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Week In Review

By Zak Kurtz

Pandora and Big Labels Settle Important Copyright Lawsuit for $90 Million

Internet radio service provider Pandora reached a $90 million settlement regarding royalties from older songs with several major record labels. This lawsuit and settlement mimic a similar settlement for $310 million in June that was made between the major labels and Sirius XM. Both disputes concerned the application of the U.S. Copyright Act to recordings made before 1972, as protection only applies to those recordings made after said date.

The specific settlement that was reached last week ends the lawsuit filed by Sony, Universal, Warner and Abkco Music & Records (an independent label that controls the rights to many Rolling Stones songs) against Pandora for allegedly not paying recording royalties from older songs. Pandora originally cited New York law as the defense.

The two settlements leave open the gray area regarding copyright recordings pre-1972, but put money in the pockets of many great artists. Pandora and Sirius XM still have other class-action lawsuits against them by other pre-1972 artists, including the Turtles, known famously for its song "Happy Together."


Judge Rules That Jay Z Accuser Has No Standing to Sue

After an eight-year legal battle, a federal judge ruled that Jay Z and his producer Timbaland will not have to proceed any further in a copyright lawsuit over samplings songs. The specific song involved was Jay Z's hit single "Big Pimpin'.

Judge Christina Snyder of the United States District Court in Los Angeles held that the plaintiff, Osama Ahmed Fahmy, did not have standing. The plaintiff's uncle, Baligh Hamdi, composed the original song "Khosara Khosara," a decade-old original Egyptian song that Jay Z sampled in his hit single.

Jay Z had paid EMI, the company that controlled the licensing for "Khosara Khosara", $100,000 for using a small sample of the flute from Hamdi's original track. However, in 2007, Fahmy brought suit against Warner Music, Paramount Pictures, EMI, and other entertainment companies, claiming that his uncle's song was used without proper permission. Fahmy's lawyers argued that by altering Hamdi's original song, Jay Z "mutilated" Hamdi's moral rights without his or his heirs' permission (Hamdi died in 1993).

The decision threw out Hamdi's claims, and the judge stated both that Hamdi signed away his economic rights to the song, and that the issue regarding moral rights would have to be handled in Egypt. The lawyer for the Hamdis stated that he intends to appeal the decision.


FIFA Confirms Investigation Into Numerous Top Executives

On Tuesday, FIFA's Executive Committee granted new rights to its Ethics Committee in order to conduct a proper investigation, and the Ethics Committee began using those new rights by confirming that it was actively investigating nearly a dozen current and former officials. Many of the names on the list are familiar ones.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter and European head Michael Platini have already been provisionally barred as the Ethics Committee looks into the alleged incident regarding $2 million in "disloyal payments" by Blatter to Platini. The Committee said that it would "do everything in its power" to settle the cases of Blatter and Platini within the 90-day window of their provisional bans. Additionally, Platini said he will run in the election for Blatter's successor next February, however he cannot be officially approved as a candidate while he provisionally suspended.

Other than Blatter and Platini, the Ethics Committee confirmed that it was also investigating Franz Beckenbaeur of Germany; Ángel María Villar of Spain; the FIFA senior vice president who is temporarily running UEFA, Europe's governing body, Jeffrey Webb; the former CONCACAF president, Eugenio Figueredo; Nicolas Leoz; and former Brazilian soccer chief Ricardo Teixeira. Others include Amos Adamu, a Nigerian who served a three-year ban from world soccer for soliciting a bribe in exchange for his vote in the bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups; and Worawi Makudi, a Thai soccer official and former executive committee member.


National Basketball Association Cheerleaders Join Wage Lawsuits

Last year, cheerleaders for several National Football League (NFL) teams claimed that they were being underpaid by the billion dollar teams they represent for the many hours of hard work they put into their jobs. The string of lawsuits against NFL teams forced million dollar settlements and even caught the eye of politicians. Now, similar allegations and claims have emerged in the National Basketball Association (NBA).

Last month, former Milwaukee Bucks dancer Lauren Herington brought suit in federal court in Wisconsin, claiming that she was paid less than minimum wage during the 2013-2014 NBA season. As with the suits brought forth in the NFL, Herington claimed that the flat fees she received for games, practices, and special appearances turned out to be under the minimum wage of $7.25 defined by Wisconsin and federal law. Herington also claimed that she earned an average hourly wage of $5, from being paid $65 for games, $30 for practices, and $50 for special appearances.

