La-la-lawsuits: A Look Back at December’s Finest Litigious Moments

December 30th, 2011

Croatian journalist James Braddock has sued Angelina Jolie for copyright infringement of his book, The Soul Shattering (his website discusses the legal dispute in detail).  Braddock claims Jolie’s directorial-debut documentary, In the Land of Blood and Honey, infringes upon his 2007 book.  Braddock allegedly discussed the book in detail with the Bosnian producer of the film before the film was made.  The movie commenced production in 2010, and Braddock only recently filed the lawsuit, just weeks before the scheduled release.  Because of the late timing, the judge seemed reluctant to grant Braddock’s motion for a temporary restraining order and Braddock withdrew the motion before the decision was finalized.  The case was filed with the federal court in Illinois, but the judge has indicated a likelihood he will transfer it to California, given that the parties – Croatian and Californian – have pretty much no connection to the midwest state.

The Meester family will be having a peaceful Christmas, now that  the Gossip Girl star Leighton Meester and her mother Constance Meester have resolved their legal dispute.  The suit began over Leighton alleging that Constance misused the actress’s money, then developed into the issue of whether Constance was entitled to compensation for her alleged role in guiding her daughter’s career.  Most recently, Constance withdrew her claims leading to a default judgment in favor of Leighton.

The estate of Bruce Gary, drummer of the band The Knack (best known for the song “My Sharona”) has sued Capitol Records, claiming unpaid royalties for digital downloads.  The issue is whether digital downloads on platforms such as iTunes count as a ‘license’ of the master or a ‘sale’ of the phonorecords under the recording agreement.  Phonorecords implies the physical album sale, rather than digital and the label pays significantly lower royalties to artists on sales than licenses.  For a license, the royalty rate could be up to 50%, whereas for a sale the rate would likely be closer to 12%.

2011 has been a rough year for The Hangover II.  Earlier this year, Tyson’s tattoo artist sued over the use of the iconic face tattoo.  Now Louis Vuitton is suing, claiming that the bag carried by Zach Galifianakis marked LVM was a fake.  In the scene, Galifianakis says, ” “Careful, that is.. that is a Louis Vuitton.”  LV is suing under state and federal claims for unfair competition, false designation of origin, and trademark dilution. The full complaint can be read here.

December’s Notable Hirings, Firings & Promotions

December 29th, 2011

Hip-hop agent Cara Lewis is leaving William Morris Endeavor.

Vickie Nauman moved up to president of 7digital North America.

Don Ienner is working with Universal Music Group in a consultancy role.

Live Nation has been making some changes.  Alan Ostfield is now President, North Atlantic, covering the New York and Philadelphia regions.  Jason Miller is President of the New York operation, replacing Kevin Morrow, who moves to LA to join the North American Touring office as Senior Vice President.

Now-Bertelsmann exec Thomas Hesse joined the board of broadcaster RTL Group.

Bob Stohrer became CMO of Clear Channel Digital.

BMI promoted Tavi Shabestari and Nicole Plantin  to director-level positions in the Los Angeles office, with a similar promotion to Atlanta-based David Claassen.

Edgar Bronfman, Jr. is leaving his role of chairman at Warner Music Group, although he will remain a board member.

Live Nation owned BigChampagne just hired Ethan Kaplan, a music technologist and former SVP of Emerging Technology at Warner Music Group.

Former AMPAS president Sid Ganis is now working at Dolby Laboratories as a strategic advisor.

Wynton Marsalis has been named ‘Cultural Correspondent’ at CBS News.

David Foster is now chairman of UMG-owned Verve Music Group.

iTunes Match Launches

November 15th, 2011

Big changes are happening in iTunes.  iTunes in the Cloud automatically pushes iTunes Store purchased downloads to all of your devices without syncing or plugging in.  Now, with iTunes Match, even songs uploaded from CDs or purchased from other sites can be sent to iCloud wirelessly and accessed by your mobile devices for $24.99 a year.  Because iTunes in the Cloud is a free service, iTunes match makes the most sense for people who get their music outside of the iTunes store.

It is called iTunes Match because not all of your tracks are actually uploaded to the cloud.  First, it looks to its library of 20 million tunes to “match” up your track with one already in the cloud.  If it’s there, you stream those tracks to your devices; if the song isn’t already in the cloud, it will be uploaded and available for streaming.  Another plus – according to Apple, “all the music iTunes matches plays back from iCloud at 256-Kbps AAC DRM-free quality – even if your original copy was of lower quality.”

Sounds great? Maybe not. Jared Newman at PC World brings up some of the downsides to the service:

First, the matching process takes a long time–especially right now, as there is a rush of new users putting a strain on Apple’s servers. My 15GB library, most of which comes from ripped CDs, took about an hour to match. Uploading unmatched songs takes much longer–after a half-hour of uploading, I was only through about 20 percent of my 1100 upload items.

