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

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


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Musicians object to the use of their music without permission

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

Kid Rocks hit song, "Born Free," struck a chord with one of this year's presidential candidates while they were looking for a campaign theme song. However, rather than simply taking the song and blasting it during campaign events as so many other politicians had done prior to him, this campaign asked for Rock's permission first and avoided a lawsuit.

The foresight to request permission before using the song at campaign events or in advertising would seem to be common sense. But it was only after multiple instances of musicians filing lawsuits in order to control the use of their intellectual property that this common sense approach was actually followed. It should be encouraging to musicians and songwriters however that at least some political campaigns have begun to take steps to seek consent before using music for which they may otherwise have no right to use.

This use of music without consent of the artist is not a new phenomenon this year. Last year, Tom Petty's music publisher issued a cease and desist letter to Republican hopeful Michele Bachman requiring her to stop playing "American Girl" during campaign events. In 2008, John Mellencamp and the Foo Fighters would not allow John McCain to play their hit songs while on his presidential campaign.

An out of court settlement resolved a dispute with Jackson Browne following lawsuits against McCain for using his song, "Running on Empty," without receiving permission first. During an event in 2004, George W. Bush played "Still the One," which did not make John Hall, a member of the band Orleans, happy. In addition, the former President could not use tracks from John Melencamp, Tom Petty, and Sting.

Source: Fox News, "Musicians Blocking GOP from Using Songs?" Hollie McKay, Jan. 4, 2012


Monday, January 9, 2012

Giant Robot Lawsuit

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

For many musicians, their stage presence during live performances constitutes an important part of their artistic expression and identity. Musicians may work hard, or even paint themselves blue, to develop a signature stage identity when they perform. This distinctive persona developed during their live performances factors strongly into the branding for many acts and is crucial to their marketing and merchandising efforts.

Now one Florida musician has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit claiming that another business enterprise has tried to cash in from his popular on-stage persona by simply copying his signature costume. The musician, Andrew Moore, performs his club music onstage as Kryoman. The costume is a nine foot tall robot covered in lights and wielding laser gun in each hand.

According to the Florida lawsuit, Moore claims that another entertainment company had approached him to perform at one of their shows in Miami. Moore decided not to take the gig. He claims that the other company then simply decided to build a copy of Kryoman character to perform at their shows. Moore is seeking substantial damages as part of his lawsuit.

It can be frustrating when music and artistic expression gets tangled up in court. Of course anyone would rather spend all of their time on stage or in a recording studio rather than worrying about lawsuits. But from time to time situations beyond our control can require attention. This could be the discovery that someone else is profiting improperly from your hard work, or that another entertainer alleges that you are benefiting from their work. Either way it can be reassuring to know that help is available; help that will allow you to focus on your music rather than legal paperwork.

Source: TMZ, "There Can Be Only One Giant Electronic Robot," Jan, 1, 2011
 


Friday, January 6, 2012

Grooveshark online music streaming faces more troubles

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

Back in August we talked about a lawsuit against the Florida based music streaming service, Grooveshark. Grooveshark allows users to upload and share music. One issue however is that those who are uploading the music generally do not have a licensing agreement to share the music. But the site was created by two University of Florida students in an attempt to provide an alternative to the illegal downloading of music. To further this purpose the company has attempted to enter into agreements with record labels to legally use their music.

This has been an ongoing process so far as three of the four major record companies have field infringement lawsuits against the online music provider. The good news, however, had been that one of the four major record companies was not suing them and had actually entered into a licensing deal. But now that company, EMI is suing Grooveshark for breach of contract.

In its lawsuit EMI claims that Grooveshark has failed to provide accounting statements or make royalty payments since they entered into their agreement in 2009. Grooveshark has responded in a statement that it acknowledges the contract dispute but believes that the two sides will be able to come to an agreement to resolve their differences.

It seems that the music industry is still struggling with how to best deliver its music to those who want to hear it while continuing to be profitable. There are some online subscription music services with which the record companies work more closely, but many consumers prefer free services, such as Grooveshark with 35 million users or Pandora. Hopefully online music sites, musicians, fans, and record companies can move towards a system which will allow fans to get their music and those that make the music to also make a living.

Source: Gainesville.com, "New lawsuit means all major labels are suing Grooveshark," Ben Sisario, Jan. 6, 2011


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Bar and restaurant gets special liquor license reinstated

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

In 2008, the city of Miami removed a special permit allowing a bar and restaurant to serve liquor until 5:00 a.m., cutting amount of business for them and various establishments in the area. Soon after, the bar decided to challenge the action in court. The bar alleged that customers would go to other restaurants until they closed, then would go over to the bar and restaurant that was open until 5:00 a.m. The owner of the restaurant claimed to have lost over $1 million in sales and had to fire half of his staff because of the slow-down in business when it was forced to adapt earlier closing hours.

