JLA Beat

JLA Beat is a regularly-updated online resource written entirely by the Journal’s editorial staff. Launched in 2015, the Beat features recent legal developments in the topics discussed in our print edition and beyond, including the art, entertainment, sports, intellectual property, and communications industries. JLA Beat publishes at least once weekly.

Spotify Rings in 2018 With Another Lawsuit

Published Jan 16, 2018

Spotify, a digital music streaming and downloading service, faces another copyright infringement allegation in a series of lawsuits brought by music publishers and songwriters. On December 29th, 2017, Wixen Music Publishing, Inc., an independent music publisher formed in 1978, filed a complaint in California federal court, alleging that Spotify willfully infringed the copyrights of a… Read more

Justices Question Adjudication of Patent Rights

Published Jan 16, 2018

In late November this past year, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Oil States Energy Services v. Greene’s Energy Group, a case whose outcome may affect both the core of the patent system and the administrative state, writ large. The Court granted certiorari to answer the following question: “May the Patent Trial and Appeal… Read more

Disney Sues to Stop Redbox from Selling Digital Download Codes

Published Jan 16, 2018

On November 30, the Walt Disney Company filed a lawsuit against Redbox, alleging that Redbox has been illegally selling digital download codes for Disney, Lucasfilm, and Marvel films. Disney’s complaint lists claims of copyright infringement, breach of contract, tortious interference with contract, false advertising, and unfair competition. It is seeking an injunction to prevent Redbox… Read more

“Lose Yourself” a Lawsuit: Eminem’s Win and Warning to other U.S. Based Music Producers

Published Jan 16, 2018

The New Zealand High Court rendered a decision in favor of Eminem’s publishing company, Eight Mile Style, LLC, on October 25, 2017, holding that New Zealand’s National Party committed copyright infringement when they used a tune similar to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” in a campaign advertisement. Finding substantial similarities between the music in the ad and… Read more

New York Jury Grants a Win to 5Pointz

Published Nov 21, 2017

Is graffiti protected by law? Earlier this November, a Brooklyn jury in the Eastern District of New York answered in the affirmative, and found that real estate developer Jerry Wolkoff violated the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (VARA) when he demolished the well-known New York City “graffiti mecca,” 5Pointz.   The property in question,… Read more

Shifting liability to the ISPs of Absentee Defendants

Published Nov 13, 2017

On October 12, 2017, the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) filed a brief as amicus curiae in a trademark and copyright infringement case, American Chemical Society v. Sci-Hub. Sci-Hub is a website that hosts research papers and make them available for free, and ACS holds the copyright to some of the research papers available… Read more

Critical Corner – JLA Staffers Review Marshall Film

Published Nov 13, 2017

Kyle Tuckman Marshall, starring Chadwick Boseman as Thurgood Marshall, is an incredible film about one of the first cases taken on by Thurgood Marshall in 1941. The movie captures the early years of Marshall’s career as one of the first attorneys for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Writers Michael and… Read more

President Trump, Twitter and the First Amendment

Published Oct 18, 2017

Lawyers from the Department of Justice have moved for summary judgment in a lawsuit brought by critics who were blocked by President Trump on Twitter. In its motion filed October 13th, the DOJ claims that the President’s personal account is not a public forum for First Amendment purposes. The lawsuit, brought last July by the… Read more

Forever 21 Accused of Copying…Again

Published Oct 16, 2017

Fashion retail giant Forever 21 is being accused again of copying, this time by Word, a woman-owned branding agency based in Los Angeles. Word claims that Forever 21 copied their “Creator Shirt,” which features the word “woman” written in nine different languages.   Since Word posted about the similar design on Instagram, Forever 21 has… Read more

How the Dr. Seuss Estate (Almost) Stole Christmas

Published Oct 16, 2017

In an opinion filed on September 15, 2017, Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the Southern District of New York held that a comedic play parodying Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” qualifies as fair use.   “Who’s Holiday!” is a one-woman play that tells the story of a 45-year-old Cindy Lou Who, a fictional… Read more

