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 Barry Diller-backed streaming service. “Aereo is in the business of retransmitting performances of the copyrighted works of others to the public for a profit,” said bluntly in a final reply brief filed by Disney, CBS, NBC, Fox and the other plaintiffs on April 14 with the SCOTUS (read it here). Aereo and the broadcasters are set to present their respective oral arguments in a 1-hour hearing before the High Court on April 22. In their March 26 response to the broadcasters’ February 24 filing, Aereo insisted that they are not engaged in public performance of copyrighted works. The company also said “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.”
Related: The ABCs Of Aereo: What Is Aereo & Why Are Broadcasters Taking It To The Supreme Court?
With the previously recused Judge Samuel Alito now joining the case the court docket revealed today, the stakes have gotten higher for all concerned, as it is impossible for the SCOTUS to have a tie on … Read More »
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.
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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.
Related: ‘Dumb And Dumber To Hit Theaters In November 2014
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The Twilight Saga films may be over, but the battle for money from the blockbuster franchise is not. Financier Goldcrest Film Distribution hit Summit today with a multimillion-dollar breach of contract lawsuit (read it here) over the movies. “As a direct result of Defendant’s deceptive accounting practices in which it systematically understates the Twilight revenues and overstates its costs, however, Goldcrest has received many millions of dollars less than it is due,” says the heavily redacted document filed today in LA Superior Court. The plaintiff says they are trying “to recover several million dollars in payments” from the more than $392 million that the first Twilight made worldwide. In a 2008 sub-distribution deal Goldcrest says in the filing it agreed to front Summit and others $10 million for four films based on the bestselling vampire books by Stephenie Meyer. For the upfront payment, the London-based financier was to get a hefty slice of the pics’ global net revenue.
Obviously that didn’t happen to Goldcrest’s satisfaction with what they allege are fast and loose moves on the part of Summit, now a Lionsgate subsidiary. “We uncovered numerous improper accounting charges, including retroactive ‘bonuses’ paid to actors Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson after Twilight was released, which were not due under their agreements. These bonuses were paid and charged back to Goldcrest long after Twilight was completed,” said Goldcrest attorney Mark Holscher of Kirkland & Ellis in a statement … Read More »
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).
Related: Spike TV Orders Fourth Season Of ‘Bar Rescue’
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Over two years since notorious cyberlocker Megaupload was shut down on January 19, 2012, Hollywood today has gone on the legal offensive. Disney, 20th Century Fox Film, Paramount Pictures, Universal, Columbia Pictures and Warner Bros. today filed a mega-lawsuit against the site and its principals in federal court in Virginia (read it here). Alleging that the site infringed upon “thousands of plaintiffs’ copyrighted works,” the studios and the MPAA are seeking million in damages from the profits Megaupload made off their copyrighted material or “the maximum statutory damages, in the amount of $150,000 per infringement,” as the 21-page complaint says. All of which means potential billions and billions.
“Infringing content on Megaupload.com and its affiliates was available in at least 20 languages, targeting a broad global audience. According to the government’s indictment, the site reported more than $175 million in criminal proceeds and cost U.S. copyright owners more than half a billion dollars,” said the MPAA’s SEVP and Global General Counsel Steven Fabrizio today. “Megaupload — and sites like it that are built on stolen works — damage the consumer experience online and undermine the creators who don’t get compensated for their work,” he added. This case starts up as the Department of Justice case against Megaupload and its New Zealand-based founder Kim DotCom, who is among the defendants here, languishes in the courts. Since … Read More »
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. Read More »
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. Read More »
The red-hot copyright battle between Quentin Tarantino and Gawker is becoming a true pulp non-fiction. Two weeks before the dueling parties face off in federal court over the director’s copyright infringement lawsuit over the site’s promotion and dissemination of his leaked and now-shelved The Hateful Eight script, the outlet today offered a brand new theory as to why they’re being sued: Tarantino doesn’t like the way they talk about him. ”As reflected by the vitriol in his papers, Tarantino’s claim against Gawker is animated by his displeasure with Gawker’s past and present reporting about him, rather than the possibility that some unknown persons may have accessed his script online,” said Gawker in a filing today (read it here). Having said that, Gawker doesn’t provide a single example of their reporting that may have teed the director off – though they’ve certainly had their fun and taken a bite or two out of him over the years.
Related: Gawker Wants Quentin Tarantino ‘Hateful Eight’ Copyright Lawsuit Tossed
Today’s filing was a reply of support to Gawker’s own March 10 motion to have Tarantino’s January 27’s $1 million copyright infringement and contributory copyright infringement suit against the site dismissed. Tarantino is going after Gawker for its post “Here Is The Leaked Quentin Tarantino Hateful Eight Script.” Last week the plaintiff in an opposition filing of his own (read … Read More »
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.
Related: Discovery Reality Show Chopper Crash Due To ‘Cost Cutting Measures”, Says New Lawsuit
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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.
Related: Would The Supreme Court Upend The TV Business If It Sides With Aereo?
