Entertainment Law

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Snapchat Under Scrutiny

Snapchat, the photo sharing social media app, has recently been sued for negligence in exposing minors to sexually offensive content. The feature at blame is the Discover feature, which shows users content from third-party “media partners” such as Buzzfeed and MTV. This content is reportedly monitored and hand-chosen by Snapchat. The issue is that Snapchat offers no way to filter this content from being displayed for minors as well as adults. Much of the content available on Discover is extremely suggestive and inappropriate for minors, including pictures with captions referencing sex, male genitalia,  and even Disney characters paused in moments intended to imply sexual messages.
Read more . . .

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Florida Yells "CUT" on Film Tax Incentives

- by Kelly O'Connell 


Florida is one of a few select states that offer year-round warm sunny weather, versatile locations, and easy access to capable crew and talent. Despite these features, there is another more silent factor at work that influences choosing a filming location, state tax incentives. Florida once provided these incentives; however the 2016 Florida Legislature session ended with the decision that taxpayers were paying too much with too little to gain in the state’s attempts to attract star power to the Sunshine State.


The Florida Legislature approved a budget of $296 million in film incentives for 2010 ­ 2016, yet this money did not last long. Generally, the productions that asked first were given the incentives leaving nothing for these most recent years.

Read more . . .

Monday, July 20, 2015

Huge Federal Court Victory for Online TV Streaming

With the ever changing nature of the entertainment industry, conflicts in the application of static laws and regulations abound. 

Cable broadcast companies sued for an injunction against TV streamer FilmOn for redistributing broadcasters' copyrighted programming. Federal judge George W. Wu ruled that, regardless of precedent, according to statute 111 of the Copyright Act there is no expressed distinction between cable broadcast and internet broadcast in the statute's permission for compulsory licensing. The judge acknowledged the ground-shaking nature of the ruling and its potential effects on the television industry, and therefore immediately authorized the case for appeal in the United States 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Broadcast companies such as Fox confirmed their intent to appeal and remain confident that the ruling will be overturned. 

If the ruling is upheld, online TV streamers will be entitled to the same rights as cable companies, and will obtain compulsory licensing so long as they pay royalties. Cable companies will also have to compete with the much lower prices of online competitors. 

The future of television programming and our modern notions of broadcasting hangs in the balance of the coming appellate battle.

Monday, July 6, 2015

USA Women's Soccer Team Sets Network Record in World Cup Victory

With the glorious FIFA World Cup trophy in hand, the United States' women's soccer team basks in their 5-2 victory against Japan. But thats not all that they are celebrating; the women athletes are enjoying widespread attention and acclaim the likes of which has not been seen in America.

According to FOX, the championship game hauled in a massive viewer audience. Reportedly, the game aired on FOX had the highest rating of any soccer game in USA history on a single network. From 17 million, to a peak of about 23 million viewers, the ratings of the Women's World Cup championship soccer game on FOX rivaled those of the 2014 MLB World Series.

In the end, America's support paid off in a fantastic championship, ever raising the growing popularity of American soccer to increasingly greater GOOOOALS.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Rapper Rick Ross Faces Even More Legal Troubles

Rick Ross Arrested Again 

Rapper Rick Ross is again facing legal troubles.  This time he was arrested and charged with kidnapping, aggravated assault and aggravated battery charges after a U.S. Marshals Service fugitive task force and deputies arrested him at his mansion south of Atlanta. Arrest warrants accuse Ross of forcing a man into a guesthouse at his mansion and beating him, chipping his teeth and severely injuring his neck and jaw.  The kidnapping charge arises from Ross’ alleged refusal to let the man leave. 

