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Miami, FL Law Blog for Entertainment Law, Business Law, and Public Interest

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Charlie Sheen and former producer clash

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

Famed actor Charlie Sheen might have been booted from his role on the hit television sitcom "Two and a Half Men," but producers of the show are saying he took something with him. This is causing a dispute between the two sides.
Since his highly-publicized departure from the show, Sheen has moved on and is slated to star in a new show called "Anger Management," broadcasted on FX channel. But Sheen is angering Warner Bros., which produced "Two and a Half Men," because the actor is apparently using promotional photos from that show to promote his upcoming venture.

At the recent National Association of Television Program Executives Conference, a photo was distributed that showed Sheen wearing a leather jacket and sitting on a motorcycle. This photo was originally produced by Warner Bros. in efforts to promote "Two and a Half Men".

Warner Bros. promptly issued a cease-and-desist letter to both the actor and Debmar-Mercury, which is producing Sheen's new show. In the letter, Warner Bros. alleged that both parties are unjustly using the company's intellectual property. Warner Bros. also took great exception to the fact that their intellectual property was used to promote a rivaling television show.

Warner Bros. insisted that both parties stop using the photo. While the producers of Sheen's new show did not release an official comment, those close to the case said that the photo would not be used again.

Sheen, which sued Warner Bros. for $100 million after he was axed from the show, continued to voice his hatred for the show and its producers. He told media that if Warner Bros. worried more about their show and less about what he was doing, "Two and a Half Men" would not be such a bad show.

Source: ABC News, "Warner Bros. Demands Charlie Sheen Stop Using 'Two and a Half Men' Publicity Photos," Feb. 16, 2012


Friday, February 17, 2012

Luxury condo project on hold pending lawsuit

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

A 14-story luxury condo development in downtown Boynton Beach, Florida has been put on hold because of a pending lawsuit. The litigation concerns a dispute over the twin-tower 318 unit project between the developer and some of the buyers who have purchased approximately 25 percent of the units.

Sales of the units opened up in May of 2010. A major title company in the area has instructed all of its offices not to close or even process any further commitments for title insurance for the sale of any more units in the project because of the pending litigation.

Several judgments against the developer have already been won by some of the buyers, but the developer has not paid them, so the title to the units still owned by the developer are clouded by liens for the judgments.

These judgments reflect decisions by local judges that some of the buyers are entitled to refunds of their 20 percent down payments because the developer acted in an improper manner regarding the manner in which it held buyers' funds in escrow. A total of 10 judgments have been entered so far, totaling approximately $1.4 million. The plaintiffs' attorney believes that a number of additional judgments will be granted soon and when they are, the total may exceed $2 million.

Once all the judgments are entered, the plaintiffs' attorney will begin the process of attempting to collect them and to find assets belonging to the developer which can be applied to pay the debt. Meanwhile, the developer has filed appeals of some of the judgments already granted. Whatever the ultimate court decisions, for now, the litigation appears to have placed further sales of units in the project on hold indefinitely.

Source: The Palm Beach Post, "Legal issues halt condo sales at Boynton's Promenade," Alexandra Clough, Feb. 12, 2012


Friday, February 10, 2012

Florida lawsuit over online movie ticket sales

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

While the summer blockbuster season is still a ways off, a new drama has emerged in a Florida courtroom. This drama, in the form of a lawsuit may not be very entertaining for either of the parties involved. The commercial litigation involves the Florida-based online movie ticket seller, MovieTicket.com and one of its founding shareholders, the AMC movie theatre chain.

The dispute began with an announcement that AMC had entered into an agreement with Fandango, another online movie ticket seller, to sell tickets to movies at AMC theatres. MovieTicket.com claims that the agreement between AMC and Fandango is a violation of the joint venture agreement between MovieTickets.com and AMC.

These online ticket sellers changed the way that many people go to the movies. From a compute or smart phone its easy to find a movie theatre nearby, see what movies are playing and even view trailers. Importantly depending on the service and the theatre you may even be able to buy your tickets online. This can be particularly useful if there is a possibility that the movie may sell out, or just to avoid a long line at the Cineplex.

