Entertainment

Examine How the #MeToo and #TimesUp Movements are Impacting Entertainment Contracts

As the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements and their effects continue to unfurl, Hollywood is utilizing legal mechanisms via entertainment contracts to implement and supplement the changing norms, from “morals provisions” to “inclusion riders.”

What are commonly referred to as “morals provisions” have a long history in the entertainment industry, but in recent years, have been more commonly found in endorsement and advertising deals than in television and film agreements. Studios and production companies that had stopped using such provisions have started putting in place plans to reimplement them, while those that had been using them all along are revising them to conform to the new landscape.  Even distributors who never used morals provisions are starting to include them in their contracts, lest one of their projects ends up with some unexpected negative baggage.  Regardless, all of these industry players are looking for ways to tailor their contractual language to better address the valid business concerns related to fallout from the #MeToo movement.  Although talent attorneys are generally not pleased at the resurgence of these provisions, it appears unlikely at this time that the provisions will go away entirely; indeed, in some cases talent representatives think that there should be reciprocal provisions benefitting talent if there is another Weinstein-like situation with a studio or distributor. Continue reading

The de Havilland v. FX Networks, LLC Appeal: Round 2 Goes to FX

On Monday a California appeals court handed down a decision in the closely watched case of de Havilland v. FX Networks, LLC et al., triggering a collective sigh of relief from studios, networks, and other content producers. The court’s decision reaffirms two widely recognized principles: (1) that the First Amendment’s protection of creative works is not limited by the mere fact that a work generates income, and (2) that an individual cannot censor the way in which she is depicted in a creative work merely because she does not like that depiction.

These principles, as applied to the entertainment industry, have been challenged in recent years with a wave of cases such as de Havilland.  For instance, a case in New York, Porco v. Lifetime Entertainment Services, LLC, was allowed to proceed after an appellate court held that the newsworthiness exception to New York’s statutory right of publicity did not apply to a docudrama that substantially fictionalized the life story of a real person.  The court stated that such a work was “mainly a product of the imagination” and thus “nothing more than [an] attempt[] to trade on the persona of the plaintiff.” Continue reading

Cowan, DeBaets, Abrahams & Sheppard LLP is Pleased to Announce that Simon N. Pulman has Become a Partner of the Firm

CDAS LLP is pleased to announce that Simon N. Pulman has become a partner of the firm.

An emerging young leader in the entertainment industry, Simon is a transactional attorney primarily counseling clients in entertainment and media law matters, focusing on television, film, and interactive entertainment transactions, including representing digital influencers and esports teams. Simon also acts as outside business affairs for a number of high level television studios and production companies, negotiating all forms of development, production, financing and licensing deals.

He has significant experience in structuring and negotiating digital distribution agreements and other cutting-edge transactions at the convergence of traditional media and emerging technology platforms, with a special interest in digital video, streaming platforms and SVOD.

Variety included Simon in its 2017 Legal Impact Report “Up Next” list and since 2015, he has been recognized in Super Lawyers magazine as a New York Metro “Rising Star” in the field of entertainment and sports.

Simon frequently writes about entertainment and digital content related matters, and has been published in multiple industry publications. Industry events where he has participated as a speaker include Digital Hollywood NY and LA, Media Summit, DOC NYC, Made in NY Media Center, Social Media Club, Biz-eSports Summit. In March, Simon will lead a mentor session at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival.

Simon is a graduate of Duke University and Vanderbilt University Law School.

Notable TV and Digital Deals from Q3-4 2017

The last few months have seen a number of high-profile deals in episodic programming, spurred in part by the entry of a number of significant new players in the marketplace. Here are a few particularly noteworthy entries:

Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon Morning Show Drama Lands at Apple With Two-Season Order

Apple is anticipated to become a major purchaser of entertainment content, and it made a splash with its first show announcement – a two-season order for a show starring and executive produced by Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, set inside the cutthroat world of morning television.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s ‘Kingkiller Chronicle’ Series Set At Showtime

Everyone is looking for the next “Game of Thrones and “The Kingkiller Chronicles,” in development at Showtime and based on Patrick Rothfuss’s acclaimed fantasy series, may be it. “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda is attached to executive produce, and will contribute music to the series – a key development as music is an important component of Rothfuss’s books. Continue reading

CDAS Brings in Lindsay W. Bowen to Expand its Copyright, Entertainment and Litigation Practice

Cowan, DeBaets, Abrahams & Sheppard LLP (CDAS) is expanding its litigation, entertainment, and intellectual property practice with the strategic hire of litigator and entertainment attorney Lindsay W. Bowen, who has joined the firm as a partner.

