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.
Welcome back to the Spotlight, and Happy Hannukah, Merry Christmas and Happy Kwanzaa to all those who are celebrating holiday season. Hard to believe that 2022 has nearly come and gone, and we are all a year older, and I would hope I played a small part in making you a year wiser (jury is out one whether that would be from reading the Spotlight or thinking better of reading the Spotlight). Of course, no New Year’s celebration would be complete without a retrospective on the year that was. I tried to get Ryan Seacrest to take it from here, but it turns out that this is this one gig in which he has no interest. So, here I am, with my tuxedo (or what the moths left of it over the past 3 years) hanging up in the closet, to give you an oversimplified account of where we came from and where we might be going (call me Joshstradamus).
Up first, Argentine football/soccer star Lionel Messi closes out the year on a high note, claiming the FIFA World Cup earlier this week in a match for the ages over Kylian Mbappé and the French side. Speaking of messy, the artist formerly known as Kanye West (and currently known as unemployable), showed us that the marketplace of ideas has no place for hate, and the marketplace of consumer brands has no place for him. And while Chris Rock’s facial soreness from “The Slap” at the Oscars has abated, the memory of that incident is sure to last for years to come. Meanwhile, the sports and entertainment world proved itself for the um-teenth time a force for good and united in support of the resilient people of Ukraine and against Russian aggression and authoritarianism. Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) deals expanded over the course of their first year (a freshman fifteen, if you will) and, in their sophomore year. show no signs of slowing down or reducing their influence over athletes and universities. An NFT went from a three letter word to a four letter word with the crypto collapse. The number of copyright infringement claims in pop music have continued to build like a good chorus hook (and that’s only the ones that we hear about) while private equity investment in music copyrights reached stratospheric levels. And pickleball went from punchline to powerhouse, garnering widespread investment from entertainers and athletes alike.
Happy Holidays, y’all – see you next year!
Welcome back to the second to last (or penultimate, which is also the name I have given my favorite writing utensil) Spotlight of 2022! That’s right, I’ll be back next week to put a shining bow on the year that was, and then I’m off for the remainder of the holiday season. Lest you forget between hearing the seemingly ubiquitous jingling of bells beside a Salvation Army kettle, watching a marathon of different Hallmark Channel movies that are somehow all the same and suddenly having event plans that require more travel time than the amount of time spent at the event itself (bah humbug!). But don’t panic now, there is still plenty of time to get some last minutelast-minute shopping (and reading) accomplished. Need gift ideas? You’ve come to the wrong place. All I can tell you is what is likely an unpopular (digital) stocking stuffer this year, as compared to years past: NFTs and cryptocurrencies. I suppose that in light of recent lawsuits (related to EthereumMax and Yuga Labs’ Bored Ape Yacht Club) brought by strangers who have decided to stake their finances on the social media posts of other strangers (who happen to be famous athletes and entertainers that have announced their ownership of NFTs), I ought to disclaim here that this is not investment advice. Though I certainly need not disclaim that I am neither an athlete nor entertainer. So, you might say, for all the wrong reasons, NFTs and cryptocurrency is back in the spotlight.
- US Premier Rugby Sevens expands to a total of 16 men’s and women’s teams in an effort to spread interest in the United Kingdom-originated sport stateside in advance of the 2031 Rugby World Cup in the Americas. That’s one kind of UK spread I can get behind. Marmite on the other hand…?
- Rappers DaBaby and Roddy Ricch are among those named as defendants in a new copyright infringement lawsuit over their 2020 chart-topper, “Rockstar.” My defense strategy would be to plead infancy and have Roddy change his name to “Roddy Insolvent.” But then again, I am not a litigator.
- College sports recruitment season is in full swing, and the impact of NIL deals is being felt by schools such as Ohio State who are bitter that they are not the highest bidder.
Welcome back to the Spotlight! My grandfather and five-time Tony Award winning Broadway producer, Kermit Bloomgarden was, like many in the entertainment industry, prone to superstition. Both my interest in the entertainment industry and certain superstitions can undoubtedly be traced to him. It’s fair to wonder then, what am I doing proclaiming my sports fandom. Last year I sang the praises of University of Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz. Two mediocre (at best) seasons later, he is transferring out of the school. This summer, I waxed more poetic than a Crayola sonnet on the once unbeatable New York Yankees, only to send their season into a tailspin, culminating with a pathetic playoff showing against the (eventual World Series champion) Houston Astros.
Last week, I extolled the U.S. Men’s National Team ahead of their World Cup soccer match against the Netherlands. And, well…they lost. So, perhaps to Badgers Nation, Yankees Nation and Nation…Nation, it was my fault and I should be more judicious with my praise. Or, maybe I should just blame supply chain issues—that seems to be en vogue nowadays. Yeah, let’s go with that. Besides, it is not as if anyone is reading this anyway. Anyhow, let’s get on with the show and what’s taking centerstage in this week’s Spotlight:
- Celebrity crypto influencers such as Kim Kardashian and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. dodge a lawsuit over the endorsement of the EthereumMax platform on grounds that the plaintiffs could not prove that they were actually influenced to purchase EthereumMax assets. In other words, the suit amounted to an effort to redirect blame for questionable financial decisions.
- As energy drink brand Bang Energy and makeup and skincare company Iconic recently found out the music available for synchronization on TikTok may not necessarily be approved for use in advertising. And no amount of caffeine and cover-up will get you out of a copyright infringement claim.
- New York state finally passes a name, image, and likeness law, but comes up short of the lofty promises once imagined for it. Notably, rather than including a mandatory 15% revenue sharing arrangement between the colleges and athletes, colleges have no such requirement and are instead prohibited from paying prospective athletes for use of their name, image and likeness. If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere…seemingly as long as “it” does not mean as many NIL dollars as you anticipated.