The city removed the special permit in 2008, citing late night noise and crime, after passing a law that no restaurants could sell liquor after 3:00 a.m. According to the owner of a restaurant that normally closed by 3:00 a.m., the city's action reduced his business. The owner of the bar and restaurant filed a lawsuit against the city. Last month, the city finally settled the lawsuit. The bar and restaurant is now allowed to serve liquor to 5:00 a.m.

As part of the settlement, the city had to pay the owner $10,000 for his troubles, which was much less than the $1 million the owner was suing for. The owner reportedly just wanted to settle the lawsuit and keep serving alcohol until 5:00 a.m.

Other restaurant and business owners in the area think it will be difficult to come back from the early closings, but hope that it won't be long for people to start spending more late nights/early mornings in the area.

Source: Miami Herald, "City settles lawsuit, agrees to let Coconut Grove bar Mr. Moe's stay open until 5 a.m.," Julio Menache, Dec. 30, 2011


Monday, January 2, 2012

The most pirated film of 2012 was...wait, what? That one? Really?

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

In our last post, we told Miami readers which TV shows people were illegally downloading. The list probably was not too surprising. After all, most of us have heard of "Game of Thrones" and "Dexter," the two shows that topped the most-pirated list.

But when we look at movies, the results are a little more surprising.

Yes, mega-blockbusters like "The Avengers," "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol" and "The Dark Knight Rises" made website TorrentFreak's most-pirated list, but the movie that came in at No.1 was one you probably have never heard of: "Project X."

"Project X" was a low-budget comedy about three high school friends who throw a party that spins out of control. It was illegally downloaded 8.72 million times.

One theory for the film's popularity is that it was based on a real-life news story out of Australia, so many Australian film fans downloaded it because it wasn't playing in Australia yet.

Another theory is that it appeals to younger viewers, who are more likely to pirate material, whereas the other films on the list were aimed at older viewers, who are perfectly comfortable buying a movie ticket.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter, "'Project X' Most Pirated Film of 2012," Philiana Ng, Dec. 28, 2012


Friday, December 30, 2011

Copyright infringement lawsuit faced by Ellenton Evie's

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

A federal lawsuit for copyright infringement by a music rights organization was filed against an Ellenton tavern and its owner.

Evie's Tavern and its owner had a lawsuit filed against them in the Middle District of Florida on Sept. 9 by Broadcast Music Inc. Court records report that the owner's business faces six claims within the lawsuit, all of which are songs, because he and his business did not obtain proper licensing nor did they pay royalties. The 13 owners of the songs' copyrights also filed lawsuits against the tavern and its owner. All the songs were played at the Evie's Tavern included "Bring Me to Life," "You Dropped a Bomb on Me," and "Pretty Woman."

Sarasota is home to three other Evie's Tavern locations. The claims within the lawsuit are based upon the fact that the defendants did not receive authorization to publicly perform musical compositions found within the BMI repertoire.

Found within the lawsuit are claims staring that the Ellenton tavern owner and the business itself have caused damages that are unable to be calculated. The tavern's owner reports how ridiculous he believes this is because the music in the tavern's jukebox is paid for by him. He further states that he pays bills for DirecTV and XM Satellite, as well.

After spending around $5,000 in legal fees, the tavern owner reports that BMI has never personally spoken to him regarding any of these matters.

The tavern owner's attorney filed a motion to dismiss the case on Oct. 18. On Nov. 30, the motion was denied. The tavern owner concludes his public commentary by remarking about how he and his business have responded to all allegations made, but it still goes back and forth.

Source: Bradenton Herald, "Ellenton Evie's faces copyright lawsuit ," Dec. 22, 2011


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Hulk Hogan claims ex wife defamed him

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

Former World Wrestling Federation champion Hulk Hogan has filed a defamation lawsuit against his former wife after she published various accusations against him in her book. In his lawsuit filed in Florida, Hogan denies the truth of his ex-wife's statements in the book and has requested that the book be pulled from the shelves.

In this case it will apparently be up to a jury to determine the veracity of the ex-wife's statements and decide whether they do indeed constitute defamation. For celebrities and entertainers false statement that damage their reputation can be more than just embarrassing, they can have a dramatic and negative impact on their ability to succeed in their chosen profession. When an image is tarnished sales and endorsements may be fleeting.

While talent is generally a necessary precondition to being a successful entertainer, it is not always a sufficient condition to ensure commercial success. The reputation and public persona of an entertainer also plays a huge role in determining who will end up with a viable entertainment career. Developing and maintain an effective personal brand is often vital. There are of course incidents where a person's reputation is damaged through their own acts and demeanor. While this is unfortunate enough, to have one's reputation ruined as result of false or baseless accusations is particularly troubling and can cause real monetary harm.

