Articles Posted in Entertainment & Sports Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of judgment as a matter of law to Jay-Z and other defendants in an action brought by the heir to the Egyptian composer Baligh Hamdy, alleging copyright infringement in the song Khosara. Jay-Z used a sample from the arrangement in the background music to his single Big Pimpin'. The panel held that the heir to Hamdy's copyright may not sue Jay-Z for infringement based solely on the fact that Egyptian law recognizes an inalienable "moral right" of the author to object to offensive uses of a copyrighted work. The panel held: (1) that Egyptian law recognizes a transferable economic right to prepare derivative works; (2) that the moral rights the heir retained by operation of Egyptian law were not enforceable in U.S. federal court; and (3) that, even if they were, the heir has not complied with the compensation requirement of Egyptian law, which did not provide for his requested money damages, and which provided for only injunctive relief from an Egyptian court. View "Fahmy v. Jay-Z" on Justia Law

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These consolidated appeals stemmed from a jury's finding that Pharrell Williams, Robin Thicke, and Clifford Harris, Jr.'s song "Blurred Lines," the world's bestselling single in 2013, infringed Frankie Christian Gaye, Nona Marvisa Gaye, and Marvin Gaye III's copyright in Marvin Gaye's 1977 hit song "Got To Give It Up." The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court's judgment. The panel held that "Got To Give It Up" was entitled to broad copyright protection because musical compositions were not confined to a narrow range of expression; the panel accepted, without deciding, the merits of the district court's ruling that the scope of defendants' copyright was limited, under the Copyright Act of 1909, to the sheet music deposited with the Copyright Office, and did not extend to sound recordings; the district court's order denying summary judgment was not reviewable after a full trial on the merits; the district court did not err in denying a new trial; the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting portions of expert testimony; the verdict was not against the clear weight of the evidence; the awards of actual damages and profits and the district court's running royalty were proper; the district court erred in overturning the jury's general verdict in favor of Harris and the Interscope Parties; the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the Gayes' motion for attorney's fees; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in apportioning costs among the parties. View "Williams v. Gaye" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a copyright infringement action brought by renowned photographer Jacobus Rentmeester against Nike. Rentmeester alleged that Nike infringed a famous photograph he took of Michael Jordan when Nike commissioned its own photograph of Jordan and then used that photo to create the "Jumpman" logo. The panel held that, although Rentmeester plausibly alleged that he owned a valid copyright in his photo and a presumption that the Nike photo was the product of copying rather than independent creation, he failed to plausibly allege that Nike copied enough of the protected expression from his photo to establish unlawful appropriation. The panel explained that Rentmeester was entitled to protection only for the way the pose was expressed in his photograph, a product of not just the pose but also the camera angle, timing, and shutter speed he chose. In this case, Rentmeester's photo was entitled to broad rather than thin protection. Nonetheless, the panel held that the works at issue were as a matter of law not substantially similar, and thus the Jumpman logo was even less similar to Rentmeester's photo than the Nike photo itself. View "Rentmeester v. Nike, Inc." on Justia Law

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"Personally identifiable information," pursuant to the Video Privacy Protection Act of 1998, 18 U.S.C. 2710(b)(1), means only that information that would readily permit an ordinary person to identify a specific individual's video-watching behavior. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of an action alleging that ESPN disclosed plaintiff's personally identifiable information in violation of the Act. Plaintiff alleged that ESPN violated the Act by giving a third party his Roku device serial number and by giving the identity of the video he watched. The panel held that plaintiff had Article III standing to bring his claim because section 2710(b)(1) was a substantive provision protecting consumers' concrete interest in their privacy. On the merits, the panel held that the information described in plaintiff's complaint did not constitute personally identifiable information under the Act. In this case, the information at issue could not identify an individual unless it was combined with other data in the third party's possession, data that ESPN never disclosed and apparently never even possessed. View "Eichenberger v. ESPN, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Fox and held that Fox's use of the name "Empire" was protected by the First Amendment and was outside the reach of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125. At issue was a Fox television show entitled Empire, which portrays a fictional hip hop music label named "Empire Enterprises" that was based in New York. The panel applied a test developed by the Second Circuit in Rogers v. Grimaldi, 875 F.2d 994 (2d Cir. 1989), to determine whether the Lanham Act applied. The panel held that Fox's expressive work sufficiently satisfied the first prong of the Rogers test where the title Empire supported the themes and geographic setting of the work and the second prong of the Rogers test where the use of the mark "Empire" did not explicitly mislead consumers. View "Twentieth Century Fox Television v. Empire Distribution" on Justia Law

