In late March, Irving Azoff’s company, Front Line Management, sued Guns ‘n Roses front man Axl Rose for nearly $2 million of unpaid fees. Amazingly, this is the third major talent v. manager lawsuit in just the first three months of 2010. First was Sly Stone suing his former manager Jerry Goldstein for allegedly co-opting $50 million in royalties from Sly’s music, likeness and trademark. Then March brought a lawsuit between Lady Gaga and her ex-boyfriend and manager Rob Fusari, and the Axl Rose matter. So, why the sudden rash of manager disputes? Maybe it’s some mysterious plot by entertainment industry executives to reap strife between talent and their representatives. Or maybe the managers’ moons are in Venus and the talent’s moons are in Cancer (whatever that means). But I think there’s a far simpler explanation: given the unique nature of the relationships between talent and their managers, when the talent wants out, the managers are easy targets. Continue reading the full story . . . »
Q: Recently someone claimed to still own the American rights to the Sherlock Holmes stories and threatened to withhold them. What is copyright law as regards a work like this? I used a book published in 1912 by Earl Derr Biggers and made into a play by George M. Cohan in 1913 as the basis for a play of my own, specifically because I thought both would be well into the public domain. Do I need to worry about copyright clearance for something that old? Biggers died in 1933 and Cohan in 1942. Continue reading the full story . . . »
Q: I have recently optioned the autobiography of a person that I’d like to use as the subject for a feature film. In the last quarter of the book, a historical figure whom my subject served with in the military is featured in a number of scenes. Do I have to get clearance from the person’s estate before using them in the script? I assume the author got permission to use her story in his book, but does this permission extend to a film?
A: Judging by your question, I think I can assume that your historical figure is truly historic (i.e., he or she is history). Either that or you are pondering getting clearance from someone’s large house. I’ll assume the former. The fact that your person of interest is an historic figure and is no longer with us makes your question much easier to answer. Continue reading the full story . . . »
Science-fiction author and futurist Arthur C. Clarke famously formulated three laws of prediction, the first of which posits: “When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.” The same could be said of copyright law.
If you believe categorically that something is not copyrightable, you may well be wrong. You have a much better shot at being right if you conclude that this something possibly could be copyrightable, because the answer to the question “Is it subject to copyright protection?” is, more often than not, “It depends.” In other words, the law of copyright is weird, wacky and wonderful. Continue reading the full story . . . »
There is an old Chinese proverb which cautions against drawing attention to something you are trying to conceal. As the story goes, a man named Zhang built a small fortune of 300 ounces of silver through hard work. Fearful that someone might steal his fortune, Zhang decided that the best thing to do was bury it. After burying the money, Zhang then had a brilliant idea to further ensure his money’s security. He decided to mark the spot with a sign that read: “This land does not have 300 ounces of silver buried here.” Continue reading the full story . . . »
Q: My company is producing a film which has a character that is taken from another very well known film. This new story has absolutely nothing to do with the previously established film, is not in any way a sequel and we never even see the other person, they’re invisible in the mind of a lunatic and it’s questionable whether they exist or not. He just mentions them by name and says that they’ve been friends since he saw that movie. What’s our legal leg to stand on to be able to keep this character by name, in the script, which adds a great deal of humor as he interacts with the character and we can’t see it… or is it better to hedge our bets and make it a completely made up invisible friend? I seem to be stumping every lawyer friend I have with this one, as it’s a peculiar case… any thoughts? Or, is there an alternative in just securing permission from the controlling entity of the previous film? Continue reading the full story . . . »