Author: Valerie Roque

This infringement claim deemed expendable

The Expendables is a “gunfire-riddled ‘pure action flick’ ” straight out of the 1980’s with its many explosions, gunfights and fellas with bulging biceps littered with tattoos and skulls. And, oh, yes, the tough guys in this movie are maybe a bit mossy, too: Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Jet Lei, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis and Jean Claude Van Damme. They’re supposed to be hard-bitten mercenaries, taking names and whooping on foes as a rock soundtrack throbs in the background. And how is this all substantially similar to a film plot with tough women, horseback galavanting in Latin America and characters who use their smarts to pull off a nifty crime? Not at all, said the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, as it upheld a federal district court’s tossing Marcus Webb’s claims of copyright infringment against Stallone and others over the screenplay for The Cordoba Caper. The appellate court said that Webb, to establish infringement, had to prove:  “(1) ownership of a valid copyright, and (2) copying of constituent elements of the work that are original.”  To show copying had occurred, he had to prove:  (1) actual copying of his work by the defendant and (2) that such copying equaled an improper appropriation of the Webb’s work. To demonstrate improper appropriation, Webb had to demonstrate “substantial similarity.”  When reviewing substantial similarity, the court compared “the contested design’s...

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Alum helps keep order in Judge Judy’s court

“This is my courtroom, I can say what I want.  When you become a judge, we will talk.” That’s a familiar remonstration from Her Honor, Judge Judy Sheindlen. She, of course, is television’s highest paid celebrity jurist, who reportedly grosses 184 percent more than the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. She also relies on a surprising legal authority to help bring order to her courtroom: Amy Freisleben,  a 1984 Southwestern Law School graduate. Freislenben, at a recent campus appearance, said her rise to broadcasting’s top ranks, as Executive in Charge of Production on Judge Judy, happened by chance.  “I was at the right place, at the right time,” she said when sharing her story and experiences with students. When Freisleben graduated from Southwestern, she had never taken an Entertainment Law class, and, in her day, she recalled, the only such course offered was taught by the late pioneering educator and practitioner for whom the Donald E. Biederman Media and Law Institute is named. She said she never imagined a career  in the entertainment industry, and, instead, was focused on litigation, especially after she interned at Sedgwick LLP, the international litigation and business law firm, originally founded in San Francisco and with offices in Downtown Los Angeles.  With that  internship successfully completed, she landed a job at Sedgwick as an associate in general business litigation.  Freisleben, who has worked...

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EU investigates Hollywood’s TV exclusives

Winter is coming! exclaimed Amedia, a Russian film company that signed a five-year output deal with HBO, giving it exclusive rights to some of the most popular series of the U.S. cable network: Game of Thrones (which features a plot line involving ominous chaos in a snowy northern and frigid clime) Newsroom, Girls, True Blood and Boardwalk Empire. But trouble also may be brewing in international pay TV.  The European Union’s Antitrust Commission — which bared its fangs in a just-settled dispute with search engine giant Google — is opening an investigation into whether major U.S. film studios’ contract clauses and practice of granting exclusivity to content through online streaming and pay television violate the EU’s anti-competition laws. Studios — including 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., Sony, NBC Universal and Paramount — “license audiovisual content to pay-TV broadcasters” such as, BSkyB, France’s Canal Plus, Sky Italia, Sky Deutschland and Spain’s DTS, on an exclusive and territorial basis.  As reported by, in the Premiere League / Murphy cases, the Court of Justice held that exclusive television licensees of soccer matches  “killed both competition and the ongoing dream of a single EU market by creating division along member-state border lines.” And according to The Hollywood Reporter, “The provisions granting absolute territorial protection ensure that the films licensed by the U.S. studios are shown exclusively in the member state where each broadcaster operates...

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Timing’s decisive in a decade-long claim

Picture it: an escaped prison inmate assumes a new identity, only to learn his new persona is in deep trouble with ruthless, yet quirky mobsters.  Now flash to a story of a JAG investigator sent to discover  what happened when an American officer fired on civilians after they invaded the U.S. embassy in a Third World country.  And let’s end with a true tale of a family’s daring escape from Communist Hungry, the sacrifices they makes for a better life and the tough adjustments they must make when reunited.What do all of these plots and their films have in common?  They were at the core of the decade-long copyright claim involving  Seven Arts Entertainment and Paramount Pictures, a case recently slapped down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit  over timely ownership claims. More than three years before the case was filed, Seven Arts sent Paramount three cease and desist notices asserting lawful ownership to copyrights for Rules of Engagement, Who Is Cletus Tout? and An American Rhapsody.  Seven Arts demanded that it receive all royalty payments due.  However, as federal court would later underscore, Paramount “plainly and expressly repudiated” Seven Art’s copyright ownership by refusing to comply with its demand. Still, Seven Arts or its predecessor firms in interest, had trekked up and through an array of Canadian and U.S. courts, arguing their issues, starting...

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Why tiny TV antennas will get big legal review

In a time of year when the big stakes contest for many is the Superbowl and the NFL’s Richard Sherman seems to have garnered more online buzz than any Seahawk could stuff in its bill, the U.S. Supreme Court has said it would take up a case that holds potential to reshape another game, er, industry — that would be television broadcasting, of course. And it’s worth recapping American Broadcasting Companies Inc. v Aereo Inc. for this very reason of its much publicized significance. Barry Diller, the billionaire entertainment mogul, plays a Sherman-esque role in this matter, upsetting many in the business with his assertion that what his company terms a new technology can take-down some of the soaring costs of content access for Americans weary of a big monthly bill. If you’re keeping score in the legal contest, this also is a case where 2+9 doesn’t add up to 11 but rather a straight path to the high court to resolve conflicts between Aereo-related rulings in the Ninth and Second circuits. Let’s run the game-study tape:  Who are the parties? Aereo:  Chet Kanojia founded Aereo in 2012, with the support of Barry Diller, chairman of InterActive Corp and former co-founder of Fox network.  Aereo, which has won plaudits in some creative quarters where big broadcasters aren’t always beloved, says it uses tiny antennas to grab local broadcast stations’...

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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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