Jim Joyner, a supervisor with the Marshals' Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force, told The Associated Press that Ross — whose real name is Williams Roberts — was being held without bail in the Fayette County Jail.  Joyner said that Ross’ bodyguard faces the same charges.  Officers arrived at Ross’ mansion which was once owned by boxer Evander Holyfield, but someone inside refused to open the gate leading to the home.  "They refused to open the gate, so we opened the gate for them," Joyner said.  Once officers got past the gate, someone inside opened the front door so they didn't have to break it down. Ross and the bodyguard were then taken into custody without incident, Joyner said.

It was second time in the past two weeks Ross has been arrested in Fayette County. On June 10, Ross was booked into the county jail on a charge of marijuana possession.  In that case, Ross and a passenger were pulled over because the windows of the Bentley in which they were riding violated tinting regulations. The officer smelled marijuana and found some inside the car.

Rick Ross is no stranger to arrests.  In 2014 he was arrested in Greensboro, North Carolina after his performance at the 2014 SuperJam concert. He was arrested for failing to appear in court for a 2013 marijuana charge.  But that wasn’t Ross's only performance that has been involved with some offstage drama. Ross was blocked by a protesting mob of about 100 people when trying to enter the Chene Park Ampitheater for HOT 107.5's Summer Jamz concert in Detroit on June 21st.

Other marijuana charges include an arrest on March 26, 2011 in Shreveport for possession. According to the police records, a strong odor of marijuana was detected from his room at the Hilton in Downtown Shreveport.

In 2008, Ross was arrested on gun and marijuana charges in South Florida.  The case was assigned to the gang task force because the arresting officer testified that Ross claimed affiliation with the Carol City Cartel and other known gang members.

But it is not just law enforcement that Ross has been having trouble with.  It is well known in the rap world that there has been a dispute between Ross and the Chicago-based Gangster Disciples. Ross was apparently targeted by gang leaders after he used some of their signs, symbols and logos without paying them the required fees.  Gang members have posted video death threats against the rapper on YouTube.  Many believe that the Gangster Disciples sent a hit squad to do a drive-by shooting on Ross in South Florida in January 2013.  Ross was out celebrating his 37th birthday at when his Bentley was prayed with bullets.  Ross reportedly tried to flee the shooting, but ended up crashing his car into an apartment.  Police said that the motive for the shooting was not clear.

Threats against Ross have been a major cause of concern, and caused Ross to cancel his Maybach Music Group tour in December 2012. Promoters in North Carolina were the first to pull the plug on two scheduled performances by Ross and label mates Meek Mill and Wale, fearing an altercation with the Gangster Disciples.  Other legal troubles arose from Ross’ cancelations, including Ross’ failure to pay the booking agent, Total Access Entertainment, $171,000 that was owed to them for setting up the tour.  That lawsuit is still pending.   In that suit, Ross testified in one breath that he doesn’t know anything that goes on behind-the-scenes with touring decisions, yet in the next breath he testified that he is “the Big Boss” and nothing happens concerning any aspect of his career that he does not know about and approve. 

Other civil actions against Ross include a suit by rival rapper, “50 Cent” alleging that Ross leaked a sex-tape of Ross’ ex-girlfriend on line.  In another suit by a photographer, Armen Djerrahian, sued Ross for using an iconic image of JayZ in his video without seeking permission.

Ross has also been accused of dodging process servers' attempts to slap him with court papers for over six months after he allegedly bailed on plans to perform in London in 2012.  Ross was named in papers alongside his collaborators Meek Mill, Wale and Omarion amid accusations they pulled out of a gig at the city's Wembley Arena after promoters at Executive Decision gave them a large advance of their performance fees and covered other costs, amounting to $93,281.26 (£58,300).  Company boss Christian Ezechie filed his complaint in New York federal court but could not serve Ross with the summons "despite numerous and diligent attempts"

One of Ross’ most criticized offenses comes from a line on rapper Rocko's song "U.O.E.N.O.", where Rick Ross raps the line, "Put molly all in her champagne/ She ain't even know it/ I took her home and I enjoyed that/ She ain't even know it." A petition containing 72,000 signatures was presented to Rebok, demanding they drop Ross as a spokesman because his lyrics condone date rape. Ross apologized for the lyrics, claiming they weren't about rape, but he was nevertheless dropped by Reebok. A Ross concert organized by the student association of Carleton University was cancelled after protests that his lyrics promote "rape culture".  Rocko later dropped the Rick Ross verse in order to get radio play.

