Justia U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Entertainment & Sports Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against Netflix under the Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA), 18 U.S.C. 2710, and California Civil Code 1799.3, alleging that Netflix violated these statutes by permitting certain disclosures about their viewing history to third parties. The court concluded that plaintiffs failed to plead a plausible violation of the VPPA because, as the court held, the disclosure alleged by plaintiffs is a disclosure “to the consumer” that is permitted by the Act. The fact that a subscriber may permit third parties to access her account, thereby allowing third parties to view Netflix’s disclosures, does not alter the legal status of those disclosures. As plaintiffs' complaint pleads only a lawful disclosure under the VPPA, the district court was correct to dismiss the first count of plaintiffs’ complaint. Likewise, plaintiffs failed to plead a violation of California Civil Code 1799.3. Accordingly, the court affirmed the dismissal of plaintiffs' claims. View "Mollett v. Netflix, Inc." on Justia Law

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Rex Woodard entered into a written agreement to ghostwrite the autobiography (the "Work") of Thomas DeVito, one of the original members of the "Four Seasons" band later known as "Jersey Boys." After Woodward passed away, DeVito registered the Work with the U.S. Copyright Office solely under his own name in 1991. DeVito and another former "Four Seasons" band member, Nicholas Macioci, executed an agreement with two of their former bandmates, Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio, which granted Valli and Gaudio the exclusive rights to use aspects of their lives to develop a musical stage performance (the "Play") about the "Four Seasons." Plaintiff, Woodward's widow, subsequently filed suit alleging that the Play constitutes, at least in part, a "derivative work" of the DeVito autobiography, the right to create which resides exclusively in the copyright-holders of the underlying work, and their lawful successors, assignees, and licensees. The court concluded that the 1999 Agreement constitutes a transfer of ownership of DeVito's derivative-work right in the Work to Valli and Gaudio; Sybersound Records, Inc. v. UAV Corp. presents no obstacle to DeVito's exclusive transfer of his derivative-work right to Valli and Gaudio under the 1999 Agreement; copyright co-owners must account to one another for any profits earned by exploiting that copyright; and, therefore, the district court erred in rejecting plaintiff's claims for accounting and declaratory relief. Further, defendants have necessarily failed to establish the existence of a license as an affirmative defense to plaintiff's infringement action. The court also concluded that summary judgment for defendants on plaintiff's claims of infringement under foreign law grounds must be reversed. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants, vacated its assessment of costs against plaintiff, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Corbello v. Valli" on Justia Law

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This case arose when the Oakland Athletics wanted to move to the City of San Jose, but the City falls within the exclusive operating territory of the San Francisco Giants. The City, seeking approval of the move, filed suit against MLB, alleging violations of state and federal antitrust laws, of California's consumer protection statute, and of California tort law. The district court granted MLB's motion to dismiss on all but the tort claims and the City appealed. The City argues that the baseball industry's historic exemption from the antitrust laws does not apply to antitrust claims relating to franchise relocation. The court held, however, that antitrust claims against MLB's franchise relocation policies are precluded by Flood v. Kuhn, and, under Portland Baseball Club, Inc. v Kuhn, the court rejected any antitrust claim that was wholly unrelated to the reserve clause. Therefore, the City's claims under the Sherman Act and Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 1-7 and 15 U.S.C. 12-27, must be dismissed. Further, the City's antitrust claims necessarily fall with its federal claims where the City can point to no case that has ever held that state antitrust claims continue to be viable after federal antitrust claims have been dismissed under the baseball exemption. An independent claim under California's unfair competition law is also barred so long as MLB's activities are lawful under the antitrust laws. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "City of San Jose v. Comm'r of Baseball" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against EA, alleging that Madden NFL, a series of video games, includes accurate likenesses of plaintiffs without authorization, as well as roughly 6,000 other former NFL players who appear on more than 100 historic teams in various editions of Madden NFL. EA moved to strike the complaint as a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) under California’s anti-SLAPP statute, California Code of Civil Procedure § 425.16. The court affirmed the district court's denial of the motion where EA has not shown a probability of prevailing on its incidental use defense and its other defenses are effectively precluded by the court's decision in Keller v. Elec. Arts. In this case, EA has not shown that the transformative use defense applies to plaintiffs' claims; EA has not established a probability of prevailing on either the common law public interest defense or the "public affairs" exemption of California Civil Code 3344(d); the Rogers v. Grimaldi test does not apply to plaintiffs' right-of-publicity claims; and EA has not established a probability of prevailing on its incidental use defense. View "Davis v. Electronic Arts" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit challenging the enforcement of the County of Los Angeles Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act ("Measure B"), Los Angeles County, Cal. Code tit. 11, div. 1, ch. 11.39, and amending tit. 22, div. 1, ch. 22.56.1925. Measure B imposes a permitting system and additional production obligations on the makers of adult films, such as requiring performers to wear condoms in certain contexts. The court concluded that it need not decide whether Intervenors satisfy the requirements of Article III standing where plaintiffs have standing. Further, the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting preliminary injunctive relief to only certain parts of Measure B, while allowing enforcement of other provisions as severable. The purpose of Measure B is twofold: (1) to decrease the spread of sexually transmitted infections among performers within the adult industry, (2) thereby stemming the transmission of sexually transmitted infections to the general population among whom the performers dwell. The court concluded that the district court properly exercised its discretion in concluding that the condom requirement would likely survive intermediate scrutiny where the restriction of expression in this case is de minimus; the regulation is narrowly tailored to serve the government's interest; and the condom requirement leaves alternative channels of expression available. The portions of Measure B's permitting system left in place by the district court also survives constitutional scrutiny where the requirements that adult film producers complete training about blood-borne pathogens and post a permit during shooting still serve the County's interest in preventing sexually transmitted infections. The district court correctly concluded that the remaining permitting provisions leave little, if any, discretion to government officials. Therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying a preliminary injunction with respect to the condom and permitting requirement. The court affirmed the judgment. View "Vivid Entertainment v. Fielding" on Justia Law

