Clearance Is Sexy Too

Is it just me, or has there been a larger-than-usual number of right of publicity complaints filed lately by celebrities against advertisers? Among others, we’ve seen Lindsay Lohan’s action against E*Trade andHulk Hogan’s lawsuit against the Post cereal company. In each of these cases, the primary legal issue is whether the celebrity’s identity, or “persona,” has actually been used by the advertiser. This month brought an even more straightforward right of publicity action involving the use of an Albert Einstein photo in a print ad for General Motors. What’s amazing about this one is that, not only did the advertiser not get permission to use what is clearly Einstein’s likeness, but that it placed Einstein’s head on the body of a shirtless underwear model. Which all leads me to wonder: is our bailout money going to pay for this? Continue reading the full story . . . »


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Covering Your (Jack)Ass: Lessons on the Reality Liability Waiver

With 4 out of 10 of the top rated TV shows of 2009 being considered “reality” programming, the emergence of “reality” films like Borat ($261 million in world wide box office) and the Jackass movies (over $164 million, collectively), and a certain dowdy Scottish church singer riding a British talent show to 93 million YouTube page views and nearly 9 freakin’ million albums sold, the staying power and lucrativeness of “reality” is undeniable.

Despite its financial success, reality production has always been viewed as the less attractive, less educated stepchild of the entertainment family. And, like other children who’ve experienced the sting caused by not being their parents’ “favorite,” reality productions have had their fair share of binge drinking-induced bar fights and run-ins with the law. Since the early 2000s, the courts have seen an increasing number of lawsuits against reality production companies and studios, brought by both cast members and the mere civilians who have dared cross their paths. The suits have ranged from the expected rights of publicity and defamation claims, to more serious and violent claims, such as assault and battery. Continue reading the full story . . . »


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NFL Antitrust Case: Huge Blow to Professional Football, or Much Ado About Nothing?

If you’re a football fan, like me, you’ve probably heard about the recent antitrust case in which the NFL supposedly suffered a big loss. For those that haven’t heard, here’s the story in a nutshell. For years, NFL teams have jointly licensed their trademarks for use on products like t-shirts, baseball caps, mugs, etc through a company called National Football League Properties (NFLP). About ten years ago, the NFLP decided that only Reebok could make headwear bearing NFL logos. As a result, American Needle, Inc., a competitor of Reebok, lost its contract with NFLP. Faced with the loss of a tremendous revenue source, American Needle did what any proud American would do: it sued, claiming the NFLP was acting improperly as a monopoly and not allowing competition in the NFL headwear business. On May 24, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that American Needle could proceed with its lawsuit. Continue reading the full story . . . »


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Being Biopic-ky: Or, How Do You Make a Biopic and Avoid Getting Sued?

Filming began at the end of May for the movie Winnie, a biopic about the life of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, ex-wife of former South African president Nelson Mandela, with Jennifer Hudson in the starring role and Terrence Howard as Nelson Mandela. But these days, what director could start the cameras rolling without a demand letter already in hand? Lucky for Darrell Roodt (and for entertainment law bloggers everywhere), Madikezela-Mandela’s lawyers stepped in, threatening legal action because she “would like to see the script and approve.” Roodt, for his part, vowed to move ahead with filming on schedule, saying that “[t]he film will be made based on a screenplay that was well researched and without any interference, without any influence from any of the main characters.” Which is essentially a polite way of saying buzz off. Continue reading the full story . . . »


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Q&A: We Started It Together, But I Want to Move Forward Alone… What Do I Owe Him?

Q: 12+ years ago a colleague came to me with a high concept logline for a TV series. I created the characters and most of the bible, even wrote a pilot. Through some bad decisions on his part, we went with a terrible production company that managed to sink the idea… (I know this sounds like I am laying all the blame at his door, but I had no say on who we went with for development.) As of today the project is still unproduced and not in development. I have no contract with anyone regarding this material… I am also a prose writer and have thought the idea would be a good book series, and might even serve as a backdoor pilot. I do not want his input on writing a book… What do I owe him on this possible venture?

A: You may be shocked to know that bad decisions in Hollywood aren’t monopolized by the mouth breathing reality show stars dragging their knuckles down Sunset Boulevard looking for the paparazzi. In fact, at any Clippers game, you’ll see plenty of successful Hollywood types. So don’t get down on your colleague or even yourself. The key is to recognize where you went wrong. Continue reading the full story . . . »


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D.C. Circuit Throws Monkey Wrench into FCC’s Plans to Enforce Network Neutrality

On November 14, 2007, then-candidate Barack Obama gave a speechat Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California in which he promised, “I will take a back seat to no one in my commitment to network neutrality. Because once providers start to privilege some applications or websites over others, then the smaller voices get squeezed out and we all lose.”

Less than a year after President Obama took office, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) opened a formal debate on network neutrality. Just over a month ago, however, a federal court’sdecision threw a monkey wrench into the FCC’s plans to fulfill President Obama’s commitment. Continue reading the full story . . . »


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