Posts by Julia Haye

Julia Haye has a diverse litigation practice in which she handles a variety of entertainment, intellectual property and general business matters. Ms. Haye has successfully handled matters involving claims for copyright and trademark infringement, right of publicity, unfair competition, trade secret misappropriation, breach of contract and fraud. Julia has also handled a number of matters involving complex partnership and shareholder disputes.

10, 9, 8…Lawsuit? The Blow Up Over Beyoncé’s “Countdown” Choreography

About a year ago, I wrote my very first blog regarding copyright protection for choreography. In that post, I explained that even though dance is one of the world’s oldest art forms, the legal framework around copyright protection for choreography is still one of the least developed around. And, as our loyal readers will recall, the combination of law nerd/ex-dancer in me affectionately wished for the day that we would see a courtroom battle over choreography theft. Unfortunately for Beyoncé, the countdown may be over. (Cheesy pun intended.)

Most of you had probably never heard of Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, a Belgian contemporary dance choreographer. That is, until the recent release of Beyoncé’s “Countdown” video. Almost immediately following the release of “Countdown,” Beyoncé faced allegations that she stole the choreography featured in her video from two of De Keersmaeker’s contemporary works, Rosas danst Rosas (1993) and Achterland (1990). While Beyoncé admits that De Keersmaeker’s works were “one of the inspirations used to bring the feel and look of the song to life,” her official statement — no doubt vetted by a team of lawyers — was careful not to admit that she (or, more appropriately, her team) actually copied De Keersmaeker’s choreography. Thanks to YouTube and those of you out there with way too much time on your hands, however, we can analyze De Keersmaeker’s claims for ourselves and determine whether “Countdown” crosses the line between inspiration and imitation.

First, take a look at Beyoncé’s “Countdown” video:

And then take a look at De Keersmaeker’s works featured in this split-screen comparison:

Yeah, that’s kind of hard to explain away.

Although De Keersmaeker claims that she is neither upset nor honored that Beyoncé copied her dance moves, she made a point to say that “there are protocols and consequences to such actions, and I can’t imagine [Beyoncé] and her team are not aware of it.” Is De Keersmaeker right about those consequences? That is, does Beyoncé’s “Countdown” video infringe De Keersmaeker’s copyright in her choreography? Let’s recap some of the things we have learned here at Law Law Land. Continue reading the full story . . . »


Trying to Stay Off a Reality TV Show? Maybe Try Dancing Whenever the Cameras Are Around!

Curt Sachs once said that “dance is the mother of the arts.” Sounds very eloquent, doesn’t it? You can’t help but think of a beautiful ballerina gracefully cascading along the stage, performing in front of an adorning audience. Now, take this quote and those serene images, place them on train tracks, wait for speeding train to hit, and…boom! You now have Dance Moms, Lifetime’s latest so-called reality show and voyeuristic indulgence featuring infamous dance studio owner Abby Lee Miller, several of her young dancers, and their overbearing moms. The show appears to be loosely scripted, at best, to contrive needless drama and controversy. Does anyone seriously believe that these moms were genuinely outraged by the “wildly inappropriate” costumes their daughters were wearing? Pah-lease!

Not surprising that the best they could do was Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. on Lifetime. (Although we can all be grateful to the show for helping to bring the phrase “prosti-tots” into the vernacular. So, you know, thanks for that.)

Before I write any further, I should probably confess that I am both a former dance competition kid and, by definition, a dance mom. Like the Abby Lee dancers, my 11-year old daughter dances nearly 20 hours a week, performs in nine group routines and two solos, and attends many of the dance competitions and conventions featured by Lifetime. So, are the rest of us dance moms angry that the show entirely ignores the positives of youth dance in favor of gross sensationalization? That it fails to point out that, instead of coming home from school and sitting on the couch playing video games, these dance kids are getting incredible exercise, learning an art form, gaining performance skills, building self-confidence and creating life-long friendships? That it ignores how the drive and ambition these kids build as young dancers will launch them into a variety of successful, non-dance careers? Absolutely. Am I writing this blog to express my distain for Lifetime’s unfair and irresponsible depiction of the dance world? Maybe. But behind all the pirouettes, the show raises some interesting and novel legal issues. Really. Continue reading the full story . . . »

