$25 Million Indie Film Scam

July 29th, 2011

And you were told nobody would invest in your indie film…

In mid-June, eighteen people were indicted for a $25 million indie film scam.  The boiler room scam consisted of telemarketers cold calling homes seeking investments in indie films, making false promises of 1,000% returns, movie credits, and uses of the investments.  Some of the “indie films” where never made and those that were often went straight to DVD or were made with a small budget.  For example, Cinamour Entertainment LLC collected $15 million to make “From Mexico With Love” from 450 of the “investors,” but the movie only cost $5 to produce.  The head of Burbank film company Q Media Assets, a former CIA agent, has already plead guilty to conspiracy, mail fraud, and tax charges.  A dozen defendants were named in the 45-count Cinamour indictment; nine defendants were charged in the 33-count Q Media indicment.

Press release form the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

La-La-Lawsuits: A Look Back on July’s Finest Litigious Moments

July 29th, 2011

Composer Jack Urbont is suing Sony Music Entertainment and Ghostface Killah for illegally sampling his “Iron Man Theme,” originally created for the 1960s television show, The Marvel Super Heroes.

A Florida judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by White Wave International Labs that claimed Lindsay Lohan and a business partner stole a formula for a sunless spray tan.

Orlando Magic (and former University of Arizona – go cats!) guard Gilbert Arenas recently followed Chris Bosh‘s and sued his ex-wife and the producers of VH1‘s Basketball Wives.  Here’s the complaint.

A California Superior Court judge  rejected Ticketmaster‘s settlement with a class of plaintiffs who claimed they were misled on “delivery fees” of concert tickets. According to the judge the settlement ”offered virtually no benefit to the class member.”

American Idol creator Simon Fuller  filed a lawsuit against Fox and Simon Cowell for an exective producer credit and a piece of ‘X Factor’ revenues. More details about the case here.

A New York federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by writer Martin Alexander who claimed he came up with a copyrighted sitcom entitled Loony Ben that bore a striking similarity to the Emmy-award winning ABC comedy Modern Family.  Alexander’s list of similarities over a show to be focused on “a non-traditional family” was not enough to meet the New York court’s threshold for “substantial similarity,” so Alexander will not be getting his demanded 50% interest in the copyright.

Glee co-creator Ian Brennan is being sued his friend Michael Novick, who claims he was promised 15% in backend compensation on the hit Fox musical after helping Brennan develop the show.

Gossip Girl star Leighton Meester sued her mother for getting plastic surgery on Meester’s dime.  The actress alleges her mother used money for plastic surgery, botox and hair extensions that Meester had sent for her brother’s care.  A week later, the mother, Constance, filed her own lawsuit against Meester, claiming Constance “sacrificed her own happiness” for her daughter’s career by paying $230,000 for the actress’s acting classes and education.  Constance also claims that Meester agreed to pay her $10,000 a month for her mother’s case, which Meester has never paid out.

A federal court in New York refused to dismiss David LaChapelle’s copyright infringement lawsuit against Rihanna, Def Jam Records and Black Dog Films.  LaChapelle claims that the video for Rihanna’s “S&M” infringes upon a number of his photographs.  The judge found that Rihanna’s team had access to LaChapelles work (they used it as references in their storyboard), that there is “substantial similarity” between the works, and that the fair use defense in this case is “misguided.”  A pre-trial conference is set for August 10.

CBS sued Lucas Reiter, writer of NBC’s new show The Firm, for tortious interference with contract, breach of contract, and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.  CBS is claiming that Reiter and Entertainment One developed The Firm for CBS under an exclusive contract (which paid over $250,000) and then took it to NBC without CBS’s permission.  The Firm (show) picks up where Grisham’s novel The Firm leaves off.  It is set to air midseason with Josh Lucas as the star.

T-Pain, the R&B singer and producer widely credited with popularizing auto-tune, is suing Antares Technologies, the inventor of the auto-tune technology.  The singer is seeking an injunction to prevent Antavares from using his name, photograph, likeness, and his voice, claiming that continued implication of an endorsement will confuse and mislead the public and damage sales for his own new technologies, including his own voice-manipulation product “The T-Pain Effect.”

