Posts In "Litigation"

Litigation




Donald Trump Sues Bill Maher for Monkeying Around on Late-Night Talk Show

Here at Law Law Land, there are a few pearls of wisdom we like to repeat — perhaps to a fault — just because they are so helpful and right.  Copyright law doesn’t protect ideas, only the expressions of ideas.  Being legally right only matters if you can afford to prove it.  And, perhaps most important of all:  don’t mess with the Donald.  Just ask Bill Maher.

In January, Maher visited fellow comedian Jay Leno on The Tonight Show.  There, Maher discussed his “beef” with Donald Trump, who Maher claimed had rejected several invitations to appear on Maher’s late-night HBO show, Real Time with Bill Maher — evidently to Maher’s relief, given that Trump was such “a terrible racist.”  Of course, the ever-gracious Mr. Maher was quick to wish “the best for the syphilitic monkey who does [Trump’s] Twitter feed.”

Seizing upon the “syphilitic monkey” moniker, the conversation led (as it naturally would) into a joke about Donald Trump being “the spawn of his mother having sex with an orangutan” because, according to Maher, “the color of [Trump’s] hair…and the color of an orange orangutan is the only two things in nature of the same color.”  (Obviously.)  Ultimately, Maher concluded the joke by announcing — in an apparent parody of Trump’s (not actually) “very big,” (not remotely) game-changing pre-election announcement (more on that in a moment) — “I hope it’s not true…but unless [Trump] comes up with proof [that he is not the lovechild of an orangutan]…I’m willing to offer 5 million dollars to Donald Trump…that he can donate to a charity of his choice.”  As an example, Maher suggested the “Hair Club for Men.”

The very next day, demonstrating the sense of humor for which he has become legendary, Trump had his attorney write to Maher, formally accepting Maher’s “offer” and attaching a copy of Mr. Trump’s birth certificate, demonstrating that Trump is indeed “the son of Fred Trump, not an orangutan.”  (Can you imagine being the poor lawyer who got that “urgent” assignment at midnight?)  Trump demanded a $5 million payout, and when Maher ignored the demand letter, Trump actually filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court demanding $5 million in damages.  Let me be clear:  this is not actually a joke.  This is a lawsuit that has seriously been filed.

This prompted Maher to assert that Trump needs to understand two basic concepts:  “what a joke is and what a contract is.”  And although we all know how this case is going to end, we would be remiss in not taking this opportunity to dedicate an entire blog post to The Donald’s bloviating buffoonery.  Could Trump really take this lawsuit all the way to the bank?

Continue reading the full story . . . »




Who Owns Cute Girls in Pink Coats on Daddy’s Shoulders?

The Beatles crossing Abbey Road.  A nurse and sailor kissing in Times Square as the end of World War II is announced.  An African vulture patiently waiting for a starving toddler to die.  The 1968 Olympics Black Power salute.  Jack Ruby shooting Lee Oswald.  Rose and Jack on the bow of the Titanic (or, for movie fans of a different era, maybe Marilyn Monroe’s white dress billowing as she stands over a subway grate).

Iconic photographs capture an image and immortalize it.  Once seen, forever remembered.  Pictures worth a thousand words.  Other poignant clichés.  The point is, a photograph can take everything a historical moment symbolizes and preserve it for eternity — or at least until you accidentally throw out the pictures while moving, or maybe leave them unattended in your storage locker until you die.  (And if you haven’t seen the above photographs — other than the storage locker ones — stop reading this blog and look at them now or risk forever being a cultural ignoramus.)

Now think of a photograph of a little girl wearing a pink coat sitting on her father’s shoulders outside a church clutching a palm leaf.  Unless you spend a lot of time studying FBI manhunt posters, this photograph does not immediately spring to mind.  But it has one trait that the above photographs do not:  it was the subject of a recent lawsuit by its photographer against Sony Pictures, which used a photograph featuring a little girl wearing a pink coat sitting atop Eric McCormack’s shoulders in a television movie.  So, are these two photos “substantially similar,” such that the image on the right infringes the copyright in the image on the left?

According to Sony Pictures — and, now, the Boston-based federal Court of Appeals for the First Circuit — the answer is no. Continue reading the full story . . . »




The Lakers Beat the Who?

Seattle sports fans recently rejoiced when the Maloof family announced that they have (finally) agreed to sell their stake in the Sacramento Kings to a Seattle-based investment group that (spoiler alert) intends to move the team back to the Emerald City.  Considering how well the former Seattle SuperSonics are doing as the new OKC Thunder, coupled with the fact that the Seahawks recently blew what could have been the most amazing comeback in recent memory, who could possibly deny Seattle’s sports fans this fantastic opportunity?

