On September 18, 2018, the Senate unanimously approved the Music Modernization Act, now renamed the Orrin G. Hatch Music Modernization Act, in honor of the retiring Utah Senator – an avid songwriter who spearheaded the bill. This approval follows its unanimous passing by the House of Representatives in April. Due to changes made by the Senate, the bill will now return to the House for approval before it can be signed by President Trump to become law. Public praise of this significant step has poured out from a variety of major industry players including the NMPA, the RIAA, BMI, ASCAP, the Recording Academy, and SoundExchange. The bill’s supporters have uniformly expressed that such legislation is crucial in the fight for fairness for music creators and that it will also confer benefits on consumers and copyright holders. While the precise details of the alterations that were made to the Act are not yet clear, many changes appear to have influenced by holdouts from satellite and digital broadcasting services, including a compromise proposal from SiriusXM to pay half of the performance royalties for pre-1972 recordings under the CLASSICS Act. As of this writing, it is expected that the bill will pass within the next few weeks, marking the first music licensing reform in over two decades. Continue reading
IATSE, SAG-AFTRA, and WGA have all been in the news this summer with respect to subscription video on demand (“SVOD”) and ad-supported video on demand (“AVOD”) platforms and the impact the continued growth of those platforms continues to have on the entertainment industry.
2018 IATSE Agreement and the Editors Guild.
IATSE leadership reached a tentative deal with the studios and networks in July to replace the prior agreement that expired on July 31, 2018. While the agreement is expected to be ratified in September by the bulk of IATSE members, the Editors Guild (Local 700) has rejected the agreement in large part. Editors Guild members and leadership don’t think that the new agreement sufficiently addresses residuals concerns (as well as other health and safety issues such as sufficient turnaround time), claiming that residuals revenue (which fund the pension and health fund) from traditional avenues of distribution such as DVD sales has greatly decreased in recent years, but the corresponding growth of SVOD content (and revenue) has not been reflected in the IATSE agreement. However, leadership of the twelve other locals that make up IATSE think that the new agreement addresses this concern adequately and are actively encouraging their members to ratify the agreement.
Those familiar with copyright law recognize the well-established principle that facts are not eligible for copyright protection. A compilation of facts may be eligible, however, if the selection or arrangement of facts reflects the requisite originality and creativity to warrant copyright protection. In Feist Publications v. Rural Telephone Service Co., the U.S. Supreme Court considered whether a compilation of facts in the form of a directory of customer names, addresses, and telephone numbers is eligible for copyright protection; the Court ultimately determined that the directory at issue, which merely listed all of Rural’s telephone subscribers in alphabetical order, lacked sufficient originality and creativity to be copyrightable. In a recent case, however, the U.S Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit determined that a similar list of customers could be – and indeed was – eligible for at least some level of copyright protection.
Experian Information Solutions, Inc. v. Nationwide Marketing Services Inc. focused on what plaintiff Experian – an information services company best known for credit scores and reports – terms its “ConsumerView Database,” or “CVD.” The CVD contains more than 250 million records, each pertaining to an individual consumer, and includes hundreds of data fields, including age, income, and purchase habits. Experian licenses portions of the CVD to various marketing companies for use in connection with marketing campaigns. Continue reading
On July 6, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the Southern District of New York’s finding of fair use in Lombardo v. Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P., reiterating the protected nature of parody under the fair use doctrine even as it applies to some of the most beloved properties in entertainment – including children’s literature.
As a brief reminder of the facts, Lombardo was a copyright infringement case involving a parody of Dr. Seuss’ classic story How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The dispute centered around playwright Matthew Lombardo’s Who’s Holiday!, a one-actress play about a 45-year-old Cindy-Lou Who, the toddler-protagonist of the original story. Having long since “outgrew” her “no more than two”-year-old days and her wholesome, unflappable belief in the magic of Christmas, the play picks up where the Dr. Seuss tale left off: Cindy Lou has entered a turbulent marriage to the Grinch, borne his child, survived his untimely death, turned to drink and drugs, been incarcerated, and lost her daughter to foster care. A dark turn for Ms. Who, to say the least. Continue reading
The television landscape is changing dramatically. New and major players have disrupted traditional models, as networks and studios explore different approaches and partnerships. Beginning with an overview of the biggest “new” player, the following links provide some noteworthy examples of how the streamers continue to expand, and what everyone else is doing to adapt to the 21st century television ecosystem.
According to Vulture, Netflix now makes more television than any network in history, and with a plan to spend $8 billion on content this year, it’s not showing any signs of slowing down. Driven by a desire to scale and grow, Netflix is leveraging its impressive stable of talent and reams of user data to expand into new genres and countries. But considering Netflix’s recent earnings report, which revealed slower membership growth than forecasted, will it continue the pace of this expansion? Vulture’s profile of the streaming giant takes a deep look at the who, how, and why of Netflix’s ongoing success, providing a great framework through which to analyze the future of the company. Continue reading
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit this month held that the California Resale Royalties Act (“CRRA”) – a state statute that provided visual artists with ongoing downstream royalties for sales of their works occurring after the initial sale – is invalid as preempted by federal copyright law. The court, in Close v. Sotheby’s, — F.3d –, No. 16-56234, 2018 WL 3322222 (9th Cir. July 6, 2018), decided that visual artists are barred from receiving any ongoing royalties arising from later sales of their work due to the federal “first sale doctrine.” The decision affirms the U.S.’s long-held perspective on the limited nature of certain copyright privileges.
