Posts by Megan Rivetti

Megan Rivetti is an associate in Greenberg Glusker’s Litigation Group.



Monkey See, Monkey Sue

On behalf of Law Law Land, I would like to apologize to HBO, the New York courts, and basically, the world at large. A few months ago, my colleague Elisabeth Moriarty suggested that a creative Indonesian monkey should, perhaps, be afforded copyright rights in his adorable self-portrait. That suggestion must have angered the intellectual property gods, who have now unleashed their wrath upon the simian world. Some bozo, I recently learned, sued a cartoon ape for purported right of publicity violations and infliction of emotional distress. Rest easy, Magilla — no one is on to you for that failed bank robbery attempt. I’m talking about the lawsuit recently filed by Johnny Devenanzio… (If you are wondering who this Johnny fellow is, don’t worry, you are not alone.)

For those of you who are not MTV reality show devotees, let’s get you up to speed. Johnny got his start on the Real World Key West, a “true story…of eight strangers…picked to live in a house…work together and have their lives taped…to find out what happens…when people stop being polite…and start getting real.” Johnny then appeared on The Challenge — which used to be called The Real World-Road Rules Challenge, at least back when anyone I know cared about The Real World, or Road Rules, or any kind of challenge that might pit the two against each other — and he continued to make a fool of himself on numerous The Challengespin-offs (all of which involved copious amounts of alcohol, the occasional fist fight, and a fair amount of stupidity). These shows portrayed Johnny as an arrogant, scheming meathead who likes to stir up drama, earning him the nickname “Johnny Bananas.” (Ironically, you can also hire Johnny to give lectures on alcohol awareness, humility, and conflict resolution. That sounds like a great idea…)

Now, let’s get to the lawsuit. With a little help from lawyer Stephanie Ovadia (yes, the same lawyer who represented our beloved Lindsay Lohan in some of her most entertaining lawsuitsever), Johnny is suing the people behind the hit HBO series Entourage (R.I.P.). The lawsuit is based on a storyline involving a fictional cartoon called Johnny’s Bananas in which Kevin Dillon’s character, Johnny “Drama” Chase, lends his voice to a cartoon ape, aptly named Johnny, who tends to go “bananas” when things don’t go his way. Angered by this storyline (and likely upset after his lawyer pointed out that he has a striking resemblance — both mentally and physically — to an unattractive, hot-headed cartoon ape), the real-life Johnny is now claiming that HBO is trying to capitalize on a nickname that he “is solely responsible for creating.” (Apparently Johnny needs to brush up on his Chicago mobster trivia, as he’s not the only “Johnny Bananas” around.)

In his complaint, Johnny seeks an injunction to bar HBO, Time Warner Cable, and Entourage creator Doug Ellin from (a) distributing or broadcasting Entourage’s final season in any way, shape, or form, and (b) manufacturing and selling Johnny’s Bananas merchandise. Johnny also seeks compensatory and punitive damages for the tremendous emotional distress he suffered as a result of Entourage’s “offensive and disparaging” use of his nickname. Does Johnny have a shot at victory? Continue reading the full story . . . »

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Go Ahead, Jump on the Jagger Wagon (But Know the Law Before You Do!)

I’m a sucker for any show that involves singing (except for, perhaps, this one). So, of course I watched the latest American Idol knockoff to hit the airwaves — The Voice. During one of the show’s episodes, Maroon 5 took the stage to debut their new single titled “Moves Like Jagger.” (CAUTION: Clicking on this hyperlink may result in a semi-ridiculous/incredibly catchy song getting stuck in your head.) Much like the title suggests, “Moves Like Jagger” pays homage to Mick Jagger’s iconic dance moves (luckily, not these dance moves).

After I heard this song for the first time (which turned into hundreds of hundreds of times as it played on loop in my head for about two days), I wondered whether Mick Jagger had any legal remedies to prevent Maroon 5 from using his name in the song title (assuming Mick did not authorize them to use his name in this way). Let’s see what Sir Michael Jagger could do if he decided to do his cocksure strut down to the courthouse. Continue reading the full story . . . »



“The Best Legal Blog I’ve Ever Read!” – [Insert Big-Time Celebrity’s Name Here]

Celebrities have a lot of influence over modern society. They influence how we dress (hey celebrities, can someone put an end to the unflattering skinny jeans trend, please?), how we talk (or had you not noticed your frattiest coworkers repeating “that’s hot” and “winning” ad nauseum), how we dance (who started this fist-pumping thing, anyway?), the way we vote (or whether we vote at all), and what we buy. Not surprisingly, companies take advantage of this bizarre phenomenon by paying celebrities to promote their products. For example, football great and ladies’ man Joe Namath showed off his shapely gams to endorse Beautymist pantyhose in a silly commercial, supermodel Heidi Klum strangely decided to lend her name and face to a fat-free fruit candy, and Oprah’s multi-sector Midas touch is so potent she has an “Effect” named after her.