The View star Barbara Walters has been sued over allegations that she lied and defamed a woman in her 2008 autobiography Audition: A Memoir.  Nancy Shay claims to have had a relationship with Walter’s daughter nearly 30 years ago when both were teenagers. Shay says she was expelled from school at Walters’ behest back then, thus ruining her life, and was bullied to remain silent all these years. Now, after being allegedly subject to an unflattering portrayal in Walters’ memoirs, Shay is suing for defamation.

Heavy-metal rocker turned radio host and conservative preacher Bradlee Dean is suing MSNBC and Rachel Maddow for allegedly defaming him in a segment when she quoted a radio show statement he had previous made which stated in part “Muslims are calling for the execution for homosexuals in America… They seem to be more moral than even the American Christians do. Because these people are livid about enforcing their laws, they know homosexuality is an abomination.” The lawsuit claims $50 million in damages and alleges that Maddow twisted Dean’s comments in an effort to undermine Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann.

Joe Pesci is suing Fiore Films for $3 million and punitive damages after claiming they cut his role and salary in their John Gotti biopic, Gotti: In the Shadow of My Father.  Even though a contract was never signed, Pesci claims he was offered $3 million to play Gotti pal and enforcer Angelo Ruggiero and had already gained 30 pounds for the part.

Lebanese Musician Zeid Hamdan Arrested for Defamation

July 27th, 2011

Lebanese musician Zeid Hamdan was arrested today for allegedly defaming the Lebanese president in his song “General Suleiman,” which was released two years ago.  I’ve enjoyed Hamdan’s music for years, specifically the recordings of his electro-pop band Soap Kills which he formed in 1977.  Hamdan is also a frequent collaborator with a personal acquaintance, so this strikes close to home for me.

Hamdan rode his bike to the police station earlier today, thinking he was going to sign some papers.  Instead, he was arrested.

“General Suleiman” ends by telling the general to “go home.”  At the video’s screening, Hamdan  stated that for him Michel Suleiman “was a neutral candidate who offered hope of putting an end to the war, but this was paradoxical because he’s a soldier”.

Hamdan’s lawyer released a statement, calling for the public to take a stand:

“This arrest hurts freedom of art and opinion and expression in Lebanon and reveals how authorities discard personal freedom.

What makes it really regrettable is that it happened in Lebanon at a time when we see revolutions in different Arab countries, to remove the holy status of Arab presidents and give back honour to Arab citizens.

Following what we have said, we ask the public to take a stand to defend the republic’s freedom in Lebanon.”

Tweets with the hashtag #freezeid are already circulating.

UPDATE: According to Zeid’s Twitter account, he has been released.

Here is the video:

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Event: Noteworking at Premier Studios with Rightsflow & Jingle Punks

July 26th, 2011

Event Alert: Noteworking at Premier Studios with Rightsflow, Jingle Punks this Wed. 7/27

The Noteworking meetup is taking their monthly gathering to the next level with an event at Premier Studios, 723 7th Avenue, 6th floor, on Wednesday, July 27th from 7pm-11pm.

This months Noteworking will feature talks by the NYC-based companies Jingle Punks on music supervision, and Rightsflow on song clearance. This informative event will be followed by music, networking, and light snacks.

$5 Admission, RSVP required.

Amy Winehouse Found Dead

July 23rd, 2011

Amy Winehouse was found dead today in her Camden flat at age 27, apparently due to an overdose.  Winehouse struggled with drug and alcohol abuse as well as self-destructive behavior.  These darker aspects of her life should not overshadow the incredible music she created during her life.  Back to Black garnered five Grammy awards and revitalized British and soul music on an international level.

An eerie coincidence -  Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Curt Cobain and Brian Jones all died at the same age and under similar circumstances.


In this heat, I’d probably spend $10,000 to buy air too.

