Month: November 2015

Duude, parody serves as ‘sword’ in drama appeal

This guest post was contributed by Travis J. Sabaiti, a J.D. candidate in the Southwestern Entertainment Law and Web 2.0 Fall, 2015, class: When two funny friends in New York decide to riff in a theatrical production, Point Break LIVE!, on Point Break, a surfer-detective film that many critics found to be more than a few waves on the side of awful, comedy ensued. For awhile. But the legal tangle that then followed after the comic duo had a falling out required the judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to unsnarl. Before anyone cues a laugh track over this case’s conclusion, Entertainment Law practitioners well-versed in copyright might want to look again at this case and see if it changes conventional wisdom about protections for parody. Point Break LIVE! is a stage parody of the 90’s surfer-action movie. The theatrical show is intentionally bad, substituting ocean waves for water guns and replacing Keanu Reeves’ character from the original movie with a random audience member. Jamie Keeling and Eve Hars, the duo behind the spoof, had a falling out, and when Hars continued to put on the play, Keeling filed for copyright protection of the parody production. She then sued Hars for copyright infringement. Hars countered that the work was an “unauthorized derivative work,” which was merely protected by fair use, and, therefore, not actually suitable for copyright...

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In Paris, a paltry deterrent for film infringement

This guest post is by Ravyn O’Neal, a member of the Fall ’15, Southwestern Entertainment Law and Web 2.0 class. If copyright laws seek to prevent unauthorized lifting of an artist’s intellectual property, what should cineastes make of a recent French court ruling in a copyright dispute involving filmmaker Luc Besson? The court found he infringed on the copyright of a 1980s American classic, Escape From New York, when Besson remade it in 2012 as sci-fi thriller Lockout. The ABA Journal noted that as soon as the new film was screened critics noticed similarities to its predecessor. John Carpenter, Escape’s director and an acknowledged horror flick master, sued the makers of the 2012 film, arguing the similarities between the two works were overwhelming. The court agreed, saying, “Both presented an athletic, rebellious and cynical hero, sentenced to a period of isolated incarceration — despite his heroic past — who is given the offer of setting out to free the President of the United States or his daughter held hostage in exchange for his freedom.” The judge also noted that the hero in both films “manages, undetected, to get inside the place where the hostage is being held, after a flight in a glider/space shuttle, and finds there a former associate who dies; he pulls off the mission in extremis, and at the end of the film keeps the secret documents recovered in the course of the mission.” But...

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ICYMI: Jay-Z, Beyonce, and a songwriter’s family win; for $90 million, Pandora settles pre-’72 rights-licensing dispute

It’s not true that the dog chewed up the homework or that a gremlin got into the server. Although a technical snafu or two may have kept the blog dark for a short period, let’s catch up with an ICYMI post that covers, courtesy of members of Southewestern’s Entertainment Law and Web 2.0 class members (as noted): Santa Claus is Coming to Town and how a music publishing giant lost rights to a holiday standard. (Mary P. Ray) Pandora’s decision to settle with artists over pre-1972 recordings. (Aris Shatteen) Jay-Z’s win in a long-running copyright battle with the heir of an Egyptian composer over the song Big Pimpin — on the same day that his wife, Beyonce, triumphs in an unrelated suit against her over the tune XO. (Ravyn O’Neal) It’s merry, merry for one songwriter’s family The rights to “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” once belonged to EMI Feist Catalog. But starting in 2016, the rights will revert back to the heirs of the songwriter J. Fred Coots, who co-wrote the tune with Haven Gillespie in 1934. EMI had claimed it owned the rights until 2029 and had defeated the family in 2012 in a Manhattan federal court decision. But the U.S. Court of Appeals reversed the lower court and upheld the family’s claims to the holiday standard. Coot’s family’s attorney Thomas K. Landry, praising the appellate court’s efforts...

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