New Bill Might Politicize US Copyright Office: Register Of Copyrights to be a Presidential Appointee

Published Apr 13, 2017

With a search for the next Register of Copyrights currently underway, a bill introduced in Congress on March 23, 2017, would let President Donald Trump make that appointment, rather than Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) introduced the “Register of Copyrights Selection and… Read more

Red Gold or red gold? 9th Circuit Allows Trademark Claim on Jewelry Color

Published Apr 13, 2017

The Ninth Circuit is allowing a lawsuit over trademarks on the jewelry color term “red gold” to continue after rejecting the lower court’s grant of summary judgment. The trademark dispute, pitting Los Angeles jeweler Chris Aire against LVHM Moet Hennessey Louis Vuitton SE (“Louis Vuitton”), was revived on March 24 after a three-judge panel vacated District… Read more

China Says It Followed Law in Approving 38 Trump Trademarks In ‘Unusually Quick’ Fashion

Published Mar 30, 2017

China has greenlit 38 Trump trademarks that contain English and Chinese variations on the name “Donald Trump.” Although China stated that it followed the law in processing the applications, some experts in the United States and beyond view the pace as “unusually quick,” and raised fears of political leveraging. China’s foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang… Read more

Steele Pleads Guilty to Predatory Prenda Porn Scheme

Published Mar 12, 2017

On Monday, March 6, attorney John Steele pled guilty to multiple conspiracy charges for his role in a massive scheme in which he and his partners used fraudulent copyright infringement settlements to extort money from pornography viewers. Steele, along with other members of the firm Prenda Law, admitted they obtained copyrights to pornographic content, uploaded… Read more

“Immigration Clauses” in SXSW’s Artist Performance Contracts Cause Outrage

Published Mar 5, 2017

The presence of “immigration clauses” in artist performance contracts for the Austin, Texas festival South by South West (SXSW) has prompted criticism and protests by the musicians scheduled to perform. Musician Felix Walworth, of the band Told Slant, publicly canceled his band’s scheduled performance after finding out about the clause in his performance contract, purporting… Read more

European Court Upholds Privacy Rights for Celebrities

Published Mar 3, 2017

A decision last month by the European Court of Human Rights found that Spanish journalists infringed upon Mexican Singer Paulina Rubio’s privacy rights by publishing information about her private sex life, reversing a nearly decade-old decision by the Spain Supreme Court. In 2005, Rubio sued a number of Spanish television stations, their broadcasters, and her… Read more

David Bowie’s Ex-Manager Unable to Elude his $9.5M Judgment

Published Mar 1, 2017

A New York judge has ruled that Anthony Defries, David Bowe’s former manager, is still responsible for paying the $9.5 million judgment against him from 2012. In 2011, parties including Capitol Records LLC, EMI Music Inc., and Jones/Tintoretto Entertainment Co, LLC sued Defries and MMRX (Defries’ legal business entity) for willful copyright infringement of musical… Read more

Ex-ESPN Tennis Analyst Volleys Wrongful Termination Suit

Published Feb 22, 2017

Ex-ESPN tennis analyst Doug Adler is suing ESPN for wrongful termination after being fired for on-air comments about Venus Williams during the 2017 Australian Open. The analyst sparked controversy when he described Williams as having a “gorilla” style of play.    Adler, however, contends that he used the term “guerilla,” in reference to Williams’ aggressive playstyle…. Read more

Fake Art? Richard Prince Disavows Portrait of Ivanka Trump

Published Feb 22, 2017

Appropriation artist Richard Prince is involved in yet another dispute over his New Portrait series. As the JLA Beat previously reported, this series of paintings based on Instagram screenshots with Prince’s own comments has been subject to scrutiny for potential copyright infringement. The most recent controversy, however, involves moral rights. In 2014, Prince created a… Read more

Virtual Reality Infringement Lawsuit Ends in $500 million Damages

Published Feb 17, 2017

ZeniMax Media LLC was recently awarded $500 million in its trade secret and copyright infringement case against Facebook Inc. stemming from Facebook’s purchase of Oculus. ZeniMax had requested $2 billion in damages and $4 billion in additional punitive damages from its claims that Oculus improperly appropriated key pieces of software, before Facebook purchased the virtual… Read more

