Welcome back to the "Spotlight." I don’t know whether any of you have heard, but something pretty shocking took place this past Sunday night at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. I hope you’re sitting down while you read this (those of you with standing desks may want to bring it down to its lowest level—your chiropractor will forgive you). But apparently there was an awards ceremony at which…get this: gold statuette trophies were given to some of the most talented and accomplished people in the motion picture industry for their work from the past year! Who knew?! Remarkable that all this could have happened around Will Smith’s violent demonstration of how paper beats (Chris) Rock. As for the awards themselves, the deaf family drama, CODA notably won the Best Picture category representing a watershed moment that many saw coming for years—that a streaming service could take home Hollywood’s most coveted prize, while Ariana DeBose became the first openly queer woman of color to win an Academy Award for her role in the film adaptation of West Side Story. Still, those firsts seemed overshadowed by the ugly incident of Smith storming on stage and assaulting Rock with a slap across the face for making a joke (albeit one in poor taste) about Smith’s wife. In turn, we subsequently learned, Smith was asked to leave, he refused and then to punish him, he was given the Best Actor award (the horror!) and subjected to a standing ovation in the process (talk about best actors…). The weeks and months ahead are sure to have further dissection of the incident and reactionary measures at future award shows (the Grammys are just around the corner) and regrettably, at comedy clubs around the country (I’m even wearing a helmet as I write this). Whatever the result, I can only hope that what takes place around the stage does not detract from what is presented on the stage. For now, my best supporting readers in an entertainment and sports law blog, this week’s Spotlight goes to…you.
- Mamba forever: months after letting Kobe Bryant’s endorsement deal with Nike expire, his estate and Nike have forged a new partnership to help carry on Bryant’s legacy.
- Dua Lipa is hit with yet another copyright infringement lawsuit over her mega-hit song, “Levitating.” If it were me from all this litigating, my heart would be palpitating.
- Musician and creatives’ social networking app, Vampr reaches new heights, adding users and taking on money hungry (err…blood thirsty?) investors. A surprising development for an app that only works in the dark.
- Madonna vogues into the metaverse, becoming the latest celebrity to acquire a Bored Ape NFT, while fellow musical acts Diplo and Nas sell NFTs of their own through tokenized royalty platform, Royal. Clearly, we are liv-ing in an ethereal world…
Welcome back to the "Sports & Entertainment Spotlight." We’re just one week into March Madness, and already my predictions from last week are coming to fruition (if only I had the same luck picking winners of the games themselves). Specifically, news of Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) deals have been popping up all over—even in some unexpected places. For instance, a memorable moment for the Indiana University Cheerleading Squad (during a forgettable game for the Hoosiers’ Men’s Basketball team) in which Cassidy Cerny was hoisted up to snag a basketball hopelessly stuck behind the hoop, led to her securing a NIL deal with a sports apparel company. Previously unknown players rise to fame, as Saint Peter’s University (amidst an unlikely Cinderella tournament run) guard Doug Edert and his distinctive mustache propelled his Peacocks into the Sweet 16, picking up NIL deals with Buffalo Wild Wings and Barstool Sports along the way. On a grander scale, Adidas announced that it would be setting up an NIL network, making affiliate commissions available to any of the more than 50,000 college athletes at schools whose sports programs it sponsors. I am looking forward to seeing what comes next this weekend – both on and off the court. In the meantime, you need not wait any further for your weekly Spotlight fix:
- Usually Speedo-dropping is in and of itself a scandalous and embarrassing occurrence. Russian Olympian swimmer Evgeny Rylov found out it’s that much more scandalous and embarrassing when Speedo is dropping his sponsorship for his having attended a rally in support of war criminal/President Vladimir Putin.
- Amazon’s $8.5 billion acquisition of MGM Studios officially closed, with many speculating whether the deal was primarily for the MGM name, history and its intellectual property including the James Bond franchise. For all we know, it may just be that some higher-up at the company wanted to introduce himself as “Bezos…Jeff Bezos.”
