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Week in Review

By Martha Nimmer

Good Curtains Make Good Neighbors

Before you take that nap or read the paper in your bathrobe, you may want to draw the curtains, especially if you happen to live across the street from artist Arne Svenson. Last week, Svenson's show--"The Neighbors"--debuted at the Julie Saul Gallery in Chelsea. "The Neighbors" showcases a collection of photos taken by Svenson from his second-floor apartment in New York City. The photos are of various residents of the glass-walled luxury Zinc Building engaged in mundane, everyday activities: "in one photo, a woman is on all fours, presumably picking something up, her posterior pressed against a glass window. Another photo shows a couple in bathrobes, their feet touching beneath a table. And there is one of a man, in jeans and a T-shirt, lying on his side as he takes a nap." The faces of the subjects are obscured. The largest photos are being sold for $7,500. Svenson stated that the idea for the photo array came from a friend, an avid birdwatcher who recently died and left his telephoto lens to the artist.

Not surprisingly, Svenson's neighbors are not pleased with the show. "I don't feel it's a violation in a legal sense but in a New York, personal sense there was a line crossed," said Michelle Sylvester, who lives in the Zinc Building. "I think there's an understanding that when you live here with glass windows, there will be straying eyes but it feels different with someone who has a camera," she said. Svenson, when asked about the privacy concerns echoed by many building residents, responded, "for my subjects there is no question of privacy; they are performing behind a transparent scrim on a stage of their own creation with the curtain raised high." Civil rights attorney Norman Siegel said that Svenson's subjects may have legal recourse against the artist, although the prospect remains doubtful: "the question for the person who's suing is, if you're not identifiable, then where's the loss of privacy?" he said. "These issues are a sign of the times. How do you balance the right of privacy vis-à-vis the right of artistic expression?"

In the meantime: say cheese!



Slim Sorta Shady

Mark Zuckerberg, who reportedly used to call himself "Slim Shady" in his younger days, is now facing a lawsuit from the real Slim Shady. On Monday, Eight Mile Style, LLC, the company that oversees the rights to Eminem's music, filed a lawsuit against Facebook in Michigan federal court. The complaint accuses Facebook of copyright infringement based on misappropriation of Eminem's musical composition "Under the Influence." Specifically, Eight Mile Style alleges that a television commercial for Facebook Home incorporates music that was "substantially similar" to "Under the Influence". The commercial, referred to in the complaint as the "Airplane advertisement" aired around the world last month. The song in question was allegedly chosen by ad firm Widen + Kennedy (W + K), which created the advertisement. The complaint goes on to "tell[] the story of how Facebook's advertising company attempted to use Eminem to attract the liking of Mark Zuckerberg . . . ." Specifically, the lawsuit states "W+K incorporated said music into the Airplane advertisement in an effort to curry favor with Facebook by catering to Zuckerberg's personal likes and interests."

The complaint also recounts that attorneys for the plaintiff sent a cease-and-desist letter to the defendants in April shortly after the Facebook Home commercial aired. The letter was met with a reply from defense counsel "brimming with bellicose language and replete with gross factual inaccuracies," according to the complaint. Included in these inaccuracies was the "bizarre allegation" that Dr. Dre "ripped off" a Michael Jackson song when composing "Under the Influence". The plaintiffs pointed out, however, that a simple Internet search would reveal that Dr. Dre did not even create the song. So much for that strategy, Facebook...

The plaintiff is seeking statutory damages (up to $150,000 per infringement) for the defendants' allegedly willful misappropriation of Eminem's song.


Read the complaint here: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/sites/default/files/custom/Documents/ESQ/eminem_facebook.pdf

Dungeons and Dragons and Reversion Rights, Oh My

Hasbro and its subsidiary Wizards of the Coast, makers of the popular role-playing fantasy game Dungeons & Dragons, have sued a Hollywood production company in California federal court for allegedly creating an unauthorized film adaptation of the game. Defendants Sweetpea Entertainment and Sweetpea B.V.I. [British Virgin Islands] Ltd. are allegedly "working with Warner Bros. to make a movie, Chainmail, using many elements of Dungeons & Dragons." Warner Brothers is not a party to the complaint.

