Author: Rosalind Read

For rapper Lil’ Wayne, an appellate slap down

A lawsuit by Dwayne Michael Carter Jr. (aka Lil’ Wayne), seeking, among other things, $50 million from the makers of The Carter, a documentary that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2009, has taken a new turn: After a countersuit by entertainment company Digerati and a decision by the California Court of Appeals, it turns out Wayne could be found liable for breaching his oral contract with filmmakers by failing to promote the project. In short, his initial plan may have backfired. Wayne’s documentary reached the iTunes Top 10 and was called “one of the top-five greatest hip-hop documentaries of all time” by Brandon Perkins of the Huffington Post. The success of the film horrified Lil’ Wayne who claimed his approval rights were important so the film would not depict him in a way that would hurt him in his criminal court proceedings. “Wayne was arrested twice, in July, 2007, and January, 2008, on weapons and drug charges and ultimately served eight months in prison in 2010. He is currently serving three years probation,” reported Jeff Gordon of Courthouse News The film chronicles the life and times Lil’ Wayne, who objected to the film’s release prior to the removal of unapproved footage. In his suit, he asserted that Digerati had breached the agreement by failing to honor Carter’s final approval rights. In his complaint, he claims (according to...

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‘Public Domain,’ prof’s new book, wins praise

James Boyle, in his award-winning new book, The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind (Yale University Press), introduces readers to the idea of the public domain and describes how it is being greatly eroded by our out-of-touch and harsh copyright, patent, and trademark laws. “In the age of the Internet, what are lawmakers doing to protect the public from copyright? This is the central question Boyle considers as he explores the history, application and future of intellectual property laws to works of authorship using contemporary technologies,” wrote Julie Cromer Young, Thomas Jefferson School of Law in her review of this work. Boyle, a law professor and co-founder of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke University, embarks on a series of fascinating case studies in this literary work, explaining why basic business ideas and pairs of musical notes are now owned, why jazz might be illegal if it were invented today, and why most of 20th Century culture is legally unavailable to us. “Intellectual property laws have a significant impact on many important areas of human endeavor, including scientific innovation, digital creativity, cultural access and free speech. And so Boyle argues that, just as every informed citizen needs to know at least something about the environment or civil rights, every citizen in the information age should also have an understanding of intellectual property...

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Un-‘Happy Days’ for actors over royalties

Cast members of the television hit “Happy Days” have filed a complaint against the CBS and Paramount Studios in Los Angeles Superior Court, asserting breach of contract.  The Santa Monica-based law firm, Pfeiffer Thigpen Fitzgibbon & Ziontz LLP, has claimed on behalf of Anson Williams, Don Most, Marion Ross, Erin Moran and the estate of Tom Bosley that CBS, the successor in interest to Paramount and current owner of the show, has refused to pay merchandising revenues owed under their contracts. In essence, the Hollywood studio and network have been accused of maintaining an “if you don’t ask [for royalty payments], then we don’t pay” policy, in violation of the actors’ contractual provisions. Such merchandise, the actors’ complaint asserts, includes slot machines, comic books, T-shirts, greeting cards and DVDs on which their images are used. This litigation was triggered when a cast member was questioned about her proceeds from a Happy Days , slot machine, about which she said she knew nothing. The actors’ complaint makes some fancy assertions about the import of the TV sitcom, calling it “a staple in American television history and … a household name.” Though the show long since has gone out of production, the suit says it had a “lasting effect on Americans as well as American television and is still an integral part of pop culture even today.” The suit says CBS unfairly held...

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Dr. Dre triumphs in digital suit

Rap legend Andre Young, a.k.a. Dr.Dre, has emerged victorious from a federal lawsuit he filed over owed royalty payments in early 2010 against WIDEawake Death Row Entertainment LLC.  U.S. District Judge Christina A Snyder in Los Angeles has ruled that the defendant breached Dre’s contract by selling his music online, without his permission and contrary to their 1996 agreement; Dre, thus, is entitled to 100% of all digital sales from his classic 1992 album, “The Chronic.” The defendant, Canadian-based WIDEawake Entertainment Group, had purchased at auction Death Row’s assets after it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, reported the Los Angeles Times in January, 2009.  Dre claimed that the company had breached the agreements by (1) failing to pay him royalties since 1996; (2) digitally distributing his album The Chronic without permission; and (3) and including his recordings in a compilation album entitled “Death Row’s Greatest Hits.” In 1996, Dre and Death Row apparently had entered into a written agreement whereby he would relinquish his 50% ownership interest in the firm and assign all copyrights in his recordings. But those rights were assigned to the extent that the “master recordings shall only be distributed in the manners heretofore distributed” (i.e. not digital). In return, Death Row agreed to pay royalties to Dre from the sales of recordings he wrote, produced or on which he performed. The defense asserted that,...

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Beatty beats Tribune, keeps Dick Tracy stake

U.S. District Judge Dean D. Pregerson in Los Angeles has granted Warren Beatty’s motion for summary judgment, finding the actor had fulfilled an agreement with defendant Tribune Media Services and therefore retained rights to Dick Tracy, the long-running comic strip legend. Hard-hitting, fast-shooting and super sharp, the detective was created by Chester Gould and debuted as the protagonist of a cartoon strip on Oct. 4, 1931, in the now-defunct Detroit Mirror. The Tracy ruling came down “just three months after the judge overseeing Tribune’s Chapter 11 proceedings in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court [in Delaware] modified the automatic stay to allow Beatty’s suit in the Central District of California to go forward,” wrote Melissa Lipman of Law 360. Beatty and Tribune Media agreed in 1985 that he would get movie, television and other rights to Dick Tracy, with those reverting back to the once-mighty and now bankrupt media company in two instances: (1) if Tribune provided notice to Beatty, and (2) if Beatty did not begin principal photography on a movie or “television series or special” using the Dick Tracy character within two years of receiving such notice. Beatty went on to star in the wildly popular Disney hit as the sqaure-jawed detective and he subsequently contracted with that company to make a TV show starring ice skating champion Nancy Kerrigan dancing with various characters, including Dick Tracy. Then “in 2005, Tribune filed...

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Entertainment Law Blogs

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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