As broadcasters and Aereo wait to see if the Supreme Court will agree to the former’s recent petition to hear the case against the latter, the Barry Diller-backed streaming service has been sued …
First it was New York, then later Boston and today a new battlefield opened in the legal war between the Barry Diller-backed streaming service and broadcasters. Less than two months after its debut in Utah, Fox Broadcasting along with local stations KSTU-TV, KUTV-TV and KMYU-TV filed a copyright infringement suit (read it here) against Aereo in federal court to get the service shut down. The new jury-demanding suit seeks a preliminary injunction against Aereo and it wants unspecified statutory damages, as well as legal fees and whatever else the court will give the plaintiffs. Launched in NYC last year and already in several other cities across the nation, the much-sued Aereo premiered in Utah on August 19. “Aereo has not been authorized by any of the Plaintiffs to retransmit their copyrighted programming. Even though Aereo is in the business of selling access to the programming broadcast on KSTU, KUTV, KMYU, and other local stations, it pays nothing to the copyright owners. Legitimate retransmission services like cable and satellite companies, in contrast, obtain licenses to retransmit broadcast signals to their subscribers,” says the three-count 16-page filing.
Dish Network, its chairman Charlie Ergen and several Board members were slapped this week with a potential multi-million dollar complaint by shareholders. And they want him and the individual Board members to pay up personally. In a verified shareholder derivative filing (read it here) on behalf of all Dish shareholders, the pension fund of Daytona Beach Police Officers’ and Firefighters Retirement System allege that since April 2013, Ergen has quietly been buying up more than $1 billion worth of debt from bankrupt wireless network company LightSquared, who Dish has a bid in for. Besides this big potential personal windfall for the Dish founder and controlling shareholder, the four-count complaint filed in federal court in Colorado on September 26, says Ergen also used a front company to put in a $2 billion bid for LightSquared in May 2013 to push up the auction price. “Thus, with this substantial debt purchase not only did Ergen take for himself (in stealth-like fashion) a strategic opportunity that was otherwise available to Dish, he did so knowing that his personal risk was minimized because the Company’s strategic plans already included purchasing more spectrum,” says the dense and detailed complaint. On July 23 of this year, Dish put in a $2.2 billion bid for LightSquared’s assets after a committee the company formed to look into a conflict of interest by Ergen was suddenly disbanded by the Board two days before.
BREAKING …Lawyers for Terrence Malick said today that it’s not his Sycamore Pictures but London-based film financing company Seven Seas Partnership who is guilty of breach of contract over the director’s long-time-in-the-making Voyage Of Time documentary series. In a counterclaim (read it here) to SSPL’s July 19 complaint over the “epic film” filed Monday in federal court in New York, Malick’s company claims that the financier “concocted the story told in its Complaint and asserted its trumped-up claims as a pretext for the fact that it either ran out of, or never had, the funds necessary to meet its financing obligations under the Agreement, or otherwise decided not to continue funding VOT in breach of its contractual obligations.” Asserting that they’ve met every milestone required and calling the initial complaint “completely without merit,” Sycamore’s counterclaim also says SSPL is using its “claims to hold hostage VOT-the films Mr. Malick has been working on for most of his professional life.” In today’s filing, Sycamore is seeking either an enforcement of the parties’ agreement over the film or the return of VOT’s copyright and the extensive production materials and footage that SSPL has claimed as theirs. And with two very different sides of the story like this, let’s be clear – there’s a lot more filings to come.
News Corp has paid out nearly $200 million in the past year alone in settlements related to the ongoing phone hacking scandal. Late last week, the company made it very clear that it doesn’t intend to make a payment to Eunice Huthart, a former body double for Angelina Jolie. In a June civil complaint, Huthart became the first person to file a hacking-scandal suit against News Corp and its UK press arm News International in the U.S. On September 20, News Corp filed back, asking the federal court to dismiss Huthart’s privacy violations case on a series of grounds. “The Court should dismiss the complaint on the grounds of lack of personal jurisdiction and failure to state a claim. But it need not even reach those issues — instead, the Court should dismiss this lawsuit under the doctrine of forum non conveniens with instructions that it be re-filed, if at all, in the United Kingdom,” said the motion by the company (read it here). A hearing in the case is scheduled for January 6.