At the heart of the dispute is a 1998 settlement between Sweetpea and TSR, the original owner of Dungeons & Dragons. TSR was acquired in 1997 by Wizards of the Coast. In 1998, TSR sued Sweetpea for breach of a license agreement granted in 1994 that allowed Sweetpea to create Dungeons & Dragons movies, sequels, prequels, remakes, live action television series and television movies. TSR and Sweetpea eventually settled. As part of the settlement, the parties formed an agreement that included reversion rights if "Sweetpea failed to make another theatrical movie based on the role-playing game within five years of the initial movie's release." Sweetpea, according to the complaint, produced box office "flop," Dungeons & Dragons, more than a decade ago, and later used its license to create two television movies that aired on the SyFy channel: "2005's "Wrath of the Dragon," and 2012's "The Book of Vile Darkness." Thus, the complaint states, "the first television movie represented an exercise of the television rights and did not reset the sequel rights' five-year reversion clock." In other words, "The Book of Vile Darkness" release on SyFy was an exercise of television, not sequel, rights. Consequently, Hasbro argues, "the sequel rights reverted to Hasbro as early as December 8, 2005, but in no event later than October 8, 2010, five years after the initial broadcast of the first TV Movie." This reversion would thus deprive Sweetpea of its license to create a new film adaption of the Dungeons & Dragons game, thereby putting "Chainmail" and any other film produced by the defendant in violation of Hasbro's copyrights in the game.
Hasbro is seeking statutory and actual damages, in addition to a permanent injunction against the defendant, and a declaratory judgment that the plaintiff owns the film and television rights to the game.


No More Fashion Victims

Facing mounting pressure to improve working conditions for garment workers abroad, "fast fashion" retailer H&M has signed an agreement that would contractually compel Western retailers to invest in improving worker safety in Bangladesh and other developing countries engaged in apparel manufacturing. This decision came just two weeks after a building collapse in Bangladesh left over 1,000 workers dead or severely injured. According to The New York Times, no clothes produced by H&M had been found in the collapsed facility.

Even before the April 24th tragedy in Bangladesh, which is being called one of the worst industrial accidents in history, the Swiss retailer had already been working to convince other "cheap chic" retailers to join it in improving the safety of factories used by its suppliers. These efforts, however, did not prevent hundreds of customers from taking to H&M's Facebook page and "littering it" with complaints following the April 24th disaster. H&M is, after all, known "as a purveyor of 'cheap chic' and a leader in the so-called fast-fashion business, which relies on rapid turnarounds from order to delivery" and thus frequently utilizes facilities like the one in Bangladesh to produce the company's apparel. Following H&M's signing off on the agreement, other major European retailers, such as Marks & Spencer and Inditex, parent company of Zara, announced last week that they, too, would sign the accord. This announcement appears to be "setting the stage for an industrywide collaboration to improve factory safety." The Bangladeshi government has also promised to improve safety practices at factories and revise labor laws to allow unions to form; this announcement comes, writes The New York Times, after numerous earlier pledges went largely unfilled.

The main goal of the agreement signed by H&M is to raise fire safety awareness among manufacturing facilities in Bangladesh and other developing countries, while also making structural improvements to the buildings that house countless workers and heavy machinery. Under the accord, all signatories have 45 days to "work out the details of the program." No party, however, has yet to work out the estimated overall cost of implementation, but there will be caps on what companies have to spend: "for the biggest companies, like H&M, the annual contribution for the first five years will be capped at 500,000 Euros ($640,000)."

Citing legal concerns, American retailers such as Gap, J.C Penney and Wal-Mart have declined to sign on to the accord, but have promised to continue pursuing worker safety initiatives. PVH, the American parent company of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, and Tchibo, a German retailer, endorsed a plan last year for Western companies to finance fire safety efforts and structural upgrades to Bangladeshi factories. That agreement, however, was not to take effect until more companies signed on. Although these agreements are a welcomed and overdue effort aimed at improving worker safety abroad, much more has to be done to make a serious impact on the often frightening, unsafe conditions faced by apparel workers around the globe. Just last week, for example, a factory in Cambodia that produced shoes for Asics collapsed, killing three employees.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on May 24, 2013 9:44 AM.

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