With just days to go before they meet their Aereo foes face-to-face at the Supreme Court, the broadcasters this week took one last swipe at what they claim is the “blatant and unapologetic copyright infringement” by the …
Disney’s proposed $500 million plus purchase of Maker Studios may have a problem from the past. The former CEO of the multichannel YouTube network wants a California judge to issue a temporary restring order against the planned vote next week on the big ticket merger. “Permitting the April 15, 2014 vote on the Merger to proceed without requiring additional disclosures would irreparably harm Plaintiffs, as well as Maker shareholders, because it would deprive them of the opportunity to make an informed vote in the Merger,” says the redacted and previously sealed application, filed yesterday in LA Superior Court by co-founder Danny Zapplin and three other former Maker execs. The TRO application alleges that something has to be done before it “will be too late” because current Maker execs are “skimming tens of millions of dollars for themselves by kicking back to the other stock adverse to the common shareholder.” The application to Judge Elihu Berle became public today. Disney is not named as a defendant in the matter.
‘Dumb & Dumber To’ Financiers Steeped In “Illegal Activity”, Producers Claim; Red Granite Says Claims Are “Baseless”
The long-simmering Dumb & Dumber To producers’ lawsuit has really heated up in recent weeks. Noting allegations that I reported back in late January, Steve Stabler and Brad Krevoy are now claiming that financiers Red Granite is awash in “ill-gotten gains” and dirty money. “Red Granite is funded with monies that include proceeds from unlawful activities,” says an amended complaint filed late last month by the two producers (read it here). “Defendants have engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity, in that they have engaged in multiple financial transactions within the United States — including financing of The Wolf Of Wall Street and then separately financing Dumb And Dumber To — with knowledge that the property involved represented the proceeds of unlawful activity and with knowledge that the transactions were designed to conceal the nature, location, source, ownership, or control of the proceeds of the illegal activity,” the 25-page March 25 filing adds alleging violations of much Mob-used RICO Act. Red Granite principal Riza Aziz is the stepson of the Prime Minister of Malaysia and has been accused by the likes of former UK PM Gordon Brown’s sister-in-law of financing the company through illicit funds from that country and others.
Reality shows are accused all the time of being fake, but an assault and battery complaint filed today against Spike TV’s Bar Rescue might have gotten a bit too real for all concerned. A Vegas doctor is alleging that he was set up by the production company to hit on host Jon Taffer’s wife and then attacked by the bar and nightlife expert for doing so. In the 4-claim jury trial filing (read it here) today in LA Superior Court, Dr. Paul Wilkes is seeking general, actual and punitive damages as well as medical and legal expenses, pain and suffering and “other and further relief as the Court many deem just and proper” from the February 11, 2013, incident. The doctor is suing Taffer; his wife Nicole, who also is on the show; and Bongo LLC, a limited liability company of producer 3 Ball Productions. Wilkes, who is part owner of the Sin City bar that used to be known as the Sand Dollar, “has suffered and continues to suffer severe emotional distress which results in physical manifestations including but not limited to migraine headaches, nausea, vomiting, night terrors, crying spells, severe depression and anxiety attacks,” says the filing of the on-camera dust-up that saw Taffer punch the doctor in the jaw, among other things. Portions of the incident were seen on the show’s July 7 Season 3 broadcast entitled “Don’t Mess With Taffer’s Wife” (watch a clip from the episode below).
Seven years bad luck is what you usually get for breaking a mirror so looks like NBCUniversal has finally put the pieces together and outrun the curse – literally and figuratively. After more than 7 years of legal haunting and a near-trip to the Supreme Court, the media company seemingly has been freed of the Ghost Hunters lawsuit that claimed it lifted the idea for the flagship Syfy reality show. California’s 2nd Court of Appeals this week granted NBCU a summary judgment and said that parapsychologist Larry Montz and publicist Daena Smoller’s initial 2006 case hadn’t brought their claims within the applicable two-year statute of limitations. “In sum, the undisputed facts and the law established the right of petitioners to an order granting their motion for summary judgment,” said the April 1 order (read it here) by Judge Nora Margaret Manella. Now of course this isn’t totally over as Montz and Smoller could appeal again — though their chances of success at this point look dim.
In a ruling that sets the stage for a courtroom showdown between Mike Ovitz and Deadline’s film editor Anita Busch, a LA Superior Court judge ruled against the former CAA co-owner’s statute of limitations defense in the longstanding Anthony Pellicano case.”Ovitz has not met his burden to demonstrate that, at the time of filing the original Complaint in May of 2004, Plaintiff had knowledge of actual facts to cause a reasonable person to believe that liability on the part of Ovitz for the torts alleged was probable,” said Judge Elihu M Berle in today’s ruling (read it here).
This goes back to the June 20, 2002, incident where Busch, working for the Los Angeles Times, found a dead fish and rose on her damaged windshield with the scrawled message “STOP”. Busch alleged other instances of harassment, computer hacking, illegal wiretapping and threats. This led back to private investigator Pellicano, and what became one of the largest illegal wiretapping case in the history of the U.S. Attorney’s office and the FBI.
