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Week in Review

By Michael Smith

IOC Agrees with Exclusion of Russian Track & Field from Rio

The global governing body for track and field (the IAAF) barred the Russian track & field team from competing in the summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, after reports of state-sponsored doping. Russia appealed the decision to the International Olympic Committe (IOC), which said that it "welcomes and supports" the ruling and the IAAF's "strong stance against doping."


International Trade Commission Upholds Converse Diamond Soles Trademark

On Thursday, the International Trade Commission (ITC) upheld Nike's trademark rights in the distinctive diamond-patterned outsole of Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers, but found that other aspects of the shoes, including the toe band and toe cap, are not protected. The ITC issued a broad exclusion order barring importation of any shoes that copy the trademarked outsole.


RIAA Amicus Brief Urges Applicability of Pre-1972 State Laws to Remasters

The RIAA submitted an amicus brief in ABS Entertainment, Inc. v. CBS Corp., arguing that even if (as the defendants in that case argue) remastered versions of pre-1972 songs are sufficiently original to be derivative works governed by the Copyright Act, pre-1972 state laws still apply to the original works and, therefore, the defendants cannot exploit such derivative works without authorization from the owners of the underlying works. The RIAA relies primarily on Section 301(c) of the Copyright Act, which exempts pre-1972 recordings from preemption until 2067.


Wolfe Doesn't Get What He Came for; Zeppelin Needn't Buy "Stairway to Heaven"

A unanimous jury found that Led Zeppelin did not copy the opening riff of "Stairway to Heaven" from an earlier song by the band Spirit. Wanting to be sure, jurors called for both tunes to be played during deliberations. After listening intently, the jury concluded that the compositions were not "substantially similar." Wolfe's attorney expressed misgivings about the ruling, which made him wonder if "money speaks louder than common sense." There are two paths he can go by, and it remains to be seen if Wolfe will appeal the decision, but there is still time to change the road he's on.


Bank Appoints Managers of Prince Estate

Bremer Trust, special administrator of the Prince estate, appointed L. Londell McMillan, a lawyer who represented Prince, and Charles A. Koppelman, former chairman of EMI records, to manage the estate. Their focus is anticipated to be on the management and licensing of unreleased material in Prince's legendary "vault", of which there is expected to be an enormous amount.


Viacom to Pay for Redstone Legal Battles; Shareholder Says Pox on Both Houses

Viacom announced that it had agreed to pay expenses incurred by its CEO and President, Phillipe P. Dauman, and director George S. Abrams in connection with litigation over who should control the company. Last month, Sumner Redstone, Viacom's controlling shareholder (through his company, National Amusements), ousted Dauman and Abrams from National Amusements' board. Dauman and Abrams have filed an action in Massachusetts challenging Mr. Redstone's mental capacity.

Viacom also will pay the legal fees of Frederic V. Salerno, Viacom's lead independent director, who filed a lawsuit in Delaware to block Redstone's efforts to replace five Viacom directors. Shareholder Eric Gilbert also filed suit in Delaware (presumably on his own dime), against National Amusement, Viacom, and Viacom directors alleging that they have all breached their fiduciary duties and that the company should be turned over to public stockholders. Viacom released disappointing financial reports on Friday.


Sony Settles with Aggrieved Nerds

When Sony first shipped the PS3 game console, it came with "Other OS" functionality that allowed users to boot operating systems other than the PS3's native operating system--in particular, flavors of the open source Linux operating system. Citing security concerns, Sony later issued a firmware update that removed that functionality. Several class actions were filed and consolidated and, after six years, a settlement has been reached. Class members who purchased the "Fat" PS3 model intending to use the "Other OS" feature will get $9. Class members who can demonstrate that they actually used the feature will get $55.


Musician Alleges Unauthorized Use of His Work in NBA 2K16

Composer John J. Simon filed a lawsuit in the Northern District of California on Monday, alleging that portions of his song "Everything You Are to Me" appear in the soundtrack of NBA 2K16, a game published by defendant 2k Games Inc., without his consent.