July 22nd, 2011

With the heat wave causing fits of panic and near suffocation, nothing surprises me.  Not even an article about the $10,000 purchase of an “art” piece that consists of nothing but the air around us.

As part of James Franco’s Museum of Non-Visual Art, Montreal web producer, social media marketer, model and actor Aimee Davison bought a piece entitled “Fresh Air” for $10,000.

Here is the description of the piece:

By Praxis – Conceptual – Fresh Air -This is a unique piece, only this one is for sale. The air you are purchasing is like buying an endless tank of oxygen. No matter where you are, you always have the ability to take a breath of the most delicious, clean-smelling air that the earth can produce. Every breath you take gives you endless peace and health. This artwork is something to carry with you if you own it. Because wherever you are, you can imagine yourself getting the most beautiful taste of air that is from the mountain tops or fields or from the ocean side; it is an endless supply. Naming Rights- You get an entire wing of the museum named in your honor for this purchase. The owner of this artwork will receive a title card with a description of the piece to be mounted on your wall, and used when explaining the work. You will also get a letter of authentication, and a pdf copy of the catalog! For this category, you will also get invited to the after-party if you are in New York City in November of 2011. Important! You are not buying a visible piece of art; you are buying the title and description card for the imagined artwork.

For more details and to watch a video interview with Davison about the purchase, check out the original Huffington Post article here.

Event: The New Master of Your Domain? ICANN’s New Top Level Domains

July 22nd, 2011


Wed. Aug 3rd · iBreakfast  8:00 – 12:00 pm
Herrick, Feinstein LLC  ·  2 Park Ave. NYC
Master of Your Domain?

Brands, categories, even ideas can be your domain.     

ICANN’s ruling on the domain registries forever altered the way brands, associations and other entities are represented online. The “dot com” era will soon be replaced with a myriad of possibilities involving “dot brand” and “dot generic” – essentially “dot anything.” The implications for SEO and trademark protection are critical, and the opportunities presented to brands, industry associations – even investors – is exploding.

Is this the new lakefront property bonanza of the Internet?  This iBreakfast Conference will sort through the opportunities and surrounding issues.


Roland LaPlante, SVP, CMO, Afilias
Mike Davies,
Marketing Director, Verisign  Ken Hansen, Sen. Dir. Business Development, New TLDs, NeustarBen Crawford, CEO, CentralNic and dotBrand Solutions

Michael Berkens, Industry Consultant & Blogger Right Of The Dot    

Wendy Selzer, Esq., Princeton Center for IT Policy Barry Werbin, IP Group Chair & Partner, Herrick, Feinstein LLP   

Robert/Stuart Lawley, CEO, ICM Registry

Anastasia O’Rourke, Big Room Inc.

Scott Seitz, CEO, DotGay LLC   

Edmun Chong, CEO, DotAsia Organisation;  

Dirk Kirchenowski, Founder, Dot Berlin (remote)

Annalisa Roger, Founder/CEO DotGreen (remote)

Moderated by Paul Farkas, Smart TLDs
Presented by Alan Brody, TECHmarketing



How will the Web be impacted by New TLDs:

* The Impact of New TLDs on .Com, .Org, and Country-Code Domain Extensions;

* Brands and SMB Opportunities to Increase Brand Identity and Optimize Marketing and Need to Act Defensively;

* The Progression of World Cities gaining Sovereign Digital Land to Strengthen Public and Private Sectors and Global Relations;

* The Voice of Cultural and Interest Groups to be Heard Locally, Regionally, and Globally

Daily living is increasingly more connected with the internet. Social media, mobile apps, and on-demand cloud technology are taking us to places we have never been before. The increased ability to secure prime branding is needed as as the threshold to conduct and promote business is becoming exponentially democratized and across multiple touch-points across digital and social media Across most generations, digital natives and savvy users are using the web in so many new ways as virtual and physical worlds are merging to form our post-digital worlds.