It seems like the partnership between AMC and Movietickets.com has been on a rocky road for some time. In 2005 AMC merged with another theatre that was partnered with Fandango. Movietickets.com also contends that AMC used its shareholder status to block potentially lucrative deals including a merger with Fandango.

Source: Reuters News, "Movietickets.com is suing AMC Entertainment for breach of contract in a Florida circuit court, the online ticket seller said Wednesday," Brent Lang, Feb. 8, 2012
 


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Business courts in Florida for commercial litigation

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

As you may know, specialized courts in Florida, called business courts, are used to process commercial lawsuits. Business courts were authorized by state law, and the first such court was set up in Orlando, Florida in 2004.

In the ensuing eight years, the first business court has handled the trial or settlement of over 3,600 cases, facilitating their rapid processing by making sure that a judge well versed in handling commercial litigation is able to focus his or her attention on such claims. Business cases handled have included disputes over franchises, intellectual property lawsuits, and antitrust claims, as well as construction litigation, real estate, and commercial foreclosure disputes.

The Orlando business court was successful enough that the concept spread to both Miami and Tampa by 2007. A similar but somewhat distinct variation on the business court model was established in Fort Lauderdale in 2008, with the special court hearing both the types of business disputes the other specialized court hearings, as well as product liability and medical malpractice claims.

Judges with expertise and a track record of managing commercial litigation can move cases along at a faster pace, proponents of the concept assert. Such litigation can be complex, and businesspeople appreciate having access to judges who can focus on their problems.

Some still see room for improvement in the business court experiment, however, advocating that better funding and more adequate support staff should be provided in light of the heavy caseload. Some business court judges may have as many as 500 cases on their docket.

Specialized business courts were almost unheard of before the early 1990's, but now exist in over 20 states, according to the National Center for State Courts.

Source: Florida Trend, "Florida's business courts," Feb. 3, 2012


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Star of "This Means War" going to battle with his talent agency

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

Chris Pine, the actor likely best known for his starring role as Capt. James T. Kirk in the most recent Star Trek movie, is being sued by this talent agency which accuses him of breach of contract after Pines ended his nine-year relationship with the agency. In the court filings in this lawsuit, the agency took particular umbrage with the fact that when Pines terminated the relationship, he did so by email.

Starting with guest spots on ER and CSI: Miami, Pines career took off with movies like "Unstoppable," "Star Trek" and "This Means War," which is releasing this week. The agency claims that this success is largely a result of their efforts, having begun working with Pines before he had any notoriety. The lawsuit seeks allegedly unpaid commissions from several recent films as well as future commissions for roles which the agency apparently helped the actor obtain.

The agency says that it is entitled to 10 percent of the actors take from about two dozen separate projects including, future "Star Trek" and "Jack Ryan" movies. The allegedly unpaid commissions on movies that are already complete is nearly $200,000. The agency claims that after Pines terminated the relationship, they attempted to contact him to clarify that they would seek a portion of his future profits, but they claim that Pines never responded.

The relationship between an actor and his talent agent can be a significant factor in a performer's career. When things are beginning to take off, generally both sides are very pleased with the arrangement. The actor is happy with the roles that the agency is helping him land and the agency is starting to see a return for the work that they have done. But that dynamic can change over time. It is important to understand what these new dynamics can look like before entering into a contract.

Source: Reuters News, "Chris Pine's Former Agency Sues 'Star Trek' Star for Commissions," Feb. 14, 2012


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Kardashian files lawsuit

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

Celebrity socialite Kim Kardashian filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against The Gap, stating that the company used a look-alike and caused confusion in the marketplace and violating her rights to her likeness and name. The Gap is investigating Kardashian's reputation to see if it has actually been tarnished because it used a dark-haired model in a TV commercial.

Kardashian, a personality who has over 12 million Twitter followers and is popular on E! reality television, is seeking substantial damages in the lawsuit. The Gap's legal exposure may be limited, though, because the insurer for the advertising agency may indemnify The Gap for any damages.

