Author: Kim Jackson

A studio victory on distribution of vintage films

The appellate division of the Supreme Court of New York has determined that Paramount Pictures has distribution rights to 16 vintage movies, despite the claims by Richard Feiner & Co. Inc. that it owns the exclusive rights in certain markets. In 1986, the New York company Richard Feiner & Co. sold the rights to exploit 16 feature-length films produced in the 1940s and 1950s to Republic Pictures for almost $2.5 million.  In the contract, Feiner was to retain and the rights to show the movies markets where it currently had existing licenses, which included New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and 18 other others.  Feiner claimed that in 2007, Paramount–which took over Republic’s rights to the films — had violated the contract by showing the works on American Movie Classics and Turner Classic Movies TV in the plaintiff’s selected markets.  Paramount did not dispute the airings, but argued that it had not collected any royalties on the airing of the films from June, 2001, to May, 2010. The lower court had denied Paramount’s motion for summary judgment, ruling that there was an issue of material fact as to whether Paramount’s national cable licenses violate Feiner’s local broadcast licenses.  But the First Department New York Appellate Division ruled that Paramount’s evidence is sufficient to have Feiner’s claim dismissed.  Feiner claimed that, under the agreement, it retained not only the rights in...

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Court curbs claims from net live-streaming

In an important victory for those concerned with maintaining Safe Harbor protections on the Internet, online streaming site Justin.tv won a partial dismissal of trademark claims and full dismissal of Communications Act claims that were brought against it by Zuffa LLC. The U.S. District Court in Nevada, citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion in Dastar v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., dismissed plaintiff Zuffa LLC’s claims for infringement of its “octagon” fighting-arena design mark. The court found the trademark to be an inherent part of a streaming mixed martial arts video in which it was displayed and expressed concern that enforcing Zuffa’s rights in a mark, displayed as an inherent part of a copyrighted broadcast, would run afoul of the rule of Dastar.  It bars trademark protection for copyrightable works and held that the Communications Act did not apply to defendant’s purported conduct. Defendant Justin.tv operates a website that allows users to stream or broadcast live video across the internet to other Justin.tv users, akin to YouTube or Vimeo but for live rather than prerecorded video. Zuffa, LLC, which operates and does business as the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), owns trademarks, including Ultimate Fighting Championship, UFC and the “Octagon” (the eight-sided ring in which UFC mixed martial arts bouts take place). Plaintiff often broadcasts its copyrighted bouts on television, particularly pay-per-view. Plaintiff sued defendant based on the live-streaming of a UFC fight through Justin.tv’s service,...

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Q-&-A: Theater law, with Gordon Firemark

The community of lawyers in the U.S. who specialize in Theater Law is small.  Gordon Firemark is one of those few. His practice focuses on representation of artists, writers, producers and directors in theater, film, television and music. He also deals with intellectual property, cyberspace, new media and business-corporate matters for entertainment industry clients. The publisher of Entertainment Law Update, a podcast for artists and professionals in entertainment, Firemark also teaches Theater Law in the Online LLM program at Southwestern and runs a commercial online site that aims to teach aspiring producers the ropes of the business. He is a graduate of Southwestern and recently at the request of the Biederman Blog answered questions about his background and legal specialty. What is Theater Law? It’s a subset of the field of Entertainment Law, which is really sort of an amalgam of components of other areas of law: the intellectual property area, contracts, labor, taxation, securities and finance. And what makes it unique is that it’s a niche market and industry that’s very insular and closed, and, therefore, has developed its own customs and practices over the years.  So being this field as a lawyer means being familiar with and understanding those customs and practices and their historical context, as well as their ramifications and the larger view in light of the modern entertainment climate. I think of myself as a jack of a few...

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Join NYC ‘creative’ copyright program online

Ah, the connective power of the cyber world: for those who wish to tap into it Friday, the Copyright Clearance Center will host OnCopyright 2012: Advancing the Creative Economy. The New York event will explore ways copyright issues affect publishing, creative services, legal and technology. The keynoter will be John Howkins, author of “The Creative Economy,” who recently spoke with the center’s Chris Kenneally to preview  his remarks on the economic value of the creative industry — the podcast can be found here and transcript here. OnCopyright 2012 panels will focus on: Art: Remix & Reuse:Chris Kenneally, Copyright Clearance Center; Kirby Ferguson (filmmaker); Steven Rosenbaum,Magnify.net Law: Copyright & Culture: June Besek, Kernochan Center; Carol Mandel, New York University; Michele Woods, US Copyright Office; Tom Rubin, Microsoft Tech: Digitization & Disruption: Michael Healy, Copyright Clearance Center; Robert Levine, (Billboard, Wired); Jonathan Lyons, Lyons Literacy LLC; Maja Thomas, Hachette Book Group Complete program details here and participants here. It will stream live, with access here. The center specializes in rights licensing and is a global rights broker for much sought after materials, including in- and out-of-print books, journals, newspapers, magazines, movies, television shows, images, blogs and ebooks. The session will be at Columbia’s law school....

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In rights tiff, Sony’s king of road, judges say

The Sixth Circuit recently examined what happens when an author of a pre-1978 copyright dies before the renewal right in the copyright has vested. The Court of Appeals judges reversed a district court judgment and held that the music publisher, who was assignee of renewal rights in numerous songs, is the owner of the renewal copyrights to those songs, and not songwriter’s widow, where the songwriter died after the publisher filed renewal applications but before renewal term began. Plaintiffs, Roger Miller Music Inc. and Mary Miller, widow of famed country singer and songwriter Roger Miller, sued Sony/ATV Publishing for copyright infringement, claiming that Roger Miller Music owned the renewal copyrights for Miller’s songs. Background: In the 1960s, Miller, best known for his hit, “King of the Road,” assigned the original and renewal copyrights to his songs to Tree Publishing Co., Sony’s predecessor-in-interest. Miller received royalty payments for use of these songs. In both January and April 1992, Sony filed applications to register the renewal copyrights for songs with the renewal terms beginning Jan. 1. 1993. Miller died in October, 1992. That was after the application but before the copyright renewal term began. In his will, Miller granted all interests in his intellectual property to his wife, Mary, who assigned those interests to Roger Miller Music. For 12 years prior to the lawsuit, Sony continued to tap Miller’s songs and paid royalties to Roger Miller...

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