Author: Tiffany Smith

Why Pandora may be whistling a happy tune

Pandora, the internet radio station, has won a small victory in its recent licensing battles, with a federal court in Manhattan granting it summary judgment in its suit against one of the giant music rights organizations, the American Society of Composers and Performers. The ruling allows Pandora to keep playing all compositions in the ASCAP repertory. U.S. District Judge Denise Cote, in reaching her decision, had to interpret the anti-trust consent decree under which ASCAP has operated since 1941 and over which her court holds sway. Under her decision (posted online by the New York Times), publishers and their songwriters may not strike separate, market-driven deals with Pandora, if they  also are a member of a group like ASCAP that collects and pays them performance rights. Music publishers in recent years had started yanking their digital rights from ASCAP and the other big performance rights group, BMI — with the organizations’ assent — so they could negotiate directly with Pandora for more favorable deals, as occurred first with EMI and the largest player, Sony/ATV, which won a 25 percent higher rate in its new deal with the online streaming service. Pandora contended the performance rights groups and publishers had to stay all in — the digital rights could not be separated and ASCAP had to license to it. The result: less money for songwriters and lower rights fees and...

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‘Lively’ replay in dispute over Marley remix

Well, a federal court in Los Angeles may need to get up and stand up for a new music-related trial because the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has fought for the right of Rock River Communications Inc. to get reconsidered its claims against Universal Music Group Inc. over a remix of early recordings by reggae giant Bob Marley and the Wailers. The appellate court remanded this lawsuit, reversing the lower court’s dismissal of the case on summary judgment, partly because  U.S. Judge Raymond C. Fisher found a lack of clarity as to who exactly owns the rights to songs including Lively Up Yourself, which was featured in the soundtrack of the recent film Dear John. Rock River produces, sells and distributes music. In 2006, the firm entered into a licensing agreement with San Juan Music Group Ltd., which, in exchange for a fee, granted Rock River a nonexclusive license to “sample” or “interpolate” 16 Marley-Wailers songs. San Juan is a music licensing company. Since 1980, it had licensed Marley’s music under an agreement with Lee Perry, who produced many of the Jamaican legend’s early recordings. Rock River further entered into an agreement for a remixed version of  Lively Up Yourself. But Universal, the music industry behemoth, claimed it had bought exclusive licensing rights for Marley’s tunes from JAD Records in 2003. Universal began calling and writing...

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$1.35 million rebuke for TV streaming service

While the appellate courts can’t agree on the legality of streaming broadcaster Aereo, federal district courts have slapped around a similar enterprise: FilmOn,  owned by Coca-Cola heir Alki David. After a U.S. judge in Washington found the company likely violated the copyrights of Fox, CBS, NBC and ABC by retransmitting their shows online,  she issued a nationwide injunction against FilmOn. And now a different judge has  found the company violated a settlement and court order that resolved a copyright case against it. The TV networks say FilmOn breached that 2012 settlement, failing to pay in full what it owed for copyright violation, then continued to show networks’ protected videos. The company has been ordered to pay $1.35 million for refusing to comply with court rulings. FilmOn, which has said that tax issues kept it from paying more than the quarter-million or so it already has ponied up in connection with this case,  has defended itself by asserting that Fox breached the settlement agreement by sending notice of the internet TV service’s claimed copyright violations to businesses (Apple, Google, and Microsoft), all the while knowing that the antenna-based, individualized and on-demand technology used in this net streaming it terms legal. Alas, for FilmOn, the courts haven’t settled this issue and David’s approach only has complicated the legal situation for Aereo, founded by media mogul David Geffen and others. Consumers, of...

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As foes fight condom law, HIV halts X filming

For clients and counsel alike, even the most solidly advanced legal argument suddenly can find itself fighting its way upstream due to unforeseen circumstances occurring outside court. Take the case of the adult film industry and its recent appeal of a U.S. District Court’s upholding of a Los Angeles County requirement that male porn performers wear condoms during XXX-rated filming. Who knew that, even as Los Angeles-based Vivid Entertainment  sought to overturn that finding, the whole naughty-movie industry would be grappling with not one, not two, but three and possibly four highly publicized instances in which actors or actresses have tested positive for AIDS-causing HIV infections? This, in turn, has prompted the industry itself to declare a weekend filming moratorium, the second in roughly a month. The timing of the actors’ HIV-positive diagnoses couldn’t be more challenging, in legal terms,  for those who are battling advocates of the county condom law, which proponents term a prophylactic measure necessary for public health and safety reasons. Porn proponents, of course, disagree, arguing that requiring condoms on specified sets and under targeted circumstances harms business. They say it is unnecessary because XXX performers undergo regular testing. And they say they’re battling the law because it is a rare and unconstitutional intrusion into movie-making, as it violates performer’s First Amendment rights to express themselves. To proponents of Measure B, dubbed the “Los Angeles...

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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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