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Weekly Issues in the News

By Geisa Balla

Three's Company

DLT Entertainment, the copyright owners of the 1970s sitcom "Three's Company", sent a cease-and-desist letter to producers of the off-Broadway play "3C," claiming that the play infringed on the "Three's Company" copyright by borrowing too many elements of the TV series, including the main premise of the show of a man pretending to be gay to live with two female roommates. The issue is whether "3C" is enough of a parody of "Three's Company" to be protected under the fair use doctrine. "3C"'s producer and playwright are concerned with the financial ability to fight the legal threats. David Adjmi, the playwright, initially agreed to the demands that he turn down any future productions of "3C" or any publication or circulation of the script, allowing his play to die after its Off Broadway run at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, which ended on Saturday. "I can't afford a fancy lawyer," Mr. Adjmi said, "and I was getting all sorts of conflicting advice from my agents at CAA and my producers, some of whom doubted that the play would meet the legal standards of parody." However, Mr. Adjmi has not signed any document, and follow playwrights are urging him to fight. Mr. Adjmi said his intent was to write "a deep critique of the ideologies and assumptions behind the television series, leading to a collective nervous breakdown for the characters." DLT Entertainment is very protective of the overall brand of "Three's Company", as the show has earned substantial revenues from syndication on TV Land and home video. Donald Taffner Jr., president of DLT Entertainment explained: "We're up for renewal soon with TV Land, and we're playing around with the idea of doing a theatrical version of 'Three's Company' ourselves, so we don't want anything out there that might cause harm. And we think '3C' borrows far too many elements to make a fair-use parody argument."


Macy's v. Martha Stewart

Macy's won a preliminary injunction against Martha Stewart on Friday, July 13, 2012, temporarily blocking plans by Martha Stewart Living to sell certain branded products at J.C. Penney stores. In December 2011, J.C. Penney announced plans to sell Martha Stewart-branded goods starting in 2013. Macy's filed a lawsuit against Martha Stewart Living, claiming that it had exclusive rights to sell certain Martha Stewart products, including soft furnishings, dinnerware and cookware. Macy's claims that Martha Stewart Living granted Macy's the exclusive rights to manufacture and sell Martha Stewart branded product in a 2006 contract that runs until 2018. New York State Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey Oing issued the preliminary injunction requested by Macy's, saying that Macy's had shown likelihood of ultimate success in its lawsuit. Justice Oing said that putting Martha Stewart products at J.C. Penney stores would deprive Macy's of its competitive edge. Martha Stewart Living plans to comply with the restrictions, but still will proceed with its deal with J.C. Penney early next year. "We continue to believe that we have not breached our agreement" with Macy's, the company said.


David Cassidy

A judge has ruled that the dispute between David Cassidy and Sony Pictures Television over Partridge Family will be heard by an arbitrator, and not a jury. Last year, the actor sued Sony and claimed that despite reports that ABC's top-rated series in the 1970s had generated nearly $500 million from games, magazines, posters and more, he was only paid a "paltry sum." Cassidy further alleged that his contract entitled him to 15 percent of net proceeds from merchandise and 7.5 percent of the net proceeds derived from the exhibition and exploitation of the underlying property rights of the show. Lost Angeles Superior Court Judge Joseph Kalin has decided to honor the arbitration provision of the actor's 1971 contract. Judge Kalin held that "There is no support for (Cassidy's) argument that he was fraudulently induced to enter into the arbitration agreement." Cassidy is appealing, as he would rather present his case before a jury.



VMG Salsoul recently filed a copyright infringement against Madonna, alleging that Madonna borrowed horn and string samples from a 1977 dance song by Salsoul Orchestra titled "Chicago Bus Stop (Ooh, I Love It)". The allegedly infringing song is "Vogue," released in 1990. VMG argues that it became aware of the samples only after they were detected by new technology that allows listeners to isolate and observe individual sounds within a song. The company seeks unspecified damages.



Canada's Supreme Court ruled on July 12th that no performance royalties need to be paid to songwriters and song publishers for downloaded music. The court also said that previews of songs in online stores such as Apple Inc's iTunes are not an infringement of copyright laws and do not merit the payment of royalties, but that the royalties from streaming music are still valid. The court's distinction between downloads and streaming music is similar to the difference between buying a CD, where the recording company collects the royalties, and listening to a song on the radio, where the station pays the royalties to the artist via the music publisher or a copyright collective. The ruling was seen as a blow for music composers and the organizations that disburse royalties on their behalf.


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