Recent M&A Transactions Involving Big Data Prompt Worldwide Antitrust Concerns

Published Feb 17, 2017

Recent large-scale transactions involving Big Data, like AT&T’s $85.4 billion merger deal with Time Warner – approved by Time Warner shareholders February 15 – and Microsoft’s roughly $26 billion acquisition of LinkedIn last year, have prompted worldwide concern amongst antitrust professionals. among some academics and policymakers. Regulators and academics fear that big internet companies could… Read more

Marvel CEO’s Litigation Quagmire Adds to DNA-Property Debate

Published Feb 6, 2017

Following years of bitter controversy and a string of lawsuits, a Florida judge recently allowed the reclusive Marvel CEO Isaac ‘Ike’ Perlmutter and his wife to move forward with a claim of conversion of their DNA. By allowing the case to move forward, the judge ostensibly allowed the question of whether DNA is to be… Read more

Post-Executive Order, White House Seeks Access to Social Media

Published Feb 5, 2017

The controversial January 27 executive order from President Donald Trump banning travel from seven Muslim-Majority countries will likely intensify screening the social media accounts of foreign visitors traveling between those countries and the United States. White House policy director Stephen Miller said to officials of the State Department, Customs and Border Patrol, and the Department… Read more

Ninth Circuit: Media Shifting is Kare-Okay Under the Lanham Act

Published Feb 5, 2017

The Ninth Circuit, in an issue of first impression, last month dismissed a trademark infringement claim on the grounds that “media-shifting,” or ripping, in the karaoke industry does not concern a “relevant” material good protected by the Lanham Act. The plaintiff, Slep-Tone Entertainment Corp., is a karaoke music publisher that produces a brand of karaoke… Read more

Motion to Dismiss Denied in a Copyright Infringement Case Over “Anastasia” Musical

Published Jan 31, 2017

A New York judge has denied a motion to dismiss a copyright infringement suit against a new Broadway musical adapted from the 1997 animated film “Anastasia.” The heirs of playwright Marcelle Maurette sued playwright Terrence McNally in December over the planned musical, alleging that the show is plagiarized from Laurette’s 1952 play titled “Anastasia.” Maurette’s… Read more

The Use of Athletes in Video Games: Right of Publicity Unclear

Published Jan 26, 2017

On January 11, former pro wrestler Lenwood Hamilton brought suit in a Pennsylvania federal court against video game developer Epic Games, publisher Microsoft Studios, and former wrestler Lester Speight, for allegedly using his voice and likeness in the “Gears of War” video game series. Hamilton’s suit is the most recent in a series of long-running… Read more

Instagram “Appropriation Artist” Sued for Copyright Infringement – Again

Published Jan 9, 2017

“Appropriation” artist Richard Prince, known for his controversial Instagram photo series, has been sued again on claims that he unlawfully reproduced a photographer’s copyrighted work. Eric McNatt alleges in his complain that Prince copied McNatt’s portrait of Sonic Youth musician Kim Gordon and subsequently posted it on Instagram, later featuring a print-out of his Instagram… Read more

Second Circuit: MP3Tunes on the Hook for DMCA Violations

Published Dec 29, 2016

  The Second Circuit has reinstituted a jury verdict for nearly $50 million in the long-running litigation between MP3Tunes, the discontinued online music service, and a group of record companies.  In a landmark ruling on October 25, the Circuit reversed the trial court’s determination that MP3Tunes was largely protected by a provision in the Digital… Read more

“Pollos Hermanos” Artist Sues Sony for “Breaking” Copyright Bad

Published Dec 29, 2016

  The artist who created the iconic logo for Los Pollos Hermanos, the fictional chicken restaurant on the popular AMC TV show “Breaking Bad,” is suing Sony Pictures for using the logo to sell merchandise without permission. The artist, Humberto Puentes-Segura, created and sold the Los Pollos Hermanos logo to Sony Pictures’ subsidiary Topango Productions,… Read more