Month: September 2015

What’s up with drones in skies over Hollywood?

This guest post was written by Jason D. Knight, a Southwestern 2016 juris doctorate candidate. Hollywood was sky high just six months ago when federal regulators recognized the need to support the industry’s global leadership by allowing select firms to fly unmanned aerial systems, aka drones, to shoot movies. Regulators promised to follow quickly with new rules for all drones and their flights but the months since have only proven to be full of ups-and-downs for policy-makers trying to figure how to deal with this fast-growing and novel technology. It’s been nothing less than a bumpy ride, especially in the Golden State: Fire fighters battling record blazes have had to curtail their work due to illegal drone incursions; airports and commercial aviators are reporting illegal drone flights in regulated air space nationwide with frightening regularity; Los Angeles police say an illegal drone flight interfered with one of their investigations; and only the intervention of Gov. Jerry Brown’s veto has kept state lawmakers from stepping in a trying to impose their own rules about drone flights. Is this technology dangerous, innovative, useful, or a nuisance? What, in short, is up with drones now? Let’s take off with some key information about them….. Drones defined Yes, drones seem to be on everyone’s minds these days. Whether it is to mount a camera or survey a location, many in Hollywood and beyond...

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Queen of Soul takes on new role: doc blocker

This guest post was written by Sylvanna Le, a 2L enrolled in Southwestern Law School’s Entertainment Law and Web 2.0 course: She’s a papal headline performer and has been crowned by critics as the Queen of Soul. But did a federal judge in Colorado accord singer Aretha Franklin excessive r-e-s-p-e-c-t when he recently issued a court order blocking a noted film festival from screening a documentary about the Motown legend? Yes, the judge also enjoined the producer of the work, who has been in long running and unsuccessful negotiations with Franklin for permission to use her name and likeness. Now, however, concerns have been expressed that this dispute, which since has affected film festivals in Telluride, Colo., andToronto, and a potential showing in Los Angeles, has transformed into a potentially precedent-setting, First Amendment issue of prior restraint. It could pose a potential significant problem for those who screen movies at events and else wise. Although the parties have tried to step back from the legal cliff, it’s worth a deeper dive into this dispute. The background to the legal battle goes like this: Allan Elliot is a former music producer and UCLA professor who came into possession of the film seven years ago at the deathbed of its original director, the formidable Sydney Pollack. Pollack, an Oscar-winner who directed and produced more than 40 films, had shot Franklin giving an “unfiltered” performance in a...

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ICYMI (how?): ‘Happy birthday’ in public domain

As many analysts predicted, and as the net has abundantly noted, a federal judge has given everyone but Warner-Chappell a reason to celebrate, tossing out the music publishing giant’s copyright claim to one of the world’s most performed favorites, the Happy Birthday song. The ruling may  yet be appealed, and the plaintiffs say they will pursue damages over years of collected...

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Judge shuffles off T-shirt infringement claim

They don’t exactly trip off the tongue and their novelty already is suspect. But terse phrases such as Get it poppin, That’s what’s up, Fire in the hole, and You got the right one have been found by courts insufficiently original and distinctive for copyright protection. (See Prunte v. Universal Music Group 699 F. Supp 2d 15, 25-30 D.D.C. 2010) Now, a federal court in Miami has expanded this lexicon to include four more words in sequence: every day I’m hustlin. That phrase, U.S. District Court Judge Kathleen M. Willams found in a decidedly narrow ruling, cannot be copyrighted, and, therefore, rapper Ricky Ross cannot pursue infringement claims against defendant Stefan Gordy and others associated with the group LMFAO. They had slapped a similar phrase, every day I’m shufflin,  on a lucrative line of T-shirts and other merchandise, and Ross had claimed a copyright violation. Ricky Ross? Why, besides his musical ventures, is he a familiar name to those unfamiliar with the rap genre? The last time the blog visited his legal affairs, Ross, aka William Lenard Roberts II, had won an appellate scuffle over his nom de guerre with Ricky D. Ross, aka “Freeway Ricky Ross,” a notorious Los Angeles cocaine dealer. The battle with LMFAO Roberts-Ross, the combative former Florida corrections officer, achieved some financial and musical success, especially with his debut album, Port of Miami, featuring his hit, Hustlin. He soon, however, found...

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Is this a case of misplaced musical razzberries?

For entertainment law practitioners, politics and the political season isn’t just about getting inundated with information, along with most Americans, about The Donald, The Doctor, Hillary, or the Bern. It may turn, instead, into an angry call from a creative client, demanding that some kind of legal action be taken to stop someone or some group from using a composer’s music, a lyricist’s words, or a film maker’s or photographer’s images and visual-sound displays. So let’s see, so far the outraged creatives have included: members of the band Survivor, upset over use of their song, Eye of the Tiger at a rally for Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refuses to issues licenses so gay couples may be wed; musicians from R.E.M., angry at Donald Trump for using It’s the End of the World (as We Know It); and rocker Neil Young, blasting Trump, again, for Rockin in the Free World. Performance rights groups and licensing A tip of the hat to the Atlantic and Public Knowledge for pointing out that the artistic distress and distemper may be misplaced: If creatives and their copyrighted works are covered by the major performance rights organizations, aka ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC, rules exist for licensing and use of this intellectual property, and, notwithstanding political or philosophic objections, artists can’t easily cherry pick who gets to use the material. (Here are guidelines...

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