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Posts from January 2023.

Welcome back to the Spotlight! Those of you who stopped by last week may recall my lamentations about writer’s block and musing whether I would be better off giving the reins to ChatGPT or some other artificial intelligence program.  But this, my friends, is a different week – as I have been fortuitously gifted with a gem of a topic that practically writes itself.  I am of course talking about the fact that BMG Rights Management, the copyright administrator for the Black Eyed Peas’ musical composition, “My Humps” filed a lawsuit against toy company, MGA Entertainment for its parodic song and music video entitled…(drumroll please)…”My Poops.”

Indeed, “My Poops,” which was used by MGA to market its Poopsie Slime Surprise product line of toy dancing unicorns that excrete sparkling slime, is alleged to be an unlicensed rip-off of “My Humps,” that is performed In a similar style.  Never mind the unintentional humor that the ‘Peas are being pitted against the Poops (shoutout to my sons f that one), this case may create new precedent for copyright’s fair use doctrine depending on how far the parties (and nature) call to take it.  Lord willing, this case will go through colorful (perhaps sparkling rainbow) depositions and oral arguments all the way to the Supreme Court and become a mainstay for law school textbooks. I mean, if ever there was a case to usher in the next generation of entertainment lawyers, it is this one. One thing is for sure: all that glitters is definitely not gold, but it still twinkles in the spotlight.

    • Need more reason to be Pickle-bullish? The fastest growing sport is continuing its ascent as Association of Pickleball Professionals (APP) strikes deals with ESPN and CBS for its matches to be televised.  
    • American Cricket Enterprises (ACE), the entity operating Major League Cricket (MLC), has raised more than $100 million, in hopes that the American audience and aspiring athletes stateside will take to the world’s second most watched sport. My self-assigned homework now includes studying the Cricket rule book.
    • UK music investment firm Hipgnosis Songs acquires the rights to Justin Bieber’s entire music catalogue for an estimated $200 million. No disrespect to the Biebs, but Hipgnosis may have overpaid. Between you and me, my mail carrier gives me plenty of catalogues free of charge.

Welcome to the Spotlight. I must admit, dear reader, that sometimes words escape me and the task of writing weekly can feel burdensome (I know, I know—not as burdensome as reading weekly). There are certainly times when I feel like I could push a button and have it all laid out for me.  Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning is poised to make that possible in many facets of the sports and entertainment industries.  Increasingly, we may hear songs written entirely by machines (lest you rage against one) and even see play calling at sporting events driven by AI data—eerie to think that human intelligence in that regard could be rendered obsolete. So with that in mind, I need to push through the writer’s block to maintain my rightful position. With any luck, it will be years before AI figures out dad humor, but I can only hope the machines will view me as an ally in that regard. The same cannot be said of Getty Images, who just made the bold move of filing a lawsuit against AI company OpenAI alleging unauthorized scraping of data from the former’s image database.  I don’t know how many among you are science fiction film buffs, but whenever artificial intelligence is challenged, things do not go well—especially if the challenger winds up under a spotlight.

    • The University of Florida’s 5-star Quarterback recruit requests out of his letter of intent to join the school’s football program after his $13 million NIL deal falls through. Gator fans can take solace in having paid him nada.
    • Shifting gears from Florida to Flo Rida, a jury awarded the rapper over $82 million in his lawsuit against the makers of Celsius brand energy drinks, arising out of its failure to pay him pursuant to a 2014 endorsement deal. This must be one of those times Flo Rida has a “good feeling.”  
    • Hulu’s original comedy series, Only Murders in the Building adds Meryl Streep to its impressive cast of beloved Hollywood actors and Martin Short.