Further law suits include one filed by YouTube entertainer DJ Vlad who sued Ross for assault and battery. Vlad claimed Ross organized an ambush on him at the 2008 Ozone Awards in Houston, Texas for asking questions about his past as a correctional officer.

On June 18, 2010, "Freeway" Ricky Ross sued Rick Ross for using his name, filing a copyright infringement lawsuit in a California Federal Court.  The reformed drug kingpin was looking for 10 million dollars in the lawsuit.  Also, the release of Ross’ album, Teflon Don, was threatened to be blocked by Freeway Ricky Ross.  The lawsuit was thrown out of court on July 3, 2010 and his album, Teflon Don, was released on July 20 as scheduled.  But then in 2011 the rapper Teflon Don filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Ross for the use of the name as an album title.  A week after the filing of the lawsuit, Rick Ross responded to the charges: "It's like owning a restaurant, you're gonna have a few slip and falls. You get lawsuits, you deal with them, and get them out your way…sometimes you lose."   Looks like Ross’ “restaurant” has been a very slippery place. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Four College Athletes Claim Not Paying Players is in Violation of Antitrust Laws

Four college athletes have filed a class action suit with the representation of well known sports attorney, Jeffrey Kessler. The four players claim that the NCAA has unlawfully capped player compensation at the value of scholarship and that this is in violation of antitrust laws. The NCAA compensation cap only allows players to be compensated with tuition, books and room and board expenses. It does not allow colleges or universities to pay their athletes salaries or compensate them in any other way.

What are antitrust laws?

Antitrust laws are various state and federal laws that regulate business organizations. The purpose of these laws is to promote competition for the benefit of consumers. Private individuals, private organizations and businesses, as well as government agencies can bring legal actions to enforce antitrust laws.

How do antitrust laws relate to this suit?

The basis of this suit is that only allowing college athletes to be compensated in the form of scholarship funds disregards market forces and therefore results in financial damage to athletes. If colleges and universities were allowed to pay their players, this competition between the institutions would result in great benefit to the player.

The plaintiffs also allege that the NCAA is a cartel. A cartel is defined by antitrust laws as a formal agreement between competing entities. Since members of the NCAA are competing against each other and have entered into a formal agreement to abide by certain rules, it seems they fit the definition. The restraint on trade caused by the NCAA is in the form of rules and regulations capping player compensation. This agreement certainly affects the free market. If players could be paid, then colleges and universities with the most money could sign the best players (just like the process in all American major league sports). By only allowing scholarships as compensation, the playing field is leveled and competition is suppressed because prospective athletes are not driven by the most money.

Officials of the NCAA are sticking to the principle that the financial constraints are necessary to promote amateurism. Plaintiffs claim that the rules are a naked restraint on trade without any pro-competitive purpose or effect.

College sports is big business which generates billions in revenues each year. Should the athletes get a bigger piece of the action?

Have an Entertainment Law question?  Contact Manos & Associates, PL.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Led Zeppelin Sued by Spirit for Copyright Infringement

Rock anthem Stairway to Heaven is the subject of a copyright infringement suit against Led Zeppelin. Sixties rock band Spirit claims that Led Zeppelin stole the introduction to Stairway to Heaven from their 1968 instrumental track Taurus.

Taurus included a three measure finger-picked acoustic guitar segment. This segment features a similar chord progression with a ten second segment of the Stairway to Heaven introduction. The estate of lead guitarist to Spirit, Randy California, who died in 1997, brought a claim against Led Zeppelin for copyright infringement. The representatives of the estate are said to have waited to make the claim because they could not pay attorney’s fees. The representatives of the estate are seeking co-writing credit for Randy California as well as an injunction to prohibit the currently scheduled release of Led Zeppelin albums that have been re-mastered.