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Professional minor league baseball is exempt from federal antitrust law. In this case, minor league players filed suit alleging that the MLB's hiring and employment policies have violated federal antitrust laws by restraining horizontal competition between and among the MLB franchises and artificially and illegally depressing minor league salaries. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of defendants' motion to dismiss, holding that, in light of Supreme Court precedent, the decisions of this court, and the Curt Flood Act of 1998, minor league baseball falls squarely within the nearly century-old business-of-baseball exemption from federal antitrust laws. View "Miranda v. Selig" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against various defendants in the film industry, alleging copyright and state law claims, including breach of implied-in-fact contract and declaratory relief. Plaintiff alleged that defendants used his screenplay idea to create "The Purge" films without providing him compensation or credit as a writer. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of defendants' anti-SLAPP motion to strike the state law claims. In this case, plaintiff's implied-in-fact contract claim did not arise from protected free speech activity because the claim was based on defendants' failure to pay for the use of plaintiff's idea, not the creation, production, distribution, or content of the films. The panel also held that defendants' failure to pay was not conduct in furtherance of the right to free speech. View "Jordan-Benel v. Universal City Studios, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, former student athletes, filed suit against T3Media, asserting claims for statutory and common law publicity-rights, as well as an unfair competition claim under California law. Plaintiffs alleged that T3Media exploited their likenesses commercially by selling non-exclusive licenses permitting consumers to download photographs from the NCAA's Photo Library for non-commercial art use. The district court held that the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 101 et seq., preempted plaintiffs' claims and granted T3Media's special motion to strike pursuant to California’s anti-SLAPP statute, Cal. Civ. Proc. Code 425.16. In this case, plaintiffs concede that their suit arises from acts in furtherance of T3Media's right to free speech. Therefore, plaintiffs must demonstrate a reasonable probability of prevailing on their challenged claims. The court concluded that plaintiffs failed to do so because the federal Copyright Act preempts plaintiffs' claims. The court explained that the subject matter of the state law claims falls within the subject matter of copyright, and the rights plaintiffs assert were equivalent to rights within the general scope of copyright. Because the district court did not err in granting T3Media's special motion to strike, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Maloney v. T3Media, Inc." on Justia Law

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The court certified the following questions to the California Supreme Court: 1) Under section 980(a)(2) of the California Civil Code, do copyright owners of pre-1972 sound recordings that were sold to the public before 1982 possess an exclusive right of public performance? 2) If not, does California's common law of property or tort otherwise grant copyright owners of pre-1972 sound recordings an exclusive right of public performance? View "Flo & Eddie v. Pandora Media" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, the developer of the computer code for the original John Madden Football game for the Apple II computer, filed a diversity action against EA, seeking contract damages in the form of unpaid royalties for Sega Madden and Super Nintendo Madden. The court concluded that the district court properly granted judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) to EA under the "intrinsic test" because the jury had no evidence of Apple II Madden or Sega Madden as a whole to enable it to make a subjective comparison. In this case, plaintiff's claims rest on the contention that the source code of the Sega Madden games infringed on the source code for Apple II Madden. But, none of the source code was in evidence. The jury therefore could not compare the works to determine substantial similarity. The court rejected plaintiff's argument that EA’s post-verdict Rule 50(b) motion for JMOL regarding the intrinsic test should not have been considered. The court also concluded that the district court did not err in dismissing the Super Nintendo derivative work claims where the Apple II and Super Nintendo processors have different instruction sizes and data word sizes; the court agreed with the district court that the jury could not have determined plaintiff's damages from the alleged breach to a reasonable certainty; and even if the district court erred, there was no harm because plaintiff's failure to introduce any source code precluded a finding that Super Nintendo Madden was a Derivative Work. Finally, the court concluded that the district court correctly dismissed the claim that EA used development aids to create non-derivative works because the claim is unsubstantiated. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Antonick v. Electronic Arts, Inc." on Justia Law