For starters, there are the Sacramento Kings’ fans, who fully appreciate the irony of Seattle trying to poach an existing team while still bemoaning the fact that their Sonics team got poached by Oklahoma City.  Rest assured that Kings fans will stop at nothing to keep the team in “Cowbell Kingdom,” if for no other reason than to continue persisting in their ridiculous fantasy that a “rivalry” exists between the Kings and the Lakers.  (Of course, what’s really going on is an all-too-obvious ploy to support the struggling cowbell industry, which the rest of America — except for maybe The Bruce Dickinson — will just never understand).  Leading the Cowbell Kingdom movement is former Phoenix Suns superstar and now-mayor of Sacramento, Kevin Johnson, who not only has a political science degree from U.C. Berkley, but also blew my 12-year-old mind back in 1994 when he posterized Hakeem Olajuwon.

Just one day after this week’s announcement of the sale, mayor KJ warned Seattle fans:  “Don’t celebrate too early.”  Because if KJ gets his way, the Kings will be staying in Sacramento (and the cowbell industry will be saved).  Such a result would not only devastate the hopes and dreams of Seattle NBA fans, but would also totally obviate all of the hypothetical legal stuff I may or may not eventually get around to discussing later in this article. Continue reading the full story . . . »




To Be Judged Not By the Color of Their Skin, But By the Content of Their Legal Briefs

[Ed. Note:  In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we'd like to re-run one of our favorite seasonal blog posts, thereby honoring Dr. King's legacy not only as a visionary and civil rights leader, but also as a copyright litigant.  Don't judge us; we're lawyers, we can't help ourselves.]

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

These words will be heard many times this week as we celebrate the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They are, of course, from King’s famous 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech. But as you celebrate his life and listen to his words, ask yourself this question: have you ever heard the whole speech? Not just the key excerpts that will be repeatedly broadcast on the news, but the entire, seventeen-minute address as it was given to a crowd of 200,000 in front of the Lincoln Memorial?

Ever wonder why it’s not shown on TV more often?

The answer, my friends, is copyright. Because while Dr. King may have dreamed of a world without racism, even he wouldn’t dare to dream of a world without lawsuits.

Yes, in addition to being a noted clergyman and civil rights leader, Dr. King was a copyright litigant. Continue reading the full story . . . »




You Can’t Sue Your Favorite Team for Stinking, But Can You Sue Them for Intentionally Stinking?

My wife is very excited about tonight’s Laker game.  Not because she is a Laker fan.  Indeed, any actual Laker fan (like me) knows that now is a decidedly bad time to be a Laker fan.  True, during the last off-season we acquired Superman a/k/a D12 a/k/a Dwight Howard, and two-time MVP Steve Nash season.  True, we still have the Black Mamba.  And yes, we still have (at least for the moment) Pau Gasol.  We even replaced former-coach-of-the-year Mike Brown with different former-coach-of-the-year Mike D’Antoni as our new head coach (although it meant passing on other former-coach-of-the-year Phil Jackson).  So why are the Clippers the L.A. basketball team going on franchise winning streaks, while the Lakers are a sub .500 team?  Why does the classic and hilarious Onion video about a Staples’ Center collapse scenario which mercifully brings about an early end to a Clippers game now seem like it should only apply to the Lakers?

Whatever the reason, my wife couldn’t care less.  Like I said, she’s not a Laker fan — she’s a Steve Nash fan.  It’s so bad, in fact, that she won’t even watch the game when Steve Nash is not on the floor.  She’ll just pick up her iPhone and look at cute animal pictures or surf Pinterest.com for whatever it is that people do on Pinterest.com.  Maybe looking for pictures of Steve Nash?  In short, she completely loses interest.  So I can understand her paranoia about whether Steve Nash will suit up tonight (especially given his recent trouble with injuries).

But would my wife and I ever sue the Lakers for a refund if they decided to bench Steve Nash?  Of course not.  It’s not like we live in Miami!

Because these days, people apparently do that kind of thing in Miami… Continue reading the full story . . . »




“Where Are They Now”: Law Law Land Edition

This time last year, Law Law Land joined the hackneyed proud tradition of legal blogs offering year-end lists of cases to watch in the coming year (though in our defense, we did try to mix it up by reviewing totally absurd cases as well as totally important cases).  But “year in review” and “year to come” are cultural clichés that never held much appeal to me.  “Where are they now?” on the other hand?  That’s more my speed.  (Maybe that’s why I always adored the last five minutes of every episode of VH1’s Behind the Music, where the program would show the artist in their current, everyday life and tease the inevitable “impending comeback.”)  So what has become of those five big cases we told you to watch this year?  And did we pick good ones or not?  (Preview:  Yes, we did.  Oh shush, I don’t care if we’re biased.) Continue reading the full story . . . »




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