In many cases, the person who is making the false accusation is themselves seeking to gain monetarily by publishing outlandish or inflammatory statements about a celebrity. Of course, it the statements are true it is a defense to any claims of defamation.

Source: Fox News, "Hulk Hogan Files Defamation Suit Against Ex Linda Bollea Over Autobiography Claims," Dec. 9, 2011


Friday, December 23, 2011

Rash of foreclosures hits commercial properties

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

Foreclosure proceedings have started on a number of South Florida commercial properties with their owners facing lawsuits or being forced to relinquish the properties.

A nearly 74,000-square-foot office building in Boca Raton, known as the Courtyard, has gone into foreclosure. The owners owe just more than $5 million on the property and have been sued. They purchased the property in 1999 at a cost of $9 million, but the appraiser in Palm Beach County has put the current value at $7.5 million.

In West Palm Beach, a 57,940-square-foot office building has changed hands in lieu of foreclosure. The building, Commerce Pointe, was signed over in exchange for forgiveness of the outstanding mortgage. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has offices in Commerce Pointe.

In Parkland, the Riverstone Shoppes center has been acquired by Tate Capital of North Miami. Last year, a commercial mortgage-backed securities trust sued the holder of the $12.8 million mortgage. More recently, the securities firm liquidated the loan, losing 72 percent of the loan value. That center has several vacancies among its 64,153 square feet.

Elsewhere in the area, the owner of three area gas stations also faces a foreclosure lawsuit as a South Florida bank is seeking to collect on its $3 million mortgage.

The stations, located in Lauderhill, Sunrise and Miramar, are owned by a Palm Beach County man who filed personal bankruptcy earlier this year. When he filed his bankruptcy papers, his holdings already had been sued 29 times. Much of his self-reported $30 million debt stems from convenience stores and gas stations he owns.

And in Miami-Dade County, a closed assisted-living facility will be auctioned off after a bank won its lawsuit against the owner over a $2.7 million mortgage. The facility closed in September following a rash of reports that residents had been mistreated.

That property, on 5.7 acres along Southwest 137th Avenue, sold for $6.1 million in 2005.

Source: South Florida Business Journal "Boca Raton office building hit with foreclosure," Brian Bandell, Dec. 16, 2011


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Florida band, A Day to Remember, in lawsuit with label

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

For many musicians and bands, the relationships between themselves and their record labels  are one of the most important factors in their music career and level of satisfaction with the business side of their music. A positive relationship between a label and performer can lift a talented band from relative obscurity to a position where their music can reach a wider audience. A poor relationship however, can cause endless headaches and make it nearly impossible for a band to focus on their first love of making music.

It was recently disclosed that the Florida-based band, A Day to Remember, is in an ongoing lawsuit with their label, Victory Records. The band is seeking a declaration that they have fulfilled the requirements of their original obligation to the record label and that the label breached their contract.

The original contract between the band and the label called for an exclusive five album commitment with an option for additional records. The contract also apparently specified that the label would have certain rights in regard to merchandising, specifically in relation to the retail sale of goods representing the band. The band claims that the record label withheld royalties owed to the band because the band was selling merchandise through a web store, an avenue that the label considered a retail outlet.

Ideally rather than a band and a record label fighting against each other to determine who gets the largest slice of the profits, the two should try to make the entire pie larger. This way, through the hard work and cooperation of both sides everyone can achieve their fiscal and artistic goals.

Source: The Examiner, "Band members of A Day To Remember file lawsuit against Victory Records," Natalie Kuchik, Dec. 15, 2011
 


Friday, December 16, 2011

Origami artist involved in copyright lawsuit

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

An artist and film maker, known widely for her work in the world of origami, is at the center of a federal copyright lawsuit that claims she stole most of her ideas and concepts from fellow origami experts.

The female artist introduced her origami works in a 2007 series, which garnered national attention. It featured 37 pieces of work, which she claimed she found. She added her own spin on the origami by using canvas and painting the space in between the lines. She used this origami for commercial use, promoting it through interviews and other means.

Origami is the ancient art of folding paper. Experts can create elaborate and detailed designs. The art form has also exploded in recent years. Artists from around the world share their folding patterns and specifications via the Internet and other published works.

The six artists who are suing the woman are also accomplished in origami and have displayed their work in cities around the world, including Miami. They have even copyrighted many of their origami patterns, which create models of such things as an angel, falcon, grasshopper, parrot, mantis and many other creatures.

The group of artists claims that the female artist copied up to 24 pieces of their work for her own collection. One of the defendants had contributed to a book about origami design secrets. That defendant claims the New York artist swiped seven designs from that published work alone. Other members of this group say the female artist also spotted their origami in published works and copied the designs.

The suit cites 20 counts of copyright infringement. The group of artists seeks an unspecified amount of money in damages.

Source: Courthouse News Service "Origami Artists Won't Fold for Filmmaker," Dec. 7, 2011


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