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Weekly Issues in the News

By Geisa Balla

Clint Eastwood

Earlier this week, Clint Eastwood settled his claim with Evofurniture over the use of his name to sell furniture. In April 2012, Eastwood filed the lawsuit, claiming that Evofurniture was selling ottomans and chairs as "Clint" and "Eastwood" and trading on the goodwill associated with his name and his movies. Eastwood claimed that Evofurniture was "continuing to use Mr. Eastwood's name, identity and persona for the purpose of attracting attention to the infringing products," alleged the lawsuit. Evofurniture had advertised: "When you're invited into a person's home, you get to see the good, the bad and the ugly. When visitors come to your home, the Clint 47'' Entertainment Center makes your family room alone look like you live in a perfect world of a million-dollar baby." Eastwood sought a permanent injunction against the chair that bore his famous name, plus damages for misappropriation of right of publicity. Following mediation, the parties informed the court that they had reached an agreement on a global settlement to end all claims. The settlement terms were not disclosed.


The Bachelor

U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger dismissed a civil rights lawsuit filed by two men who claimed that they were rejected for the starring role of ABC's "The Bachelor" because of their race. The lawsuit was filed by Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher Johnson in Nashville federal court. The plaintiffs claimed that ABC had never cast a person of color in the show's central role as a matter of policy. Claybrooks and Johnson had sued ABC, which is owned by Walt Disney Co, Warner Horizon Television Inc., which produces the show, Next Entertainment Inc., NZK Productions Inc. and executive producer Michael Fleiss in April. Judge Trauger stated that the men's goals were "laudable", but that the rights of the show's producers to control their creative content are protected by the First Amendment. Claybrooks and Johnson "seek to support social acceptance of interracial relationships, to eradicate outdated racial taboos, and to encourage television networks not to perpetuate outdated racial stereotypes," Trauger wrote. "Nevertheless, the First Amendment prevents the plaintiffs from effectuating these goals by forcing the defendants to employ race-neutral criteria in their casting decisions in order to 'showcase' a more progressive message."


Madonna and Marlon Brando

CMG Worldwide Inc. (CMG) has filed a breach of contract lawsuit against Marlon Brando's estate, claiming that the estate is reneging on a deal allowing the use of Brando's name and likeness during Madonna's 2012 World Tour. The complaint alleges that after CMG entered into a valid contract with Brando's estate, the estate backed out and demanded more money for the use of Brando's name, likeness and image. Under the initial agreement, Madonna would be able to use Brando's name, likeness and image for $5,000. According to CMG, the deal with Brando was exactly the same as those deals reached with the other deceased stars and the agreement itself included a "most favored nations" clause that ensures that each star receives equal financial treatment. After an oral acceptance of the deal, followed by acceptance via electronic message, Brando's estate reportedly upped its fee a week later -- to $20,000. CMG is seeking the declaration of a valid and enforceable contract between the parties, and demanding that Brando's estate be enjoined from bringing suit against CMG under the agreement.


Go the Distance Baseball LLC

Go the Distance Baseball LLC (Got the Distance) filed a lawsuit against the Residential & Agricultural Advisory Committee in Iowa on October 12, 2012 over the construction of an "All-Star Ballpark Heaven." Go the Distance, a development company run by Denise and Mike Stillman, is involved in a $38 million project to turn a 193-acre farm in Dyersville, Iowa into a destination spot for youth baseball and softball athletes. The development would be constructed on the same site used in the 1989 film "Field of Dreams". However, the residents of Dyersville objected to the development plan. Citizens distributed a "Save our Town" letter in June, warning of hotel and parking issues, as well as food threats as a result of the development. The Residential & Agricultural Advisory Committee initiated legal action to have the city's rezoning decision reconsidered. That attempt was denied. An appeal would derail the Stillmans' hope to close on the deal by the end of the year, and thus they filed their own lawsuit to push the project forward. The lawsuit brings claims of tortious interference and defamation. The "Save our Town" letter has become an exhibit in support of the allegation that the Advisory Committee is attempting to interfere with the plans. The Stillmans accuse the local residents of lying to their neighbors about the development and libeling them with defamatory statements.


Warner Brothers

On October 17, 2012, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California granted Warner Brothers' motion for summary judgment on in its Superman copyright claim. The issue was whether a 1992 agreement with Jean Peavy, the sister of Superman's co-creator Joe Shuster, precludes the Shuster estate's attempt to terminate a copyright grant. The judge ruled "that the 1992 Agreement, which represented the Shuster heirs' opportunity to renegotiate the prior grants of Joe Shuster's copyrights, superseded and replaced all prior grants of the Superman copyrights. The 1992 Agreement thus represents the parties' operative agreement and, as a post-1978 grant, it is not subject to termination." Defendants' counsel stated: "The order for the most part is the tentative order issued over six weeks ago before oral argument. We respectfully disagree with its factual and legal conclusions, and it is surprising given that the Judge appeared to emphatically agree with our position at the summary judgment hearing."


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

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 19, 2012 10:00 AM.

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