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Welcome back or for the very first time (what took you so long?) to the “Sports & Entertainment Spotlight”! As the torch is extinguished on, by most metrics (television ratings, in particular) a fairly underwhelming Olympic games, we turn our attention (limited as it may have been) from the five Olympic rings to the three rings (of the big top tent variety) that never seem far behind Kanye “Ye” West. Specifically, this past week, Ye announced that his highly anticipated album, “DONDA 2” would be released exclusively on his brand new $200 platform called “Stem Player” – not on streaming platforms. Now, a few things interest me about this development (none of which being: Who did/did not make the album; whether a certain reality television star and/or a certain Saturday Night Live cast member were referenced in the album; why the album release date was not met; why the audio at the livestreamed release party left much to be desired; or that the Stem Player looks like an Aspirin-Mentos lovechild (the pacemaker freshmaker?). First, as has been widely observed, is that this a shrewd marketing strategy that could serve as a model for future music releases – Ye grossed $1.3 million in revenue within just a few hours of his announcement. Of course, $200 is a lot to pay for an album, but the value proposition in the Stem Player is not just that its users gain access to the album, but also that the Stem Player allows the users to manipulate and record the so-called “stems” or component parts of a recording (e.g., drums, vocals, bass, samples) to create entirely new remixes. Given rumors of Ye having turned down a $100 million Apple distribution deal for the album, clearly there is conviction about the technology’s prospects. But putting on my lawyer hat, methinks the Stem Player could create a potential morass of copyright issues, for example, from users’ performance or distribution of remixes of others’ recordings. Any lawsuits related to the Stem Player platform could certainly hurt the bottom line, but I suppose that is mere speculation for now. Either way, I will keep tabs on the Stem Player and Ye so you don’t have to (you’re welcome). For now, I bring you this week’s highlights, for which no purchase is necessary:

    • The United States Women’s National Team settled their equal pay lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation to the tune of $24 million and a commitment to equalize pay with the Men’s National Team. Your move, [insert your preferred organization with discriminatory pay practices].
    • Former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores, himself in of a lawsuit regarding discrimination and the application of the Rooney Rule, lands an assistant coaching job with the Pittsburgh Steelers, incidentally owned by… (check notes)…Rooney.
    • Eight months into the name, image and likeness (NIL) era in college sports, the Division I Board of Governors is convening a review of the effects of NIL deals amongst other things, student-athletes’ mental health as part of its efforts to formulate a lasting NIL policy. The Spotlight has exclusively obtained an unofficial draft of the report reproduced here: .

Concept soft blue colored cloud with locked padlockAs boyfriends, girlfriends and the curious-the-world-over google “how to get to the dark web” and “Ashley Madison” in order to find the data dump the Impact Group unleashed on the “dark web” late Monday night, we thought it was a good time to remind the teams that service entertainers and athletes what they can do when your client’s private moments find their way to the very public Internet.

A New York federal judge recently ruled in Adjmi v. DLT Entertainment Ltd., 1:14-cv-00568 (United States District Court, S.D. New York, 2015) that the off-Broadway play “3C” was a permissible parody of the classic 1970s TV comedy “Three’s Company.”

On August 6, 2014, the online gaming community and video platform Twitch announced that copyright protected music and audio would be muted in its Video on Demand content.  In a move that is likely related to its recent acquisition by Amazon, Twitch is collaborating with Audible Magic, the provider of automated audio content identification software, to identify and mute copyright-protected content.  In an explanation provided on Twitch’s blog, it notes that it “respect[s] the rights of copyright owners” and is seeking to “help protect both our broadcasters and copyright owners.”

The Alliance of Artists and Recording Companies (AARC), an organization representing featured recording artists and sound recording copyright owners in the areas of hometaping/private copy royalties and rental/lending royalties, recently filed a federal class action lawsuit against automakers General Motors and Ford, as well as electronics manufacturers Denso and Clarion, seeking to collect royalties allegedly owed to artists, songwriters, record labels and music publishers under the Audio Home Recording Act (AHRA).

Case Background

In a case titled Garcia v. Google, Inc., 12-57302, the recent ruling of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (which covers nine states, including California) suggests that an actor has a protectable copyright in the recording of his or her performance. In this case, Cindy Lee Garcia was hired and paid to act in a film entitled “Desert Warrior.” Ms. Garcia’s role was minimal. She was given only 4 pages of script and filmed for 3 ½ days. While “Desert Warrior” was never released, the film’s writer and producer dubbed over Ms. Garcia’s performance and included it in a different film called “Innocence of Muslims.” “Innocence of Muslims” was posted on YouTube. The context in which Ms. Garcia’s performance appeared in the film was interpreted as anti-Muslim by the Muslim community. Following the film’s release and posting on YouTube, Ms. Garcia received death threats. Despite Ms. Garcia’s numerous requests to Google that it remove “Innocence of Muslims” from YouTube, Google refused.

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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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