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Clinton is a musician, bandleader, and touring performance artist. H&L, a law firm, represented Clinton in in 2005-2008, billed Clinton $3,341,650, received $1,000,578 in payment, and wrote off $600,000 of the remaining balance. This left $1,779,756.29 due. H&L initiated arbitration. Clinton did not participate; the panel ruled in favor of H&L. The district court confirmed the award of $1,675,639.82, plus interest plus $60,786.50 in attorney fees. H&L pursued collection, including garnishments, levies, and liens across the country. Clinton’s attorney declared that they created a financial “stranglehold” so that Clinton “[c]an’t pay his taxes … it is going to affect... his ability to make a living at 72 years old.” A year later, Clinton sued H&L for legal malpractice. H&L asserted counterclaims and sought an order authorizing the sale of master sound recording copyrights to satisfy its judgments. The district court appointed a receiver and authorized the receiver to use the copyrights to satisfy the judgments. Amending its earlier order, the Ninth Circuit affirmed. Under Washington law Clinton’s copyrights in the masters were subject to execution to satisfy judgments against him. Section 201(e) of the federal Copyright Act does not protect Clinton from the involuntary transfer of his copyrighted works. Clinton could raise claims of fraud on the court and judicial estoppel for the first time on appeal, but the claims were meritless. View "Hendricks & Lewis PLLC v. Clinton" on Justia Law