Producer Hedda Muskat claims that CAA and Ashton Kutcher’s production company deceived her and pushed her out as Co-Executive Producer on a reality series about the DMV. Claiming breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, and promissory fraud in the complaint filed today in L.A. Superior Court (read it here), the Emmy-winning producer is seeking more than $12 million in damages plus other costs from the agency, Kutcher’s Katalyst Media and company co-owner Jason Goldberg. And she’s very clear about what the fallout from the now scrapped series cost her. “Katalyst’s reckless conduct and CAA’s failure to properly represent or protect Plaintiff has had the ultimate consequence of obliterating Plaintiff’s career in the entertainment industry and her reputation as a producer,” says the 16-page lawsuit. Katalyst sued the state agency for $1.4 million in August 2012 after the DMV pulled out of the proposed TRuTV series. After counterclaims and other legal actions, the parties settled the case earlier this year for $450,000. Some of that money, among other damages, is due to her, says Muskat. A producer on America’s Got Talent and A Current Affair among others, Muskat signed with CAA in April of 2009, according to Friday’s filing.
Unsurprisingly, the former union president and the other plaintiffs in their lawsuit against SAG-AFTRA claiming the union had not properly disbursed $110 million in foreign residuals don’t agree with the union’s desire to dismiss the bulk of the case or strike a portion of it. In a series of filings late Monday and early today (read them here & here & here), Ed Asner and the other 15-members of the self-titled United Screen Actors Committee allege an “extreme web these parties have woven to steal money that rightfully belongs to U.S. performers, if not others as well.” The plaintiffs are urging the federal court to reject the motions SAG-AFTRA filed back on July 31 in response to their initial suit. “Ironically, the very statements which Defendants want to strike portray a Union and its leadership, as well as Labor Consultants, clearly indifferent to federally mandated LMRDA requirements requiring transparency and accountability in Union finances, as well as access to Union contracts, not to mention the right to timely learn about and to vote upon whether to ratify or reject such contracts,” the 10-age opposition to motion to strike also notes.
Atticus Finch didn’t give a stirring courtroom speech but the lawyers seem to have worked out an end to Harper Lee’s latest lawsuit over To Kill A Mockingbird’s copyright and royalties anyway. A settlement has been reached between the Pulitzer-winning author and her former literary agent Samuel Pinkus, sources confirm. The paperwork and a filing to formally dismiss the federal case as well as a related state court case is expected early next week. In a filing on September 5, (read it here), journalist Gerald Posner and Pinkus’ spouse Leigh Ann Winick were dismissed as defendants in the case. This is the beginning of the end of a curious legal battle whose latest round started in the spring. In May, the 87-year old Lee filed a complaint in NY federal court, alleging that in 2002 Pinkus used the declining health of his father-in-law and Lee’s longtime agent Eugene Winick to take control of the affairs of McIntosh & Otis agency clients like the Mockingbird author. Lee also claimed that Pinkus then took advantage of a stroke she suffered back in 2007 and the fact that she was already partially deaf to trick her into signing over the copyright to her 1960 modern classic for nothing. He then supposedly slipped the work through various companies so it would be hard for Lee to legally find and to collect royalties.
