Author: Sean Goodman

Game on: Beyonce can’t quash $100M claim

Beyonce Knowles and video game developer Gate Five Studios have been dueling it out over the superstar’s failure to go through with a project to create an eponymous video game. Gate Five contends it suffered major damage, a sum it sets at $100 million, and the dispute has turned to litigation, filed in August, 2011. Courts have heard and denied defendant Knowles’ motion for summary judgment of this case. She has contested the ruling but an appellate court has affirmed the order denying the pop superstar’s motion. Joystiq.com reports that Beyonce backed out of the deal to make the Superstar game, with Knowles defending herself with the claim that the project lacked proper financing. By pulling out of the $20-million video game deal, she might end up with that $100-million tab if the case proceeds to trial and she loses. And after her litigation losses to date, the cost to settle has increased. Video game studios like Gate Five hire a lot of employees to develop single projects. The website betabeat.com said Gate Five has demanded that Beyonce be held accountable for “a bad faith breach of contract so callous that, on what appeared to be a whim, she destroyed Gate Five’s business and drove 70 people into unemployment, the week before Christmas.” Knowles was still negotiating  until she had her lawyers pull out on Dec. 3, 2010, even...

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Star bounty hunter dogs producer over fees

Here are 534 thousand reasons not to ignore the  California Talent Agencies Act: It became a key, pricey part of a dispute between  Duane “Dog” Chapman, the A&E reality TV star bounty hunter, and Boris Krutonog, an executive producer on the long-running series Dog the Bounty Hunter.  As noted by the Hollywood Reporter, Krutonog sought not only an executive producer credit on the hit show but also a fee.  A producer’s fee taken by a talent agent isn’t typically a big deal. But at all pertinent times mentioned in a complaint filed by the Chapman, he asserted that Krutonog was unlicensed to procure employment for an artist (as set forth in Labor Code §1700.4(a).) To seek fees without such license violates section §1700.5 of the Labor Code, in connection with the definition of talent agency as defined in §1700.4(a). The Commissioner ruled he had to give up his producer fees because unlicensed Krutonog could not lawfully collect any fee.  The Labor Commissioner ruled the fee was akin to a disguised agent’s commission, collected by an unlicensed agent procuring employment for his talent, Dog. The remedy — give up $534,450. That decision came five years after Chapman submitted his claim and almost three years after it was submitted for a decision.   Provision §1700.5 of the Labor Code says “no person shall engage in or carry on the occupation of a talent agency without...

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A `rights termination’ tussle with many turns

If copyright terminations weren’t complicated and freighted enough already, the case involving the Ray Charles Foundation and the legendary singer’s heirs has many in the legal entertainment industry scratching their heads, wondering if this litigation will set unexpected precedent. The foundation was bequeathed with song rights stemming from a copyright grant by Charles  to Warner/Chappell Music. But Charles’ heirs have sought to terminate the grant pursuant to the copyright act and recover for themselves rights to hits like “I Got a Woman.” And that’s where things have gotten complicated. The heirs,  who fared poorly in the will (provided $500,000 each isn’t exactly chopped liver), sent notice to terminate the grant and the foundation filed suit (copy of same, thanks to the Courthouse News) for declaratory relief. That litigation is pending and in the early stages; a decision could have significance for termination-rights disputes says billboard.biz. In another case on termination rights, involving a co-author of the Village People anthem, “YMCA,” a federal court in California declared there was a successful reversion of rights and enforced termination of the copyright grant. Here, if the heirs successfully terminate the grant, then the rights to Charles’ songs will revert to them, along with royalty checks that have been going to the foundation. But could the parties please make up their minds as to what’s at legal issue in the dispute over control of some songs by the...

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In content delivery, a trend toward streaming

Amid reports by Broadcastingcable.com that CBS may agree to stream current series and deal with the likes of Netflix and Amazon, it appears that the battle for the future of content distribution is trending online. This shift toward internet streaming-service providers will, for many ‘cord cutters,’  come as little surprise.  Those who stream pay much lower fees and see their favorite content back-to-back and on-demand, as opposed to cable plans. Cable offers traditional, all-you-can-eat buffet style plans; it’s more expensive and not on-demand. Earlier this year, broadcasters including ABC, NBC, Universal, Univision, Fox Television, CBS, networks and rights owners, asserted that the Seattle based Ivi.com infringed their copyrights by live-streaming their programming without permission. Ivi argued it could retransmit as an “Online Video Distributor” under §111 of the Copyright Act. The court disagreed and enjoined Ivi. (For more on that decision, read this Biederman Blog post).  The recent developments align with the federal court’s Ivi decision, and broadcasters, networks and others clearly have the leverage to require streamers like Netflix and Amazon to pay to distribute their content. And why wouldn’t they? Although Netflix didn’t hit its 2012 subscriber goal as reported by Gigaom.com, the company hopes to make global partners and increase its viewership and profits. So while this was a battle between two different platforms, for viewers,  it now appears to have moved into a negotiation, as the transition speeds from cable (and satellite)...

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Sony fends off class-action claim over hacking

The litigation continues to be relatively one-sided between Play Station users and Sony over a 2011 security breach in which hackers accessed private user information; the federal court in Los Angeles has granted defendant Sony’s motion to dismiss a class-action complaint, the order here, compliments of courthousenews.com. The court let plaintiffs amend but only for their claims for injunctive relief and alleged violation of consumer protection laws. Gamepolitics.com reports that U.S. District Judge Anthony Battaglia granted the motion in part because of language found in the Sony Playstation Privacy Policy. It included “clear admonitory language that Sony’s security was not ‘perfect,’ ” therefore, “no reasonable consumer could have been deceived.” Plaintiffs and other Class members had  to provide personally identifying information to Sony, including names, mailing and email addresses, birth dates, credit- and debit-card information (card numbers, expiration dates and security codes) and log-in credentials (“Personal Information”). All this data had to be surrendered when customers set up accounts with Play Station Network (PSN), Qriocity (another online network provider) and Sony Online Entertainment, which Sony stores and maintains on its network. After the security debacle, Sony offered protection for a year to its users via an identity-theft watchdog. And while many may consider consoles to be in their twilight as the preferred gaming platform, this case highlights a different hot topic going forward — online privacy and security. As of Jan. 25, 2011, PSN, had more than 69 million...

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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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