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Pay or Play

Authored by the attorneys in the firm’s Entertainment Department, this blog provides a legal perspective on the latest issues and trends affecting the entertainment industry, including digital content, multichannel networks, celebrity branding and artist and performer management as well as commentary on music law and media distribution law.

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Recent Blog Posts

  • TV or Not TV: Does Academy’s Push to Block Streaming Services From the Oscars Violate Antitrust Law? A change in the rules for Oscar eligibility proposed by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) may violate antitrust laws, according to the Department of Justice. At issue is whether feature-length films produced by streaming services like Netflix should be eligible for Oscar consideration, even though they don’t have a significant theatrical run. The DOJ weighed in on the issue in the wake of reports that Academy board member Steven Spielberg was planning to push for such a... More
  • Celebrity Plaintiffs Alleging “Fortnite” Publisher Stole Their Dance Moves Face the Music and Dismiss Claims Image from 123RF Limited Rappers Terrence “2 Milly” Ferguson and James “BlocBoy JB” Baker, influencer Russell “Backpack Kid” Horning, and actor Alfonso Ribeiro (best known for his role as “Carlton Banks” in the sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”) have dismissed their claims against Epic Games for allegedly infringing their signature dance moves in the wildly popular videogame “Fortnite.” “Fortnite” is an animated battle royale where fictional characters perform a victory dance after defeating an opponent.  “Pay or Play” previously reported on... More
  • Writers v. Agents: What You Need to Know The Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the major talent agencies are headed for a showdown. The consequences are literally unknowable but could upend the way the television business has operated for decades. This blog will tell you what’s behind the fight and what each side has been saying about it. A disclaimer before I proceed, however. This firm represents many writers and of course works closely with their agents. It is not my intention to take sides and I... More
  • Entertainers Face New Morals Clause Issues in the Age of Social Media Bette Davis and Joan Crawford never “tweeted” about their so-called rivalry – and that’s probably for the better. Throughout the Golden Age of Hollywood, consumers were not exposed to each and every thought and opinion of top actors like Jimmy Stewart, Bette Davis, and Joan Crawford. The lack of technology at that time kept the public from knowing many personal, social, and political views of entertainers that hadn’t been carefully curated for public consumption. Today, social media has opened a large door... More
  • Rihanna Sues Her Father for Using Their Last Name in His Entertainment Company William Shakespeare’s character Juliet famously asked Romeo “What’s in a name?” The question still rings true today, and the answer may be, well, a lot. The Power of a Name The value in Grammy-award winning singer Rihanna’s name, her surname specifically, is at the center of a legal dispute between her and her father. Robyn Rihanna Fenty, known worldwide as Rihanna, sued her father, Ronald Fenty (“Mr. Fenty”) alleging he used their surname, Fenty, to mislead consumers into thinking she was associated with... More
  • O’Brien Roasts Plaintiff in Copyright Dispute Alleging Jokes Too Stale to be Stolen Image from 123RF Limited The drama is building in the comic clash between TBS late-night talk show host Conan O’Brien and comedy writer Alex Kaseberg over jokes Kaseberg claims O’Brien and his writing team stole from him.  As previously reported, O’Brien was able to knock out two of the five jokes in question on summary judgment on the grounds that they were independently created and/or too different for a reasonable juror to conclude they were copied, but three of Kaseberg’s jokes... More
  • TVEyes Closed at Last The TVEyes v. Fox saga has reached its conclusion. Following the Supreme Court’s denial of TVEyes’ petition for certiorari, the video clipping service had little choice but to settle Fox News’s copyright infringement lawsuit. The parties filed a permanent injunction in the Southern District of New York under which TVEyes agreed to eliminate all Fox News content from its database. This injunction is a final settlement and protects TVEyes from having to defend a claim for damages and attorneys’ fees. TVEyes... More
  • U.S. Supreme Court Drops Curtain on Olivia de Havilland’s “Feud” with FX Image from 123RF Limited The California appellate court ruling which dismissed actress Olivia de Havilland’s suit against FX’s Feud will remain in place after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected de Havilland’s petition for review last week. The now 102-year-old actress best known for roles in Gone With the Wind and The Adventures of Robin Hood, de Havilland alleged that FX’s depiction of her in the Emmy-award-winning docudrama Feud infringed her right of publicity and portrayed her in a false light.  Feud aired... More
  • Supreme Court to Decide Whether “Scandalous Clause” Passes Constitutional Muster Just over a year ago, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held that a century-old ban prohibiting the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) from registering “scandalous” and “immoral” trademarks violates the First Amendment. Last week, the Supreme Court granted certiorari to determine whether they agree that the so-called “Scandalous Clause” is unconstitutional on its face. The dispute began when the PTO denied trademark registration to Appellant Erik Brunetti’s clothing line – “FUCT.”  Citing Section 2(a) of the Lanham... More
  • Lawsuit Over McGyver Series Illustrates Dizzying Distinction Between “Spin-Off” and “Remake” Readers over 40 will remember the TV series MacGyver, which ran on ABC from 1985 through 1992. The show starred Richard Dean Anderson as a mild-mannered secret agent with an uncanny ability to escape the gravest perils by repurposing ordinary objects around him.  The show was such a hit that “macgyver” entered the lexicon to refer to an ingenious solution to a problem. The original series was packaged by Major Talent Agency (“MTA”), which represented Henry Winkler and John Rich. Winkler and... More