The plaintiff and the defendant are entering into a discovery process that could take most of the year while both sides look for Kardashian's true worth and reputation. The Gap will also be requesting financial records showing how much Sears and Bebe earned through deals with Kardashian.

The Gap will also look into why Bebe dropped Kardashian. The New York Times published a review that described the model's Manhattan store as a fashion desert. It was about that time that Bebe dropped Kardashian, according to sources. In addition to financial records, The Gap's will also investigate likely Kardashian's singing and dancing reputation.

The Gap believes it can show that Kardashian's claims are meritless. It also believes that the look-alike was a small part of the advertising campaign and that profits from that commercial were minimal. The prosecution and the defense both expect Kardashian to be called as a witness. She will undergo examination by both attorneys if she is called as a witness. Other witnesses may include the look-alike and the staff that prepared and casted the commercial.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter, "Kim Kardashian's Reputation in Dispute as the Gap Responds to Lawsuit," Jan. 17, 2012


Monday, January 30, 2012

Lady Gaga concert booking falls through

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

When the Russian music network MUZ-TV wanted to book a big name entertainer for an event this summer, they came into communication with a Miami management firm. According to new reports, the firm had assured MUZ-TV that they would be able to line up Lady Gaga for the concert.

But when the deal fell through, the Russian music network claimed that it was out $1.5 million, without anything to show for it. MUZ-TV has now filed a lawsuit in Florida seeking the return of the money after the management company has allegedly refused to reimburse the network.

For performers, promoters, agents, labels, and everyone else involved in the entertainment industry, one of the most important parts of engaging in a business transaction, is knowing who you are dealing with. It is not always clear that the person with whom you are talking actually has the authority to do what they have promised, sometimes there is a only a possibility they can deliver despite their best efforts.

On the other side of the coin it is important to know who has the actual or apparent authority to engage in business negotiations on your behalf. Are their individuals out there who may be promising your services despite the fact that you have never explicitly authorized them to do so?

It may be unreasonable under some circumstances to assume that the two principals involved will have direct communication right from the beginning. The owner of the Russian network may not have Lady Gaga's home phone number. But it is important to have some certainty as to the other party's authority and ability to deliver before putting any money on the table.

Source: Entertainmentwise.com, "Lady Gaga A Hot Topic In Russian Lawsuit," Jan. 29, 2012


Saturday, January 28, 2012

In search of the largest piece of a shrinking pie

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

The commercial real estate sector in South Florida has certainly seen better times. While there is hope that the sector is poised to start a slow but steady recovery, this is of little help to those facing challenges today. Foreclosure and bankruptcy is an everyday reality for too many investors, commercial property owners and tenants. When a property runs into trouble no one wants to be left holding the bag.

But in bankruptcy and other situations in which there are simply no longer enough assets to go around, it is important to be pragmatic. Sometimes it may make sense to hold out for highest possible amount, while in other situations no amount of effort is going to increase the return. Recently a bankruptcy judge in Florida allowed competing plans to be filed in the bankruptcy case concerning a commercial property.

The Terra Group had wanted to acquire control of the Town Center at Doral. Terra had entered into an agreement with the property owners to attempt to satisfy the outstanding debts as well as finance the bankruptcy case. But this would have meant that the entities that had claims against the property would have received much less than the full amount that they were owed.

A large portion of the debt was owed to the community development district (CDD). The CDD is a government project which helps facilitate infrastructure improvements. The CDD objected to this plan because they said it would negatively impact their ability to fund future development projects. The judge has allowed the CDD to file a competing bankruptcy plan.

Source: South Florida Business Journal, "Judge throws wrench into Terra Group's Doral plans," Brian Brandell, Jan. 26, 2012


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Restaurants in dispute over similar name

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

Owners of two similarly named Chinese restaurants in Miami Beach have taken their argument to the courtroom. The owner of a high end Chinese franchise, Mr. Chow, is bringing a federal lawsuit against the owner of "Philippe by Philippe Chow."

