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Weekly Issues in the News

By Geisa Balla

Frances Williams Preston

Frances Williams Preston, the former president of BMI, passed away on June 13th in Nashville of congestive heart failure at the age of 83. She was surrounded by her family.

In 1958, Preston was a Nashville radio station receptionist when BMI hired her to open a southern regional office. By the time she retired as president and chief executive of BMI in 2004, she had been long known as one of the most successful and influential executives in the music industry and a key figure in Nashville's growth as a major music center. Preston fought passionately for the rights of songwriters, composers and music publishers. "She truly felt that writers were not properly compensated, and she spent her life fighting for them," said Del Bryant, who succeeded Preston as BMI's president and chief executive. "She was a well-known face on the Hill [in Washington, D.C.] and had a tremendous relationship with some of the leading legislators of her time." Preston nurtured the career of countless songwriters and mentored them throughout the years. "There's still people that I keep in touch with that I signed in the early days, like Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton and Kris Kristofferson," she told the Associated Press in 2002. "That was my favorite part of the business. But you've got to get into the business of the business in order to help them."

Preston is survived by her three sons, William Kirk Preston, David J. Preston and Donald L. Preston; six grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.


South Park

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld a lower court decision that the fair use defense applied to a 2008 South Park Episode that lampooned a 2007 viral video "What What (In The Butt.) (WWITB) Brownmark Films, owners of the original WWITB video, claimed that the fair use did not apply. The lower could had held that South Park's version, featuring the character Butters, made transformative use of the original by somehow doing "the seemingly impossible -- making the 'WWITB' video even more absurd by replacing the African-American male singer with a naive and innocent 9-year-old boy dressed in adorable outfits." The Seventh Circuit explained that Brownmark Films had waived its fair use argument by not addressing the argument in the Rule 12(b)(6) stage. Rather, it had only argued that the matter should go to trial. However, "even if Brownmark were not barred from offering argument that SPDS did not engage in fair use, we agree with the district court that this is an obvious case of fair use. When a defendant raises a fair use defense claiming his or her work is a parody, a court can often decide the merits of the claim without discovery or a trial. When the two works in this case are viewed side-by-side, the South Park episode is clearly a parody of the original WWITB video, providing commentary on the ridiculousness of the original video and the viral nature of certain YouTube videos." The Court further stated: "Despite Brownmark's assertions to the contrary, the only two pieces of evidence needed to decide the question of fair use in this case are the original version of WWITB and the episode at issue."


The Expendables

Judge Jed Rakoff has dismissed a copyright infringement suit filed against Sylvester Stallone that had alleged that he copied the film The Expendables. Marcus Webb filed a lawsuit against Sylvester Stallone in October 2011, claiming that the 2010 film The Expendables was "strikingly similar" to his own copyrighted work. Webb's script was titled The Cordoba Caper, about "a team of elite, highly-trained mercenaries." Webb claimed that Stallone and co-writer David Callaham may have had access to it, as the script was shopped around Hollywood for several years. Stallone denied the allegations. In a motion to dismiss, the defense argued that Webb wrote his script after Callaham had already written three drafts of the screenplay, and that Webb had no information that Stallone or Callahan had ever seen The Cordoba Caper. The defense also argued that the alleged similarities were merely ideas, and that the overall concept and the feel of the two works were vastly different. Judge Rakoff agreed with the defense, issuing a short order on Monday, June 25th, granting the defendants' motion "in all respects," and promising a fuller written opinion soon.


The Black Keys v. Pizza Hut, Home Depot

The Black Keys filed copyright infringement lawsuits against Pizza Hut and the Home Depot on June 21st, claiming that the former misused the song "Gold on the Ceiling" in a recent advertisement and that the latter did not have permission to use elements of the song "Lonely Boy" in an ad promoting power tools. Both songs are from the band's "El Camino" album, released in 2011. The suits claim that both companies were given written notices that the ads misused The Black Keys' music. Neither company received permission to use musical elements from the songs. The advertisements do not include any vocals. The lawsuits seek unspecified damages of more than $75,000 each, and orders preventing the continued use of the songs in the commercials.



On June 22nd, U.S. District Court Judge Gary Feess denied CBS' request for a temporary restraining order against ABC's new reality series "The Glass House". CBS filed the suit in May, claiming that "The Glass House" uses proprietary information from "Big Brother." ABC denied the allegations, arguing that the similarities between the shows--a group of strangers living in a house and competing against each other--are boilerplate elements of most reality TV shows. The judge sided with ABC, holding that, "The Court finds that CBS has failed to demonstrate an entitlement to the preliminary relief sought." The court also stated that "while it cannot say that CBS will not prevail at trial, it has concluded that success on the merits is unlikely. . . The evidence indicates to the Court that "Big Brother's" alleged trade secrets were either already known to the business ... were readily capable of being 'reverse-engineering' based on information disclosed in the public domain ...or were not adequately protected as trade secrets." The judge also noted that "CBS has failed to persuade the Court that it will suffer immediate and irreparable injury if 'Glass House' airs."

"We're pleased the Court agreed with ABC's arguments that 'The Glass House' is a very different show and people working in the reality television industry should not be prevented from bringing their skills to a new employer," stated an ABC release following Judge Fees' decision Friday. "We are thrilled viewers will now get a chance to continue to enjoy and participate in ABC's 'The Glass House.'" In its statement, CBS said: "Win, lose or draw on the TRO, we fully intend to proceed with our claims against Disney/ABC for copyright infringement and misappropriation of trade secrets over 'The Glass House,' which may still warrant more injunction proceedings depending on the content of each episode."


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on June 29, 2012 11:33 AM.

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