The New Twilight Saga: Summit Gets Serious Over Social Media Leaks

Sorry for vanishing this week, dear readers. Between Kate Middleton locking down Prince Wills and Navy Seals taking down Osama, it’s been a nonstop news frenzy, and there’s very little we have to say about any of it — except, perhaps, to wonder what sort of legal claim the extremely unhappy-looking little girl in the bottom-left of this photomight assert, or to discuss my potential claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress based on being subjected to the rogues gallery ofRoyal Wedding hats (egad!). But now that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are busy living happily ever after, it’s time to look forward to the next big wedding, coming soon to a theater near you: the marriage of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen. (Big sigh from Team Jacob.)

Twilight fans are dying to witness the magical wedding of the innocent Bella to her sexy vampire boyfriend Edward (previously known as Cedric Diggory), as well as other monumental events that occur in Breaking Dawn, the final book in the Twilight Saga. (Umm, of course I wouldn’t know anything about that…it’s not like I read the entire series cover to cover. Nope, definitely not me!). The first installment, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1, is scheduled to hit theaters on November 18, and Part 2 will follow in November 2012 (way to milk the franchise, Summit Entertainment). Just as the excitement for the film is building, someone always has to go and ruin the fun.

Several weeks ago, several unauthorized screenshots from Breaking Dawn were leaked and illegally posted on Twitter by anonymous users. Needless to say, Summit Entertainment was not happy. Filmmakers issued a statement pleading with fans not to view the photos or distribute them online. Robert Pattinson even made his own Cullen-like appeal to fans, asking them to “punish” the infringers and to “police your own.” (Of course, producers have let someofficially-sanctioned scraps out for the well-behaved Twi-hards of the world.) And most producers would stop there, with only their angry-sounding statements and impassioned pleas to fans to protect themselves. But Summit, you’ll recall is the studio that sued the makers of high-profile wardrobe pieces from the Twilight movies for advertising them as high-profile wardrobe pieces from the Twilight movies. It’s the studio that came after a lonely defendant for statutory damages for copyright infringement for leaking photos from last year’sEclipse. And now, it’s the studio that has taken the uncommonly aggressive step of filing a lawsuit against ten “John Doe” defendants. What does this mean? Continue reading the full story . . . »

Time Warner Cable v. Viacom, or, How a Cable Company Can Get Sued for Making Television Content Available to Subscribers in Their Own Homes

We all agree that iPads are awesome, not least because they are probably the greatest procrastination tool ever invented. Sure, you could play Angry Birds on your iPhone, or your Mac, or your Conan O’Brien talk show stage, but there’s something about spending hours mindlessly tapping and swiping away on your iPad that really captures that special feeling you first discovered when your mom finally broke down and bought you the Atari system you’d been begging for for months. And if you don’t yet own an iPad, it’s safe to assume that you wish you did, as the recent launch of the iPad 2 has made people of all levels of technological savvy more excited than ever to discover new apps to help them complete tremendously difficult, hugely important life tasks, such as holding their fingers in one place for an extended period of time, tossing pretend cows at pretend objects, and playing with zippers. Naturally, every company wants to make their services iPad-relevant.

Clearly anxious to join life after iPad, on March 15th, Time Warner Cable became the first cable service to launch an iPad app that allows viewers to watch live television on their iPads. Sounds pretty cool, right? That is, until you read the fine print: the app only works for people who subscribe to TWC’s cable television and Internet service, and it only works in the subscriber’s home, when the iPad is connected to TWC’s cable modem via a WiFi router,and only for the channels to which the specific user actually subscribes. (The app may or may not also require the user to softly whisper a benediction to TWC CEO Glenn Britt, while premium channels possibly require the user to submit a photograph of themselves burning a Verizon FiOS marketing circular.) So now I have a picture in my head of my kids sitting on our couch — in front of our 60” flat screen — trying to tune in to iCarly on a 9.7” iPad, while the same episode plays in HD in the background. Very useful, indeed. It’s like picture-in-picture, the innovation that everyone thought would revolutionize television viewing, only even more obviously useless from the outset.