Lindsay’s practice focuses on the interplay between creativity and technology.  He represents individuals and companies, from household names to the up-and-coming, across a wide range of creative industries, including advertising, app development, fashion, film, hospitality, music, podcasting, television, and theatre. Prior to joining Cowan, DeBaets, Abrahams & Sheppard LLP, Lindsay was an attorney in the Content, Media & Entertainment practice of Jenner & Block.  There, he represented music, film, television, and theatre clients in copyright ownership and enforcement litigation, royalty disputes, and in the negotiation of a variety of traditional and digital media transactions. Continue reading

Moving the Needle: Solid Oak Sketches, LLC v. Visual Concepts, LLC and the Copyright Quagmire of Tattoos in Video Games

In a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York this month, a group of tattoo artists (through a licensing entity) sued the developer, publisher, and marketer of the immensely popular NBA 2K16 video game over digital depictions of tattoos the artists had inked on the real-life basketball players appearing in the game, including LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.  Claiming violation of their exclusive right of public display under 17 U.S.C. § 106(5), the artist collective in Solid Oak Sketches, LLC v. Visual Concepts, LLC seeks monetary damages, costs and fees, and injunctive relief against production of the game and any further “public displays” of the tattoos.  While it may seem outlandish at first blush, cases like Solid Oak Sketches are becoming more common.

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Throwing the Challenge Flag: NCAA Athletes Successfully Demand Expansion of Publicity Rights

Two recent federal court decisions reflect a judicial willingness to extend the traditional bounds of publicity rights, affording both current and former National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) athletes the opportunity to share in the revenues earned from commercial use of their names and likenesses in videogames, live game telecasts, and other licensed products. Under the NCAA rules currently in place, college athletes are required to effectively assign their publicity rights to the NCAA (and the schools for which they play). As a result, players are unable to participate in a licensing market valued at $4 billion per year. Both federal court opinions address the collegiate licensing market, and affirm that the right of publicity, along with federal antitrust law, undermines the validity of the NCAA’s current licensing program. Continue reading

Stolen Screenplay Ideas: A Look at Recent Cases

It’s a tale almost as old as Hollywood itself. A new movie comes out and garners some attention and commercial success and, before the first profit participation checks have been mailed (and even if the movie never turns a profit), a lawsuit has been filed alleging that some element of the movie was stolen from an earlier work – and often an earlier work that has never seen the light of day commercially. Continue reading

Embracing the International Television Market: Legal and Business Issues To Consider When Adapting and Exporting Television Formats

PART TWO

This is part two of this blog series. Part one can be found here.

Approvals/Controls

This is one of the threshold questions for producers seeking to adapt formats  – how much control, if any, will the originator of the format have over the adaptation? On one hand, the format originator has a creative and financial attachment to the original show; it is in its best interest that the format is treated sensitively, packaged appropriately and produced at a budget and quality level that will enable it to succeed – because if the adaptation fails, the “brand value” of the format could be tainted for the long-term. On the other hand, the adapting producer and its local production partners are probably best positioned to understand the tastes and culture of the target market and navigate any regulatory issues. Continue reading

Embracing the International Television Market: Legal and Business Issues To Consider When Adapting and Exporting Television Formats

PART ONE

The market for quality narrative television has heated up globally over the past few years. Fueled by the emergence of new digital platforms and business models, the reliance of multiplexes on blockbuster genre films, and the growth of “binge viewing” of TV content, audiences have become increasingly hungry for high quality, serialized content that they can consume across devices. Accordingly, an increasing number of distributors – broadcast and online alike – have sought to follow the lead of AMC (Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead) and Netflix (House of Cards, Orange is The New Black, Marco Polo) by using high quality scripted shows to build and distinguish their brands. Continue reading

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