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Weekly Issues In The News

By Geisa Balla


NDTV, a leading Indian television network, filed a lawsuit against the Nielsen Company in New York Supreme Court, accusing its Indian joint venture of providing "false, fabricated and manipulated data" on TV ratings for almost a decade and taking kickbacks from other networks. The lawsuit was filed against Nielsen, its Indian joint venture TAM Media Research, and Kantar Media Research. NDTV, best known for broadcasting a 24-hour English language news station, alleges that employees of TAM manipulated ratings in exchange from kickbacks from other TV networks. NDTV further alleges that TAM, Nielsen and Kantar executives did not address the problems when NDTV presented "evidence of corruption and manipulation" to them in several meetings. NDTV claims that TAM ratings were easily manipulated because the company collected data only on the TV watching habits of 8,150 homes equipped with electronic monitoring devices. NDTV alleges that the sample size for TV ratings in China, a country of comparable size, is 55,000 homes. NDTV said two field employees of TAM met its executives in April and offered to help the channel lift its ratings if it agreed to pay them $250 to $500 for each home that they brought in to watch NDTV's channels. NDTV is seeking several billion dollars in damages.


The Walt Disney Company

The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a copyright infringement complaint against The Walt Disney Company. Plaintiff Jake Mandeville-Anthony brought suit against defendants The Walt Disney Company, Walt Disney Pictures, Disney Enterprises, Inc., Pixar d/b/a Pixar Animation Studios for copyright infringement and breach of implied contract, alleging that he owns the copyright in two works, Cookie & Co. and Cars/Auto-Excess/Cars Chaos, that defendants had access to those works when they created the animated films CARS and CARS 2. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that plaintiff's works were not substantially similar to their films, and their works were independently created. The district court granted the motion, dismissing the copyright infringement claim without leave to amend, reasoning that defendants had shown that their movies were not substantially similar to plaintiff's works. The court also dismissed plaintiff's claim for breach of implied contract as time barred under California's two-year statute of limitations. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the copyright claim, finding "no substantial similarity between protected elements of his copyrighted works and comparable elements of the defendants' works as a matter of law, and any similarity in the general concepts of car racing and anthropomorphic cars is unprotected." The Ninth Circuit also affirmed the dismissal of the breach of implied contract claim as time barred, rejecting arguments that the doctrines of "delayed discovery" and "continuing violations" applied to extend the statute of limitations.


Roy Lichtenstein

A Roy Lichtenstein painting missing since 1970 has surfaced at a New York City warehouse. Lichtenstein created "Electric Cord" in 1961, which depicts a coiled cord in black and white. It was purchased for $750 in the 1960s by art collector Leo Castelli, and disappeared in 1970 after Castelli sent the painting out for cleaning. Barbara Castelli, who inherited the art gallery when her husband Leo died, listed "Electric Cord" with the missing and stolen artwork in 2007. Castelli learned last week that an art dealer had contacted the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation seeking assistance to authenticate "Electric Cord", which was sitting at a storage facility on Manhattan's Upper East Side. Court records show that the painting was shipped from a gallery in Bogota, Colombia. New York Supreme Court Justice Peter Sherwood issued a temporary restraining order this week, barring the painting from being removed from the warehouse. Attorneys for Castelli claim the painting is currently worth $4 million.



Comcast is seeking reversal of an FCC ruling on discriminatory treatment against the Tennis Channel. The Tennis Channel filed a complaint with the FCC in 2010, alleging discriminatory treatment, and seeking distribution on par with other networks. Last month the FCC upheld an administrative law judge's ruling that Comcast discriminated against the Tennis Channel when it placed the network in a more expensive viewing tier than Comcast's affiliated sports networks. Comcast was ordered to pay $375,000 and to add the network to an additional 18 million households, which would cost Comcast millions of dollars in costs. On August 1, 2012, Comcast filed appeals papers, seeking a reversal of the FCC ruling. Comcast called the FCC decision "arbitrary" and "capricious" and argued that it violated constitutional rights. Comcast also argued that its 2005 contract with the Tennis Channel stipulated placement of the channel in a more expensive sports tier sought by fewer subscribers.



Singer-songwriter Devin Star Tailes, better known as Dev, filed a lawsuit on July 30, 2012 in Los Angeles Superior Court, claiming that its contracts with her record label Indie-Pop violate California's "Seven Year Rule." The contracts allegedly give her label and former manager and attorney 75% of her income, and allow them to deduct expenses "off the top" of her share. The singer alleges that the agreement she signed in 2008 at the age of 18 was an "onerous, one-sided agreement" that should be "null and void." Tailes says she that signed the deal after she was told the defendants would serve as her manager and "look after her best interests." She adds that she had little time to review the contract because she was told that she "could lose out on important opportunities if she did not the sign the document right away," and that she was "showered" with "flattery and praise" and that the defendants "manipulated her into believing that she could trust them fully." Tailes claims that the contract violates California's Seven Year Rule, which prohibits personal service contracts for longer than seven years. In addition, Tailes claims that defendants breached their fiduciary duty and participated in constructive fraud by failing to provide Tailes with independent legal counsel.



The Federal Trade Commission proposed tougher rules for online child privacy. The recommended rules are aimed at boosting privacy safeguards and mobile devices and ensuring that third party data brokers get parental permission before they collect children's data. The FTC would make websites, mobile apps and data brokers responsible for data collected about children by third parties, strengthening a proposed update on its Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule that it released last September. Previously it was unclear who had responsibility for third party collection. "The commission did not foresee how easy and commonplace it would become for child-directed sites and services to integrate social networking and other personal information collection features into the content offered to their users, without maintaining ownership, control or access to the personal data."


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