Q&A: What’s the Deal with These “Short Form” Option Documents?

Q:  I was recently presented with an option agreement.  At the end of the agreement there are two more short agreements.  One is a “Short Form Option.”  The other is a “Short Form Assignment.”  Why am I signing two options?  And why would I agree to sign a short assignment agreement which says they own all the rights when they haven’t exercised the option yet?

A:  Option Agreements are like rap stars.  They usually travel with a posse, albeit their posses are much shorter than the posses accompanying rap stars.  Rap stars hang with posses for two purposes: they want protection and they want to put the world on notice that they’ve arrived.  The Short Form posses that hang with Option Agreements accomplish a similar goal:  they are used to protect the optioning party due to the fact that they put the world on notice. Continue reading the full story . . . »

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Art Within Art Within Art

My brother, who runs a t-shirt company out of my parents’ garage, recently told me an interesting story about a $680 t-shirt designed by American fashion designer Marc Jacobs.  Yes, you heard me.  A $680 t-shirt.  Singular.

While some may call it sybaritism, T-Shirt Magazine advises:  “[i]f you’re ballin’ you probably have a few expensive t-shirts in your collection.”  And “[a] super expensive shirt is a must have for any collection.”  (Far be it for us to question the wisdom and expertise of T-Shirt Magazine on such matters.)  So who can you turn to, to fill that voluptuary void in your wardrobe?

Enter Marc Jacobs. 

Marc Jacobs is the head designer for the eponymous Marc Jacobs fashion line (not to be confused with his diffusion line — i.e., way to squeeze more money from people with less of it — Marc by Marc Jacobs).  In addition to being the creative director of Louis Vuitton since 1997, Marc Jacobs made Time Magazine’s 2010 Time 100 list of the 100 most influential people in the world and ranked 12th on Out Magazine’s 2011 list of “50 Most Powerful Gay Men and Women in America.”  (And you thought Hansel was so hot right now.)

While my wife would probably sell our firstborn child to have a shopping spree in Marc Jacobs’ boutique, I have absolutely no interest in fashion, design, or hedonistic clothing.  But when a graffiti vandal artist named “Kidult” tagged Marc Jacobs’ SoHo boutique with the word “ART” in hot pink spray-paint, tweeted about it “I did some ART?”, and drew Jacobs and at least one other designer into a surreal t-shirt-battle, I discovered a story that even the most fashion-backward among us can find amusing.

Continue reading the full story . . . »

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Q&A: Does This Rights Agreement Let Me Make a Feature Remake of a Short Student Film?

Q:  I saw a really cool short at a film school festival, and I acquired the right to remake it as a feature from the guys who made it.  I later found out that the short film was based on a 1990 short story written by an obscure writer from Georgia.  The filmmakers showed me a one-page agreement with the writer.  The agreement gives them permission to make “one short film based on the Story” and the writer of the short story keeps all other rights.  Since the filmmakers had the right to make their short and gave me the right to remake it, I should be ok without anything from the short story writer, shouldn’t I?

A:  Unfortunately, no.  While the filmmakers appear to have had the rights necessary to make their short film, it sounds like their right was limited to only making that one short.  They did not have the right to make, or authorize others to make, a feature film.  While you are indeed using the short primarily as the basis for your feature, because that short is based on the writer’s story, your feature will also be based on the writer’s story.  Therefore, in order to make your feature, you need two sets of rights:  (1) remake rights from the owners of the short film and (2) feature film rights from the author of the short story.  It looks like you’ve already accomplished number one (but see below for possible bad news).  Now it appears that you’ll have to scour the Georgia countryside looking for the obscure writer. Continue reading the full story . . . »

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Lights, Camera, Courtroom: Lessons from Mike Wallace

After CBS News legend Mike Wallace passed away in April, the news was (justifiably) flooded with commentary highlighting Wallace’s qualities as a newsman.  One obituary described him as “the ‘60 Minutes’ pit-bull reporter whose probing, brazen style made his name synonymous with the tough interview style he practically invented for television more than half a century ago. . . .”  The Chairman of CBS News and executive producer of 60 Minutes, Jeff Fager, described Wallace as an “infectious, funny and ferocious person . . . .”  As one writer explained, “Wallace didn’t just interview people. He interrogated them. He cross-examined them. Sometimes he eviscerated them.  His weapons were many:  thorough research, a cocked eyebrow, a skeptical ‘Come on’ and a question so direct sometimes it took your breath away.”

These qualities made for one of America’s most successful and respected interviewers and journalists.  Wallace had a knack for drawing the truth out of public and private figures, exposing wrongdoing of both personal and national proportions.  These qualities also make for a successful trial lawyer.

Sure, in recent years, television has provided us lawyers with so many role models, and taught us all kinds of helpful things about the practice of law.  From Law and Order’s Jack McCoy, we know that winning lawyers essentially speak in one-liners.  From The Practice’s Bobby Donnell, we know that the best trial attorneys have piercing blue eyes and a 5 o’clock shadow 24 hours a day.  From The Good Wife’s Alicia Florrick, we know that third-year associate lawyers routinely run cases pretty much all by themselves.  And from Boston Legal’s Denny Crane, we know that the most successful lawyers of all refer to themselves in the third person, and are pretty much just William Shatner.

But for years, I have drawn lawyerly inspiration from Wallace, whose interviewing style is a model for how evidence can be effectively collected in deposition and presented at trial.  And, in an era of video-savvy jurors, lawyers have much to learn from Wallace’s techniques. Continue reading the full story . . . »

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Miss Universe Organization Sues Contestant for Accusing Miss USA Pageant of Being Phonier Than a Spray-On Tan

As any viewer of The Apprentice knows, Donald Trump likes to be the one to say “you’re fired.”  However, Miss Pennsylvania, Sheena Monnin, recently “fired” Trump and his Miss Universe Organization.

Monnin gave up her crown after alleging that the results of the May 30, 2012 Miss USA Pageant were rigged, and were even known by certain contestants before they were announced on live television.

Monnin claims that the Donald is as morally bankrupt as many of his companies are financially bankrupt.  On June 6, 2012, Monnin posted this highly restrained “letter of resignation” on her Facebook page:

I have decided to resign my position as Miss Pennsylvania USA 2012.  Effective immediately I have voluntarily, completely, and utterly removed myself from the Miss Universe Organization.

In good conscience I can no longer be affiliated in any way with an organization I consider to be fraudulent, lacking in morals, inconsistent, and in many ways trashy.  I do not support this system in any way.  In my heart I believe in honesty, fair play, a fair opportunity, and high moral integrity, none of which in my opinion are part of this pageant system any longer.

Thank you all for your support and understanding as I walk a road I never dreamed I’d need to walk, as I take a stand I never dreamed I’d need to take.

After 10 years of competing in a pageant system I once believed in, I now completely and irrevocably separate myself in every way and on every level from the Miss Universe Organization.  I remove my support completely and have turned in the title of Miss Pennsylvania USA 2012.

Although the post has since been removed, the accusations didn’t go over well with Trump, who has a history of reminding the public about his honesty and search for the truth.  (When he teased making a presidential run in 2000, he humbly noted:  “I think the only difference between me and the other candidates is that I’m more honest and my women are more beautiful.”  More recently, Trump responded to President Obama’s definitive refutation of Trump’s “Birther” claims by proudly taking credit for getting to the truth of Obama’s birth certificate.)

The Donald vs. Miss Pennsylvania

Needless to say, Trump and the Miss Universe Organization did not take Monnin’s allegations of dishonestly lightly, promptly serving her with a legal arbitration action for defamation.  Essentially, they maintain Monnin is a “loser” whose whine is caused by a case of “sour grapes.”  While Sheena may be guilty of missed congeniality, has she actually Trumped up false and defamatory accusations? Continue reading the full story . . . »

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Warner Bros. Dropkicks Louis Vuitton’s Lawsuit Over The Hangover: Part II

Louis Vuitton has been busy practicing all kinds of legal kung fu in court lately.

First, it unleashed a Chuck Norris-like flurry of legal roundhouse kicks to the dome upon hundreds of counterfeiters in the form of hundreds of injunctions and even a $3 million dollar judgment.

Then, in March, a federal district court in New York found Hyundai liable to Louis Vuitton for trademark dilution, based on a thirty-second television commercial called “Luxury.” The Luxury commercial showed “policemen eating caviar in a patrol car; large yachts parked beside modest homes; blue-collar workers eating lobster during their lunch break; a four-second scene of an inner-city basketball game played on a lavish marble court with a gold hoop; and a ten-second scene of [a Hyundai] Sonata driving down a street lined with chandeliers and red-carpet crosswalks.” The Luxury ad sought to “redefine the concept of luxury by communicating to consumers that the Sonata offered ‘luxury for all.’” But within the “four-second scene” of an inner-city basketball game, it showed — for one second — a basketball with Louis Vuitton’s famous “toile monogram” (pictured left). Based on that one second of footage, Louis Vuitton established liability for trademark dilution.

Finally, after beating up on Hyundai, Louis Vuitton attempted to leverage its victory in its ongoing dispute with Warner Bros., over the use of knock-off Louis Vuitton luggage that appeared in a twenty-five second clip in The Hangover: Part II.

But Warner Bros., like Bruce Lee, does not succumb to roundhouse kicks to the dome so easily.

Continue reading the full story . . . »

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