Month: August 2012

Credit where due: finding fun in disclaimers

Sitting through that crawl of credits that concludes a movie — clapping, perhaps, in recognition of  a friend’s name —  is an idiosyncratic ritual of Los Angeles life for many, like turning left on red or anointing highways with that definitive article “the” (e.g. the 101) or praying for an earlier Southwest flight out of Las Vegas on a Sunday morning. Even legal language gets transformed in this industry town, elevated and burned into popular consciousness, as has occurred with the American Humane Association’s trademarked, 75-year-old end- disclaimer “No animals were harmed…” So how burned into our collective brains have certain turns of law become — maybe sufficiently so they readily can be mocked, as Twentieth Century Fox did with its 2006 warning at the end of Borat:  “Selling piratings of this movie disc will result in punishment by crushing.” For a little legal levity, credit’s surely due to the Hollywood Reporter for its creative collection of the “Top 10 Legal Disclaimers in Hollywood.” Graphic by...

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Appellate court withers ivi streaming claim

Broadcasters were delighted when ivi Inc., which streamed broadcast television programming live and for-profit over the Internet without consent, got slapped down by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld an order from a lower court in New York barring the firm’s actions.  The company had claimed that it qualified as a cable system under §111 of the Copyright Act and argued it could circumvent broadcasters’  exclusive rights to authorize public display of their protected content under a statutory exception allowing cable systems to retransmit signals of copyrighted programs to subscribers provided that they paid a royalty fee of roughly $100 a year. At issue in the Aug. 27 ruling by Judge Denny Chin was whether ivi, Inc. could be considered a cable system under §111 of the Copyright Act, so it could defend itself against these claims of copyright infringement and qualify for a compulsory license.  A two-prong test to determine if an Internet service could be considered a cable system was used in Chevron USA, Inc.  v. Natural Res. Def. Council Inc.  First, the court looks to see if the the statutory text of §111 is ambiguous, and if it were, a court then reviews legislative history in context.  The Second Circuit found the statutory text ambiguous, and through review of  legislative history, determined the measure was intended to support local rather than nationwide systems. The judge noted, “Congress has not codified a statutory provision for Internet retransmissions, nor has...

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Can talent act rein in sweeping `360′ deals?

Musicians who want to avoid or to get themselves out of a “360 Deal” (an agreement to share ancillary revenues with their labels) may find help in a novel legal challenge — asserting that their label violates California’s Talent Agencies Act. As  aspects of these type of deals in the industry also creep in to TV talent development, this challenge,  if successful, also may prove attractive in the lucrative lifestyle-personality area.The Problem: Unhappy artists Adam Levine is the lead singer of Maroon 5, a top 40 band with staying power for a decade now.  Since 2011, he also has been starred as a coach on NBC’s prime time hit show “The Voice,” and, as such, has became a prime example of a musical talent who generates big money from multiple sources beyond his recordings, He’s the prototype of the multiplatform artist a smart label would want to tie up, legally, in an overall deal. That’s unlikely, as he recently came out swinging against the labels’ goal to make these deals an industry standard. After winning the inaugural laurels last fall at the American Music Awards on ABC, he demurred from providing the assembled media — including me — the standard, bland sound bite backstage, launching, instead, into a lecture for young artists: “Don’t let (the labels) take your merchandise or touring,” he said emphatically. “It’s called a ‘360 deal’...

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A realist’s look at entertainment law practice

“Representing people and businesses in entertainment might seem a glamorous pursuit, but in reality, it’s a hard-edged business involving large sums of money and people with tremendous egos.” – L.A. entertainment attorney Gordon Firemark. As the  top 10 entertainment law schools welcome the Class of 2015 as 1L’s this month, Firemark’s quick and evenhanded primer “What does an Entertainment Lawyer Do?” serves up both the perks and pedestrian aspects of a crowded field — and far better than the wordy wiki on the same topic While 1L’s aspiring to entertainment careers already have committed to law school, this piece may also serve law school applicants and lawyers in other areas looking to segue in to an entertainment practice. It surely provides a truer portrayal of the day-by-day labors of those in the business who don’t lead lives of high drama, ala outsized, fictional super agent Ari Gold (as pictured, played by Jeremy Piven), Firemark emphasizes broad legal competency that goes beyond counseling clients amidst designer furniture. Photo by IGN.com/Courtesy of...

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Precedent weighs against suits on film violence

While the television and movie industries have long profited from and struggled with the issue of graphic depictions of violence, the legal issue is more settled as to plaintiffs’ attempts to tie what occurs on screen to what happens off. And this resolution at law not only sets the bar but legally may bar a key kind of litigation that follows in the aftermath of tragedies like the Aurora, Colo., mass shooting-homicide. Even as litigation may be under discussion or filings on behalf of victims may occur, author  Kareem Raheem bluntly has explained  in the Independent as to why prospective litigants “are wasting their time.” He provides for his British audience a tight primer on studio-friendly tort liability defense precedents and why the law is squarely on “The Dark Knight Rises” studio Warner Bros’ side. Warner Bros., parent company Time Warner Inc.,  was a named as a defendant in three key precedents where plaintiffs claimed that on-screen movie violence incited off-screen violence. These cases stemmed from: a video game “Doom” (Sanders v. Acclaim Entertainment, Inc. 188 F. Supp. 2d 1264, a claim brought by families of Columbine victims); a movie, “Natural Born Killers” (Byers v. Edmonson, 826 So. 2d 551, brought by the victim of a convenience store armed robbery); and a book-movie, “The Basketball Diaries,” which depicted a deadly school shooting (James v. Meow Media, Inc. 300 F....

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