The implications for big business, smbs, cities, content developers, advertisers, marketers, investors, interest groups and the mainstream social prosumer is overwhelming and portends a great new shift in the digital media world. While brands see opportunity, but fear trademark infringement. Cities and regions can follow-suit to countries, gaining new prime digital ground to optimize the needs and goals of its government, business, community and tourism sectors. Leading consortiums and entrepreneurs in key industry verticals have the opportunity to gain presence and traction within the crowded and noisy online, and soon mobile environment. Public interest groups and less-connected cultures have the chance for increased awareness and voice, but also the risk of greater digital divide.

Event Recap: Marketing Your Music

July 22nd, 2011

Last night I attended a seminar at the Gibson Showroom (former location of The Hit Factory studios) entitled “Marketing Your Music: Opportunities in Films, Television and Other Media.”  Although the topic is similar to a panel I co-organized for Women in Music last month, the seminar was pretty different.  It was not a panel, per se, but rather a presentation conducted by Dave Hnatiuk (pronounced Narek with a rolled r) and David Weiss, co-authors of the book Music Supervision.

In assessing this event, I’m going to be brutally honest.  That said, I completely understand how hard it is to put on an event like this, but today I get to wear the audience hat, rather than the event planner.

The event was set to start at 6 pm.  The coordinator of the event did not show up until around 6:45, so we were all waiting around the lobby aimlessly for almost an hour.  The set up was strange with limited seating.  The refreshments were appreciated, but the wine was so warm it was being referred to as “mulled.” There were technical difficulties; the video projector wasn’t working so we watched video examples on a laptop computer held up by David Weiss (who had a great sense of humor about the glitch, which made the experience much less awkward than it could have been).  The presentation itself (including the question and answer period) was no more than an hour, yet the event was advertised as taking place from 6 – 9 pm.  The seminar portion was seemingly cut short by the need for two performance, which took place following the presentation.  I’m not sure I can speak for others in attendance, but I did not attend this event to see a concert. “Live Music” was nowhere in the title of this seminar, and any mention of live performances I assumed would be as background or entrance music.  Those of us meeting each other outside of the room and exchanging information were constantly shushed and told to reenter the studio to see the performance.  The tickets for the event were $40, in my opinion steep for the hour of information.

The presentation itself was useful.  Dave Hnatiuk knows his way around the music industry.  He is a music supervisor, sound designer, engineer and musician.  He can communicate his experiences and advice thoughtfully and effectively to both industry professionals as well as artists.  He described specific examples of launch campaigns, ads, and shows that he music supervised, detailing the process. A number of online resources were thrown out, and I appreciated his honesty in criticizing many popular resources.  Surprisingly, when asked how he finds music, the first answers were Pandora and iTunes.  These may seem obvious, but with nonexclusive music libraries popping up all over the internet and claiming to be the direct link to music supervisors, I was surprised that supervisors stick to basic music providers.  In discussing these online libraries that license music, Hnatiuk said he doesn’t use them much, only when on a very limited budget.  He did praise them for having “authentic sounds.”

Tips for getting your songs placed?  Hnatiuk mentioned a few that I found particularly useful:

  • Make sure you have stems of your music.  Oftentimes the placement will require remixing or taking out certain parts of the song.
  • A direct pipeline to the music supervisor is great, but don’t stalk them!  Email once a month and if they aren’t writing back, take an honest look at your music and ask if it’s good and/or if it’s appropriate for the placement.
  • Send what the supervisors need; don’t force your music upon them if it’s not right.
  • Be specific in your emails about what you’re sending. Describe the music in the subject line of the email.

I’m sure Hnatiuk had much more wisdom to share, but unfortunately was cut short.

Aside from the presentation itself, the audience was a varied group and engaged in the presentation.  People were eager to network following the presentation but conversations were stopped by the live performances.  Some of us managed, however, and I was able to get to know a number of talented new people.  Overall, I can’t say I would spend another $40 on an event like this, especially when through Women in Music, I get to attend similar ones for free.  I did learn more about the current landscape of music supervision, and would be very interested to see the Daves on another panel again soon.

