Classic Novel at the Center of New Copyright Battle

On May 3, 2013,  “To Kill a Mockingbird” author Nelle Harper Lee sued her former literary agent Samuel Pinkus and agency Veritas Media, Inc., accusing them of deceiving her into handing over the copyright to the book for nothing and wrongfully retaining the related commissions that Lee was entitled to. The back story is a relatively complicated one: Lee’s complaint asserts that Pinkus took advantage of his father-in-law’s ailing health back in 2002, snagging all the father-in-law’s clients from his literary agency McIntosh & Otis, which included Lee.  Then, Pinkus allegedly manipulated Lee, who was 80 years old at the time and recovering from a stroke in an assisted living facility, into handing over the rights to the work for no consideration.  Lee is currently 87 years old. Apparently, the ...
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NFL Players’ Workers’ Compensation Offset Suit Revisited by Second Circuit

On April 19, 2013, the Second Circuit reopened a claim allowing injured former National Football League (NFL) players from teams including the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, and Carolina Panthers to go forward with further litigation against the National Football League Management Council (council) over the size of workers’ compensation offsets that can be claimed by their former teams. The NFL Players Association (NFLPA) and the council are parties to a collective bargaining agreement that incorporates a standard player’s contract into its terms which generally provide two remedies when a football-related injury prevents a player from playing: (1) the full payment of salary for the remainder of the season in which the player is injured and (2) if the player is unable to play in the season following the injury, ...
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Insurance Blunder Costs Newest Philadelphia Eagles’ QB $11.5 Million

Quarterback Matt Barkley was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles with the 98th pick in the 2013 NFL draft.  He was the fourth quarterback selected and was the first selection in the fourth round.  History suggests that he will sign a four-year contract with the Eagles worth about $2.5 million.  Sure, that’s a lot of dough, but not nearly what Barkley would have earned had he foregone his senior season at USC and entered the NFL draft in 2012. As a projected top-10 pick last year, Barkley would have made a minimum of $12 million guaranteed. His only guaranteed pay this year could be a signing bonus in the $500,000 range.  Interesting reading, for some, but why does Professional Liability Matters care? Because Barkley could have purchased “draft insurance” last year which could have saved him millions. ESPN reports that Barkley returned for ...
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Songwriters Seek ‘Somebody’ to Sue – Hit Bieber and Usher with $10 Million Copyright Infringement Suit

On May 2, 2013, Justin Bieber, Usher, and Universal Music Corporation were slapped with a $10 million copyright infringement lawsuit by Virginia songwriters Devin Copeland (a.k.a. ‘De Rico’) and Mareio Overton.  Plaintiffs accuse Bieber and the others of stealing their song “Somebody to Love” – a song which Bieber released as a hit single in 2010.  Usher and Bieber later collaborated to release a remix of the song. Plaintiffs allege they handed the song over to music industry scouts in 2008, and it was then passed along to Usher, who then gave it to Bieber.   Their Complaint assert that the Bieber versions of “Somebody” infringe a valid copyright Plaintiffs obtained for the song in October of 2008, after the song appeared on Copeland’s “My Story II” album in March of that ...
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Settlement Allows PeopleBrowsr to Continue Drinking From Twitter’s Firehose Through End of 2013

On April 25, 2013, Twitter Inc. and PeopleBrowsr Inc. (a social media data analytics company) settled a lawsuit in California federal court over alleged violations of various anti-competition statutes.  PeopleBroswr filed suit against Twitter last November after Twitter threatened to cut off the company’s access to the “Firehose” data feed. Currently, PeopleBroswr purchases social media data from Twitter through the company’s “Firehose” feed, a constantly flowing source of information generated by all of the ‘tweets’ that flows through Twitter on a second-by-second basis.  In order to turn the information into profit, PeopleBrowsr sorts through the tweets and resells the information (which may indicate consumer preferences for certain products, places, etc.) to various commercial clients, including several Fortune 500 companies.  PeopleBrowsr’s lawsuit characterized Twitter’s attempt to cut off their access to ...
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Jay-Z Branches Out Into Sports, Lands Cano and Cruz; Is LeBron Next?

