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Week in Review

By Michael B. Smith

Court Won't Alter National Football League Concussion Settlement

The Third Circuit has denied a request for en banc rehearing of its April decision affirming the $1 billion settlement of a class action suit alleging that the National Football League (NFL) failed to inform players of the long-term implications of concussions. In addition to monetary payments, the settlement provides for medical monitoring of the former players' conditions.


Court Says Women's Soccer Can't Strike in Brazil

A federal judge in Chicago ruled that the United States women's national soccer team remained bound by its collective bargaining agreement, which by its terms expired in 2012. The court found that a 2013 memorandum of understanding was sufficiently detailed to be enforceable, and that terms not included in that memorandum (such as the players' rights to strike) would remain the same as under the earlier agreement.


News Corp. Settles Antitrust Suit On Day One of Trial

News Corp. announced that it had reached a settlement with the plaintiffs in an antitrust case just as the trial in that case was about to begin. Consumer product makers, including Dial and Heinz, sued News Corp., alleging that it had monopolized the U.S. market for third-party in-store promotions, and overcharged them by over $674 million. News of the settlement came as a surprise to Judge William H. Pauley III, who ordered opening statements to proceed and would not stop the trial unless the parties agreed to publicly disclose the terms of their settlement. News Corp. agreed to pay $244 million and change the way it contracts with retailers for in-store promotions.


Electronic Arts Victory: "Updating Sports Games" Not Patentable

Not long after White Knuckle Gaming sued Electronic Arts for infringing its patent for a "Method and System for increased Realism in Video Games," the Electronic Frontier Foundation gave it the "Stupid Patent of the Month" award. On Thursday, the Southern District of Utah tacitly agreed. Judge Jill N. Parrish dismissed the case, finding that the patent claimed only the abstract idea of updating software in sports video games, which was not patentable under the Supreme Court's decision in Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank Int'l.



Ninth Circuit Agrees That Madonna's Copying Was De Minimis

A divided Ninth Circuit panel upheld the Central District of California's determination that Madonna did not commit copyright infringement if she copied a quarter-second "horn hit" from the plaintiff's song in her 1990 hit, "Vogue." Judge Barry Silverman dissented, opining that the court should have followed the Sixth Circuit's decision in Bridgeport Music v. Dimension Films, in finding that the de minimis exception does not apply to fixed sound recordings. Silverman wrote: "in any other context, this would be called theft. It is no defense to theft that the thief made off with only a 'de minimis' part of the victim's property."


Central District of California Accepts "Remaster" Copyright Argument

Sound recordings made prior to February 15, 1972 are governed exclusively by state law. Until recently, state law was assumed not to grant owners of sound recordings the exclusive right to publicly perform their works. When sound recordings were added to the federal Copyright Act in 1972, Congress did not give sound recording owners the exclusive right of public performance. It did subsequently grant that right in 1995, but only for "digital audio transmission." As a result, broadcast radio stations have not had to pay royalties to the owners of sound recordings. In recent years, however, some courts have found that owners of pre-1972 sound recordings did have exclusive performance rights under state law. On the strength of those decisions, ABS Entertainment sued CBS Radio for playing pre-1972 recordings without paying royalties. CBS argued that it only played remastered versions of those recordings, which were created after February 15, 1972. On Wednesday, the Central District of California agreed, granting summary judgment in CBS's favor.


Mister Softee Battles Rage On

The Manhattan ice cream truck business is terrifying. In 2013, a Mister Softee franchisee, Dimitrio Tsirkos, broke away from the franchise and started his own company under the "Master Softee" brand. Mister Softee sued for trademark infringement, and last week Judge Laura Swain ordered Mr. Tsirkos to pay Mister Softee's attorneys' fees (the court earlier had entered a default judgment against Mr. Tsirkos). According to a recent New York Times article, the fight has not been confined to the courtroom. Apparently, Mr. Tsirkos's trucks have taken over midtown Manhattan and are using threats and physical intimidation to keep Mister Softee out. Nor is this a new phenomenon. The New York Times reports that, in 1969, "a Mister Softee driver was kidnapped by rivals who blew up his truck," and in 2004 an elderly couple was critically beaten with a wrench by competitors. Not cool.


Troy Ave Charged With Attempted Murder

Rapper Troy Ave (whose real name is Roland Collins) is being held without bail pending trial on charges of attempted murder and criminal possession of a weapon. When a fight broke out backstage at a concert at Irving Plaza last week, shots were fired and Troy Ave's bodyguard was killed. Troy Ave was shot in the leg. Police say security footage shows him firing a gun; Troy Ave's attorneys say that he was a victim.