The provision of the CRRA at issue in Close granted artists an un-waivable right to 5% of the proceeds on any resale of their artwork under certain circumstances. Specifically, the CRRA required the seller of a piece of artwork (or the seller’s agent) to withhold 5% of the resale price and pay it to the original artist, or if the artist cannot be found, to the California Arts Council. The purpose behind the statute was to help visual artists capitalize on the appreciation of their work by requiring payments following the work’s first sale. The statute was effective on January 1, 1977 as “the first and thus far only, American recognition of the droit de suit,” or “right of following on” as recognized by France and other civil-law jurisdictions. Continue reading
Don’t Negotiate Your Own Deals. In an ideal world, you would never negotiate your own deals. The first reason for this is obvious – if you’re a creative or an executive, you have to operate in multiple different capacities and wear a lot of different hats. An experienced professional negotiator – whether lawyer or agent – who spends all day, every day negotiating is likely to be more skilled and have more insight into the marketplace than you. The second reason is perhaps less obvious to laypeople, which is the benefit of detachment and plausible deniability. Even if you are a master negotiator, there is always a benefit to having someone else negotiate in your place. You can instruct them to take certain actions with less risk of jeopardizing your personal, creative or business relationships with the other side. You can use them to test the waters with the other side. And, if needs be, you can detach yourself from (or even politely disown) their responses if there is a negative reaction. Your representative is there to help facilitate the deal and relations with the other side – but on occasion you may wish to use them as the “bad guy,” and you should not be afraid to do so.
Don’t Make Gives To Try to Accelerate Deals. Inexperienced negotiators often try to accelerate the pace of a deal by readily agreeing to terms and surrendering positions. While there are exceptions, this strategy generally does not yield positive results. An experienced negotiator will often respond to attempts to push a deal through by slowing the deal down and thus seeking to increase the desperation of the other side to close. If an initial proposal or response has been met with an accommodating response from a party visibly keen to close, an experienced negotiator may respond by making more asks. In the entertainment business at least, absent a very compelling reason to close (e.g., principal photography needs to start, a financing needs to close, or a producer is about to lose an actor) most deals take a certain amount of time irrespective of their complexity or the efforts of one side to be efficient. Continue reading
Nearly two years ago we wrote about a California case involving the alleged removal or alteration of copyright management information (“CMI”) in the context of real estate Multiple Listing Service (“MLS”) software. Stevens v. CoreLogic, Inc. has since winded its way up to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which ruled last week in favor of MLS software developer CoreLogic and affirmed the lower court’s dismissal of the plaintiffs’ copyright infringement suit.
A quick refresher on the facts is warranted given the passage of time. The plaintiffs are professional real estate photographers who photograph homes that are being put up for sale. They retain the copyrights to their images but license them to real estate agents, who upload the images to MLS platforms through software programs like those created by CoreLogic. The plaintiffs sued CoreLogic, claiming that CoreLogic’s resizing and processing of their images for upload to MLS platforms constituted purposeful alteration or deletion of CMI-containing metadata under § 1202 of the Copyright Act. The district court disagreed and dismissed plaintiffs’ claims on a motion for summary judgment, holding that the photographers had failed to prove that CoreLogic provided or distributed false CMI; that any CMI was embedded in their photographs; that CoreLogic took any action that removed or altered any CMI (assuming it was embedded); or, if such actions were taken, that they were intentional, as required by the statute. Continue reading
WHOIS is a protocol used to search online databases and identify domain name registrants. Rather than being centrally managed in a single database, WHOIS data is collected and administered by various registries and registrars according to the terms of their contracts with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). ICANN has agreements with thousands of domain registrars around the world such as GoDaddy and HostGator which require registrars to post WHOIS data – such as names and contact information like emails and phone numbers – for every person who registers a domain with their service. Through WHOIS, anyone can then look up the contact information of a website domain name registrant (unless that registrant has opted to hide their information through an online privacy service). This set of tools has proven to be invaluable to trademark owners pursuing domain name disputes against cybersquatters –those who register Internet domain names containing trademarks belonging to others with the intent to extort money by selling the domain name to the trademark owner or a third party Continue reading
The U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona in Lundin v. Discovery Communications ruled that a defamation suit brought by a reality television star against the network and producers of a reality show was not barred simply by virtue of an exculpatory “Assumption of Risk” provision containing a waiver of all claims. Significantly, the ruling stands for the proposition that there is no special exception for reality television or documentary programming which would bar intentional tort lawsuits. This decision could have potentially significant implications in the reality television sector, as many reality stars may now have recourse for the oft-cited “bad edit.”
The agreement at issue was entered into by Cody Lundin – an internationally recognized professional survival instructor, best-selling author, and survival and sustainability consultant for national and international news outlets – in connection with his appearance on Discovery Channel’s “Dual Survival.” Lundin served as the show’s on-camera host, wilderness survival expert, and consultant. The show features a pair of survival experts in predetermined scenarios set in challenging environments. For instance, Lundin and his co-hosts have been marooned on an island, lost in a jungle, and stranded in the desert, all with minimal survival gear. Continue reading