Author: Justin Jennings

‘Bad Girl’ defeats, decisively, infringement claim

When a Club Girl became a Bad Girl, a songwriter got in a delayed huff. But he and his lawyer ignored a fundamental aspect of copyright law, a legal point on which an appellate court just offered a pointed reminder: “co-authors of a joint work are each entitled to undivided ownership and the joint owner of a copyright cannot sue his co-owner for infringement.” That’s why crooner Usher Raymond is sitting prettier than ever as his 2004 derivative hit, Bad Girl, has won a decisive victory over an attack on it, with a ruling from the the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. U.S. Chief Judge Theodore A. Mckee wrote the decision on behalf of the three-judge panel, which included U.S. Circuit Judges D. Michael Fisher and Joseph A. Greenaway Jr. They not only sent packing Daniel V. Marino, a co-writer  of Club Girl, a tune from which Usher’s successful record was derived, they also upheld sanctions against his counsel. What happened? A district court rebuke Marino appealed a summary judgement against his case by U.S. District Judge Paul S. Diamond, who tossed his suit against Usher and 19 other co-defendants, including some major record labels. The defendants also included William Guice and Dante Barton, who assisted in creating Club Girl and held with him its copyright. Marino claimed in his suit that he alone came up...

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Appellate court gives boot to video game claims

If plaintiffs aren’t clever enough to present the courts with the basics, notably the materials that they assert that others exploited and owe them money for, then judges have no choice but to dismiss their royalties and copyright infringement claims, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has reminded a complaining party smart enough to help create a best-selling video game. Unfortunately for Robin Antonick, the appellate judges recently blocked his attempt to recover royalties from Electronic Arts Inc. for his claimed work on the industry giant’s top-selling product, the John Madden Football video game. Antonick was...

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Podcasts? Here are 3 on entertainment law

If you’re looking for a way to stay up to date in easy, convenient fashion with key developments in entertainment and media law, why not try a novel, different technology: Podcasts, which hit big in the early 2000s then seemed to fade a decade or so later, have reemerged to become all the rage again. We’re talking Serial, This American Life, Fresh Air, and the many offerings available through National Public Radio and Apple. There also are at least a trio of Entertainment Law podcasts worth considering for some reasons described below: It’s a subjective call, and there may...

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U.S. magistrate: Toss suit against Bieber, Usher

The superstars of the surprising and problematic Virginia lawsuit, of course, would be Justin Bieber and Usher Raymond. But for court scorekeepers, a copyright case brought by aspiring songsters Devon Copeland and his cousin Mareio Overton over the tune Somebody to Love has turned now into a judicial headcount: Let’s tally it as three appellate judges versus a federal district court judge and a federal magistrate. This latest development has occurred as U.S. Magistrate Douglas E. Miller, acting as fact-finder, has recommended to U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen that she again dismiss the suit by the cousins seeking $10 million in damages from the Beebs and Usher. Copeland Overton claim the pop heavies infringed on their little heard song with their chart topper. Wright Allen earlier had tried to toss the case but was, curiously, overruled by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, where three appellate jurists somehow heard sufficient similarities in the two songs to reverse and remand. Miller since has reviewed the evidence, and, on some critical issues, wrote in findings issued on Nov. 14 that Copeland simply presented no evidence that any of the defendants in the case ever had access to his song. He has recommended the federal district court dismiss the case on summary judgment, as requested by the superstar duo. Further, though the appellate judges ruled that a reasonable jury...

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Hollywood tamps down a tobacco challenge

A federal judge in San Francisco has snuffed out a California dad’s attempt to force Hollywood to give R ratings to protect children from seeing movies that depict what he says is the deadly habit of smoking. But the health challenge, quashed for now as a First Amendment protection for the film industry, still smolders. An R rating for movies with smoking? Timothy Forsyth, a father of two youngsters, ages 12 and 13, went to court carrying a message for product-placement conscious filmmakers: Smokers don’t grow old, they die young. But his lawsuit over ratings for movies showing smoking...

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