Herington's lawsuit in Wisconsin is the first of its kind in the NBA, and carries strong implications for future lawsuits by other individuals and teams. Last season, a similar lawsuit by an individual against the Oakland Raiders ignited a rash of class-action and individual lawsuits against many other NFL teams, like the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Cincinnati Bengals. All but the suit against the Bills settled. In a proposed settlement last week between the Bengals and a qualifying class of cheerleaders, the team offered to pay $255,000, or $2,500 per cheerleader for every season from 2011-2013.

According to Sharon Vinick, an employment lawyer in California who handled the precedential Oakland Raiders case, the difference between minimum wage and what the plaintiffs were paid is not large. Thus, many if not all of these cases should settle favorably for the plaintiffs. According to Sharon Vinick: "These are multimillion-dollar organizations that are choosing not to follow the law when it comes to compensating these women." The teams, like the Bills, are insulated behind the claim that the cheerleaders are independent contracts and not employees. Needless to say, these cases have even caught the attention of state lawmakers, who are pushing for laws for cheerleaders and change.


17 People in Three States Held in Online Gambling Ring

On October 28th, Queens's District Attorney Richard Brown charged 17 individuals with corruption, money laundering, and promoting gambling and conspiracy in a 126-count indictment. The suspects were from all over the United States, ranging from California to New York. The illegal gambling ring used an offshore Internet website, where over 2,000 United States users placed bets and move millions of dollars.

Fourteen of the defendants have been arrested, and three are still being sought by the Queens District Attorney's office.


Music Executive Sues Over Compton Movie

On Friday, music executive and ex-N.W.A. manager, Gerald E. Heller, filed a lawsuit in Los Angles County Superior Court against NBC Universal and over 13 other defendants stemming from the film "Straight Outta Compton." Mr. Heller, who was played by Paul Giamatti in the film, claims that the film defames him in its depiction of him as a manager for Ruthless Records. The lawsuit also claims that the movie violated his non-disparagement agreement with one of the film's producers, and an oral contract from earlier drafts of the movie.

Heller's complaint asks for $35 million in actual damages and $75 million in punitive damages. To date, the film has earned over $200 million worldwide. Suge Night, who was also portrayed in the film without payment, has made similar claims, but has not yet filed suit.


Pierre Garcon Leads Charge for NFL Players Against FanDuel

Washington Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garcon has filed a federal lawsuit in Maryland against daily fantasy sports operator FanDuel. FanDuel was named as a defendant in over 20 lawsuits in the month of October alone. However, Garcon's lawsuit is the first against it by a professional athlete.

Based on the complaint, it appears that Garcon is the named plaintiff and has the intention of having other NFL players join him to seek class certification. The complaint alleges that FanDuel "knowingly and improperly exploits the popularity and accomplishments" of Garcon, and uses his picture in association with his name throughout the FanDuel site without his consent.

Essentially, this is a right of publicity claim brought by Garcon in Maryland federal court, where Maryland does not have a publicity rights statute, thus making Garcon's claim analyzed under the common law. This makes the case an uphill battle for Garcon and his legal team. However, it could extend the barrage of lawsuits against FanDuel, and open up potential cases in states with more favorable publicity rights statutes, like California.


Two Illegal Movie Sharing Sites Closed Down By Courts

The end of October saw the closing of two very popular movie sharing websites by courts in Canada and New Zealand. According to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the site referred to as Popcorn Time or Popcorntime.io, along with the BitTorrent site YTS.to, whose films were reached through the Popcorn Time site, were both closed under injunctions in October.

The MPAA claimed that figures from Commodore, a media measurement company, showed that Popcorn Time had 1.5 million unique visitors in July 2015. The YTS site had 3.4 million visitors in August. Commodore claims that YTS has a library of about 4,500 film titles in violation of copyright laws.

The Popcorn Time site was closed in 2014, until the popcorntime.io site replaced it. This type of game has been a persistent occurrence, and has perturbed courts and film companies around the world. As soon as one site is shut down, another similar one pops right back up.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 10, 2015 5:28 PM.

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