Welcome back to the Spotlight! For all the controversy surrounding the selection of Qatar as the host country for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, with the island nation’s scorching climate and chilly human rights record, I have been enjoying watching each of the 32 national teams playing “the beautiful game” of soccer/football/futbol (depending on who you ask). Maybe I am over-romanticizing sports, or maybe I still have “It’s a Small World After All” stuck in my head, but it is something to behold witnessing two teams representing their respective nations, such as those of the United States and Iran, set aside cultural and geopolitical differences and become united by the common game. To be sure, each team wanted to win, advance to the next round of the tournament and bring glory to its respective side (tip of the hat to U.S. Midfielder Christian Pulisic, aptly nicknamed, “Captain America”), but when the final whistle sounded—regardless of color, creed or nationality--the players were reduced to their lowest common denominator and in a show of class (and humanity) U.S. players consoled their defeated Iranian counterparts on the world stage. This act of compassion was in stark contrast to the threats of the Iranian team’s government, who threatened its players and their families with violence and torture if the team did not “behave” (i.e., remain silent in the face of its authoritarian regime). So, regardless of how far the Americans advance in the tournament, it has been nice to see the pureness of sport in the spotlight.
- Kim Kardashian finds herself in a public relations kerfuffle after luxury brand Balenciaga is panned for a controversial advertising campaign featuring children with provocatively dressed teddy bears. Ironically, Balenciaga once dressed Kardashian in a dress that completely covered her face. That (and a well-drafted corporate morals provision) could come in handy right now to extricate her from the blowback.
- For the third straight year, recording artist Bad Bunny claimed the title of the most streamed artist on Spotify, clocking in at about 18 billion streams worldwide. Fair to wonder how many more he might have if he was just named “Bunny.”
- Drake is teaming up with Nike to design a new sneaker dedicated to his mom, inspired by their favorite childhood book. Thanks a bunch, Drizzy. Now I am going to have to do better than flowers and a card for Mother’s Day this year.
Welcome back to the Spotlight! I am fresh off my trip (not to be confused with a “vacation”) to Walt Disney World, and discounting--just about the only time the word “discount” has been used in recent memory—being pummeled by Hurricane Nicole, several children’s ear infections and coming down with the Flu, there were still good memories and a lot of fun to be had by all. Mickey-shaped pretzels and Dole Whips helped ease the malaise as well. But I’m back to do away with your malaise (or sense of relief, depending on your point of view) and fill the sports and entertainment law void left in my absence. As previewed two weeks ago, I have new section on emerging sports, replacing the NFTs section—at least for a while until the crypto market rebounds #goodvibesonly. But just make sure to fill your plate with enough food (for thought) as I’ll be gathering with my core readership (my family) for Thanksgiving. Between now and then, there will undoubtedly be a veritable cornucopia of stories that I’ll be putting on my LinkedIn page. Consider it a flashlight rather than a Spotlight.
- NFL Wide Receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. files a $20M lawsuit against Nike, alleging he was cheated out of an opportunity to sign an endorsement deal with Adidas. When Beckham consulted his attorney about filing the lawsuit, he undoubtedly said “just do it.”
- Elon Musk announces that he intends for Twitter to share revenue (perhaps with content creators on the social media platform. An open question is whether that includes a share for recording artists, songwriters. Another open question after the last few weeks is whether there will be any revenue to share.
- Pickleball remains on the upswing with Stephen Colbert manning the umpire chair for a celebrity competition that is sure to be a vlasic.
- Lastly a feel good story of mending fences with Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield joining forces to market Holy Ear cannabis gummies in an homage to the infamous moment when Tyson bit off a piece of Holyfield’s ear in a 90s heavyweight boxing match.
Welcome back to the “Spotlight!” “I’m going to Disney World” is a hallowed (and trademarked) phrase in pop culture, uttered by MVPs of major sports championships, Olympians and even “American Idol” winners before an all-expenses-paid trip to the Happiest Place on Earth (the “Spotlight” being a distant second place). Incidentally, I am none of the above and all expenses remain payable, but I am nevertheless giving you and the other seven of my readers the heads up that the “Spotlight” will be on a one-week hiatus while I don a pair of mouse ears in lieu of my writers’ hat because, well… I’m going to Disney World. Upon my return, I plan to bring back a “Tomorrowland” of my own, piloting a new section of the “Spotlight,” focused on emerging (perhaps Cinderella?) sports—whether it be relatively recent sports skyrocketing in popularity such as pickleball, cornhole and eSports, or sports such as rugby that are well-established elsewhere in the world that are on the precipice of taking a foothold in the U.S. It might sound goofy, daze-y, further out than Pluto, but I might as well “let it go” and give these fields of growth a deserved Spotlight.
- Speaking of tomorrows in sports, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy’s tech-infused sports, entertainment and media company TMRW Sports announces investment backing by some of the biggest names in the business. I guess my invitation got lost in the mail.
- Speaking of cartoon characters, as if there aren’t more pressing (let alone real) issues for figureheads in our society to address, another high-profile persona with millions of social media followers, Kyrie Irving used his platform to promote a film that pushes antisemitic disinformation and conspiracy theories. And while he has faced some public backlash, he seems unlikely to face the same response Kanye West received from his sponsorship and endorsement partners.
- Speaking of Cinderella Story, Christmas comes early for Mariah Carey as the $60 million copyright case alleging infringement by her “All I Want For Christmas Is You” was dropped. Perhaps the plaintiff realized lottery tickets were less expensive than legal fees.
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.