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Week in Review

By Martha Nimmer

When Wresting is Real

Wrestling is often dismissed by critics as "staged" or "faked," but what happens when it's not? For Andrew Green, wrestling became all too real, he claims, when wrestler Big Show (also known as Paul D. Wight, Jr.) exited the stage after a defeat and attacked Green while he was trying to interview the man. According to the complaint against World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. (WWE), Green, a former employee of WWE, suffered severe "physical and mental injuries" when Big Show "grabbed Green by the collar and throat, striking Green in the face and backing him up against a trunk while declaring, 'You son of a bitch... Are you having fun right now ... Don't ever come up to me again. I don't give a sh-- who you are.'"

Green is suing Big Show for negligence, assault, battery and infliction of emotional distress. The plaintiff is also suing the WWE for negligence, invasion of privacy, infliction of emotional distress, commercial appropriation of his likeness, unjust enrichment, as well as negligent hiring and retention and supervision. WWE successfully removed the lawsuit last week to a federal court in Arizona. Once the question of venue is decided, onlookers can likely look forward to a look into the ring.


A World of "Hurt"

The Hurt Locker, the 2010 Academy Award winner for Best Picture, finds itself at the center of a lawsuit in California over misappropriation of likeness claims. The screenplay for the film, which tells the story of a bomb disposal unit operating in Iraq, was written by journalist Mark Boal following his time embedded with the Army's explosive ordinance unit in Iraq. The plaintiff in the suit, Sgt. Jeffrey Sarver, claims that the movie is based on his life and drawn from interviews that he gave to Boal while he was in Iraq and later when Sarver returned to the U.S. Sgt. Sarver claims that he never consented to the use of his name or life experiences in either the article written by Boal for Playboy or for the film. The plaintiff, who is supposedly a "dead ringer" for the film's antihero, Jeremy Renner, also claims that the wide acclaim received by the film endangered him during military operations. Disagreeing with Sarver's arguments, U.S. District Judge Jacqueline Nguyen ruled in October 2011 that The Hurt Locker's creators enjoyed a First Amendment right to free expression, adding that "even assuming that plaintiff and Will James share similar physical characteristics and idiosyncrasies, a significant amount of original expressive content was inserted in the work through the writing of the screenplay, and the production and direction of the movie." Sgt. Sarver appealed after Judge Nguyen granted the filmmakers' motion to strike under California's Anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) statute.

Last week, Sarver's attorney argued before a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit that Judge Nguyen should not have struck an appropriation of likeness claim from the suit. Counsel also averred that the case should not have been transferred from New Jersey to California, arguing that the defendants had delayed for over a year before filing an anti-SLAPP motion in California. Attorneys for the filmmakers, in turn, stressed the historical significance of the story and the creators' rights under the First Amendment. The defendants' counsel added that even if the film had, in fact, "portrayed Sgt. Sarver identically," it would have made no difference under the transformative-use analysis of the film.

Journalist Mark Boal won an Academy Award in 2010 for best original screenplay for the film. The movie's director, Kathryn Bigelow, took home the Oscar for Best Director.


The Art of Money Laundering

The art business is getting pretty shady these days. Just ask Edemar Cid Ferreira, a disgraced former Brazilian banker who converted some of his ill-gotten gains into a 12,000 piece art collection. Ferreira was sentenced in "December 2006 by the 6th Federal Criminal Court Specialized in Crimes Against the National Financial System and Money Laundering of Sao Paulo/SP to 21 years' imprisonment for crimes against the national financial system and money laundering." Hoping to avoid complete forfeiture of his wealth, Ferreira used some of his fortune to purchase an $8 million painting by American artist Jean-Michael Basquiat. The painting--"Hannibal"--was mailed from London to JFK Airport in 2007 and, according to The New York Times, was stamped with an air bill that listed the painting as worth $100. The work of art was eventually seized by federal officials from a Manhattan warehouse, and is being prepared for return to Brazil.

Law enforcement officials around the world say that buying priceless works of art as a way to launder or conceal money is a growing trend among the world's criminals. In the past, money was laundered by buying expensive apartments or combining profits earned from a legitimate business. Now, as those methods have come under closer scrutiny around the world, criminals have turned to the "famously opaque art market" as a way to launder cash. It is surprising, actually, that this method of laundering did not take off sooner: with art, the purchase and sale are conducted in private, with no oversight. According to Sharon Cohen Levin, chief of the asset forfeiture unit of the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan, "you can have a transaction where the seller is listed as 'private collection' and the buyer is listed as 'private collection. In any other business, no one would be able to get away with this." Real estate titles and deeds, for example, require a name. "Mortgage brokers, stockbrokers, casinos, banks and Western Union must report suspicious financial activity to the federal Financial Crimes Enforcement network," writes The New York Times. Banks must report all transactions of $10,000 or more. The art market, however, lacks these safeguards and reporting mechanism. Fearing a rise in money laundering schemes involving art, the European Commission passed rules requiring galleries to report anyone who pays for a work with more than 7,500 euros in cash (about $9,825), and to file "suspicious transaction" reports with the authorities. Similarly, the United States requires that all cash transactions worth $10,000 or more be reported. Laundering involving art, however, still "tends to be handled case by case" by federal officials.

Secrecy, according to many art dealers, is vital to the art market's continued "mystique." The Art Dealers Association of America even went so far as to say that the sale of art to launder money was not a problem. In response, law enforcement officials say that dealers try to downplay the role of art in money laundering, instead of confronting the problem head-on. This problem, whether art dealers choose to admit it, is real. In Newark, federal prosecutors recently went public with news that the U.S. had seized close to $16 million in fine art photography as part of a fraud and money laundering scheme allegedly put in the works by Texas businessman Philip Rivkin. The 2,200 photographs by artists Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston, Edward Steichen and others were allegedly purchased with part of the $78 million that Rivkin allegedly obtained from defrauding oil companies, including Shell, Exxon and Mobil. Meanwhile, "Hannibal" and dozens of pieces of art purchased by disbarred attorney Marc Dreier sit in storage, awaiting their fate.


It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That--Royalty Payment?

An appeals court has ruled that EMI Music should be allowed to pay itself for the foreign exploitation of Duke Ellington music. This is bad news for the jazz great's grandson, Paul Ellington, who claimed that EMI violated a 1961 songwriter royalty agreement with Ellington when it "deduct[ed] fees for foreign affiliates before accounting to Ellington's 50% share of net revenue. Paul Ellington sued EMI for "hundreds of thousands of dollars," but it seems as if he will not be collecting that money any time soon.

Duke Ellington is famous for composing dozens of famous tunes, such as "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" and "Mood Indigo."


Read the decision here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/139799485/Ellington

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on May 17, 2013 11:55 AM.

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