Occasionally, a company might incorporate a celebrity’s quote into an advertisement to hype a particular product or service. For instance, the late suit designer and proprietor of “the most expensive store in the world,” Bijan, teamed up with the uber-expensive Rolls-Royce in a partnership that Bush the Elder (that’s right, George H.W. Bush himself) describes on a Santa Monica Blvd. billboard as “[a] class act designer partnered with a class act car.” It is probably safe to assume that Bijan/Rolls-Royce obtained permission to use George Bush’s name and quote on that billboard (and if not, I know a good lawyer). But, because we live in a world where people do not always ask for permission (or otherwise abide by the law), this billboard made me think about the limitations on using a celebrity’s quote in an advertisement. Continue reading the full story . . . »



Old Navy Is Definitely “Keeping Up with the Kardashians”

By now, I’m sure many of you have seen the Old Navy commercial starring Kim Kardashian Melissa Molinaro, a curvy, dark-haired Kim Kardashian lookalike who bursts into song and dance while looking “super C-U-T-E” in her Old Navy duds. Like many of you, I did a double take when I saw this commercial for the first time. Upon closer examination (read: once I caught a glimpse of the star’s normal-sized backside and nimble dance moves), I realized the star of the commercial was not Kim, but just a woman with a striking resemblance to the reality TV star/fashionista/walking proof of the decline of Western civilization.

After the commercial first aired in February, articles devoted to Old Navy’s use of Kim’s spitting image popped up all over the Internet. Molinaro herself has called the comparisons to Kardashian “extremely flattering” — but of course, who’s to say whether Kim herself would agree? So, naturally, upon first viewing Molinaro’s commercial, the lawyer in me immediately thought, “Can Kim sue Old Navy for using her lookalike in a commercial without her permission?” Then, the blogger in me thought, “I should write a blog about this!” (Then, the normal human being in me thought, “What have I become?”) So, let’s see if the law is on Kim’s side. Continue reading the full story . . . »



Step-By-Step…Through the Legal (Non-)Consequences of Publicly Outing a Celebrity

Supermarket tabloids compete with each other in a lot of ways. Who can attract the most readers/eyeballs? Who can come up with the most misleading headline? Who can stretch the definition of “news” to the most absurd degree? But one of the strangest and most downright disturbing areas of competition among tabloids has to be, who can be first to out a celebrity?

In many instances, well-known entertainers have been driven into public revelations about deeply private aspects of their lives after relentless speculation and intrusion from aggressive tabloids and their dubious “sources.” In 2006, ‘N Sync alum Lance Bass finally came out of the closet after years spent hiding his sexuality to appease his female fans and strategic handlers (and the world was duly shocked). Clay Aiken, who rose to fame after placing second on that little show called American Idol, waited until becoming a father to publicly disclose his sexual orientation in 2008. And last year, Latin heartthrob Ricky Martin ended years of public scrutiny and speculation by announcing to the world that he is “a fortunate homosexual man,” forcing an immediate public reevaluation of the lyrics to such modern classics as “Shake Your Bon-Bon” and “She Bangs.”

Lance, Ricky, and Clay decided to come out on their own terms (notwithstanding the slight nudge [read: “very, very forceful shove”] from the Hollywood gossipmongers). But as Law Law Land superfan/mother to our very own Rachel Wilkes recently asked us, what would happen if someone in the know publicly outed a celebrity before that celebrity was ready to do so themselves? Could the furor over that celebrity’s sexual preferences move from the gossip rags to the courthouse docket? Let’s take a look at a recent example. Continue reading the full story . . . »



Why You Probably Won’t See Grammer vs. Grammer on the Civil Docket

During a Hollywood breakup, inevitably the bitter dumpee will publicly air some dirty laundry about the heartless dumper. And by now, most of us are probably bored of the endless parade of allegations ofdalliances with the nannyobsessions with child pornography, andmind-bending racist rants (I mean, those are so overdone, right?). But every once in a while, you get a really interesting, fresh take on the mid-breakup PR takedown. For example, what if the dumpee stronglyinsinuates that the dumper is secretly into cross-dressing? Can that dumper sue the loose-lipped dumpee for defamation? Well, let’s take a look at an example.

The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills is a lovely show that documents the lives of several caring, down-to-earth, and respectful women….oh wait, wrong show. The real Real Housewives of Beverly Hills documents the dramatic lives of six well-to-do women who love their ritzy lifestyles and seem to constantly get into screaming matches with each other about absolutely nothing. (Um. Or so I hear…) One of the show’s stars, Camille Grammer (a.k.a. Kelsey Grammer’s bitter soon-to-be ex-wife), has been the instigator of many of those screaming matches. Yet, evidently not content with stirring things up in only one medium, the erstwhile Mrs. Frasier Crane went for bonus headlines during an appearance last week on theHoward Stern Show.

When Howard Stern asked Camille whether Kelsey starred in the cross-dressing Broadway show La Cage aux Folles because he is gay, Camille quickly replied, “That’s for another reason.” Howard Stern and his sidekick Robin Quivers then pressed Camille about whether Kelsey was secretly into cross-dressing. In response, a laughing Camille not-so-coyly stated, “I didn’t say it. I’m not talking about that.” While Camille did not exactly say that Kelsey likes to play dress up with women’s clothes, she never denied it or indicated that she was joking around. Instead, she strongly implied that cross-dressing was one of Kelsey’s private extracurricular activities. Before going any further, but not before hinting that Kelsey has worn her panties in the past, Camille decided to change the subject for fear she would be “smacked with a lawsuit.”

Kelsey does not seem to be all that rattled by Camille’s antics. But, this being a legal blog and all, what we want to know is: can Kelsey sue his estranged wife for defamation? Continue reading the full story . . . »