Viacom Board Moves to Block Ouster

In a preemptive move to keep Sumner Redstone from dismantling Viacom's Board of Directors, Viacom's lead independent director, Frederic V. Salerno, sent a letter to Viacom employees stating the Board's intention to "challenge in court" any efforts to remove Board members. Salerno acknowledged that if Sumner, whose mental competency has recently been the subject of a dramatic and public family dispute, "is found competent and acting without undue influence, we may be legally removed simply for having explored strategic options," including a plan to spin off Paramount Pictures.


Gawker Gets a Defamation Win

Embattled blog network Gawker Media won dismissal of a lawsuit brought by former Major League pitcher Mitch Williams, who alleged that Gawker defamed him in an article reporting that Williams was ejected from his child's baseball game for arguing and cursing. The Williams case is only one of many lawsuits recently brought against Gawker, including actions filed by Hulk Hogan (for invasion of privacy; Hogan was awarded $140 million); entrepreneur Shiva Ayyadurai (seeking $35 million for defamation), and journalist Ashley Terrill (seeking $10 million for defamation). Gawker contends that all of these lawsuits are part of a campaign by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel to bring down the company.


Spanish Court Denies Request for Extradition in Forgery Case

Jose Carlos Bergantinos Diaz, accused by U.S. prosecutors of organizing a scheme to sell more than $80 million in forged artworks through the Knoedler & Company gallery, will not be extradited from Spain. The same court that granted a request to extradite Mr. Bergantinos Diaz's brother, Jesus Angel, earlier this year denied the request to extradite Jose due to health risks associated with neurological ailments.


University of Mississippi Reduces Football Scholarships in Response to Allegations of Misconduct

In January, the NCAA gave the University of Mississippi notice of 28 rules violations. On Friday, the University issued a 154-page response, which included the announcement that it would drop 11 football scholarships. The school also asked for more time to investigate whether school officials gave former Rebel Laremy Tunsil money to pay personal expenses.


FIFA Clears World Cup Stadiums in Response to Offensive Fans

FIFA has ordered the Croatian soccer team to play two qualifying matches in empty stadiums due to repeated instances of fans chanting fascist slogans. FIFA also penalized several Latin American soccer federations for "discriminatory and unsporting conduct by fans."


23 Olympians Failed 2012 Drug Tests

After 265 blood and urine samples from the 2012 Olympics were retested, 23 new athletes have been banned from the Rio Games this summer.


Mets Owners Renegotiate Madoff Payments

As part of a settlement reached with the Trustee representing victims of Bernie Madoff, the owners of the New York Mets, Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, agreed to pay a maximum of $162 million over five years, with the amount to be adjusted based on the success of the Trustee's efforts to recover the $17.5 billion lost by Madoff's victims. On Tuesday, the Trustee announced that the parties had agreed to modify the payment schedule. Wilpon and Katz currently owe $61 million, of which $23.3 million was to have been paid on Wednesday. That amount was reduced to $16 million, with the remaining $45 million to be paid over four years, beginning in 2017.


Poland Takes Another Shot at Polanski

Last fall, a Polish judge ruled that Roman Polanski would not be extradited to California. This week, Poland's chief prosecutor - whose office previously said it would abide by the ruling - announced that he would appeal the decision. The prosecutor accused the judge of bias, and said Polanski would have been deported "a long time ago" were he not famous.


Music Industry Asks for Changes to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act

At the same time that major record labels are renegotiating their licensing contracts with YouTube, industry leaders are asking for changes to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to address their problems with YouTube's role in the distribution of music. Recording artists, managers, and songwriters have circulated letters outlining their complaints with the DMCA's "safe harbor" provisions, and with the paltry sums derived from distribution on YouTube.


Gambler Pleads Not Guilty to Insider Trading

William "Billy" Walters pleaded not guilty to charges that he derived over $40 million in benefits from insider tips from Thomas Davis, former chairman of Dean Foods Co.


Wrestler Incompetent to Stand Trial

A Pennsylvania state court found former professional wrestler Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka mentally incompetent to stand trial for the murder of his girlfriend. Snuka was charged last year in the 1983 death of Nancy Argentino, who suffered traumatic brain injuries and more than three dozen cuts and bruises.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on June 4, 2016 10:54 AM.

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