La-la-lawsuits: A Look at August’s Most Litigious Moments

August 31st, 2012

Entertainment Enterprises, Ltd., the company that owns the trademark for Greenhouse, filed a $16 million lawsuit against Chris Brown  and Drake over the brawl at W.i.P, the club beneath Greenhouse.  Entertainment Enterprises, Ltd. claims that the two men “instigated, encouraged, or at least failed to stop the fight” that allegedly was sparked by a dispute over Rihanna, a past girlfriend of both Brown and Drake.  Entertainment Enterprises further claims that because of the barroom brawl the Greenhouse trademark has been tarnished and has caused the company to lose a $4 million dollar deal to license its name to other clubs across the country.

Roy Thomas Baker, music producer, is suing Sony Music Entertainment for his work on 21 Journey songs and claiming that Sony allegedly applied a lower royalty rate than required when calculating Baker’s income from the digital downloads.  This issue follows from the legal decision to treat digital music as “licenses”, not “sales” and therefore, requiring that a higher royalty rate be applied. Baker further claims Sony allegedly concealed its calculation process, so that the fraud could not be easily detected. Baker is asking for $1 million in compensatory damages.  Read a previous blog post explaining this issue here.

Russian punk band, Pussy Riot, was found guilty of charges of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred”.  The lawsuit in Russia arose after the band performed a song critical of Vladmir Putin in a Moscow church.  The song included lyrics demanding the removal of Putin, after he had just been re-elected for a third term.  The band’s sentence is two years in jail, which has created a global reaction concerning free speech in Russia.  After their sentence, Pussy Riot released a new single, “Putin Lights Up the Fires”.  The video can be seen here.

Latin pop star and model, Noelia Lorenzo Monge, and her manager and music producer, Jorge Reynoso, sued Maya Magazines for publishing copyrighted photographs of the duo’s secret wedding.  Oscar Viqueira, a paparazzo and bodyguard, found the photos on a memory card left in his car after he lent the car to Reynoso.  Viqueira then sold the photos to Maya Magazines for $1,500.  The 9th Circuit court revisited the case, which was previously dismissed in favor of Maya Magazines.  The 9th Circuit reversed the decision, stating that Maya’s use of the photographs did not fall under the news reporting fair use exception, and instead remanded the case back to the district court for review.  This decision will be very important for both celebrities and news organizations.

John Branca and John McClain, executors of Michael Jackson’s estate, successfully sued Howard Mann over Mann’s websites that sold Jackson memorabilia.  The court granted summary judgment in favor of the Jackson estate and a permanent injunction on Mann’s websites.  The court concluded that Mann violated Jackson’s copyrights and trademarks and the websites constituted misappropriation of Jackson’s publicity rights, unfair competition, and cybersquatting.

Popstar, Dev, is suing her record label, Indie-Pop LLC, attorney, Joshua Andriano, and managers, Benjamin Willis and Carlo Fox, claiming that the contracts they had her sign are defective.  Dev claims the contracts violate California’s law prohibiting personal service contracts from lasting more than seven years.  Dev also claims the contracts she signed at age 18 were “one-sided” and “onerous” and is charging the defendants with breach of fiduciary duties and constructive fraud.

The 7th Circuit dimisses the lawsuit against Kanye West for allegedly stealing the song “Stronger” from another songwriter, Vincent Peters.  The court concluded that the two songs do not share enough similarities to each other to indicate copyright infringement.

Viacom and Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino are in a legal battle over who owns the trademark rights to the catchphrases coined by Sorrentino while on Jersey Shore, Viacom’s reality television show.  Prior to becoming a “star”, Sorrentino had signed an agreement with 495 Productions, Jersey Shore’s producer, that granted the company all the rights to any Jersey Shore ideas, phrases, designs, and the like.  Nevertheless, MPS Entertainment, the company owned by Sorrentino and his brother, entered various deals licensing out the slogans.  Viacom finally had enough.  The company opposed Sorrentino’s applications to register more catchphrases by explaining that the agreement Sorrentino signed completely prohibits him from trademarking and exploiting the Jersey Shore slogans.

The FBI recently classified the Juggalos, fans and followers of the Insane Clown Posse, as a “loosely organized hybrid gang” in its National Gang Threat Assessment.  This classification has affected many Juggalos lives-one man was even denied custody of his son due to the gang label.  Howard Hertz, the Insane Clown Posse’s attorney, is in the process of organizing what looks to be a potential class action against the FBI.