For those of us old enough to remember, the bars, restaurants and salons of Europe were once literally awash in smoke so thick you could cut it with the proverbial knife. Starting at least a decade ago, however, certain EU countries began requiring extremely large, graphic health warnings on all tobacco products that were 60% of the packaging, as well as ensuring that cigarette packaging be childproof. These warnings included (and still do) pictures of people with their teeth falling out, or torn-out tracheas, or printed warnings stating that smoking will make users impotent, etc. Not a pretty picture. Literally. Such EU-sanctioned warnings went well beyond the generalized “surgeon general” warnings applied in small print to US cigarette packaging.

Continue Reading No E-Smoking Please, We Are European!

By: Scott Hervey

Every practitioner should teach law school at least once. This year I am teaching Entertainment Law at the University of California at Davis. (Although flying up from and back to L.A. once a week can be a bit of a drag, so far it is a good experience.) Finding issues to trigger discussion and debate in class is forcing me to look at cases much differently. Since I already know the general holdings of the cases I am teaching, I find myself spending more time analyzing the dissenting opinion and loosing party’s position, looking for points that can foster robust in-class discussion. This week, in preparing for a class session on right of publicity, I re-read the recent 9th Circuit case of Keller v. Electronic Arts and found myself questioning whether the courts have changed the Transformative Use test set forth by the California Supreme Court and used to analyze a conflict between right of publicity and First Amendment protected speech.

The facts of Keller are straight forward. Electronic Arts produced an NCAA Football series of video games which allowed users to control avatars representing college football players and participate in simulated football games. In NCAA Football, EA replicated each school’s entire team as accurately as possible and every football player avatar had a jersey number and virtually identical height, weight, build, skin tone, hair color and home state as each real life player. EA’s player avatars reflect all of the real life attributes of the NCAA players; the only exception is that EA omitted the real life player’s name from the corresponding avatar and assigned the avatar a hometown that is different from the real player’s hometown.

Continue Reading Did The California Court Of Appeals Transform The Transformative Use Test in Right of Publicity Cases?

 By: Scott Hervey

From all appearances, it would have been a fight worth watching. In one corner was the Beastie Boys, the Brooklyn bread, 80s powerhouse rap group; they aggressively enforce their intellectual property rights and have never allowed their music to be used in advertisements.  (This commitment was so important to the group that in his will, Adam “MCA” Yauch stated that "in no event may my image or name or any music or any artistic property created by me be used for advertising purposes.") In the other corner was GoldieBlox, an upstart toy company, founded by a Stanford-educated product designer, with a goal to disrupt the current vision of “toys for girls” and inspire the next generation of female engineers.

Continue Reading GoldieBlox v. Beastie Boys – “Girls To Bring A Lawsuit”

By James Kachmar

The great reggae musician Bob Marley passed away more than 30 years ago. Nevertheless, litigation surrounding his music legacy continues on. The Ninth Circuit recently issued an opinion in Rock River Communications, Inc. v. Universal Music Group, Inc. that dealt again with the issue of who owns the rights to Mr. Marley’s music. 

Rock River is a producer and distributor of music records. In 2006, it entered into a licensing agreement with San Juan Music Group that granted it a non-exclusive license to “sample” 16 musical recordings performed by Bob Marley and the Wailers. San Juan has been licensing Mr. Marley’s music since 1980 through an agreement with a producer of Mr. Marley’s early recordings, Lee Perry. 

Rock River made a series of remixes based on the recordings it had licensed from San Juan and created an album titled, “Roots, Rock, Remixed.” Rock River intended to sell the album on iTunes, distribute it in record stores, and also had plans to allow the use of one of its recordings in the film “Dear John”.   Rock River was unaware that any entity had disputed San Juan’s right to license Mr. Marley’s early recordings.

Continue Reading Roots, Reggae, Remixes – and Litigation

By James Kachmar

We’ve become used to lawsuits being filed after a movie, TV show or song becomes a popular hit. Generally, once a show or song hits number one, someone files a lawsuit claiming that the song or show was their “idea”. ABC’s hit show “Lost” is no different. In 2009, Anthony Spinner, a television producer, writer and former studio executive brought an “idea submission” lawsuit against the American Broadcasting Company, Inc. (“ABC”) claiming that it used his ideas to develop the hit television series “Lost”. 

In the mid-1970s, Spinner was retained by ABC to develop a two-hour pilot tentatively called “L.O.S.T.” for $30,000. The script, which was completed in 1977, concerned a group of U.S. Olympians who survive a plane crash in the Himalayas. They proceed through a tunnel and discover a land inhabited by dinosaurs and prehistoric people. ABC decided to pass on the pilot, concluding it would be too expensive to produce. In 1991 and 1994, Spinner met with other executives at ABC to pitch a similar television show; however, the crash would take place in outer space. Once again, ABC passed on Spinner’s idea. 

Nearly 30 years later, an ABC executive came up with the idea of doing a show about a survivor on a desert island that would combine the elements of the hit movie “Castaway” with the hit TV show “Survivor”. He wanted to call this television show “Lost” based on a failed reality based TV show.

Continue Reading “Lost” and the Independent Creation Defense