Recent Deals Demonstrate Need For Cap on Contract Length

The Minnesota Wild made waves this offseason by signing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to identical 13 year, $98 million contracts.  Shortly before that, the Pittsburgh Penguins signed Sidney Crosby to a 12 year, $104.4 million contract extension that will pay him through the age of 38.  These contracts epitomize a problem that has bedeviled the NHL ever since the salary cap was introduced following the 2004-5 lockout: salary cap circumvention.  And, to no surprise, the NHL once again locked out the players when the collective bargaining agreement expired.  These contracts, and others like them, are at the heart of the dispute. Each of these three contracts contains a common theme: higher annual contract values early in the contract, when the player is still in the prime of his career, ...
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Ghost Rider Creator Consigned to Copyright Hell with Appellate Decision

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed a ruling by U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest (for the Southern District of New York) by refusing to revive copyright claims brought by comic book writer and “Ghost Rider” creator Gary Friedrich.  The ruling confirmed that Friedrich had both (a) signed over whatever rights he had in the character in a 1978 agreement with Marvel, and (b) alternatively, had waited too long to sue over those rights and could therefore not dispute them. “Ghost Rider” first appeared as the alter ego of fictional motorcycle stuntman Johnny Blaze in “Spotlight 5,” a Marvel volume composed by Friedrich. Friedrich maintains that this contractual transfer of what he claims were “initial” rights did not include renewal or future rights for ...
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Pacquiao Wins Round Against Mayweather in District Court

On September 19, 2012, U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks ordered Floyd Mayweather to pay $113,518.50 in attorneys’ fees and costs as a result of refusing to show up for a deposition in a suit filed against him by fellow boxer Manny Pacquiao.  The underlying action is one for defamation – alleging that Mayweather told multiple parties, including reporters, that Pacquiao uses performance enhancing drugs. Mayweather insisted that he missed the deposition last fall because he had been too busy training.  However, investigators “obtained photos of Mayweather at various nightclubs across the country showing him dancing, drinking, and spending significant amounts of money.”  The court believed that his failure to appear was a calculated decision, noting “the award of attorneys’ fees in this matter is a sanction against Mayweather’s obviously intentional ...
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Author Fails in ‘Avatar’ Copyright Suit Against Cameron and Fox

U.S. District Judge Manuel L. Real recently granted director James Cameron’s and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.’s motion to dismiss in a copyright action, holding that a disgruntled author and screenwriter was unable to demonstrate that “Avatar” was “substantially similar” to his novel, “Bats and Butterflies.” “Bats and Butterflies” is a story about a bullied boy who travels to a magical land called Altair where he befriends a tribe of aliens that look like butterflies.  At the end of the story, the boy battles against a tribe of bats to protect the butterflies from destruction.  The author, Elijah Schkeiban, alleged in a January 2012 complaint that Cameron and Fox infringed on his copyright for “Bats and Butterflies.”  According to Schkeiban, the plot of “Avatar” closely tracks that of his novel. ...
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Writers Call Foul on FX Over ‘The League’

Writers Joseph Balsamo and Peter Ciancarelli filed a copyright infringement suit in the U.S. District Court in New York against cable network FX, accusing the network of using their idea for a television show as the basis for its popular program “The League.” “The League” premiered in October 2009, and the fourth season is scheduled to air next month. According to the writers, they filed a television treatment titled “The Commissioner” with the Writers Guild of America in December 2006.  The treatment was also posted on several literary forums that the writers claim are easily accessible by FX.  “The Commissioner” tells the story of a group of friends who are in their 10th year of participating in a fantasy football league. The complaint points to several alleged similarities between “The ...
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NFL Attempts to Keep Insurance Coverage Dispute in California

The National Football League recently filed a motion to dismiss a  lawsuit filed by Alterra America Insurance Co. in New York State Supreme Court, arguing that the excess insurer did not have the requisite standing to add additional insurers as parties to its New York action, since the NFL is already pursing an action against them inCalifornia. The current dispute arose out of the massive insurance coverage obligations dispute between the NFL, NFL Properties LLC, and a host of primary and additional insurers, which began after the league was hit with a class action lawsuit by over 3,000 former players.  In the class action suit, the former players accuse the NFL of downplaying the risks of player concussions, causing many now-retired NFL alumni to experience degenerative mental diseases and later-life ...
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‘Pink Slime’ Manufacturer Fights Back at ABC with Defamation Suit

A manufacturer of beef trimmings launched a $1.2 billion defamation suit against the American Broadcasting Company, ABC reporters Jim Avila and David Kerly, Diane Sawyer and several others in the Circuit Court of South Dakota, First Judicial Circuit on September 13, 2012. In its complaint, the manufacturer, Beef Products, Inc., alleges that ABC’s multi-part documentary attacked BPI’s lean finely textured beef product (the substance less affectionately dubbed “pink slime” by critics in the documentary) causing it to incur a loss of business since the series aired.  The complaint notes that several high profile customers (including McDonald’s Corp. and grocery chains such as Kroger Co.) stopped purchasing LFTB after the negative media attention brought about by the series, causing BPI to incur monthly sales losses in excess of $20 million. BPI ...
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Sinatra’s Estate Prevails in Trademark (Hot)Dog Fight with Food Truck Owner

On September 12, 2012, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s appeals board upheld the denial of an attempt to trademark the name “Franks Anatra,” holding that it wrongfully referenced the famous singer Frank Sinatra and was likely to cause confusion or otherwise imply a false association with the iconic American singer. The estate of Sinatra and Frank Sinatra Enterprises LLC led the opposition toMichiganhot dog truck owner Bill Loizon’s application noting that they currently owned the rights to three trademarks which registered the name Frank Sinatra and Sinatra for use in “entertainment services and prepared sauces.”  Additionally, the Trademark Act of 1946 prohibits granting an application for a trademark where it would “falsely suggest a connection with persons living or dead.” Among Loizon’s arguments in favor of his application was ...
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Disney, Sony Face Billion Dollar ‘Sister Act’ Suit filed by Harlem Nun

Harlem nun Delois Blakely is suing Disney and Sony Pictures for allegedly stealing her life story for the plot of the popular movie “Sister Act.”  According to Blakely, she delivered a synopsis of her autobiography, “The Harlem Street Nun” to a Tri Star Pictures producer.  When they expressed interest in the story, producer Scott Rudin took the story to Disney, where they made “Sister Act.” The Disney picture featured Whoopi Goldberg as a Reno singer who is forced to go into hiding in a convent in order to escape her mobster boyfriend.   While in the convent, she teaches the church’s choir to sing unconventional songs.   The film earned two Golden Glob nominations and made $231 million worldwide. In her complaint, Blakely argues that the film, its 1993 sequel, ...
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Appeals Court Rules the NFL Doesn’t Have to Play Nice with Mean Gene Atkins on Disability Claims

On September 11, 2012, a three-judge panel from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that the Nation Football League would not be required to extend “extra retirement disability benefits” to “Mean” Gene Atkins.  While Atkins could receive “inactive” player disability benefits, the ruling prevents him from eligibility for the more generous “football degenerative” disability benefits that the league affords retirees with football related injuries.  The ruling comes despite Atkins’ insistence that his current ailments are a result of injuries suffered during his 10-year NFL career. Atkins’ current battle began in 2010 when he sued the NFL Player Retirement Plan, the NFL Supplemental Disability Plan and the Management Trustees of the NFL Player Retirement Plan in federal court in Austin, Texas, alleging that his shoulder, head, ...
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