- With its latest trademark filings, American Express shows it may be just the latest example of an institutional brand looking to expand into the metaverse. Don’t leave your pixelated home without it.
This past week, I have realized my place is still on the blogosphere and not in the stands. That time will come. But it’s not now.
I love my readers, and I love my supportive family. Without them, none of this is possible.
I’m coming back for my second year of the “Sports & Entertainment Spotlight.” We have unfinished business.
LFG (as in Law: Foster Garvey—what else?!)
That’s right folks, like Tom Brady, I’m back for another year (and that’s pretty much where all Josh Bloomgarden/Tom Brady commonalities end). In any event, I’m feeling especially excited this time of year with Spring right around the corner, and March Madness in full swing. This year, I have a vested interest not only in the theatrics of the games (my brackets are probably being busted as you read this), but also in seeing how, for the first time, the name, image and likeness (NIL) rights of basketball players participating in the Women’s and Men’s basketball tournaments are leveraged in advertising and marketing opportunities throughout the tournaments. Undoubtedly, we will see buzzer beating highlights minted as non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and tournament heroes not only becoming household names and but collecting checks in the process.
Speaking of “madness,” I would be remiss not to mention what seems like a daily march of plaintiffs to the courts to claim copyright ownership in chart-topping songs. (Bonus points to you if you found all the word play in that last sentence). Indeed, ever since the Marvin Gaye Estate’s controversial “Blurred Lines” copyright infringement victory against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams (that many viewed as a misapplication of legal analysis that should have been focused on whether a melody was copied, rather than copying of a harmonic feel or rhythm of a song), songwriters and artists have been emboldened to try to get their share of the pie (and some publicity in the process). Just this past week, no sooner did Katy Perry prevail in her copyright suit, but Dua Lipa now finds herself in the middle of a copyright brouhaha, joining Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith and other top singers/songwriters – all for the most part against lesser-known artists or songwriters whose songs become publicized through their litigation. Perhaps out of these cases, there will come either judicial or legislative guidance that makes songwriters a little more self-assured that their contributions will not land them in court. Until then, these plaintiffs will continue to rack up streams (and legal fees) while spending a few minutes in the “Spotlight.”
Which reminds me, here’s what else made this week’s "Spotlight."
- Just in time to celebrate Women’s History Month, Rihanna continues to assert herself as an entrepreneurial force, with her Savage X Fenty lingerie brand reportedly on the verge of a $3 billion IPO. Go ahead and “Take a Bow.”
- Social media platform (and unrelenting reminder that I am aging) TikTok debuts its streaming service SoundOn, enabling artists to upload and monetize music through the service.
- Not to be outdone, Instagram will soon debut NFTs on its platform — potentially enabling users to mint their own NFTs. So if anyone is in the market for NFTs featuring a darling Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, please contact me for details.
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It’s the first anniversary of this often irreverent, at times poignant, occasionally (?) humorous(???), and always informative labor of love I call the "Sports & Entertainment Spotlight." The first year is said to be the toughest, that tries the mettle of a relationship and well, the honeymoon phase is over. So, if you’ve made it this far, you’re in it for the long haul. Of course, always happy to pick up new friends along the way. As we embark on the second year of the "Spotlight," complete with some swanky, new branding (hat tip to the Foster Garvey marketing mavens). I would love to have an opportunity to connect with you, the reader, and hear your thoughts and feedback on how I’m doing (other than from members of my family), what topics matter the most to you, etc. In that vein, I invite you to connect with me on LinkedIn or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. So as I await your outreach to imbue me with the knowledge to help me upgrade the lightbulbs in the "Spotlight," here is your anniversary present:
- University of Connecticut women’s basketball guard Paige Buecklers is taking full advantage of the name, image and likeness (NIL) era in college athletics, cashing in on her brand and perhaps most significantly, bringing more interest to women’s athletics. Amazing what can happen when the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) loosens its grip (albeit begrudgingly).
