Rise and Fall of an Empire (Distribution, Inc.)

In the pilot episode of Fox’s smash-hit series Empire, Cookie Lyon, explaining why, after her release from jail, she’s returning to her husband Lucious Lyon’s fictional record label, Empire Entertainment, says simply: “I’m here to get what’s mine.”  This is, of course, in reference to the formerly-jailed matriarch having taken the rap for Lucious to the tune of 17 years behind bars for drug-running while he built his music “empire.” Coincidentally, it also may sum up the thinking over the last couple of months…
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“The Blueprint” for an Infringement?

A recently-filed case in a California federal court has Jay-Z and his promoters at Live Nation wondering whether they’ll continue to reap the benefits of the 1999 hit single Big Pimpin’ or whether they’ll be “spending G’s” to clean up a potential infringement posed by a sample looped throughout one of S. Carter’s most famous tracks.  Last week, an Egyptian plaintiff named Osama Ahmed Fahmy sued Live Nation Entertainment, Inc., seeking unspecified actual damages and costs, alleging Live Nation’s continued “use” of Big Pimpin’ in…
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Duluth Trading Company Takes it Easy and Don Henley Takes Them to Court

Maybe Duluth Trading Company should’ve known better. Maybe it was just living life in the advertising fast lane. But on October 6, 2014, the Wisconsin clothing company circulated an ad to its customers imploring them to “Don a Henley and Take it Easy.” The “Henley” the ad refers to is the famous, three-button long sleeve shirt that has become a symbol of relaxation and “cool” since it was first placed on store racks. But in invoking the surname of Eagles’ co-founder and lead singer Don…
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Godzilla Settles with “Mechahopzilla”

Godzilla’s rights-owner Toho Co. Ltd. announced a settlement of the intellectual property litigation with New Orleans Lager & Ale Brewing Co. (“NOLA”).  Toho had filed a lawsuit against NOLA when it had come out with a beer called ‘Mechahopzilla’ and used a logo allegedly similar to Mechagodzilla, a character from the 1974 film Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla.  While no monetary award was reported, the agreement calls for NOLA to rename its beer and change some aspects of its advertising and packaging that are affected by…
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Michael Jackson Performs at Billboard Awards via Hologram with Assistance of Federal Judge

On May 16, 2014, U.S. District Judge Kent Dawson issued a ruling permitting the Billboard Music Awards to use a hologram performance featuring the deceased music icon Michael Jackson in an upcoming awards show. The legal dispute over Jackson’s upcoming “performance” began after Hologram USA Inc. and Musion Das Hologram Ltd. (the “Plaintiffs”) sued the Estate of Michael Jackson and dick clark productions,  alleging that the planned spectacle  infringed on patents the Plaintiff’s held in 3-D image projection technologies.  The Plaintiffs are most well known…
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‘Hits of the 80s’ Producer Facing Class Action for Breaking ‘Promises, Promises’ to Consumers

On March 20, 2014, Tutm Entertainment, a media company known for producing music albums such as ‘Hits of the 80s’ and ‘Hits of the 90s,’ was hit with a class action suit in New Jersey federal court.  The suit, headed by lead plaintiff Celeste Farrell, is seeking over $5 million in damages for advertising practices Farrell claims constitute consumer fraud. In particular, Farrel’s filing accused Tutm of releasing albums that appeared to contain the original versions of classic hits such as “Cult of Personality” by…
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Judge Judy Suing to Protect Her “Prestigious Persona”

Judith Sheindlin – better known as “Judge Judy” – may soon be standing on the other side of the bench.  On March 12, Sheindlin filed her first lawsuit through which she is accusing fellow Connecticut attorney John Haymond of using her image in advertisements without permission. According to Sheindlin, Haymond and his firm have been airing advertisements in Connecticut and Massachusetts during broadcasts of her show.  Despite a warning to stop in March 2013, the firm continued to run the ads.  The unauthorized ads allegedly…
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Former ‘Mob Wives’ Star Sues Grand Theft Auto V Producers

Karen Gravano, former actress on the TV show Mob Wives, and daughter of real life mobster Salvatore (Sammy the Bull) Gravano, sued the Rockstar Games Co. over the use of a character in the mob-themed “Grand Theft Auto V” video game – a character Gravano asserts was modeled after her without her permission. The complaint asserts that the make-believe “Antonia Bottino” incorporated Gravano’s image and life story into the game without consulting Gravano or providing her any compensation.  The filing noted, “[n]otwithstanding the fact that…
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Supreme Court Denies NCAA’s Petition to Get “In The Game”

On January 13, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the NCAA’s request to intervene as a party in Keller v. Electronic Arts Inc.  The Keller case stems from 2009 and involves “rights of publicity” and antitrust claims. Former college football players alleged that the EA violated their right of publicity and conspired with the NCAA by using their image and likeness in its videogames.  In EA’s appeal, the Ninth Circuit held that the NCAA was not immune to the players’ claims because the depictions in…
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Palin Claims “Fair Use” on 9/11 Photo

Former Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin continues to make headlines. In September 2013, North Jersey Media Group (NJMG) filed a federal lawsuit against Palin and her political action committee (SarahPAC) for copyright infringement. The suit alleges that Palin posted NJMG’s iconic “WTC Flag Raising Photograph” on Palin’s Facebook page without permission. The photograph, taken by a staff photographer for NJMG, depicts three firefighters raising an American flag over the rubble of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Screen shots from Palin’s Facebook…
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