Posts in Entertainment Law

Top Gun Copyright Lawsuit—A Real Dog Fight or Destined to Flameout?

On June 6, Paramount Pictures got its tower buzzed for copyright infringement in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California over the blockbuster film of the summer, Top Gun Maverick. According to the allegations in the complaint, in 1983, author Ahud Yonay wrote a magazine story about the real-life exploits of two naval fighter pilots entitled, “Top Guns.” Paramount allegedly secured the “exclusive motion picture rights to Ehud Yonay’s copyrighted story” and in 1986 released the motion picture Top Gun. Fast forward a few decades. In 2018, Yonay’s heirs (Plaintiffs in this action who are both Israeli citizens) allegedly served Paramount with a notice “terminating” the original assignment of the motion picture rights to Paramount. Paramount apparently took the position that the purported termination was ineffective and, over the Memorial Day weekend, launched Top Gun Maverick to critical acclaim at the box office (and to the delight of millions of fans of the original 1980s classic).

In Copyright Win for Ed Sheeran, UK High Court Says Differences Between ‘Shape of You’ and ‘Oh Why’ Outweigh Similarities

On April 6, the UK High Court issued a judgment of non-infringement in favor of artist Ed Sheeran over his 2017 song, “Shape of You.” The court held that Sheeran did not copy a part of Defendant Sami Chokri’s 2015 song called “Oh Why.” The ruling came nearly four years after co-writers Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue (collectively, Defendants) first accused Sheeran and his co-writers, Snow Patrol’s John McDaid and producer Steven McCutcheon (collectively, Plaintiffs) of deliberately and consciously copying from a part of “Oh Why.” Alternatively, the Defendants contended that he did so subconsciously.

Marketing With the Stars of March: NCAA Athletes and the New ‘NIL’ Policy

Name, Image, and Likeness, or “NIL,” is the buzz word spinning around college athletics. In July 2021, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) adopted its Interim NIL Policy (“the Policy”) which allows, for the first time, student athletes to monetize their NIL rights without losing scholarships or eligibility. Fans love college sports and cheering on athletes who play for their alma mater or favorite school teams, which creates collaboration opportunities for athletes and brands alike. In an attempt to connect their products and services with college athletes—who are the face of a billion-dollar industry—brands are jumping on the college-athlete bandwagon.

Live, Work and Play in a Legal Metaverse: Preparing for a New Online Existence

Companies spend billions and invest heavily in technologies that offer greater telepresence and enable an individual’s digital life. Will humans interact with each other via avatars in a three-dimensional virtual space?  The “Metaverse” has ramifications for everything people do to live, work and play together digitally. The Metaverse is a digital shared space where everyone can seamlessly interact in a fully immersive, simulated experience. The Metaverse increases the permeability of the borders between various digital environments and the physical world. In the Metaverse, you can interact with virtual objects and real-time information. A place where people join together to create, work, and spend time together in an environment that mixes what is virtual and what is real.

Stars, Paparazzi, and the Puzzling Law of Copyrights

Picture this: A paparazzo snaps an unauthorized photo of a celebrity and sells it to a media outlet, making a tidy profit. As unfair as that may sound to the celebrity, most stars are well-aware of the established law that a photograph—even an unwanted one—can be monetized by the paparazzi. The law also is clear that, absent permission, the celebrity cannot monetize the photograph herself. Photographs, like other works of art, can be copyrighted by the paparazzi and, as with copyright, the owner possesses the famed “bundle of rights,” including the right to prohibit others from displaying the photograph for money.

Tarantino Pulp Fiction Dispute Spotlights the Contentious Relationship between NFTs and IP Rights

Director Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 Pulp Fiction, considered among the most influential films in modern history, has emerged as a test case of sorts for issuing non-fungible tokens (NFTs) that relate to a copyright-protected work. The NFTs are being sold independent of Miramax, the producer and owner of the rights to the film, who says its ownership rights are being violated. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California last week, also accused Tarantino of breach of contract, trademark infringement and unfair competition, according to court documents.

Third Circuit: Facebook Not Immune to Right of Publicity Claims Under IP Carve-Out of Section 230

On September 23, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed in part a decision by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, ultimately holding that Karen Hepp’s complaint against Facebook was not barred by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.In 2018, Hepp was informed by a coworker that a photo of her was being used online. The photo of Hepp was taken without her knowledge or consent and she never authorized the use of the image in any advertisements.

Hepp’s complaint cited two sets of posts online of the photo, which Hepp alleged under Pennsylvania law violated her right to publicity. The first post appeared on Facebook as an advertisement to a dating app. The advertisement encouraged Facebook users to use the app and used the image of Hepp to promote the dating service. The second post appeared on Reddit, where a user linked to a post on Imgur. The Reddit post was upvoted hundreds of times and incited indecent user commentary regarding the photo of Hepp.

Infringing Influencers? Federal Judge Says Sponsored Blogger Can Face Trademark Infringement Liability

When an influencer is paid to promote a brand – and the brand’s name is trademark-infringing – can the influencer be on the hook for the infringement? A federal district court just said yes. The result could widely expand trademark litigation against influencers – and could reshape how companies and their influencers relate to one another contractually.