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Notoriously litigious Stan Lee Media Inc couldn’t have thought that Disney would respond to its latest Marvel character rights grab in a placid manner, so the company shouldn’t be surprised by the legal hit to the jugular that the House Mickey Built just gave it in federal court over Spider-Man. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t sting. “Making SLMI’s patently frivolous ownership claims [American Music Theater's] defense to a straightforward copyright infringement suit gets neither of them anywhere,” says the March 21 reply (read it here) to the SMLI’s opposition to Disney Enterprises’ motion to dismiss the company from its copyright case against AMT. “This Court should now end this SLMI-financed frolic and detour once and for all,” adds the filing in federal court in Pennsylvania, noting that the intervention lacks any merit to succeed. Last week’s reply comes just under two weeks after SLMI aggressively responded to Disney’s motion to throw them off the media giant’s copyright case against AMT over its allegedly unauthorized use of Spider-Man in its regional show Broadway: Now & Forever. A month after being hauled into court by Disney last September, AMT claimed that it got the rights to Spidey from rights holder SLMI. In December, SLMI, who had lost a claim in federal court in Colorado on several Marvel characters and the multibillion-dollar profits from them just a couple of months … Read More »
It’s nothing nefarious, but some California subscribers to the streaming service have a gripe with the way their accounts have been handled. A 52-page class-action lawsuit (read it here) filed today in Los Angeles Superior Court claims that Hulu since December 2010 has made automatic renewal offers throughout California but failed to specify the terms “in a clear and conspicuous manner,” charged cards or accounts without subscribers’ “affirmative consent” and “failed to provide an acknowledgement that includes the automatic renewal or continuous service offer terms, cancellation policy, and information regarding how to cancel in a manner that is capable of being retained by the consumer”. Plaintiff Nathan Kruger of Beverly Hills claims all of the above violates California law. He and others who upgraded their accounts online to Hulu Plus are seeking a jury trial, restitution, declaratory and injunctive relief and attorneys’ fees. Kruger and the class are represented by attorneys Julian Hammond and Ari Cherniak of HammondLaw in Los Angeles.
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.
Related: Disney’s Spider-Man Rights Contested In Court Again By Stan Lee Media
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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.
Related: Plaintiffs Take Another Turn At Bat As ‘Trouble With The Curve’ Lawsuit Heats Up
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. Read More »
The legal battle over who actually wrote the 2012 Clint Eastwood-Amy Adams baseball pic Trouble With The Curve today hit fastball territory. Just a couple of days after Warner Bros threw back in a motion to have Ryan A. Brooks and Gold Glove Productions’ multimillion dollar copyright infringement case against them tossed, the plaintiffs are now seeking a summary judgment of their own. “While often the issues related to these types of claims of copyright infringement raise factual issues requiring a full trial, the evidence presented herein as relates to these specific claims of intentional infringement weighs so heavily in favor of such a finding that it can fairly be said that no reasonable juror could find to the contrary,” says the motion filed today in federal court in LA (read it here). Along with the motion, the plaintiffs filed a number of declarations today asserting their case. Among other things, the declaration from Brooks (read it here) notes that it was an October 5, 2011 piece by my colleague Mike Fleming Jr on Eastwood joining a project called Trouble With The Curve that alerted him to the film and its supposed similarity to the scripts that he owned. Eastwood is not named as defendant in the the initial October 1 12-claim filing but WB, UTA, Gersh, director Robert Lorenz, screenwriter Randy Brown and Eastwood’s Malpaso Productions … Read More »
And with a signature and a date today, the more than $200 million copyright lawsuit by Hollywood against the file sharing site is over. A NYC-based federal judge today granted final approval to Paramount, 20th Century Fox, Viacom, Disney, Comedy Partners and Warner Bros’ request to dismiss their almost two year case against LimeWire and its founder Mark Gorton. Filed on October 30, the motion for a voluntary dismissal with prejudice was approved by U.S. District Judge Harold Baer Jr on Thursday (read it here). None of the plaintiffs gave any official reason for ending the case against the now-closed-down LimeWire. However, sources tell me that the studios received a hefty multimillion-dollar settlement.
Related: Studios Get $100M Settlement From Shuttering Download Site
Hollywood first took LimeWire and Gorton to court on back on February 1, 2012 over thousands of its films and TV shows that it claimed the file sharing provider fostered the illegal downloading by the site’s users. Just over a year ago the studios declared that they wanted LimeWire found liable before their lawsuit even went to trial because they claimed that their case against the online service was so similar to one LimeWire lost to the record labels in May 2010 that there just wasn’t even a need to … Read More »
That’s the second Avatar legal loss in a row for Eric Ryder and another win for James Cameron. Three weeks after LA Superior Court Judge Susan Bryant-Deason granted the director’s motion for summary judgment, Ryder’s efforts to have her dismissed from the case have now also failed. Ryder wanted the judge pulled from the case because her husband is a line producer who has worked on Fox projects such as We Bought A Zoo. The plaintiff claimed in a 2011 complaint that Cameron ripped off the 2009 blockbuster from an environmental themed story of his entitled K.R.Z. 2068. Ryder said that execs at Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment had read the story back in the ’90s. Having taken a hit in early October in the case, two weeks ago Ryder’s lawyers alleged a lack of impartiality on the part of Bryant-Deason. Funny thing is Fox aren’t even a defendant in the suit, only Cameron and Lightstorm are. On October 23, the court gave tossed Ryder’s latest maneuver too. “A party simply can’t wait to see what happens in a case, before deciding to investigate or assert known facts as a basic for disqualification for cause. By not filing a timely motion to disqualify, objections to the assigned judge are waived,” wrote Bryant-Deason herself in the 11-page order (read it here). Beside Fox not being … Read More »