Just days before Captain America: The Winter Soldier opens, the heirs of Captain America, The Avengers and X-Men co-creator Jack Kirby are asking the Supreme Court to hand them back the rights to the comic legends from Marvel and Disney. “The Court of Appeals unconstitutionally appropriated Kirby’s valuable copyrights and gave them outright to Marvel, effecting a transfer of wealth on a massive scale,” says the 39-page petition (read it here) filed with the high court on March 21. The petition is the latest legal attempt by Lisa Kirby, Neal Kirby, Susan Kirby and Barbara Kirby to assert that they had the right in 2009 to issue termination notices to Marvel and others on the artist’s characters under the provisions of the 1976 Copyright Act. A response is due from Marvel and Disney on April 28.
Discovery Communications is facing yet another wrongful death and negligence lawsuit over the fatal helicopter crash on February 10, 2013, during filming of a reality show. Donald Rydstrom, the father of a cameraman killed along with two others while filming a military-themed Discovery Channel show, today filed a complaint in LA Superior Court (read it here) against its parent company seeking “general damages in a sum in excess of the jurisdictional limits of this Court, which will be stated according to proof.” Darren Rydstrom, cast member Michael Donatelli, and pilot David Gibbs died just after 3:30 AM on that February day last year when the helicopter they were in crashed in an open field at the Polsa Rosa Ranch in Acton, CA. The senior Rydstrom is claiming loss of love, companionship and support as well as “other benefits and assistance of Descendent” and more.
Aereo may have agreed with broadcasters late last year that the best venue for their ongoing legal “war of attrition” is the Supreme Court. But as today’s response brief (read it here) to the plaintiffs reveals, that’s all the two sides agree on in this case. “This Court should not rewrite the Copyright Act in an effort to protect petitioners from lawful and logical advancements in technology or from the economic consequences of their transmitting works for free over the public airwaves,” said the Barry Diller-backed subscription streaming service in its filing today at the SCOTUS. “The ‘one-to-one’ transmissions from Aereo’s equipment – individual transmissions from personal recordings created from data received by individual antennas – do not constitute ‘public’ performances,” the dense, 100-page brief also noted one of the broadcasters’ primary complaints about the company. With the high court scheduled to hear oral arguments on the case on late next month, Aereo now must send in an amicus curiae brief of its own by April 2.
Despite Disney’s best legal efforts, perpetually litigious Stan Lee Media Inc is not going quietly into the Pennsylvania night with its claims to Spider-Man. Today SLMI fired back at the media giant’s attempts to shut it down once and for all last month with assertions of time-barred claims and the fact that it is a dissolved corporation. “It is Disney’s burden to prove Disney’s ownership of the copyrights to Spider‐Man. Prior litigation cannot bar [American Music Theater], and concomitantly SLMI, from defending itself by showing Disney’s assertion is wrong,” says the dense and exhibit heavy filing in federal court in the Keystone State (read it here). “No judge has decided that Disney actually owns the Spider‐Man copyrights or, for that matter, that SLMI does not own the copyrights,” adds the opposition to Disney Enterprises’ motion to dismiss SLMI from its copyright case against American Music Theater. AMT also filed paperwork (read it here) in opposition to Disney’s motion to toss its counterclaims and SLMI from the case. This latest kick at the can by the repeatedly defeated SLMI over its claims over various Marvel characters created by Stan Lee — who no longer has anything to do with the company that bears his name — seems certainly to clog up the courts for at least a little while longer.
The lawsuit over the 2012 Warner Bros baseball pic Trouble With The Curve just lobbed a potential legal bombshell. In a filing today (read it here), plaintiff Ryan A Brooks and his Gold Glove Productions say they have “clear and convincing proof that Defendants’ testimony and other alleged evidence rests upon fraudulent documents and things.” Citing a digital investigator looking at computer disks submitted by Warners in the case, Brooks’ lawyers claim that there is “clear evidence that the date/time stamps of the disks were manipulated to present inaccurate information about date of creation.” Despite the allegations, the studio wasn’t giving any ground. “The lawsuit is reckless and a waste of time and money. The allegations are false,” a WB spokesperson told me. Warner Bros released Trouble With The Curve in September 2012 and the pic grossed $35.8 million domestically and almost $50 million worldwide.
The filing today in federal court opposed Warner Bros’ December 4 motion for summary judgment to get the breach of contract and contract infringement case tossed. In an initial multimillion-dollar filing on October 1, Brooks alleged that the Clint Eastwood-Amy Adams pic credited to screenwriter Randy Brown was in fact written by one Don Handfield. Pushing back, WB said in December that it has “extensive, indisputable evidence” that Brown completed a number of drafts of what became the film and pushed to have the suit dismissed. Late last year, the studio submitted evidence to that end. That’s when plaintiff’s lawyer Gerard Fox brought aboard former U.S. Army Counterintelligence Special Agent Trevor Reschke as his digital investigator.