Elements of Copyright Infringement

Courts consider the facts in a copyright infringement case according to a two-pronged test. The first prong is copying of prior work. In order to determine whether copying of prior work existed, they will look at the defendant’s (in this case Led Zeppelin) access to prior work of Plaintiff (Spirit). The courts will also consider how similar the two works are two one another. The second prong in copyright infringement cases is whether the substantial similarity to prior work is sufficient to constitute improper appropriation. This essentially means that the works are similar in the ears of an ordinary member of the intended audience.

Does Spirit have a case against Led Zeppelin?

As far as the copying of prior work is concerned: Spirit claims that Led Zeppelin had access to their track while they were playing several shows together in 1968 and 1969. Taurus was normally part of the set at these shows. So they may be able to prove access.
With regard to similarity it will be up to expert witnesses to prove and the judge to decide. You can decide if it is similar to the ears of an ordinary member of the intended audience. Take a listen!

Have you been faced with a copyright infringement issue?  Contact Entertainment Law experts Manos & Associates, PL today.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Another Recording Artist Fights Back Against Alleged Underpaid Royalties

Country Music Star Brad Paisley Seeks Payment from Sony Music

Record labels are supposed to help promote the music and increase the profits of the musicians they sign; unfortunately, as some recent high profile cases show, this isn’t always the case. Country music superstar Brad Paisley, who performed at President Obama’s inauguration and who was Country Music Award’s male vocalist of the year in 2008, is one of the many artists crying foul over unfair practices by one of the country’s largest labels – Sony Music.

Earlier in his career, Paisley signed a deal with the big label to distribute his recordings and to handle song licensing. In 2010, Paisley served Sony Music with a summons in New York State, claiming the company miscalculated royalty payments and underpaid him by $10 million. Last month, the stakes increased when Paisley’s attorney Richard Busch raised the issue of digital licensing royalties.

Busch has succeeded in questioning digital licensing royalty percentages in the past. Historically, digital licensing royalty percentages are calculated at 12 to 20 percent, but in a dispute between rap artist Eminem and his label, Busch succeeded in raising the digital sales percentage rate for Eminem to 50 percent. How? Busch argued that streaming songs are broadcasts, not sales. Broadcasts carry a much higher rate for the artist than do sales. If Busch succeeds in classifying Paisley’s streaming songs are broadcasts, not sales, like he did with Eminem, the money owed by Sony Music to Paisley could quadruple.

As this case suggests, artists with clear and defined agreements with recording labels are well positioned to fight for royalty payments and other rights when disputes arise. This case also illustrates that an experienced and knowledgeable record contract attorney can often determine additional instances of royalty shortfalls.

As a life-long musician himself, Miami entertainment law attorney Tom J. Manos of Manos & Associates, PL understands the unique challenges that artists face and for over 30 years, he has represented musicians at various stages of their careers. To discuss your royalty dispute questions with Attorney Manos, contact our firm by calling 305-341-3100.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Rights to Deceased Singer Nina Simone’s Music Remain in Dispute

Legal disputes following the death of a loved one in Miami may be exacerbated if the deceased was a famous entertainer, such is the case for the dispute over Nina Simone's music. Several individuals who were close to the jazz, blues, R&B and gospel singer are in dispute over who owns certain portions of her 'music library.'

A divorce, conflicting contracts and an untimely death result in more than a decade of litigation.

Musicians rarely envision long-term property disputes when starting their recording and performance careers. Too often, though, incorrectly handled legal agreements eventually result in disputes involving not only intellectual property law but contract law, estate planning law and a range of other legal issues.

The fate of a Simone’s music library serves as a case in point.