Free-TV-via-web provider FilmOn X looks like it’s going to be shut down in Washington D.C and across the nation, thanks to a federal court ruling today. The granting of a preliminary injunction for plaintiffs Fox Television Stations, ABC and NBC by the D.C. District Court could also have implications for Barry Diller’s Aereo service, which is fighting various legal battles of its own against the networks – winning some, losing others and grinding away at more still. “This Court concludes that the Copyright Act forbids FilmOn X from retransmitting Plaintiffs’ copyrighted programs over the Internet. Plaintiffs are thus likely to succeed on their claim that FilmOn X violates Plaintiffs’ exclusive public performance rights in their copyrighted works,” wrote Judge Rosemary Collyer in an opinion released Thursday (read it here). However despite today’s opinion by the court, FilmOn’s CEO Alki David says it ain’t over yet. “We will continue without the Networks and appeal. We will win in the appeal,” the billionaire media provocateur told me this afternoon. On the other hand, the 35-page decision was exactly what Fox wanted to hear after the court fights it and other networks have had with FilmOn X and its former incarnation Aeroekiller in various jurisdictions.
The online streaming and DVD rental service can take one putative securities class action out of its instant queue. A federal judge Tuesday dismissed the amended suit by investors claiming that Netflix played fast and …
BREAKING: Three LA-area plaintiffs have filed a class action complaint on behalf of paying Time Warner Cable subscribers in California over the cable provider’s ongoing blackout of CBS, Showtime, Movie Channel, and KCAL channels. Those networks have been blocked by TWC since its negotiations with CBS fell apart on August 2. In a complaint filed today in Los Angeles Superior Court (read it here), TWC customers James Armstrong, Michael Pourtemour, and Vatsana Bilavarn seek subscription fees and charge reimbursements on behalf of potentially several millions of fellow TWC subscribers for monthly subscription fees TWC charged during its continuing CBS/Showtime blackout. The company said after talks broke off early this month that it would offer a credit to subscribers for Showtime and TMC — though not the over-the-air stations — but apparently has yet to do so. The plaintiffs argue that they would not have subscribed to TWC for broadcast and Internet services had they known that channels promised in the provider’s packaging would not be offered, citing Showtime’s critically acclaimed shows Dexter and Ray Donovan and CBS programs including Big Brother, NFL football, and the PGA Championship as desired deal-breakers used in TWC marketing to incentivize subscriptions.
IMAX is suing GDC Technology for using what it says are stolen trade secrets tied to its large-screen digital projection system. According to the complaint (read it here) filed today in Los Angeles Superior Court, the giant-screen pioneer claims a former employee poached its core projection and 2D-to-3D conversion technology, including source codes, and stealthily provided it to film companies in China. It says Gary Tsui, who is not named as a defendant, became the “chief engineer” of a company now known as China Film Giant Screen and that Burbank-based GDC has been using the trade secrets through, among other things, its relationship with CFGS “in its efforts to unfairly compete with IMAX.” The complaint says that IMAX discovered in 2009 that “Tsui had stolen its proprietary and trade secret information” and set up his own competitor company. And later he beat IMAX on a bid for a significant project in China. IMAX claims it launched its own investigation of Tsui and eventually sued him in Canada and China.
More than two months after former union president Ed Asner and over a dozen others filed suit claiming the union had not properly disbursed $110 million in foreign residuals, SAG-AFTRA today took formal aim at their case. In motions filed Wednesday in federal court (read it here), SAG-AFTRA argues that most of the suit should be dismissed. “What plaintiffs fail to mention in the 52 pages of their complaint is that much of the challenges they raise to SAG-AFTRA’s residuals collection and distribution programs has already been resolved in a judicially approved settlement of virtually identical allegations in a class action lawsuit,” says the nearly 30-page filing. “The instant lawsuit is a virtual verbatim restatement of the settled Osmond litigation,” it adds. That 2007 action by Ken Osmond of Leave It To Beaver fame and other actors was resolved back in 2010. They had accused SAG at the time of not properly paying out $8.1 million in overseas royalties.
The broadcasters’ desire to shut Aereo down could end up at the nation’s highest court. “The 2nd circuit’s denial of our request for an ‘en banc’ hearing, while disappointing was not unexpected. We will now review …