Articles Posted in Entertainment & Sports Law

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Plaintiff Leah Manzari, famous under her professional name, Danni Ashe, for her groundbreaking work in monetizing online pornography, filed a defamation suit claiming that the Daily Mail Online, an online news outlet, used a photograph of her to convey the defamatory impression that she had tested positive for HIV. The Daily Mail filed an interlocutory appeal under California’s anti-SLAPP statute, Cal. Civ. Proc. Code 425.15. The court agreed with the district court that, at this stage in the litigation, Manzari has presented sufficient evidence to move forward with her claim that the Daily Mail Online employees acted with actual malice when they published the article implying that Manzari was an HIV-positive sex worker. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's denial of the Daily Mail's motion to strike the complaint. View "Manzari v. Associated Newspapers" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs and volunteers built the La Contessa, a replica of a 16th-century Spanish galleon, from a used school bus for use at the Burning Man Festival. Defendant intentionally burned the wooden structure of the La Contessa so that a scrap metal dealer could remove the underlying school bus from his property. Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that defendant violated the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA), 17 U.S.C. 106(A), and committed common law conversion when he destroyed the La Contessa. The trial court granted summary judgment on their VARA claim and awarded attorneys' fees. The court held that an object constitutes a piece of “applied art”- as opposed to a “work of visual art”- where the object initially served a utilitarian function and the object continues to serve such a function after the artist made embellishments or alterations to it. Conversely, “applied art” would not include a piece of art whose function is purely aesthetic or a utilitarian object which is so transformed through the addition of artistic elements that its utilitarian functions cease. In this case, the court concluded that the La Contessa plainly was "applied art," and thus was not a work of visual art under the VARA and not eligible for its protection. Therefore, the trial court properly granted summary judgment to defendant on the VARA claim. The court also concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by excluding the testimony of two of plaintiffs' expert witnesses, nor did the trial court err in its jury instructions on abandoned property and abandonment. Furthermore, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by failing to include jury instructions on lost profits and punitive damages resulting from the destruction of the La Contessa; in admitting evidence of drug paraphenalia surrounding the La Contessa as it sat on defendant’s property; and in denying plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment on their conversion claim. Finally, the trial court did not err in awarding attorneys' fees. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Cheffins v. Stewart" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Jeffrey Sarver filed suit against defendants, contending that Will James, the main character in the Oscar-winning film "The Hurt Locker," is based on his life and experiences and that he did not consent to such use and that several scenes in the film falsely portray him in a way that has harmed his reputation. The district court dismissed all of Sarver’s claims. As a preliminary matter, the court concluded that it had little basis to conclude that New Jersey is Sarver's legal domicile at the time the film was released. Even assuming arguendo that New Jersey was Sarver’s domicile, the court concluded that California contacts predominate, and the Restatement (Second) of Conflicts section 145 factors weigh in favor of the application of California's anti-SLAPP law, Cal. Civ. Proc. Code 425.16. Under section 6 Second Restatement principles, California had the most significant relationship to this litigation, which was sufficient to overcome any presumption of Sarver's domicile. The court also concluded that defendants' anti-SLAPP motions were timely filed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. On the merits, the court concluded that the film and the narrative of its central character Will James speak directly to issues of a public nature, and Sarver has failed to state and substantiate a legally sufficient claim. The film is speech that is fully protected by the First Amendment, which safeguards the storytellers and artists who take the raw materials of life - including the stories of real individuals, ordinary or extraordinary - and transform them into art. Therefore, the district court did not err in granting defendants’ anti-SLAPP motions. Finally, the court concluded that Sarver’s false light invasion of privacy, defamation, breach of contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud, and constructive fraud/negligent misrepresentation claims were properly dismissed. The court affirmed the judgment. View "Sarver v. Chartier" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff O'Bannon filed suit against the NCAA and CLC, alleging that the NCAA’s amateurism rules, insofar as they prevented student-athletes from being compensated for the use of their names, images, and likenesses (NILs), were an illegal restraint of trade under Section 1 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1. Plaintiff Keller filed suit against the NCAA, CLC, and EA, alleging that EA had impermissibly used student-athletes’ NILs in its video games and that the NCAA and CLC had wrongfully turned a blind eye to EA’s misappropriation of these NILs. Both cases were consolidated. The district court entered judgment for plaintiffs, concluding that the NCAA’s rules prohibiting student-athletes from receiving compensation for their NILs violate Section 1 of the Sherman Act. The court concluded that it was not precluded from reaching the merits of the appeal and found none of plaintiffs' claims persuasive. The court reaffirmed that NCAA regulations are subject to antitrust scrutiny and must be analyzed under the Rule of Reason; when those regulations truly serve procompetitive purposes, courts should not hesitate to uphold them; but the NCAA is not above the antitrust laws, and courts cannot and must not shy away from requiring the NCAA to play by the Sherman Act’s rules. In this case, the NCAA’s rules have been more restrictive than necessary to maintain its tradition of amateurism in support of the college sports market. The court concluded that the Rule of Reason requires that the NCAA permit its schools to provide up to the cost of attendance to their student athletes. The court concluded that it does not require more. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court’s judgment and permanent injunction insofar as they require the NCAA to allow its member schools to pay student-athletes up to $5,000 per year in deferred compensation. The court affirmed otherwise. View "O'Bannon v. NCAA" on Justia Law

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After receiving takedown notification, YouTube removed plaintiff's video and sent her an email notifying her of the removal. Plaintiff subsequently filed suit against Universal under part of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), 17 U.S.C. 512(f), alleging that Universal misrepresented in the takedown notification that her video constituted an infringing use of a portion of a composition by the Artist known as Prince, which Universal insists was unauthorized by the law. The court held that the DMCA requires copyright holders to consider fair use before sending a takedown notification, and that failure to do so raises a triable issue as to whether the copyright holder formed a subjective good faith belief that the use was not authorized by law. The court held, contrary to the district court's holding, that plaintiff may proceed under an actual knowledge theory in order to determine whether Universal knowingly misrepresented that it had formed a good faith belief that the video did not constitute fair use. The court held that the willful blindness doctrine may be used to determine whether a copyright holder "knowingly materially misrepresented[ed]" that it held a "good faith belief" the offending activity was not a fair use. In this case, plaintiff failed to provide evidence from which a juror could infer that Universal was aware of a high probability the video constituted fair use. Therefore, plaintiff may not proceed to trial on a willful blindness theory. The court also held that a plaintiff may seek recovery of nominal damages for an injury incurred as a result of a section 512(f) misrepresentation. In this case, plaintiff may seek recovery of nominal damages due to an unquantifiable harm suffered as a result of Universal’s actions. View "Lenz. Universal Music Corp." on Justia Law

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The Foundation, the sole beneficiary of Ray Charles' estate, filed suit to challenge his heirs' purported termination of copyright grants that Charles conferred while he was alive. The district court dismissed the suit for lack of jurisdiction. The court concluded that the suit meets the threshold requirements of constitutional standing and ripeness, the argument that the Foundation may be a beneficial owner lends no support to its claim to standing; the Foundation is a real party in interest and has third-party standing; under the zone-of-interests test, the Foundation properly asserts its own claims where termination, if effective, would directly extinguish the Foundation’s right to receive prospective royalties from the current grant; and the Foundation is indeed a party whose injuries may have been proximately caused by violations of the statute. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's judgment. View "The Ray Charles Found. v. Robinson" on Justia 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