Welcome back to the Spotlight! We find ourselves at an interesting moment where, on the one hand, tech companies are laying off tens of thousands of workers apiece in the face of economic headwinds, Elon Musk claims from Guinness World Records the dubious honor of having lost the largest personal fortune in history ($182 billion, bringing his total net worth to a “paltry” $147 billion) and the price of eggs would make a golden goose blush. On the other hand, the sports and entertainment world seems to be suffering from no such ill effects as large sums of capital continue to be invested into various entities without much sign of slowing down (and that’s to say nothing of professional athletes’ salaries). Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes seems to have decided that “owning” the NFL is not enough, instead he owns equity in major Kansas City sports teams such as the MLS’ Sporting Kansas City, MLB’s Kansas City Royals and most recently the NWSL’s Kansas City Current.  Safe to say he’s not in any financial Missouri. World Wrestling Entertainment Chairman of the Board Vince McMahon is said to be considering a real $8 billion sale of the professional fake wrestling league to Saudi interests. And with 95 of the top 100 highest rated events in 2022 being sports, there’s little doubt that sports and entertainment will remain a bright spot in a down economy—almost like a spotlight. 

    • Just nine days removed from suffering cardiac arrest on an NFL field, Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin has happily been discharged from the hospital. As he continues to recover, he’s also got business in mind, filing for two trademarks, “DID WE WIN” and “THREE IS BACK,” to pay homage to his first words in the hospital, while hinting at a triumphant return to the gridiron. 
    • An investor group that includes Cincinnati Bengals Quarterback Joe Burrow and Boston Celtics Forward Blake Griffin purchased a 128 acre plot of farmland in rural Iowa. But to Ray Kinsella’s chagrin, this appears to be a bonafide agriculture investment. 
    • More celebrity endorsements and investments in the cannabis industry paired with many states’ legalization of marijuana, mean that perhaps it’s high time that the plant formerly seen as taboo make its way into the mainstream.  

Welcome back to the Spotlight and welcome to the year 2023.

As if we needed yet another reminder not to take anything for granted, keep our priorities in check (and other similar platitudes proven time and again over the last three years), we start off the year with sobering and gut-wrenching images of Buffalo Bills Safety Damar Hamlin’s tragic and unprecedented on-field injury during Monday Night Football against the Cincinnati Bengals. As players, coaches and millions of fans watched Hamlin collapse, require life-saving interventions and be taken out of the stadium in an ambulance following a hard collision with Bengals Wide Receiver Tee Higgins, the collective focus shifted (rightly so) from the football game to the well-being of Hamlin.  Eventually, after what felt like perhaps too much time, the correct decision was made to postpone the game so as to allow the teams to be there for each other and process the trauma.  Meanwhile, Monday’s events also served as a reminder of the ugliness of social media, as Hamlin’s injury opened up the Twitter cesspool to poor, unfortunate souls wondering about the plight of their fantasy football team, directing hate toward Higgins, and yes, even attempting to link Hamlin’s injury to COVID-19 vaccinations. On the other hand (apropos of a film that worked on, and finally got to see over the holiday break, “The Social Dilemma”), there was also glimmers of altruism in social media as a GoFundMe page for Hamlin’s foundation saw its children’s toy drive fundraising campaign balloon to over $7 million at the time of this writing (its goal had been to raise a mere $2,500). So for those looking for a silver lining to start the New Year, it’s the players, coaches and fans who deserve the spotlight.  

    • While short form video creation app TikTok wielded even greater influence on the music industry in 2022, the US Government issued an order banning the use of the app on Federal workers’ mobile devices. The official reason for the move is to protect national security but I suspect it may also be rooted in the desire not to expose the public to Supreme Court Justices’ choreography.
    • An NCAA Committee announced a proposal to expand its Men’s and Women’s National Championship College Basketball Tournaments fields from 68 teams to 90 teams. Great news for those among us (no one) who find filling out a bracket not to be challenging enough.
    • Although some songwriters may have made New Year’s resolutions to slim down, the Copyright Royalty Board’s decision to approve increased streaming royalty rates is sure to fatten their pockets.

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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.
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