The bigger issue, however, is how iOS devices manage your newly matched library. Activating iTunes Match on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch erases all of your locally-stored music (so it’s a bad idea to turn on the service if you’re about to hop on a long flight).

(UPDATE: According to Macworld, iTunes Match does not delete your local music library right away, despite Apple’s warnings. To double check, I tried this on my iPhone and found that all my local music was available even after disconnecting Wi-Fi. On the iPad, however, roughly half of my library is unavailable when Wi-Fi is turned off, because the songs haven’t finished re-downloading through iTunes Match. I’m not sure why my two devices behaved differently, but I’d warn against switching on iTunes Match until you have enough time to deal with any snafus.)

Songs are downloaded to your device automatically as you play them, and you can download entire playlists or individual albums with one tap, but there’s no “Download All” button for grabbing your entire library. The workaround, of course, is to create a playlist that consists of your entire library, but I wish Apple had come up with a better solution, including a way to keep locally-stored files on the device until they’ve been replaced by their iTunes copies.

Furthermore, once you’ve downloaded songs to an iOS device, deleting them can be a hassle. You can either swipe over individual tracks to remove them, or you can delete entire albums by pressing and holding on them, then hitting the “X.”

Neither solution is obvious, and if you try latter method on a playlist, it’ll delete the track list itself, not just the downloads within them. Apple needs to make bulk song management clearer and easier for users who want to swap playlists in and out.


US Copyright Office Announces Priorities for Next Two Years

November 8th, 2011

On October 25, the US Copyright Office released a document which summarizes the priorities of the Copyright Office for the next two years.

Here is a list of the top priorities.  For more detail, the full document is available for download here.


  • Small claims solutions for copyright owners
  • Legal treatment of pre-1972 sound recordings
  • Mass book digitization

Legislative Work

  • Rogue websites
  • Illegal streaming
  • Public performance right in sound recordings
  • Orphan works
  • Copyright exceptions for libraries
  • Market-based licensing for cable and satellite retransmission

Trade and Foreign Relations

  • World intellectual property organization (WIPO)
  • Trans-pacific partnership and other trade priorities

Administrative Law Practice

  • Prohibition on circumvention of measures controlling access to copyrighted works
  • Electronic system for the designation of agents under the DMCA
  • Review of group registration options
  • Registration options for websites and other forms of digital authorship
  • Electronic administration of the statutory licenses
  • Recording notices of termination of copyright transfers

Special Projects

  • Study of fees and services
  • Revision of the compendium of Copyright Office practices
  • Technical upgrades to electronic registration
  • Dialogues and roundtables with copyright community
  • Research partnerships with academic community
  • Revision of Copyright Office website
  • Public outreach and copyright education
  • Business process reengineering of recordation division
  • Public access to historical records
  • Skills training for Copyright Office staff

Do you think the priority list is addressing the most pressing current issues in copyright law?  In the coming weeks, I plan on exploring some of these topics through blog posts that will address them individually in detail.

Rolling Stone Reveals How Artists Make Money from Digital Music Services

October 26th, 2011

Rolling Stone published yesterday an article calledThe New Economics of the Music Industry.

The article details how various online music services pay artists.

The entire article is worth a read, but here are some excerpted charts that should provide a good intro understanding to the complicated landscape:

(Keep in mind two things.  First, an artist won’t see any of this money until the label has fully recouped expenses for the album.  Second, an artist may choose to partner with a company like TuneCore to distribute to these digital services and avoid the label payout all together.)


Steve Jobs, 1955 – 2011

October 6th, 2011

“When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Apples “Let’s Talk iPhone” Presentation.. in 90 seconds

October 5th, 2011

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

September 30th, 2011

Sacha Baron Cohen and NBC Universal won a lawsuit brought by Richelle Olson and her husband, owners of a bingo hall which was filmed as part of the movie Bruno.  Cohen, acting as the character  Bruno, selected the bingo numbers and after each number related the number to a fact about his former male partner.  Here is a more detailed description, from a footnote in the opinion: “After Cohen called out the Bingo number 36, he states that “36″ was the age of his former male partner. Later, when he calls out the number 3, he says that his former partner’s birthday was “May 3.” When he later calls out the number 59, he remarks that 59 was the number of his hotel room he stayed in when he met his former partner, and a few minutes later when he announces number 42, Cohen offers that “42 inches was his partner’s chest size. Finally, after Cohen announces the number 7, he comments that he met his partner on “July 7.” Some members of the audience can be heard laughing after each comment.”  The comments enraged Ms. Olson and Cohen was escorted by security from the building, after which Ms. Olson went unconscious while hysterically crying and hit her head on the concrete floor causing two brain bleeds and and leaving her wheelchair-bound.  The  California Appeals Court sided with Cohen though, claiming that his statements were protected by the Constitution as free speech in making the film and touched upon a socially important issue – homosexuality, gay culture and homophobia.  The Olsons are now responsible for paying Universal and Cohen’s attorneys fees for the case.