In 1972, Simone signed a divorce settlement agreement with her husband Andrew Stroud. Prior to her death in 2003, Simone also signed property contracts with attorney Steven Ames Brown and entered into contract agreements with Sony Music Entertainment. In the years following her death, all three parties have sparred over the ownership rights of a number of her recordings. The dispute is complicated by the following factors:

  • Stroud died in 2012. His wife at the time of death (not Simone) was named in his place in ongoing lawsuits,
  • Before he died, Stroud sold some of his (disputed) ownership rights to ICU Entertainment Company,
  • Brown (Simone's attorney) claims to own not a portion of the disputed recordings,
  • Simone’s estate exists as a fourth major party of interest in the dispute.

Despite the complexity and longevity of the dispute, an end may be in sight. In March of this year, a U.S. Magistrate Judge recommended judgment and injunctions against Stroud’s companies and estate. Judgments were also made in favor both for Simone’s estate and for Sony Music Entertainment via RCA Records. However, Brown's claim that he owns some of the recordings in question may still be viable.

Though carefully constructed contracts cannot necessarily prevent property rights disputes in all instances, they can strengthen owners’ claim to property, reducing the number and length of disputes. It's possible that more diligent legal representation could have resulted in more legally efficient property rights both for Simone and her estate.

If you are a recording artist or entertainer and have questions regarding commercial litigation and entertainment law in Miami or anywhere in Florida, contact Manos Elwine, PL. We have provided unwavering legal representation to our entertainment industry clients for more than 30 years. Call 305-341-3100.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Celebrities Challenge the Unauthorized Use of Photos of Their Children

Celebrity couple Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard are among the latest celebrities who are firing back at the paparazzi and the publications they sell photos to regarding the aggressive ways in which they attempt to snap photos of celebrity children and the unauthorized use of those images in print and web news outlets.

In January, Bell and Shepard wrote tweets encouraging consumers to boycott publications that buy paparazzi-generated pictures of celebrities' children without the consent of their parents.  Days later, Shepard authored a Huffington Post piece outlining the reasons behind their cause.

Due in part to Bell and Shepard's statements, celeb websites Just Jared and People magazine pledged that that won't run paparazzi photos of celebrities' children who are not famous in their own right.

"Recent discussions I’ve had with actresses ... Kristen Bell, prompted me to take the next step at Just Jared by suspending the use of unauthorized photos of celebrities’ children throughout our sites...we won’t be posting photos of children of public figures without consent."

There will still be photos of kids in these publications, but only when famous parents choose to share them via exclusive spreads or other agreements. What this means is that Just Jared and People won't be publishing pictures of celebrity kids outside of school or at the park for now on.

In September of 2013 Halle Berry and Jennifer Garner championed California legislation that was created to restrict the threatening behavior exhibited by photographers towards the stars' children. Though the California Newspaper Publishers' Association and the National Press Photographers Association opposed the bill, it still passed, as the measure was written with first amendment concerns in mind. According to the senator who presented the legislation, the bill mandates increased penalties for anyone who attempts to take pictures or recordings in a manner that "seriously alarms, annoys, torments, or terrorizes" them.

If you are a member of the entertainment community who is interested in pursuing damages for the unauthorized use of an image or images, you can count on us to fight for your rights. Give our Miami, Florida office a call at 305-341-3100 for legal guidance.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

‘Friends’ Actress Lisa Kudrow Accused in Court Of Being A Real-Life Phoebe

The actress who formerly played the role of Phoebe Buffay in the well-known show “Friends” is being sued by her ex-manage Scott Howard for $1.7 million in residuals. Earlier this week, Kudrow appeared in court and took the stand for cross-examination, in which the plaintiff’s attorney fired a low blow. Prosecuting attorney Mark Baute accused witness Lisa Kudrow of assuming the well-recognized role of Phoebe and essentially “pretending to be dumb” during her testimony.

“You really in real life bear no relationship to the character Phoebe, right” asked Baute.

The court ruled in favor of Howard this morning.

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