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

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Electronic Evidence and Business Litigation

Email, intra-office messaging and digital image transference are hardly new concepts, however few business owners realize the long-term implications of this style of free-flowing communication, particularly in light of litigation and e-discovery requests. If you are a Florida business engaged in litigation or preparing for possible conflict in the future, one of the best strategies for your company is to implement and maintain an electronic evidence policy for employees. Too often, damaging information, accidental concessions or discriminatory language is casually exchanged between two employees -- believing to be engaged in a private chat -- only to be uncovered by a sweeping e-discovery request from opposing counsel. To avoid this result and protect your business from unnecessary exposure to liability, consider meeting with a business litigation lawyer about your company’s electronic information policies.

Electronically Stored Information and Business Litigation Holds

Once a civil complaint is filed, both parties are entitled to request and receive evidence from the opponent in a process known as discovery. Requests for information need not be necessarily admissible at a subsequent trial, however any non-privileged information that may be relevant to a party’s claim or defense is discoverable. In the context of electronic discovery, it is considered routine discovery practice to require opponents to place a “litigation hold” on electronically stored information, thereby preventing companies from destroying or erasing data. These holds generally include all emails, voicemails or electronically stored documents, and various software companies have developed products to help organizations manage and store data pursuant to a litigation hold.

Disastrous Consequences for Employers

In preparation for possible litigation, it is vital for your employees to carefully consider all electronic communication, as one pejorative email could bring your case to a screeching halt. In the context of employment litigation, a plaintiff claiming workplace discrimination could prevail, thereby costing your company thousands of dollars, all due to the discovery of derogatory jokes uncovered by electronic discovery. The same is true in the context of any other area of business law wherein one employee admits wrongdoing, breach or fraud in a casual email to a colleague. Once the litigation hold is in place, there is no telling what the opponent could uncover, thereby placing your business at an increased risk of liability.

Speak with a Reputable Miami Business Litigation Attorney

Electronic evidence can be a complex area of the law. However, with the proper workplace policies, businesses like yours can work to avoid the potential consequences of the vast, boundless litigation hold and can rest assured in the notion office emails do not contain inadvertent confessions, admissions or disclosures. If you are facing upcoming litigation and are seeking counsel on these issues, contact the commercial litigation attorneys at Manos Alwine PL for a consultation.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Entertainment Lawyers Can Ensure Your Rights are Protected

All entertainers bring their unique talents and goals to the entertainment industry, Actors may want to land a lead role in a Blockbuster production while an upcoming singer’s ultimate goal might be to have a single on the Top 40. Despite the difference in career goals and aspirations, all entertainers share a commonality- to be truly successful, they must all take steps to protect their legal rights and interests. 

An experienced entertainment lawyer can help you implement legal strategies to protect your wealth, intellectual property and help to ensure that you have a long career in this competitive industry.  Our entertainment law firm has represented actors, writers, singers, producers, managers, agents and directors, as well as production, financing and distribution companies, in contract negotiations.

If you are…

  • An entertainer or director? It’s difficult to earn what you are worth when you are unfamiliar with just how much you should be paid for your talents. Our firm has a comprehensive understanding of the industry’s standard rates and royalties and other forms of compensation, as well as other perks you can reasonably demand. I can negotiate your full compensation and rights, then protect them with a written contract that reflects your full range of concerns.
  • A writer? Writers in the entertainment industry often contract with entertainment firms on a freelance or contractual basis. We can negotiate for your highest-level compensation, then work to enhance and optimize your ownership rights to the output you produce. We can also assist authors (and their heirs) in the recovery of ownership of previously created works: In some instances The Copyright Act is has afforded the recapture of rights to materials despite contracts that previously transfer ownership.
  • A manager, agent or producer on the business side of the entertainment industry? As a manager, agent or producer, you likely assume a portion of the risk in any project you or your firm is involved with. We can negotiate to minimize your exposure to risk and maximize your potential profit.

Our entertainment law firm has handled the negotiation and drafting of record contracts, publishing contracts, producer contracts, management contracts, concert agreements, event promotion, merchandising and endorsement contracts, sponsorship agreements and a broad range of other contracts and agreements related to the entertainment industry.  

Monday, December 31, 2012

'Game of Thrones' was most-pirated show of 2012

As Miami readers undoubtedly know, Internet piracy is a significant threat to the entertainment industry.

If consumers are not paying for music, films and television shows, then the companies that make those media items are not getting paid and have less incentive to remain in business.

Also, Internet piracy infringes on the copyrights that exist with regard to these forms of entertainment. A copyright grants the holder the right to decide how or if the work should be sold, reproduced or distributed and illegally downloading a TV episode or a movie violates that right.

Read more . . .

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Sony asks judge to dismiss copyright infringement suit over 'Midnight in Paris'

By Pankaj Ladhar

"Midnight in Paris" was Woody Allen's most successful movie of all time, but at least one entity was not pleased with it -- the estate of William Faulkner, which sued Sony Pictures over a quote in the film. The resulting lawsuit is a good chance for Miami readers to understand the doctrine of "fair use"

The nine-word quote Faulkner's estate alleges was improperly used comes from Faulkner's 220-page 1954 novel "Requiem for a Nun." Faulkner's estate is claiming that Sony Pictures should have asked (and paid) for permission to use the quote. Since it didn't, Faulkner's estate believes it infringed on Faulkner's copyright.

Read more . . .

Monday, December 24, 2012

Estate of Mario Puzo, Paramount Pictures settle countersuits

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos, Alwine & Kubiliun, P.L.

Back in September, we told Miami readers about how the estate of Mario Puzo, the author of the novel "The Godfather," and Paramount Pictures, which made the film version, were suing one another. Now, a resolution to this entertainment lawsuit has been reached.

As you may remember, Paramount Pictures was not pleased with the idea of "The Family Corleone," a novel Puzo wrote about the same family he wrote about in "The Godfather."

Read more . . .

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Changes to Instagram's terms of use frighten, confuse users

By Pankaj Ladhar

Instagram users in Miami and elsewhere in the country are struggling to comprehend the photo-sharing service's new terms and whether they are comfortable with them.

For the uninitiated, Instagram is an app that allows a smartphone user to select filters to change the appearance of a photograph and then post that photograph to Instagram's website or to Facebook.

Recently, Instagram changed its terms to indicate that if a company or other third party wants to pay Instagram to use content created with Instagram, it can do so and Instagram does not have to pay the user who generated the content in the first place.

In other words, it seems that if a company wants to use a picture that you took with Instagram, it can -- and it will pay Instagram, not you.

In addition to alarming many of Instagram's 100 million users, the new policy has upset some photographers and other creative professionals because it does not require consent or compensation. Understandably, creative professional believe they ought to be asked for permission and compensated for the use of their product.

Instagram's new terms take effect Jan. 16.

We anticipate that this is the start of what is likely to be a stormy and passionate debate over intellectual property rights, privacy, technology and ownership of creative content. For that reason, we plan to keep an eye on what develops here and will report any significant developments back to you.

Source: CNN, "Instagram users revolt over privacy changes," Doug Gross, Dec. 18, 2012

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

With 'Girl on Fire,' Did Alicia Keys infringe on someone else's copyright?

There are probably quite a few fans of Alicia Keys here in Miami. For years, the singer has consistently impressed critics with her richly textured songwriting and deeply felt lyrics. Her recent single "Girl on Fire" has reached No. 12 on the Billboard charts and is being used in an ad for American Express.

However, that same single is the subject of a copyright infringement suit.

In 1962, Earl Shuman wrote a song called "Lonely Boy." It achieved its greatest success when it was recorded by Eddie Holman, who called the song "Hey There Lonely Girl."

In the middle of "Girl on Fire," Keys sings what seem to be a few bars of "Hey There Lonely Girl." This was first noted by an entertainment writer on the website Showbiz 411.

Shuman seems to have read that blog post and decided to file suit. Shuman's lawsuit actually quotes the Showbiz 411 blog post extensively.

Now, it is not at all uncommon for modern artists to re-record past hits, or to borrow melodies, chord progressions and even snippets of old songs. However, they usually pay for the rights to use the past work and it seems in this case that Keys and her label, Sony, did not make that effort. Perhaps that is because they do not see "Girl on Fire" as borrowing from "Hey There Lonely Girl."

Whether Shuman is successful remains to be seen. Listen to "Girl on Fire" here and "Hey There Lonely Girl" here and let us know in the comments if you think Keys borrowed too much of "Hey There Lonely Girl."

Source: The Hollywood Reporter, "Alicia Keys sued over 'Girl on Fire': Is It Based on a Blogger's Ear?" Eriq Gardner, Dec. 17, 2012

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Universal Studios sues over pornographic '50 Shades of Grey' 'parody'

by Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

We assume that most Miami residents are pretty comfortable with parodies, satires and spoofs. After all, the U.S. has a strong tradition of being reluctant to limit speech, and most adults are sophisticated enough to tell when something is a joke.

But does that feeling extend to pornography?

Believe it or not, that is a relevant question, since Universal Studios recently filed an entertainment lawsuit against pornographic film studio over that studio's planned "50 Shades of Gray" pornographic parody.

Universal owns the exclusive rights to turn E.L. James' blockbuster novels, which detail the erotic relationship between an innocent young woman and an emotionally distant billionaire, into films. It claims that Smash Pictures stole dialogue, characters and plot developments directly from "50 Shades of Grey."

Universal has argued that Smash Pictures' "parody" isn't a parody at all, but is rather just a rip-off. It is asking for monetary damages and an injunction, which would prohibit Smash Pictures from further sales or distributions.

Now, realizing that you have may not seen Smash Pictures' "parody," what do you think? Does it seem to you that a pornographic riff on a popular novel would inherently be a parody? Or do you agree with Universal that this concept can never rise above being a knockoff.

Disputes like this are not all that uncommon. This autumn, ice cream maker Ben & Jerry's also sued over a pornographic parody because the company objected to the use of names that were only slightly altered (for lewdly humorous effect, of course) from the titles of its ice cream flavors.

Source: The New York Post, "Universal sues porn company over XXX '50 Shades of Grey' adaptation," Nov. 30, 2012

Monday, December 10, 2012

Contract dispute between British singer, 'The X-Factor' means a $2.3M lawsuit

Chances are very few Miami residents know who Cheryl Cole is. Although the singer gained popularity in her native United Kingdom, first as a member of the girl group "Girls Aloud" and then as a solo artist, she is not very well known on this side of the Atlantic.

That might explain why Cole was eager to sign up as a judge for "The X Factor." Naturally, a judging gig on that show would have increased her profile in the U.S., likely boosting sales of her albums and singles.

But Cole never got that chance.

She was fired before the first season even began. Some people said it was because "X-Factor" producer and fellow judge Simon Cowell wanted a bigger star; others said it was because her thick British accident was difficult for American audiences to understand.

Late last week, Cole filed a $2.3 million lawsuit against the production studio that creates "The X Factor," alleging that it had given her had a two-year contract and only partially fulfilled it.

Both sides agree that Cole was paid $1.8 million and given certain one-time expenses in fulfillment of the terms of the first year of her contract, but Cole believes she is owed for the second year of her contract as well. She is also asking to be reimbursed for her legal fees.

We have not seen the contract at the center of this dispute, but we commend Cole for standing up for herself and what she believes to be her rights. Because we often represent artists, musicians and other creative people, we understand what it's like to have to fight to get what you deserve; it can be tough, but in many cases, it is important.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter, "Fired 'X Factor' Judge Cheryl Cole Sues for $2.3 million," Alex Ben Block, Dec. 7, 2012

Friday, December 7, 2012

Kesha settles lawsuit with ex-manager

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

In our last post, we told Miami residents about a lawsuit by a former manager against pop sensation Shakira.

Jus the other day, we found a story showing that the "Whenever, Wherever" singer isn't the only one who has gotten into a legal scrape with a former manager recently.

This week, Kesha, the singer behind hits such as "Your Love Is My Drug" and "Tik Tok," settled a lawsuit that had been brought by her former manager back in 2011.

The former manager had alleged that Kesha violated an agreement that was signed before her career took off. The contract allegedly said that Kesha would pay her manager 20 percent of revenue she generated if she got signed to a major label, but would owe nothing if she did not get a contract.

When Kesha fired that manager and started with working with another, the first manager sued. He asked for $14 million from Kesha and $12 million from her new producer.

Kesha's legal team has not commented directly on the lawsuit, but the sides reached a settlement this week. Neither would disclose the terms, though a statement was released saying both sides were pleased with the outcome.

Now, we cannot speak directly to Kesha's legal situation, because we are not intimately familiar with it. However, some elements of what we do know do bear a passing similarity to an all-too-familiar scenario: managers or other entertainment professionals see a diamond in the rough before he or she has made it big and then try to siphon off that professional's fortune once he or she has "arrived," professionally speaking.

It's a dog-eat-dog world out there and while there is nothing you can do to insulate yourself fully from people who would take advantage of you, having legal representation whom you trust and respect can help a lot.

Source: Idolator, "Ke$ha Settles $14 Million Lawsuit With Former Management," Sam Lansky, Dec. 6, 2012

Monday, December 3, 2012

Shakira sued for $100 million over oral agreement

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

You would think that if millions of dollars were hanging in the balance, the parties to a contract would want to get their agreement down in writing.

But that apparently is not what happened with Shakira and her former business manager, who was also her boyfriend. The former manager recently sued Shakira, claiming that she owes him nearly $100 million by the terms of a contract that, apparently, was strictly oral.

The former manager alleges that he used his business skill and management expertise to help Shakira recover from disappointing album sales by getting her to record her smash hit "Hips Don't Lie," which went to the top of the charts in 25 countries, and "Waka Waka," the official World Cup anthem. Those successes helped Shakira snag a $300 million concert deal with promote and organizer Live Nation.

In a separate case, Shakira has sued the former manager for "misappropriation of funds." She has alleged that he paid himself unauthorized bonus and used Shakira's personal funds to pay for his own expenses.

The reason this entertainment dispute caught our eye is the fact that it seems Shakira and her then-manager did not commit their agreement to writing. That certainly is not advisable for anyone, and it is hard to conceive of how no one ever told Shakira and her manager that they ought to.

Getting any sort of agreement you make in writing is always a good idea. Of course, you hope that there is never a reason for an argument to rise over it, but you never know.

Source: BBC News, "Shakira sued for $100m by former boyfriend," Dec. 2, 2012

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