“The singing of a song does not create a trademark,” according to a California judge that Madonna may not have clothing line trademark rights in the phrase “Material Girl.”  Madonna and her company, Material Girl Brand, are being sued by LA Triumph, an L.A.-based clothing company that claims to have sold “Material Girl” clothing since 1997 and has a registered trademark.  Madonna sold $85 million dollars of “Material Girl” merchandise in the 80′s but the judge, in denying her motion to dismiss, found that merchandise sales ancillary to her music career did not necessarily create a trademark in the brand for clothing.  The case will go to trial in October where a jury will hear all of the facts and make a final decision.

Napolean Pictures, the production company behind Napoleon Dynamite, is suing Fox Searchlight for $10 million for allegedly underreporting royalties, taking improper revenue deductions, breach of contract, and negligent misrepresentation in connection with the hit 2004 indie comedy. Searchlight had agreed in a term sheet to pay 31.66 percent of net profits on home video, but the plaintiffs claim that a 2008 audit reveals that Fox was only paying net royalties on home videos at a 9.66 percent rate, in addition to underreported royalties and improper deductions.

Bruno Mars filed suit in the Central District of California Superior Court, in an attempt to get out of his publishing deal with Bug Music.  Mars alleges that the contract has actually been terminated because Bug did not properly exercise an option to renew the deal.

The Saul Zaentz Co., producer of the 1996 best picture winner The English Patient, has sued distributor Miramax and its former owner the Walt Disney Co. for $20 million in profits from the hit drama, alleging that the companies hid revenue, improperly allocated and deducted expenses and fees, and engaged in self-dealing with respect to the film.

Pandora, the web service that allows users to customize radio stations based on listening preferences, is facing a class action lawsuit in Michigan.  The lawsuit  claims that Pandora is breaching customer privacy by making users’ profile pages, including favorite songs and listener history, publicly available and searchable online. Additionally, the class action asserts that Pandora is violating privacy by integrating users’ listening records with their Facebook accounts.  These acts purportedly violate Michigan’s Video Rental Privacy Act and Consumer Protection Act. The plaintiffs are demanding statutory damages of $5,000 per person.

Charlie Sheen, Warner Bros. and Two and a Half Men co-creator Chuck Lorre are settling their $100 million legal dispute.  An official statement from WB: “Warner Bros. Television, Chuck Lorre and Charlie Sheen have resolved their dispute to the parties’ mutual satisfaction.  The pending lawsuit and arbitration will be dismissed as to all parties.  The parties have agreed to maintain confidentiality over the terms of the settlement.” Terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but $25 million has been the rumor, which includes a reinstatement of the revenue stream from past episodes of Two and a Half Men (even those filmed before his media meltdown) that WB had denied Sheen after he filed the lawsuit.

In August, Lady GaGa submitted a complaint to the National Arbitration Forum that alleged that the website was registered in bad faith and in violation of her trademark.  The owner of the site responded that it was merely a non-commercial, unofficial fan site for Gaga that “does not have any sponsored links or links to third-party websites which market and sell merchandise bearing Complainant’s trademark.” The owner of got her reward on Wednesday when three panelists at the National Arbitration Forum ruled that Lady Gaga had failed to show that respondent lacked legitimate interest in the disputed domain name.

And event more Lady Gaga drama – The latest lawsuit targets Excite Worldwide LLC, which is using the Gaga name to sell cosmetics and jewelry.

Universal Studios Home Entertainment is suing former COO Thomas Emrey for allegedly breaching his contract and fiduciary duties by leaving the company for DineEquity, which operates IHOP and Applebee’s. Universal says his employment contract ran through May 2012.

Cell Phone Service in NYC Subways

September 27th, 2011

Beginning today, six subway stations in Manhattan will have AT&T and TMobile cell phone service.  All six stations are in Chelsea; however, Transit Wireless, the company setting up the services, plans on completing 271 more stations in the next 5 years.  Verizon and Sprint subscribers won’t get reception for now and the reception only exists on the platforms, not too far into the tunnels.

Upcoming Event: How to Social Media Yourself – Sept. 22

September 19th, 2011

This Thursday, join Women in Music at the gorgeous downtown BMI offices for a panel on social media. Free to WIM members, $15 for non members (or you can join at the door ).   RSVP: