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Weekly Issues in the News

By Geisa Balla

Velvet Underground v. Warhol

Southern District of New York Judge Alison Nathan has dismissed part of The Velvet Underground's lawsuit against the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts (Warhol Foundation). The Velvet Underground alleged that the Warhol Foundation violated its rights to an iconic banana image used in one of The Velvet Underground's albums. The image at issue is a large banana and stylized Andy Warhol signature. The image was used in the band's first album "The Velvet Underground & Nico." The Velvet Underground had collaborated with Warhol on the design and cover art for the album. In January 2012, the Velvet Underground filed suit against the Warhol Foundation after reading about the latter's plans to license the banana image for cases, sleeves and bags for Apple's iPhone and iPad. Judge Nathan rejected Velvet Underground's claim that the Warhol Foundation had no copyright claim to the banana image. "Because the Warhol Foundation has broadly covenanted not to sue Velvet Underground," Nathan wrote, "there is no underlying cause of action sounding in copyright for Velvet Underground to head off." The copyright claim was dismissed without prejudice. The trademark claims of the lawsuit remains active.


Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson's former music promoter AEG Live is withdrawing its $17.5 million insurance claim in the 2009 death of the pop star. AEG had filed a claim against Lloyd's of London, seeking insurance payment for the losses incurred in up-front costs for Jackson's "This is It" shows that were to start in London in July 2009. Lloyd's later filed a lawsuit against AEG, seeking a declaration that the insurance company did not owe the money. Marvin Putnam, an attorney for AEG, said the company no longer needed the $17.5 million because it was reimbursed by Jackson's Estate. Attorneys involved told the judge that they expected AEG to be dropped from the case, though that has not yet officially occurred. Recently, leaked emails have shown that AEG executives were concerned about Jackson's stability prior to his tour. Attorneys on the case deny that AEG's decision was related to these released emails.


Tianna Madison

The parents of Olympic sprinter Tianna Madison have filed a defamation lawsuit against their daughter. Madison won a gold medal in the 4x100 meter relay this summer. Madison's parents, Robert and Jo Ann Madison, claim that their daughter's husband, John Bartoletta, told them on March 17, 2012 that "Tianna Madison would be filing a lawsuit against Robert Madison and Jo Ann Madison for misappropriation of funds and fraud based on her power of attorney and that he had hired a bodyguard to protect Tianna Madison." The parents claim that they were shocked by these allegations, and that they have not been sued or served with such a lawsuit. The parents also state that their daughter sent them an email on July 21, 2012 containing an article that she had written, which, as Tianna stated in her email, had been sent to multiple news agencies. In this article Tianna "falsely and defamatorily asserted" that her parents had "engaged in fraudulent behavior directed toward her and her finances, misused and/or otherwise misappropriated finances belonging to her." The article was supposedly sent to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The parents met with a reporter from the newspaper, who said that he had received the article but refused to publish it because it contained potentially libelous content. The parents claim that Tianna contacted them again in August, saying that she would break the story after the Olympics. The complaint states that "on August 12, 2012, Tampa Bay Online published an article about defendant Tianna Madison and her Olympic success. The article specifically mentioned that defendant Tianna Madison endured financial hardship and asserted that she was molested as a child." The parents claim that their daughter spread false allegations all over their hometown. They seek punitive damages for defamation.


ABC News

South Dakota meat processor, Beef Products Inc., sued ABC News for defamation on September 13th, over ABC's reports of pink slime produced by Beef Products. ABC aired reports about Beef Products Inc., the nation's largest producer of "lean finely textured beef", in March and April 2012. The company now claims that ABC falsely told viewers that its product was not safe, not healthy, and was not even meat, resulting in the 31-year-old company's loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in profit and roughly half of its employees. In addition to ABC, the company also sued six individuals: news anchor Diane Sawyer, reporters Jim Avila and David Kerley, Gerald Zirnstein, a former U.S. Department of Agriculture microbiologist credited with coining the term "pink slime," former USDA employee Carl Custer and former Beef Products employee Kit Foshee. At a press briefing, Beef Products' lawyer stated that ABC conducted a "sustained and vicious disinformation campaign," and that "to call a food product slime is the most pejorative term that could be imagined. ABC's constant repetition of it, night after night after night, had a huge impact on the consuming public." The suit seeks $1.2 in damages. "The lawsuit is without merit," Jeffrey Schneider, senior vice president of ABC News, a unit of Walt Disney Co, said in a statement. "We will contest it vigorously."


New York Fashion Week

A New York publicist has sued a French magazine editor and her mother for $1 million after a fight over front-row seats at a Zac Posen show. Lynn Tesoro filed the lawsuit on Wednesday against Jalouse editor Jennifer Eymere and Marie-Jose Susskind-Jalou in Manhattan state Supreme Court. It claims "assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, slander and/or libel." The complaint does not explain the circumstances of the alleged assault, but only states that it took place at Avery Fisher Hall on Sunday. Women's Wear Daily, however, reported that the incident occurred at the Posen show after city fire marshals removed 60 seats. Eymere began arguing with Tesoro, whose firm was in charge of promoting the Posen show, because her mother no longer had a seat. The confrontation escalated, with Susskind-Jalou, Eymere and Eymere's sister engaging in a screaming match with Tesoro. Tesoro was then allegedly slapped in the face. Eyemere told Women's Wear Daily that it was a small slap, and that "it was not strong. I didn't hurt her, it was just to humiliate her. She humiliated my mom, and I humiliated her in front of her crew. VoilĂ . I just said at the end, 'Now you know you don't fuck with French people. The lawsuit also named Eymere's sister, Vanessa Bellugeon, as a defendant.


Geisa Balla is an attorney practicing in New York, NY. She can be reached at geisa.balla@gmail.com.

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