Tencent Acquires "Clash of Clans" Developer

Chinese behemoth Tencent Holdings Ltd., the world's largest game publisher, has agreed to pay $8.6 billion for a majority stake in Supercell Oy, the company behind the mobile game "Clash of Clans". Tencent previously acquired Riot Games (makers of "League of Legends") and Epic games ("Unreal", "Gears of War"), and owns a significant share of Activision Blizzard.


Penn State General Counsel Told University to Report on Sandusky Complaint

In a deposition transcript made public on Thursday, former Penn State general counsel Wendell Courtney said that he advised the university's vice president in 2001 to report a complaint about former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky showering with a player to the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare. He also testified that if he had "any idea that there was even remotely improper conduct with children on any day since the beginning of time, nothing in the world would have kept me from being absolutely certain that it was reported to the police immediately."


Copyright Alliance Says TVEyes's Copying Not Fair Use

The Copyright Alliance, an advocacy group representing major entertainment companies, filed an amicus brief with the Second Circuit in Fox News Network, LLC v. TVEyes Inc. The Copyright Alliance says that although it is a "staunch supporter of fair use principles," TVEyes's services go "far beyond the boundaries of fair use," and the group is urging the Second Circuit to overturn the Southern District's ruling that TVEyes's practice of recording live television broadcasts and compiling them into a searchable database was protected fair use. TVEyes has appealed the trial court's decision that TVEyes cannot allow users to download and share video clips.


Netflix Says Bankruptcy Court Won't Let Netflix Speak and is Forcing Netflix to Speak

On Monday, Netflix told the Southern District of New York that the Bankruptcy Court improperly nullified contractual provisions that would have permitted Netflix to distribute two films from debtor Relativity Media. Among other things, Netflix argues that the Bankruptcy Court's ruling constitutes an unconstitutional prior restraint on free speech to the extent that it enjoins Netflix from "contending that they have the right to distribute the films" or "collaterally attacking" the order itself. Netflix also contends that the order "force[s] Netflix to 'confirm' the position of other parties--i.e., an order compelling Netflix to speak."


DISH Sues Tribune Over 'Dishgusting' Ads

On Monday, DISH Network sued Tribune Broadcasting for breach of contract, alleging that the broadcasting network disseminated "disparaging content regarding DISH, its services and its performance" as a "last-ditch bid to force DISH to accept its terms" in negotiations to renew an expiring carriage deal.


Frontier Accuses Charter of False Advertising

Telecommunications company Frontier Communications Corp. sued Charter Communications, Inc. claiming that Charter launched a "false and misleading" ad campaign against Frontier in California and Texas just as Frontier was moving into those markets.


Dance Mom to Plead Guilty to Tax Fraud

Abby Lee Miller, star of the reality TV show "Dance Moms," is expected to plead guilty to tax fraud next week. Miller was indicted in October for concealing $775,000 in income, and was additionally charged on Monday with failing to report foreign currency transfers.


Run the Jewels Not Happy About Run the Jewels

Members of the rap duo Run the Jewels have expressed dismay, and raised the specter of legal action, upon learning that comedian Kevin Hart plans to release a film called "Run the Jewels."


News Anchor Fired for Racial Insensitivity Claims She Was Fired Because of Her Race

Pittsburg television station WTAE fired Wendy Bell after her Facebook comments regarding the shooting of five black people were deemed racially insensitive. Bell contends that her comments were "clearly and obviously not intended to be racially offensive," and that "had her race not have been white, Defendant would not have fired her, much less disciplined her."


Academy: "You're Saving all those Emmys for Us"

The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences sued the estate of Whitney Houston for copyright infringement, seeking to block the sale at auction of the singer's Emmy statuette. The Academy asserts that a label allegedly affixed to the award when it was given to Houston in 1986 declared that the figurine remained property of the Academy and that heirs must keep or return the Emmy.


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