Jay-Z has built an impressive empire as a rap mogul, and now he’s moving into sports, reaching an agreement with Creative Artists Agency (CAA), which represents more than 800 professional athletes. Jay-Z has wasted no time making moves, signing on New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, and New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz as clients.  This move into the world of sports agency has not gone unnoticed. Cano was signed away from Scott Boras, universally regarded as baseball’s most powerful agent. And the Cruz signing was initially treated as a potential violation of NFLPA rules. The NFLPA’s “runner rule” prohibits anyone not certified as an agent from recruiting players. The NFLPA issued a statement that they were unlikely to treat this as a violation, given Cruz’s long-standing friendship ...
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Objectionable Combine Questions Lead the NFL and NY Attorney General to Team Up to Combat Sexual Orientation Based Harassment and Discrimination

On April 24, 2013, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced that the AG’s office would be working closely with the NFL to develop news policies to protect players from discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation.  Eventually, the effort will produce posters outlining the NFL’s anti-discrimination policies, which will be distributed and prominently placed in the locker rooms of all 32 teams across the league.  The NFL also plans to implement new training procedures to educate players and individuals involved in recruiting on how to report complaints of discrimination and/or harassment as incidents arise. Schneiderman wholeheartedly backed the effort, stating, “My office is committed to ensuring equal protection under the law for all employees and job applicants no matter where they work, and I applaud the NFL for working ...
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Was it Retaliation? Why New Jersey’s Whistleblower Statute May Pose More Problems for Rutgers University on the heels of the Mike Rice Scandal.

The Rutgers Basketball saga was early April’s big news. As most are aware, video recordings were made of basketball practices conducted by Head Basketball Coach Mike Rice which showed him using gay slurs toward his players and otherwise becoming physical toward them. The footage was given to Athletic Director Tim Pernetti in November 2012. Pernetti seemingly took the path of lesser resistance by suspending Rice for three days and levied a fine against him.  No further action was taken until the tape was made public this month; subsequent to the tape being aired and the resulting outrage, Rice was terminated.  This was followed by Pernetti’s resignation.  Rutgers subsequently announced it would be undertaking a further review of the situation. University sports scandals seemingly beget other subplots and more litigation, and ...
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A Lady Never Tells Her Age, But IMDb Does: Actress Loses Suit Against “Bible of the Industry”

Huong Hoang, a/k/a, Junie Hoang, star of Gingerdead Man 3: Saturday Night Cleaver, recently lost her suit against the Internet Movie Database when a Washington State Federal Jury rejected her claim that the database provider breached Hoang’s subscriber agreement. The B-movie actress sued IMBd.com after it published her true date of birth over her objection.  Originally suing as ‘Jane Doe’ in 2011 claiming breach of contract, fraud, and violations of Washington’s privacy and consumer protection laws, Hoang had to re-file using her true name after U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman ruled that she could not proceed anonymously. As her 30th birthday approved – based on the false birth date originally provided to the site – Hoang requested that the site remove her age on her profile.  The site refused unless ...
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ACC Locks Down Members with Media Rights Deal

On April 22, 2013, the Atlantic Coast Conference (“ACC”) Counsel of Presidents voted to approve a grant of media rights through 2026-27.  Because the deal ensures that each school’s media rights for all home games would remain with the ACC regardless of the member institution’s exit from the conference, the move would make it almost financially impossible for member schools to leave.  The ACC is now the fourth league of the “power five” (which also includes the Big Ten, Pac-12, Big 12, and the SEC) to execute this grant of rights.  The SEC is the only league that currently has not signed a similar deal. The ACC made the move to solidify conference membership after rumors that several ACC schools were being recruited to join the Big Ten.  One such ...
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