Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What's Your Verdict...

Being in an Advanced Entertainment Law class, many things have come to light that I had no idea happened behind the legal and entertainment scenes. I took a listen to two podcasts from Gordon Firemark – Entertainment Law Update Podcast. The podcasts are hosted by Gordon Firemark, who is an attorney representing artists, writers, and directors. Also, Tamera Bennett hosts and represents clients in legal matters in trademark and copyright law. Below are some stories and cases that were discussed:

Episode 20:
Mattel® v.  MGA Entertainment
There has been a retrial concerning the Bratz dolls franchise and ownership of the dolls. The federal jury has ruled that Mattel® had misappropriated trade secrets from MGA Entertainment and Mattel® was ordered to pay $88.5 million dollars. The court ruled that Mattel® was NOT the owner of the copyrights of the sketches of the dolls. The first district court jury ruled in 2008 giving Mattel® $100 million dollars for the ownership of the early sketches. A man by the name of Carter Bryant, who is the designer of the dolls, came up with the idea back in 1999 while working for Mattel®. He sold the drawings to MGA Entertainment while on a “leave” from Mattel®. The appeal ruled in favor of the opposing company arguing that Bryant was on a “break” from Mattel® and they did not own the rights of the dolls. It came as a complete surprise that the appellate court decided to favor MGA Entertainment.

This is a tricky case, because the appeal ruled the total opposite than the district court. Both lawyers stated that they can foresee another appeal to clarify in detail who had ownership. In my opinion, Carter Bryant could be in suit for non-disclosure (not sure if Mattel® has this contract), because he went back to work for Mattel® after he sold the designs of the dolls to MGA Entertainment. In my business plan, I want a non-disclosure for all employees while they are employed and that would extend a short time after they leave my company. This, hopefully, will avoid any similar issues and steer clear of litigation.

Visual Artist Rights
The Seventh Circuit Court of Chicago, Illinois rejected that a landscape artist’s rights of integrity was violated. The city changed Chatman Kelly’s artistic garden in Brant Park. Wild Flower Works was a living, elliptical flower bed planted in 1984 and Kelly had a grant to plant by the Chicago Parks department. The district transformed Kelly’s ellipses into rectangles and cut down the square footage of the flower beds. Kelly had his living designs copy written under the visual arts right which protected his flowers from being changed without his consent. But the courts ruled that the art was a living form and not a fixable tangible medium of expression and ever changing, which meant that it would not be covered under the visual artist copyright of 1990. So Chapman Kelly was ruled NOT the author and it originates in nature and not in the mind of the gardener.

Both attorneys were shocked at the courts decision based on nature (flower beds) not being an applicable visual art. They stated concern because of Disney’s annual arrangements that bring so many tourists to view the Disney characters formed by flowers. I was shocked by the ruling as well and still wonder what the gardener could have done to protect his work. Chatman Kelly’s work had existed for 19 years without any disturbance and now the work is able to be transformed by the city’s parks department.

Episode 11:
Bryant v. Media Right and Orchard
Bryant made a deal with Media Right to distribute two specialty records entitled Songs for Dogs and Songs for Cats.  Media Rights was to be the sole distributer for the physical discs in exchange for 20% royalty of all sales. Media Right licensed Orchard to distribute the records digitally without Bryant’s consent. From the 2002 to 2008 the albums grossed $12.14 from the physical product, and $578.98 in digital copies. Bryant claimed copyright infringement on both Media Right and Orchard claiming statutory damages for each of the 20 songs totally $3 million dollars. The court ruled that each album (2 albums) was counted as one work  of art and did not acknowledge copyright infringement on 20 tracks. The district court also ruled Media Right NOT to be a willful infringer and Orchard innocent of infringing. Also, no attorney fees were awarded but granted the minimum amount for infringing on each album ($200) as well as $1,000 in damages for each album. So Bryant was awarded $2,400 total damages for his claim against Media Right.

This relates to my business plan because I want to represent independent artists who may be looking for distribution deals. I was unaware of the fact that albums accounted for one work of art. The attorneys both brought up an interesting question of how would a compilation album claim copyright infringement because it would contain several artists with their own copyrights. 

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Firemark, Gordon (Host). (2011, May 11). Tattoos & Topiaries [Episode 20]. Entertainment Law Update. Podcast retrieved from http://www.entertainmentlawupdate.com/

Firemark, Gordon (Host). (2010, May 24). Hot News [Episode 11]. Entertainment Law Update. Podcast retrieved from http://www.entertainmentlawupdate.com/page/2/

Monday, July 11, 2011

Court Cases

With high hopes of developing and managing a celebrity, along with success comes hard times that may involve the law. On the management side, there is a lot of damage control that has to be done to make sure the artist/actor/celebrity is represented in high regards at all times. Below are three celebs that have been had run ins with a court’s decisions and the Dunlap Digest’s response on how a positive conclusion could be represented:

Lindsay Lohan
Lindsay has had many visits in the courtroom, including cases on drugs, alcohol, and most recently theft. It is reported that while on probation from her 2007 drunken driving case, Lohan is allegedly blamed for stealing a $2,500 necklace from Kamofie & Co. In 2010, she was sent to jail twice and also to rehab twice for violating her probation. In order to find the necklace, detectives are in works to issue a warrant to search the Lohan home.

Being on the management end of this client would be hard to reach a positive end. Because of Lohan’s legal past, as her management I would be forced to release her from services. Although it seems harsh, it would be a good move to make professionally.

Mel Gibson
A major part of our legal system are the legal FEES. Some lawyer services give their clients until after the case to pay their fees. So what happens once the trial is over? Ask Mel Gibson, who is being asked to pay close to $1.5 million dollars in lawyer fees used by Oksana Grigorieva, Gibson’s ex-girlfriend.

If I were to represent Mel Gibson, I would have to advise him to pay up the amounts unless there were substantial cause for him to fight against it and battle it in court. I would keep him as a client because despite his public nuances, as an actor/producer/director, his work is of high quality and can be looked on high regards.

David Beckham
The super star soccer player David Beckham was ordered to pay $272,000 in legal costs because he sued In Touch magazine for reporting allegations that he was cheating on his wife. Beckham sued the magazine for $25 million dollars. The case did not reveal if he won the suit in regards to the infidelity allegations, but Bauer Publishing will be receiving the ordered legal fees.

If my company were to represent David, I’m sure that the funds would not hurt his pockets nor his image. He has had pretty much a clean record. With the payment, I’m sure that the allegations will soon be forgotten.

The business plan of Mar Lamar Consulting will be representing high end clientele. Being aware of the legal system and how to properly represent my clients will help the company handle any legal issues that may arise.