Sports

Ever wonder what it’s like to be so famous that people who look like you can make money just by acting like you? We’ve all heard of stunt doubles. And most of us have seen the movie Dave. But not everyone is familiar with the phenomena of professional celebrity impersonation and the fun legal issues associated with it.

In this edition of Leggo My Likeness, we’ll take a look at 6’8” Michael Fanter of Antelope Valley, CA, who reportedly charges up to $600 per hour as a Pau Gasol impersonator. (For the record, the real Gasol — power forward for the Los Angeles Lakers, just in case you actually need that information — is listed at an even 7’, so I’d look for a $100-per-missing-inch discount.)

The Double Take

One of the two pictures below is Pau Gasol. Can you guess who it is?

(Read to the bottom of the post to find the answer, after some deeply insightful legal analysis about Fanter’s work — do not scroll without reading!)
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Last week, Pac-10 Commissioner Larry Scott learned the hard way that conference expansion is a little trickier than subbing a “12” in for the“10” in your logo.

As many news outlets reported over the weekend, the soon-to-be-Pac-12 conference has discovered that the domain pac12.com has already been claimed by a fan of the late (unless he isn’t) Tupac Shakur, who has been using the site to offer an Amazon widget selling 2Pac albums. The Pac-10 has responded by filing a claim with the World Intellectual Property Organization, seeking control of the Pac12.com site.

Most people seem to assume this is nothing but a momentary hiccup in the conference’s plans. After all, the Pac-10 is a well-established — and well-funded — preeminent national sporting organization, and a one-page CD ad with the heading “Tupac Lives!” doesn’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of conference partisans everywhere. But, if it can’t (or won’t) cough up a check with enough zeroes on it in order to buy the Pac12.com domain peacefully, the conference may have a real problem wresting away control of the domain by legal force.

Why is that, you ask? The answer requires us to first play a quick game of alphabet soup.
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Unless you live here, I’m assuming you’re aware of a little football game taking place this weekend between the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I’m as excited as anyone for the game, which is why, this Sunday, I might try to find a local bar hosting a Super Bowl party. But I’ll probably be out of luck, unless I’m willing to go to a “Big Game” party instead. And if I’m feeling spendthrift — the always-confusing word that sounds like “thrifty” but actually means “profligate” — I might try to pick up a new flat-screen TV at a Super Bowl sale. But unless I’m willing to settle for one of those ubiquitous “Big Game” sales, I’ll probably be forced to stick with what I’ve got.

Every year, while every sports yak in America is obsessing over Super Bowl scouting reports, every business in America is trying to capitalize on the game. But most of them aren’t using the words “Super Bowl” to do so, and the reason is fairly obvious: the phrase “Super Bowl” is trademarked by the NFL, which is famously protective of its intellectual property. Moreover, the privilege of using the phrase “Super Bowl” in advertising is one of the valuable rights bestowed by the NFL upon its advertisers and promotional partners — which gives the NFL extra incentive to keep freeloaders from poaching the phrase (thereby diminishing its value to potential paying promotional partners).

But what if the NFL is wrong? What if I really could check out the Super Bowl party at my favorite watering hole without them being subjected to the threat of legal doom?

Guess what, kiddies: I can.
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It’s the holiday season, and if your house is anything like ours, things are getting a little hectic. The latkes are burning on the stove, the dog ate a sprig of mistletoe and now someone needs to drive it to the expensive vet that’s open on weekends and holidays, and…err…well, we can’t identify a single piece of Kwanzaa paraphernalia to build a joke around. Sorry.

Anyhow, we figure that you’re probably so busy these days — what with all that last-minute holiday shopping (still not too late to get us that ShoeDini we wanted!), dealing with visiting in-laws, and covering for all of your co-workers while they’re on vacation (not that we’re bitter) — you haven’t taken any time to treat yourself. Well, that’s why you have us.

We don’t want to give away what we’re giving you for Christmahanukwanzakah (it’s ecumenical), but we thought you deserved a little early holiday joy — in the form of what might be the greatest piece of legal correspondence in history (with special thanks to the rabid self-flagellating masochists Cleveland sports fans at ’64 and Counting)…
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This weekend, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 opened to the tune of $125 million at the box office. I expect you knew that already. But unless you are either a truly dedicated Harry Potter fan or a fake sports enthusiast, you might not have known that the fourth annual Quidditch World Cup recently concluded this month at DeWitt Clinton Park in New York City.

No, that was not a joke. People actually play Quidditch in real life. Lots of people, in fact.

Life imitating art. Also known as “Ground Quidditch” or “Muggle Quidditch,” the Quidditch World Cup provides an “alternative” athletic activity for students from over 400 colleges and 300 high schools (who probably feel thatUltimate has just gone way too mainstream, man). The event is organized by the newly-registered non-profit,Intercollegiate Quidditch Association. The IQA’s stated mission: to “promote Quidditch as a new sport and lead outreach programs to increase athletic participation among children and young adults and bring magic to communities.”


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College football fans know that when you turn on a Texas Tech game, you can expect to see some fireworks. Under former head coach Mike Leach, the Red Raiders became an offensive juggernaut — nobody would bat an eye at a 60-point outburst or 400-plus passing yards in any given week (nor at the Red Raiders allowing 63 points and 600 yards of total offense). As it turns out, Saturdays under Coach Leach may have been a bit more fun for Tech players than midweek practice. Leach was fired last December amid allegations that he forced a player who was recovering from a concussion stand for hours in a dark, locked closet.

So now you are probably thinking to yourself, is locking a player in a dark closet really that bad? Maybe that’s how you discipline your 9-year-old. Maybe that’s how a law firm partner punishes an unruly associate. Former Tech basketball coach Bobby Knight would have probably locked the kid in his trunk and driven him home (taking the scenic route). Coach Leach apparently felt the same way, as he filed a lawsuit against Tech soon after he was fired.
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The Madden NFL series of video games is the latest victim of the rash of lawsuits attacking video games for allegedly using celebrity likenesses without permission. Earlier this month, a retired Cincinnati Bengal and Tampa Bay Buccaneer named Michael, a.k.a “Tony,” Davisbrought a class action lawsuit on behalf of 6,000 retired NFL players, accusing publisher EA Sports of using likenesses of retired NFL players in its games without permission. Our regular readers know all about the ubiquity of these right of publicity cases, and in particular, how they’ve emerged in the video game context. And the script is usually familiar: video game portrays well-known celebrity’s image or likeness, celebrity gets mad, and it’s off to the courthouse. But this case is particularly interesting, because the plaintiffs’ claims don’t actually involve EA using their names or likeness.
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In more academic legal circles, there is a concept called “procedural justice”: in essence, the notion that fair procedures are the best guarantee for fair outcomes. For the most part, this is a concept that seems to have little application outside the esoteric worlds of judicial decision-making and legal system design. Yet I may have recently discovered the most visible, public, and nonacademic test case for the idea of procedural justice imaginable: the World Cup.

Along with the rest of humanity, I have spent the last few weeks watching the World Cup. I have never been a true soccer/football fan. But I used to play as a kid, and I root intensely for the U.S. team out of patriotic pride. In this particular World Cup, though, I have been stunned by just how often the linesmen and referees get it wrong. Soccer is a low scoring affair to begin with. Every goal counts. Often a single goal makes the difference between winning and losing or tying. And a single loss or tie often makes the difference between a team advancing or going home.
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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.
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Tiger Woods’ alleged mistresses are nothing if not enterprising. Case in point: as reported in the L.A. Times, alleged Mistress Number 11, Joslyn James, recently set up a website — sextingjoslynjames.com — in which she posted over 100 allegedly X-rated text messages allegedly sent to her by Tiger Woods. I checked out the site for myself, and can now confirm at least one of those “alleged” facts: the stuff is pretty graphic. Whether Tiger actually wrote the texts remains unknown — but creates an interesting intellectual property dilemma.
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