- In a collision of Sports & Entertainment, the National Basketball Association (NBA) has voiced its objection to the use of NBA team logos and other trademarks in the biopic HBO series “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty” without any trademark license or clearance. Meanwhile, the Boston Celtics objected to there not being a biopic series about them.
- Think before you post. Rapper Nas is the latest defendant against copyright infringement claims by photographer and serial plaintiff Al Pereira (who has filed about 500 copyright infringement lawsuits in the past few years), having posted on Instagram — without a license — a 1993 black and white photo by Pereira of himself (Nas) and fellow rappers 2pac and Redman. Related tip: next time you’re at a friend’s wedding, in lieu of shopping for a gift on your friend’s registry, give your friend a license agreement to use any photos you take of your friend at the wedding. Sure, you’ll lose a friend, but at least that former friend will have the security of knowing you won’t sue them. And that’s the greatest gift of all.
- Disgraced Hollywood Producer Harvey Weinstein made headlines for having smuggled Milk Duds candy behind bars. I am not sure whether that is as much an indictment of LA County jail security as it is an endorsement of the quality of LA County jail toothbrushes. Either way, I am going to go out on a limb and guess that Milk Duds confectioners The Hershey Company will not be using this press for its next marketing campaign.
As I write this, Ukraine remains under siege and its people (courageous and resolute as they are) subject to indiscriminate atrocities at the hands of Russian armed forces under the deranged authoritarian control of President Vladimir Putin. While in this moment, it is easy to become jaded, I find myself inspired by the "Profiles in Courage" (most significantly from Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy), as well as the worldwide rebuke/response to this misbegotten war. As a testament to its social and economic impact globally, the sports and entertainment industry has played a prominent role in hitting back at Russian aggression. Of note are brothers and former world heavyweight boxing champions Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko (the latter being the Mayor of Kyiv) taking up arms to fight for their homeland. Then, there was Russian professional tennis player Andrey Rublev who used his platform on the world stage to send a message of protest, scrawling “No War Please” on a television camera lens after his victory at the Dubai Tennis Championships. Commendably, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) moved swiftly to relocate this year’s Champions League final from St. Petersburg, Russia, suspend all Russian competitions and sever sponsorship ties with Russian energy giant, Gazprom. Although international soccer’s main governing body, Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) initially had a toothless response of simply banning Russia’s national team from playing on home soil, without an anthem or flags and calling themselves "Football Union of Russia" (reminiscent of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) past wrist slapping of the “Russian Olympic Committee” for doping violations), FIFA eventually suspended Russia from participating in any international competition (notably after the IOC itself finally decided to do the same). And lastly, Disney and other media and entertainment companies have halted planned releases in Russia. Whatever comes of this moment, let’s not lose sight of these and other meaningful ways that the world is uniting against Putin’s evil. Slava Ukraini.
After that weighty intro, I hope you will agree we could use a little (Spot)light humor. Here goes…
- "Seinfeld" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" creator Larry David’s documentary launch was scrubbed a day before the premiere – at Larry David’s insistence. Apparently, he didn’t think it was “prettayyy, prettayyy, prettayyy good.”
- Fresh off a Super Bowl victory, Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay reportedly turned down a $100 million opportunity to join the broadcast booth for Amazon Prime Video’s Thursday Night Football telecasts – putting us yet another step closer to having Alexa do play-by-play while re-ordering laundry detergent.
- Songwriters look to take on streaming giant Spotify to get their fair share of royalties, saying “if we don’t get paid, songs don’t get made.” Hopefully for their sakes, lyrics are a little better than that…
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The Sports, Arts & Entertainment group at Foster Garvey provides full service legal representation on sports, entertainment and business matters, including handling transactions related to brand management, licensing, joint ventures, venture capital, private equity, technology, the Internet and new media.