South Park Wins “What What (in the Butt)” Parody Lawsuit

July 19th, 2011

Earlier this month, a federal court in Wisconsin ruled on a copyright case between Brownmark Films, LLC and the folks behind cartoon South Park (including, Comedy Partners, MTV, Paramount, and Viacom  as well as the South Park company), alleging that South Park infringed their copyright in the music video “What What (In the Butt)” (“WWITB”). A 2008 episode of the cartoon, entitled “Canada on Strike,” was about Butters making an internet video in the hopes of having it go viral and make tons of money off it.  The video in the cartoon replicates parts of WWITB, with Butters singing most of the song dressed in various costumes.  In the end, Butters’ video (like the original) goes viral, but the boys fail to make money.  Brownmark Films (alleged owner of the copyright in the original WWITB video) sued South Park for infringing its copyright by using portions of the original WWITB composition.

The defense primarily relied on the fair use doctrine, claiming that the inclusion of WWITB in the South Park episode is a parody of the original work.  Based on this argument, this court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss with prejudice.

Below is a discussion of the various issues in the case and the court’s analysis.


First, the court looked as to whether the plaintiffs had standing to bring the case.  Only exclusive owners, not mere licensees, of a copyright have standing to bring a lawsuit claiming copyright infringement.   Two of the three creators of the video assigned their interests to Brownmark Films, and the first issue is whether a co-owner of a copyrighted work can grant an exclusive license without all the other co-owners.  The court did not find persuasive the 9th circuit case Sybersound Records, Inc. v UAV Corp (517 F.3d 1137), which set forth the rule that all owners of a copyright must join in granting an exclusive license.  Instead, the court found the assignment here sufficient to be an exclusive assignment to Brownmark of the two owners’ rights in the copyright, a proper basis for standing to bring a copyright infringement claim.

Fair Use Doctrine

The heart of the case is whether the South Park episode infringed the copyright of WWITB; more specifically, whether the defendant’s use of WWITB is fair use, an affirmative defense in copyright law.

The fair use doctrine allows for certain uses of copyrighted works by people other than the copyright owner without the owner’s consent.  Such appropriate uses, such as for purposes of criticism or comment, are not considered infringements.  To determine whether a particular use is “fair,” courts look mainly to four factors: (1) the purposes and character of the use; (2) the nature of the copyrighted work; (3) the amount of substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work (17 U.S.C. § 107).

The court reviewed the four factors for the specific case in question.  The “purpose and character” of the uses was “to lampoon the recent craze in our society of watching video clips on the internet that are – to be kind – of rather low artistic sophistication and quality,” commenting on the ultimate lack of monetary value of such videos.   The opinion notes that the use is transformative of the original “by doing the seemingly impossible – making the WWITB video even more absurd by replacing the African American male singer with a naive and innocent nine-year old boy dressed in adorable outfits.”  Further, it is “truly transformative” because it not only pokes fun of the original but also comments on a social trend.

Regarding the other factors, the court found that the use of the work was relatively insubstantial in that it is less than a third of the length of the original work and that there was little risk that the use would usurp the market demand for the original.

Here is the full decision.

And watch both versions of WWITB below.

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Event: Media Leaders Networking Event

July 18th, 2011

Join fellow Media Leaders in NYC for an event on July 19th to share ideas and enjoy meeting new friends. There’s no keynote speaker or panel of experts, just socializing and mixing with key influencers that are changing the way the industry operates.

Official RSVP required here: http://medialeaders.tv/new-york-networking-event-lexbar-at-st-giles-the-court-hotel/

This event uses these twitter hashtags: #MediaLeaders #NYC

Bring your business cards to take part in a cutting edge junction of leaders in marketing, advertising, PR, and technology while discussing current events and new innovations. We are a group of influencers that come together to exchange ideas and thrive on meeting new people while making lasting connections.

Where: LexBar at St Giles – The Court Hotel
130 E 39th Street
New York, NY 10016
When: Tues. July 19th @ 7-10PM
Who: See who’s attending