Author: Sean Goodman

Court tosses suit over Sir Elton John tune

Nikita, Natasha, in this instance, it doesn’t matter: U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve in Chicago has tossed out an Australian free-lance photojournalist’s lawsuit against the famous songwriting duo of Sir Elton John and lyricist Berni Taupin, as well as music publisher Big Pig Music. The court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss, saying plaintiff Guy Hobbs failed to state a claim pursuant to section 12(b)6 of the federal code of civil procedure. Hobbs had complained to John since 2001 that the noted entertainer had used his lyrics without permission. Hobbs sued in April, 2012, asserting violation of title 17 section 101 of the 1976 copyright act, as well as supplemental state law claims — constructive trust and accounting. Defendants had not moved to dismiss Hobbs’ complaint as untimely, though the statute of limitations for copyright infringement is three years from the date the plaintiff discovers or should have discovered the infringement. Instead,  defendants asked the court to consider if the two sets of lyrics were substantially similar for purposes of copyright infringement. The Seventh Circuit recently simplified the test to whether “the two works share enough unique features to give rise to a breach of the duty not to copy another’s work.” Peters, 692 F.3d at 633-34. “The test for substantial similarity is an objective one.” JCW Inv., Inc. v. Novelty, Inc., 482 F.3d 910, 916 (7th Cir. 2007). The court put Hobbs’...

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AMC-Dish case turns to settlement, with a twist

Cablevision and AMC Networks have settled their lawsuit with Dish Network. Here are the terms: Dish pays $700 million; AMC and Dish enter into a long-term deal bringing back AMC channels to Dish; Dish gets spectrum licenses for video and data distribution to 45 metropolitan areas in the U.S. Plaintiffs sought damages, asserting that Dish had breached an affiliate agreement by terminating AMC’s Voom HD Network in 2008. The case veered after a preliminary ruling in which the judge in the case decided to tell jurors that Dish “destroyed potentially critical evidence in the case.” The judge told jurors they could infer that the evidence “would have been unfavorable to Dish” and he did not approve any the three witnesses for which Dish had sought expert designation. Pending execution of the joint stipulation to judgment, the case eventually will be dismissed without prejudice. The lawsuit was filed in the Supreme Court in New York. Josh Sapan, president and CEO, AMC Networks, observed after the ruling: “We are glad to partner again with DISH Network and are delighted to bring back our popular channels and programming to their customers.”  The channels should be back on Dish Network. The part of the settlement that may be less obvious: Dish will pay $80 million as part of the $700-million settlement for 45 spectrum licenses.  The 500 MHz of wireless spectrum acquired by...

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Appeals court backs city curb on star billboards

So you’re an entertainment lawyer with a client who is big. Like really big. Like so huge that the star team decides a sizable and suitable way to promote this celebrity is to go wall-sized. Billboard large. As is happening in downtown Los Angeles, the Westside, West Hollywood and Beverly Hills. The only problem is the city of Los Angeles has a smaller view of what’s permissible in outdoor display. And your case runs all the way up to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. And so what happens to that planned splash display of omnipresent broadcast host Ryan Seacrest? The appellate court has decided to uphold the District Court in this case related to speech, billboards and the governments’ ability to regulate in the interests of safety.  Wayne Charles sued the city of Los Angeles for a declaration that his billboard, featuring Seacrest as host of E! News, and other billboards, were exempt from city signage ordinances because the planned displays, they claimed were noncommercial, protected speech. Sorry, not, said the appellate court, which ruled on Oct. 15: the Constitution doesn’t protect a Seacrest billboard; that LA can refuse to permit certain kinds of signs in the interests of traffic safety or aesthetics. Charles claimed his signs would display content related to motion pictures, theatrical productions, television and radio programming, music, books, newspapers, paintings and...

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Race bias claim dismissed against ‘Bachelor’

Motion granted and case dismissed:  A producer’s creative control over casting on popular television show, “The Bachelor,” was challenged in a U.S. District Court in Tennessee earlier this year on the basis of racial discrimination (thanks to E! online for a copy of the complaint). The plaintiffs, who had auditioned for the show but didn’t fit within the producer’s vision, sued defendants ABC and Warner Horizon Television, alleging they didn’t get the role because they were African Americans.  The basis for their claim was that the defendants violated anti-discrimination laws and the civil rights act, refusing to contract with the plaintiffs because of their race. But a federal judge on Oct. 15 agreed with the defendants’ First Amendment free speech argument and dismissed the lawsuit.  ABC and Warner Horizon Television argued that casting decisions are essential to an entertainment show’s creative content and that any forced alteration in the end product would be a content regulation. U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger said: “In this respect, casting and the resulting work of entertainment are inseparable and must both be protected to ensure that the producers’ freedom of speech is not abridged.” Standards of constitutional review for First Amendment matters vary depending upon the type of regulation.  Content-based regulations affecting speech face strict scrutiny and rarely pass constitutional muster.  This ruling, if appealed and sustained, has novelty in that it deals with the...

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Exec sees YouTube in high-gear on content

The online content explosion potentially will affect the practice of entertainment law in numerous ways such as talent recruitment, promotion, distribution, privacy, copyright, publicity, digital music, internet radio … the list goes on. And racing to the fore of the future, for now, in this technology is YouTube, a content giant with the backing of a tech behemoth (Google). So whenever there’s a chance to sneak any insight into where matters are headed from YouTube executives, well, that’s what brings us quick to Peter Kafka and his recent Q-and-A with Robert Kyncl. He’s YouTube Channel Guide, the strategist who wants to expand what started as a wooly collection of amateur videos into a premier content destination. In the interview  (read it here), Kyncl draws an analogy between YouTube’s strategic business plan to a stick-shift car, which he says is zooming along, “and in the U.S., we decided to go into Gear Three. That’s where we’re putting money at risk to catalyze the creative community — both existing partners and new — to create many new channels, new programming brands.” After YouTube launched with its key innovation — allowing users easily to upload their videos — it since has monetized with advertising and sponsorships. Now it’s funding its own programming, like a television or film studio. Kyncl joined YouTube two or so years ago and came up with the channel...

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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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