Month: September 2011

Breaking into music law? Here’s expert advice

A panel of distinguished experts in music law shared their experiences and offered counsel at Southwestern Law School this week to students who aim to practice in this specialty. Charles J. Biederman, author of the “Law and Business of Entertainment” (shown at right)  and board member of the Biederman Entertainment Law Institute, led the discussion with a series of questions and answers with Gary Fine, a music industry contracts professor, and David Helfant, CEO and president of Arpeggio Entertainment LLC.  Here’s a summary of some of their key, helpful points: Put yourself out there. With the intense competition in music law, the best thing aspirants can do is just “get in.”  Take a job — any job — that lets you meet and work with industry professionals; build relationships and network. Each introduction and each successfully executed task and encounter gets you closer to the top, advised the panelists, including Helfant (shown at right).  No practitioner, and especially student-novices, can adopt the notion, especially in the present rotten economy, that “I’m too good for this job.” Be Strategic. Cast a wide net, don’t just limit yourself to a specific area. Other areas of entertainment law, such as film, can intersect with music law. Student Memberships. The recording academy and bar associations — notably, the panelists said, the Beverly Hills Bar Association — provide a great way to meet other...

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NJ judge tosses star QB’s videogame suit

In this guest post, Jasleen Ahuja, a student in the Entertainment Law and Web 2.0 miniterm class, updates one in a series of lawsuits by onetime collegiate athletes against videogame companies that use their likenesses in their products: U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson in New Jersey recently dismissed a lawsuit by former Rutgers star quarterback Ryan Hart against Electronic Arts. He had argued in Hart v. Electronic Arts Inc et al that the video game maker used his name and likeness without permission.  Wolfson decided that EA’s right to free speech outweighed his right to control the use of his name and likeness. This is one of several cases filed by onetime NCAA athletes challenging how college athletics controls the rights to their identities. The U.S. Supreme Court, of course, sent a powerful signal of a kind when it recently ruled that videogames are a protected form of free speech, overturning a California law, passed in 2005 but never enacted, which would have fined retailers up to $1,000 for selling violent games to minors. The New Jersey ruling squares with this precedent. The district court also employed the transformative test of copyright law in its ruling, finding that changes to a copyrighted work may qualify as fair use.  In Kelly v. Ariba Soft and Perfect 10 v. Google,  courts held that creation and use of thumbnails, allowing for easy...

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Gaga fan site wins against Fame Monster

Ms. Stefani Germanotta, aka Lady Gaga, has just lost a legal dispute over the domain name LadyGaga.org, a fan site created by the Respondent, oranges arecool XD.  Lady Gaga in August had submitted a complaint to the National Arbitration Forum alleging that the Respondent registered the website ladygaga.org in bad faith and in violation of her trademark. A series of claims and additional submissions followed: Lady Gaga’s Claims Respondent registered the domain name with actual knowledge of complainant’s career and with intent to capitalize on her career Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the domain name The domain name is identical in sight, sound, and meaning to Lady Gaga’s trademark and circumstances surrounding registration of the disputed domain name “amply establish registration in bad faith” Respondent is competing with Complainant and preventing her ability to promote herself Complainant had established her common law rights in and to her name prior to Respondent’s illegal registration of it as a domain name Complainant has registered LadyGaga.com 2 years before Respondent’s site Respondent’s Contentions The disputed domain name resolves to a noncommercial, unofficial fan site for Lady Gaga The web site “does not have any sponsored links or links to third-party websites which market and sell merchandise bearing Complainant’s trademark.” She is making a legitimate, noncommercial fair use of subject domain name, without any intent for commercial gain to misleadingly divert...

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Fake Louis Vuitton items cost web host $10.8M

Legal teams for luxury brand goods have devoted much of their energy to fighting counterfeit goods, both in the brick-and-mortar world and in cyberspace.  The internet has made this battle difficult as access to consumers has grown easier.  Courts, still, have maneuvered through technological advances and “digital Fonovisa” type cases, developing and applying the doctrine of contributory infringement to online counterfeiters. In a recent U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Louis Vuitton Malletier SA v. Akanoc Solutions Inc., appellate Judge Ronald M. Gould affirmed the district court finding for Louis Vuitton, holding the online web host, Akanoc Solutions, MSG, and Steven Chen liable for contributory infringement of 13 of the plaintiff’s trademarks and two of its copyrights. The appellate court remanded the case with instructions that its reduced damage award be put in effect — $10.5 million for contributory trademark infringement and $300,000 for contributory copyright infringement. In late 2006, Louis Vuitton discovered a number of websites selling goods it believed infringed its copyrights and trademarks.  After investigation, plaintiff determined the websites were hosted by Akanoc and MSG. Steven Chen managed the web hosting businesses. Its structure was such that MSG would lease servers, bandwidth and some IP addresses to Akanoc, which, in turn, operated the servers and otherwise ran the business.  Akanoc leased packages of server space, bandwidth and IP addresses to customers, some of which were...

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Lotto gimmick a costly bust for Idol, Deal

American Idol and Deal or No Deal seem to possess the Midas touch — except when it comes to texting.  Since 2007, NBC Universal, Fox Broadcasting companies and other media production companies have fought a class-action lawsuit claiming they conducted an illegal lottery under California Penal Code § 319. They also were accused of violating California’s unfair business practices law, Cal Bus. & Prof.Code § 17200.  After a federal district court denied defendants’ motion to dismiss consolidated, punitive class actions, the defendants  appealed to the U.S.  Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, only to have the case remanded to the district courts. The defendants finally settled earlier this month. So what got the TV shows in so much trouble? During broadcasts of the two hit shows, viewers could participate in two cash giveaways. In American Idol, they were presented with a trivia question. In Deal or No Deal, they were shown briefcases and were asked to pick one corresponding to a winning number. In both games, they were to submit answers via SMS text for a 99-cent fee, or free via the internet. Viewers could submit up to 10 entries; each correct submission entered the viewer  in a drawing, whose winner was chosen at random. Under California Penal Code §319, an illegal lottery has three elements: (1) distribution of a prize, (2) based on chance, (3) to an individual who...

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