The owner of Mr. Chow has a successful franchise of restaurants and is suing the owner of Philippe for trademark infringement. The suit claims that the new restaurant is trying to cash in on the style, ambiance, name, and even recipes of Mr. Chow. The owner of Philippe's is a former employee of Mr. Chow. The owner of Philippe's struck out on his own with the help of some high profile financial backing and is seeking to create his own chain up opscale Chinese restaurants.

The owner of Mr. Chow is seeking $20 million in damages. The proprietor claims that the owner of Philippe's is training to present himself as the "original Chow." For his part, the owner of Philippe's says that he actually created much of Mr. Chow's menu and is countersuing for defamation.

It may turn out to be a celebrity studded trial as numerous current and former athletes from the NFL and NBA are financial backers of Philippe's establishment and plan to testify in court. They are expected to contend that the owner of Mr. Chow is the figurehead of the company, not the chef, thus helping to diffuse the claims of recipe theft. The owner of Mr. Chow is also bringing a lawsuit against an hotelier who has a hotel and restaurant called Mr. C. The owner of Mr. Chow claims that this is too similar to the name of his establishment.

Source: Miami Herald, "Chow vs. Chow: Miami Beach feud food lands in federal court," Adam Beasley, Jan. 12, 2012


Friday, January 20, 2012

Online content, copyright and SOPA and PIPA

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

You would have been hard pressed this week to not notice the online backlash against two proposals in Congress Supporters say these laws are necessary to stop illegal foreign piracy of intellectual property such as movies, songs, and television shows. Critics of the proposed legislation say that the bills go too far, and allows for censorship and the chilling of the freedom of speech without due process.

There is no question that the delivery of and availability of commercial music and video online has forever changed the way that these industries operate. Being able to distribute music online makes it possible for nearly anyone to discover new music or disseminate it quickly and easily, gone are the days when the local record store was the only hope for finding obscure titles or up and coming local bands. But of course, the flip side of that easy distribution is that it is more and more difficult to ensure that those that create and have a legal interest in the music are able to control and benefit from its distribution.

This week, in protest of the proposed legislation, Google had a black bar over most of its name. Wikipedia went dark altogether and instead instructed users on how to contact their congressional representatives. While the concerns of censorship and an unworkably broad scope of power from the current proposals are significant. It is clear that copyright infringement on the internet is a very real problem that directly affects artists and musicians.

Hopefully the increased attention to this issue will result in negotiation and cooperation between all sides to develop a plan that serves everyone's legitimate interests.

Source: Fox News, "Florida's Marco Rubio Joins Backlash to PIPA Bill," Jan. 18, 2012


Thursday, January 19, 2012

OJ Simpson's home goes into foreclosure

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

Not even celebrities are immune from the problem of home foreclosures in Florida, as illustrated by the foreclosure being levied against the infamous former NFL football player, OJ Simpson, on his $575,000 home in Miami. Simpson has requested that the foreclosure be dropped, but as of yet, no action has been taken. It remains to be seen whether Simpson will be able to keep the home or not.

The loss of Simpson's home comes as a result of snowballing financial and legal troubles. Simpson, 64, is currently serving jail time for his part in trying to steal sports memorabilia from a Las Vegas casino. His jail sentence carries up to a 33-year stint, though Simpson is appealing his conviction. And while he was acquitted of earlier charges of the murder of her ex-wife and her friend, Ronald Goldman, he was charged in a civil court with wrongful death and ordered to pay $33.5 million in restitution to Ronald Goldman's family.

This judgment is likely to be a big part of the reason that Simpson finds himself in the financial situation he does now. While he still receives income from the NFL and other pensions that cannot be touched to pay the restitution to the Goldman family, most of his earnings, including those for a ghostwritten book recently published, and movies he has been in, go to the Goldman family. These judgments put Simpson in perilous financial straits and are likely to be the main reason for the possible foreclosure of his Florida home.

Source: The Washington Post, "Bank foreclosing on O.J. Simpson's Florida house while he serves prison time in Nevada," Jan. 16, 2012


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