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Musical artist George Clinton appealed the district court's order appointing a receiver and authorizing the sale of copyrights in an action against his former law firm. The firm obtained judgments against Clinton for past-due attorneys' fees and sought an order authorizing the sale of master recordings that Clinton recorded with the group Funkadelic (the "Masters") to satisfy the judgments. The court concluded that Clinton's copyrights in the Masters were subject to execution to satisfy judgments entered against him; Section 201(e) of the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 201(e), does not protect Clinton from the involuntary transfer of his copyrighted works; the district court did not abuse its discretion by appointing a receiver to manage or sell ownership of these copyrights; Clinton may raise claims of fraud on the court and judicial estoppel for the first time on appeal, but both claims are meritless; and Clinton failed to raise his preemption, Erie Doctrine, and Due Process Arguments in the district court. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Hendricks & Lewis PLLC v. Clinton" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was cast in a minor role in an adventure film with the working title "Desert Warrior." The film never materialized and plaintiff's scene was used, instead, in an anti-Islamic film titled "Innocence of Muslims." The film was uploaded to YouTube.com and her brief performance was dubbed over so that she appeared to be asking, "Is your Mohammed a child molester?" An Egyptian cleric subsequently issued a fatwa, calling for the killing of everyone involved with the film. After Google refused to take it down from YouTube, plaintiff sought a restraining order seeking removal of the film, claiming that the posting of the video infringed the copyright in her performance. The district court treated the application as a motion for a preliminary injunction but denied the motion. The court concluded that plaintiff demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits where plaintiff had an independent copyright interest in her performance; the work for hire doctrine was inapplicable in this instance because plaintiff was not a traditional employee and the filmmaker was not in the regular business of making films; and although plaintiff granted the filmmaker an implied license to use plaintiff's performance, the filmmaker exceeded the bounds of the license when he lied to plaintiff in order to secure her participation and she agreed to perform in reliance on that lie. The court also concluded that plaintiff faced irreparable harm absent an injunction where plaintiff took legal action as soon as the film received worldwide attention and she began receiving death threats; the harm plaintiff complained of was real and immediate; and plaintiff demonstrated a causal connection because removing the film from YouTube would help disassociate her from the film's anti-Islamic message and such disassociation would keep her from suffering future threats and physical harm. Finally, the balance of the equities and the public interest favored plaintiff's position. Accordingly, the court concluded that the district court abused its discretion in denying the motion for a preliminary injunction. The court reversed and remanded. View "Garcia v. Google, Inc." on Justia Law

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GLAAD filed a putative class action alleging that CNN violated California's Unruh Civil Rights Act, Cal. Civ. Code 51 et seq., and California's Disabled Persons Act (DPA), Cal. Civ. Code 54 et seq., by intentionally excluding deaf and hard of hearing visitors from accessing the videos on CNN.com. CNN filed a motion to strike under California's anti-SLAPP law, Cal. Civ. Proc. Code 425.16 et seq., arguing that GLAAD's claims arose from conduct in furtherance of CNN's free speech rights and that GLAAD failed to establish a probability of prevailing on its claims. The court concluded that CNN's conduct was in furtherance of its free speech rights on a matter of public interest; where, as here, an action directly targeted the way a content provider chose to deliver, present, or publish news content on matters of public interest, that action was based on conduct in furtherance of free speech rights and must withstand scrutiny under California's anti-SLAPP statute; GLAAD failed to establish a probability of success on the merits of its Unruh Act claims because it has not shown intentional discrimination based on disability as required under California law; at this juncture, none of CNN's constitutional challenges posed a barrier to GLAAD's pursuit of its DPA claims; GLAAD's DPA claims were not foreclosed by the doctrines of field preemption and conflict preemption; GLAAD's DPA claims have the requisite minimal merit to survive CNN's free speech challenge and dormant Commerce Clause challenge; and the court certified to the California Supreme Court the remaining dispositive question of state law regarding GLAAD's DPA claims. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's order denying CNN's motion to dismiss. View "Greater L.A. Agency on Deafness v. CNN" on Justia Law

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Experience Hendrix filed suit against Pitsicalis alleging that Pitsicalis was infringing trademarks in violation of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1051-1127, and that the trademark infringement also amounted to an unfair or deceptive trade practice proscribed by Washington's Consumer Protection Act (WCPA), Wash. Rev. Code 19.86.010-19.86.920. Determining that Pitsicalis had Article III standing, the court concluded, inter alia, that the WPRA was constitutional as applied to the narrow set of non-speculative circumstances at issue in this case; Pitsicalis was liable under the Lanham Act for using domain names that infringed Experience Hendrix's trademark "Hendrix"; and Paragraph 5 of the permanent injunction failed to state clearly the terms of the injunction and did not describe in reasonable detail the acts that were and were not restrained. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's determination that the Washington statute was unconstitutional and remanded Pitsicalis's declaratory judgment claims pertaining to the WPRA with instructions to enter judgment on those claims in favor of Experience Hendrix; affirmed the grant of partial summary judgment on Experience Hendrix's claim that Pitsicalis's use of domain names infringed Experience Hendrix's mark; vacated the permanent injunction and remanded so the district court could revise the language at issue; reversed the Rule 50(b)(3) decision to strike most of the jury's award of damages under both the Lanham Act and the WPRA; affirmed the district court's order granting a new trial on damages under both statutes; remanded for a new trial on such damages; vacated the district court's award of attorney's fees under the WCPA; and remanded the fee request for further proceedings. View "Experience Hendrix v. HendrixLicensing.com" on Justia Law