Fueled by BTS and K-pop, South Korea’s IP Economy is Thriving

The arts and entertainment industry has boosted South Korea’s economy and produced some of the country’s key products and exports. The country’s population of 51 million people was the sixth largest music market in the world in 2020, according to IFPI’s Global Music Report 2021. Also in 2020, South Korea had a $160 million surplus in cultural and arts intellectual property (IP)-related assets trade, according to South Korea’s Maeil Business Newspaper. It was the first time a surplus in such a category was registered. However, entertainment-related IP assets have been big Korean exports for years: in 2019, the country exported $8.62 billion in copyright-protected content, according to Yonhap News Agency. South Korea also has proven itself to be a prolific environment for creating music, film, content, and experiences for fans, and also to be great at making the most of their intangible assets through IP strategies.

Senator Ron Wyden, Stop Harming Independent Creators

As the current pandemic eviscerates jobs throughout our economy, Congress has a rare opportunity to improve the lot of one long-besieged group of workers: creators. Authors, songwriters, photographers, artists, filmmakers, and many other creative professionals are the lifeblood of American cultural innovation. For decades, however, unfettered copyright infringement online has undermined their livelihoods. The effect is especially pronounced for “creative upstarts”—independent creators who rely on copyright income. Many creative upstarts report widespread piracy of their works but feel powerless to stop it. Now, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) seems intent on unilaterally terminating a bill that if passed would give indie creators—thousands of whom live in Wyden’s state of Oregon—much needed access to justice.

From TikTok to Instagram: How to Legally Live Stream

Every day, DJs, athletes, entertainers and influencers broadcast live on Instagram, YouTube and other similar channels. Whether you are a professional entertainer or just connecting with friends and family, broadcasting and sharing content online raises many legal issues, including intellectual property, publicity rights, commercial speech, and contractual terms of service. Accordingly, digital content creators should be cautious with what they publish. In this article, we briefly explore these topics, and provide some Dos and Don’ts for avoiding legal trouble in the United States when sharing content online.

Let the Music Play: The Performance Rights License Marketplace Thrives Only with Vigilant Antitrust Enforcement

On January 26, CBS broadcast the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards, which celebrated America’s finest recording artists and songwriters. Drawing a global audience with performances by super stars such as Aerosmith, Blake Shelton, and Ariana Grande, the event highlighted the music industry’s talents, innovation, and extraordinary financial success. Yet, what keeps the music flowing in a thriving marketplace is the fair operation of the performing rights license marketplace made possible by vigilant antitrust enforcement. The Department of Justice, Antitrust Division (the Department) is currently reviewing the consent decrees between the federal government and two performance rights organization behemoths: ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers) and BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.). While conducting periodic reviews of antitrust law is smart policy, altering or scrapping the music decrees would be a mistake.

Amateurism for Assets: NCAA to Allow Student Athletes to ‘Benefit’ from Personal Intellectual Property

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) recently took a step toward letting student athletes “benefit” from use of their name, image, and likeness. The move comes after California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law a Fair Pay to Play Act allowing collegiate athletes in the Golden State to accept endorsement deals once the law takes effect in January 2023. On Tuesday, October 29, the NCAA’s Board of Governors voted “unanimously to permit students participating in athletics the opportunity to benefit from the use of their name, image, and likeness in a manner consistent with the collegiate model.” The key phrase here is “in a manner consistent with the collegiate model,” which invokes the NCAA’s commitment to the nebulous tenet of “amateurism.” Pragmatically, this vote amounts to two things for student athletes. First, this process will not happen immediately: the Board set a deadline of January 2021 for changing the rules. Second, and most notably, the Board carefully refused to acknowledge or confirm that student athletes would actually be paid. In other words, this vote is merely a shuffle in the direction of college athlete compensation by way of their “right of publicity.”

Other Barks & Bites, Friday, December 6: Lawmakers Concerned with Copyright Restatement, USPTO Pushed to Keep SEP Injunction Policy, Qualcomm Pushes Back on Koh at Ninth Circuit

This week in Other Barks & Bites: the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments over copyright status of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated; the Federal Circuit remands Ericsson appeal to calculate release payment in patent license; Apple, Ford and others urge the USPTO to retain policy against injunctions on companies practicing SEPs; Huawei asks the Fifth Circuit to undo the FCC’s ban preventing it from supplying U.S. networks; Sergey Brin and Larry Page relinquish executive duties at Google; U.S. antitrust regulators explore Amazon’s cloud business; Washington politicians send letter to ALI over Copyright Restatement Effort concerns; and Qualcomm challenges Judge Koh’s class action certification at the Ninth Circuit.

Other Barks & Bites for Friday, November 29: China Pledges ‘Social Satisfaction’ on IP Protection and Nominates Candidate to Head WIPO

This week in Other Barks & Bites: the Federal Circuit issues precedential decisions regarding its authority to remand to the PTAB, patent prosecution history estoppel and expert testimony on motivation to combine for obviousness findings; China nominates its choice for WIPO Director while pledging to reach “social satisfaction” on IP protections by 2025; INTA announces Ayala Deutsch as the organization’s new president; the USPTO seeks public comments on information collection related to national security concerns; the TTAB applies Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to discovery requests; Hewlett Packard shares drop after quarterly revenues fall short of analyst expectations; and the PTAB allows additional briefing in a case after the possibility of Administrative Procedure Act violations were raised by a patent owner.