Simpson’s Voice Man, Hank Azaria, Wins Copyright Dispute over ‘Funny or Die Video’

Hank Azaria, an actor who provides the voices for several characters on the long-running hit TV show The Simpsons, recently won a California federal court dispute over the copyright to Jim Brockmire, a fictional baseball announcer.  The fictional character originally premiered in the 2010 “Funny or Die” film entitled “Jim Brockmire, a Legend in the Booth,” a story about a make believe baseball announcer that loses his cool after discovering that his wife had been cheating on him. Azaria filed the lawsuit in November…
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Warner Bros. Wins Final Fight for Superman

On November 21, 2013, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that Warner Brothers is the sole owner of Superman’s copyright.  The ruling should be the final legal battle in the lengthy ownership dispute with the estates of Superman’s co-creators.  The court described the case as “another chapter in the long-running saga regarding the ownership of copyrights in Superman – a story almost as old as the Man of Steel himself.” Superman made his debut in 1938 as a character in Action Comics #1.  The…
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Ryan Hart Did Not Consent to $40 Million EA Settlement

Ryan Hart, a former Rutgers quarterback, told the New Jersey federal court that he was “completely uninformed” about negotiations and a settlement impacting his case against Electronic Arts (EA).  In his October 21, 2013 filing, Hart did not object to the settlement, but he opposed an action to replace him as the named plaintiff. The $40 million settlement, announced last month, will remove EA and the Collegiate Licensing Co. (CLC) from Hart’s case and two others if approved.  Hart’s case was filed…
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Disney Suing Musical Company for Infringement

Last week, entertainment giant Disney file suit against a Pennsylvania based Entertainment Theatre Group, doing business as American Music Theatre (AMT).  In its complaint, Disney alleges that AMT’s production, Broadway: Now and Forever, infringes its rights and is seeking damages. AMT is staging Broadway: Now and Forever, a show that billed as a “larger-than-life theatrical compilation of unforgettable music from the hottest new blockbusters to all-time favorite classics.” “Broadway: Now and Forever recreates the greatest moments ever on stage.” The show…
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EA & CLC No Longer “In the Game” With College Athletes

After a long legal battle with college athletes, Electronic Arts (EA) and the Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC) are calling it quits.  On September 26, 2013, the companies announced that they reached a settlement agreement with the former college athletes.  If the judge approves the settlement, the NCAA will be forced to defend the suits on its own. Four years ago, former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon filed a lawsuit against the NCAA, EA, and CLC focusing on college athletes’ rights and compensation.  O’Bannon sought…
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No Doubt Settles ‘Band Hero’ Lawsuit over Avatars with Activision

On October 3, 2012, popular musicians No Doubt settle their ongoing lawsuit against Activision Publishing, Inc. over the use of the group’s ‘avatars’ in the ‘Band Hero’ video game. No Doubt had filed suit for breach of contract and right to publicity claims when it was discovered that players could use the No Doubt avatars to perform songs in the game by other musicians. No Doubt alleged that they had been “turned into a virtual karaoke act” by the game, and asserted that the game…
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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…
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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…
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Disney Suit Seeks to End the Party for Seller of Unlicensed Character Costumes

Recently, Walt Disney Co., Sanrio, Co., Ltd. and DC Comics filed suit in federal district court against Party Animals LLC (a business offering costumes and party entertainment) alleging that Party Animals infringed on various trademarks and copyrights owned by the Plaintiffs by renting character costumes produced without permission in violation of the Plaintiffs’ intellectual property rights.   Some of the alleged infringing costumes named by the suit include Winnie the Pooh, Batman, Superman, and Hello Kitty. Party Animals’s website plainly states that it has no licenses…
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Stan “The Man” Lee Victorious Once Again

On July 9, 2012, U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson for the Central District of California dismissed a suit brought against Stan Lee and his production companies, which sought various ownership rights and profits stemming from the use of iconic characters such as Spiderman and the X-Men.  Marvel Entertainment, Inc. currently owns the rights. Counsel for Lee claims that the suit was barred under the legal doctrine of res judicata – similar claims had been filed and dismissed in New York federal court back in April…
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