Month: July 2015

For FilmOn, a sudden, clear, positive legal signal

Online television services have advanced potentially a half step with the recent ruling favoring plaintiff FilmOn, an on-demand enterprise that attracted a lot of attention as part of broader, highly publicized cases involving new technologies. U.S. District Judge George Wu issued his preliminary ruling, finding that, if online television services like FilmOn are subject to the same copyright rules as traditional broadcast stations, then they should be allowed the same compulsory license rights under the Copyright Act. FilmOn up until now had been tangled up in last year’s much-watched U.S. Supreme Court decision involving Aereo. In that case, the justices decided that online television services were subject to the same copyright rules as over-the-air broadcasters, notwithstanding the elaborate technology arguments–what will lawyers do without figuring whether thousands of tiny antennae really are part of a content pipeline?–made by powerhouse counsel for entertainment mogul Barry Diller, Aereo’s financier and chief advocate. As the saying goes, if you’re going to give me all the responsibilities of an adult, then give me all the freedoms of an adult. (Or maybe that’s just what I use to tell my dad?) If online services were found to violate the Copyright Act’s transmit clause the same way that over-the-air broadcast programs can, then they should be awarded the same §111 license that cable and other broadcasters may obtain. Right? The case,  Wu noted, has won such attention and possesses such complexity,...

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Q.-&-A.: Bert Fields on post-mortem rights

When legendary Entertainment lawyer Bert Fields recently addressed the Harvard Law Association at the Beverly Hills Bar, he, of course, brought down the house, delighting his audience with his comments on an array of topics. His views on a particular subject resonated for the editors of this blog, because it has arisen in posts before (see here and here): Are there legal rights that need protecting for deceased entertainers? Fields was kind enough to answer a few questions posed by email by Biederman Blog Editorial Board member Jessica Villar regarding this topic: Question—When you spoke recently to the Beverly Hills Bar, you mentioned new kinds of entertainers’ rights, particularly as these might apply to their post-mortem performances as what you called synthespians. Were you specifically addressing the advent of holographic characters performing entertainers’ known works in shows? Or are there other technologies you had in mind? Answer—I was talking about buying the rights of living performers to use their computer generated images to make new movies or perform in new concerts when they’re too old to do so or after their deaths.  Synthespians are a stage later.  They are computer generated actors and performers who will appear human, but are not.  They never die and when the audience tires of them, we create new ones. Q.—Are synthespians’ rights a big and new potential area of Entertainment Law or are they...

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Individual copyright claims in films? Nope.

It took a year, two U.S. District Court judges, eleven judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, two judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and officials from the U.S. Copyright office. But, finally, a long-standing copyright standard in film making has been restored, and, at least for now, the legal view, again, is that individuals who are involved in the making of a finished movie may not assert that they have a separate, stand-alone infringement claim. This stance, of course, not only got a powerful recent en banc ruling in the appellate courts that oversee Los Angeles, the movie-making capital of the world, it also was affirmed by the appeals judges who oversee the nation’s other entertainment hub: New York. So for now, Google and its mighty YouTube subsidiary needn’t yank a video that caused a global firestorm and the makers of the movie Heads Up will be headed for further court proceedings. How did both go round to get back to what many in the industry have seen as an important copyright standard? In Los Angeles, a controversial film, a hotly disputed appellate ruling, an en banc reversal As this blog has recorded (here and here), actress Cindy Lee Garcia found herself on a hot world stage when a minor production she played a tiny part in blew up over...

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With infringement claims, appellate discord

Location, location, location. It matters not just in real estate but also for a legal venue, as creative artists Devin Copeland and Mareio Overton were reminded when a federal appellate court overturned a lower court’s dismissal of their case against pop stars Usher, Justin Bieber, (shown in video above) and others, asserting copyright infringement with the pop hit Somebody to Love. Now fans, composers, lyricists, musicians, and other performers may not find this music to their ears: But the Copeland-Overton-Usher-Bieber case provides a sound illustration of let’s call it jurisdictional discord, with appellate judges in scattered parts of the country ruling off of different, um, scores. Take note, please, that judges have their ears open for some different things when creatives pursue legal claims and this may result for them in judicial harmony or cacophony. Legal overture Copeland and Overton had recorded and copyrighted their song in 2008, and then they shopped out the demo. That demo found its way to Usher, who went on to record his own three versions of Somebody to Love, two with Bieber; one of the Usher-Biebs versions made Billboard’s Top 100, coming in at 15. All three launched a suit from Copeland and Overton. A federal district court originally granted a motion to dismiss by counsel for Usher and Bierber, with the judge finding that no reasonable jury could find the works sufficiently similar. The judge said the...

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