Setting aside the obvious limited utility of TWC’s app (which inexplicably has already been downloaded 360,000 times), Viacom is not happy. Viacom contends that the app, which allows viewers to watch several of Viacom’s channels and programming, constitutes unlicensed distribution of its copyrighted material and is a breach of its agreement with TWC. Viacom has demanded that TWC remove its content from iPad viewing, including Viacom channels Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon and CMT.

Following the theory that your best defense is always a good offense (especially when you’rethisclose to getting sued anyhow), TWC filed a complaint for declaratory relief (a.k.a., the preemptive lawsuit soon-to-be-sued parties often file so that they can call themselves the plaintiff), asking a judge in the Southern District of New York to rule that its iPad viewing app is authorized under its agreements with Viacom and does not infringe Viacom’s copyrights. Viacom responded with its own lawsuit (because, again, everyone knows the plaintiffs are the cool kids in any given lawsuit), asserting a slew of copyright, trademark and unfair competition claims against TWC, and seeking hefty damages and injunctive relief to prevent TWC from continued iPad distribution of Viacom’s content. Continue reading the full story . . . »

Could a Bunch of Crazed Teenage Justin Bieber Fans Actually Be Felons? Never Say Never

As the mother of a 5th grader, I am well-versed in Justin Bieber.

I’ve been to his concert, and I enjoyed it. I know his songs, and maybe I’ve been caught letting out a “baby, baby, baby” or two. I even know that his mother’s name is Pattie and his favorite color is purple (somewhere Prince has to be saying to himself, “find your own color!”). And, of course, I shared a moment of outrage with my daughter when Justin was robbed of his Grammy by Esperanza Who? I often feel like I know Justin Bieber like I used to know Duran Duran. (For the record,Nick Rhodes was way cuter than Simon Le Bon. Quite a scary thought now, though…yikes!) The swanky hair, the smile, the dance moves, whatever “it” is, he’s got it. Even my four-year-old twins giggled with excitement as they watched Justin perform at the Grammys with “The Karate Kid” (and I don’t mean Ralph Macchio, which would have been about equally entertaining but ten times creepier).

Last week, in particular, was huge in Bieber Land. He performed at the Grammys (daughter was there, check), his inexplicably 3D biopic Never Say Never premiered nationwide, complete with a “purple carpet” Los Angeles premiere (daughter attended private advanced screening, check), and Glee aired its Justin Bieber Experience episode (come on, it’s Glee, mandatory check). Darth Vader covered his biggest hit in spoken word. Over the weekend, he won the MVP award at the NBA’s annual celebrity game (beating out NBA Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen). A few days ago, I even saw a 50-something-year-old man at a bar scrawl “(Baby x 3) + Oh” on his cocktail napkin, then hand it to a friend who, with a few flicks of his pen, made it “(Baby x 3) + Oh No.” And Bieber boasts the best nickname for his obsessive fan-base — Beliebers — of any pop act since Clay Aiken (anyone else rememberClaymates?). What could be wrong with any of that?

More than a certain group of crazed Beliebers who attended the recent the Orlando VIP premiere of Never Say Never could have ever imagined. Continue reading the full story . . . »

Hollywood Haunting: Remembering Our Favorite Half-Dead Serial Killers

February 13, 2009. Like any other day in the office, I was sitting at my desk managing the crisis of the moment when in comes one of the most beautiful flower arrangements I have ever seen. Dozens of deep red roses surrounded by seasonal flowers meticulously placed in a gorgeous ornate chest. For a quick moment my heart was aflutter, thinking that my husband had sent me a romantic Valentine’s Day delivery. But then something unusual caught my eye… Smack in the middle of the roses was a giant bloody machete.


I read the card: “Happy Friday the 13th. Love, Jason.”

Continue reading the full story . . . »