 1 single hits include, Fire. In case the flashy clothes and deep bass groove don’t hit a familiar...

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Tips on keeping in synch with music contracts

Evolving technologies such as synchronization — matching music-sound to visuals, such as multimedia or video — are further pushing change for the music industry: Multimedia music production now has become easier, faster, and snappier. This also means that musicians and Entertainment lawyers must know more about important elements in draft license agreements and rights in synchronization of music. Hypebot.com, a blog-website dedicated to music business news, has put up some helpful suggestions and a scan of some case law highlights the challenges that musicians may confront if they fail to protect their rights.  Music license agreements are complex but sync issues must addressed. Artists and their counsel, in doing so, can avert the prospects of  litigation, in which courts usually will uphold well-constructed contacts. In Bell v. Philadelphia International Records, the recording artist sued his recording company asserting breach of contract and fraud; there was nothing protecting the artist in the contract and the accord was not time-barred, leading the court to decline to find the contract unconscionable. Whereas, a well-drafted contract, may uphold itself in court.  In Music Dealers v. Sierra Bravo Corp., a music licensing company sued a software development company for breach of contract and fraud. The court denied defendant’s motion to dismiss because the corporation failed to argue that the alleged contract breaches were not part of the contract. However, the court did allow a...

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