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1. Lil' Wayne's Co-Author Sues
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 2011
Plaintiffs Banner, David
Deezle
Royalty Collector(s)
Defendants Film Distributor(s)
Film Studio(s)
Video/DVD Distributor(s)
Other Lil' Wayne
Short Description Plaintiffs include two hip-hop songwriters and producers, David Banner and Deezle, both of whom have worked, at various times, with Dwayne Carter, better known as Lil' Wayne. This lawsuit stemmed from a concert Lil' performed to be released as a film and DVD, called "The Carter." Lil' granted to Defendants the rights to use various songs he co-authored with Plaintiffs, for reproduction in the film and associated merchandise. Plaintiffs sued, alleging Lil's company, Young Money Entertainment, had no power to grant the licenses to the songs, because it was a not a copyright co-owner; the company listed on the copyright registration was Young Money Publishing. If Young Money did not have the ability to grant a license, Defendants' film infringed Plaintiffs' rights. However, held the court, the different Young Money entities were all companies through which Lil' Wayne himself acted, and Wayne could validly grant a license if he saw fit. Thus, Defendants had valid license. While Plaintiffs were most likely owed royalties from the production, this was a not an issue in the instant suit, which alleged infringement, not royalty nonpayment. Based on the facts before the court, Defendants' summary judgment was granted. - LSW


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2. Composer Wants "Medici" Trademark
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Rose, Jerome
Defendants Film Distributor(s)
Film Producer(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Plaintiff, a company created by accomplished concert pianist Jerome Rose to market his DVDs and CDs, sued Defendant, a distributor of classical music under the labels "Medici Arts" and "Medici Masters", for infringement and unfair use of its trademark under the Lanham Act and NY state law. The court granted Defendant's motion for summary judgment, holding that the trademarks in dispute are dissimilar and unlikely to cause confusion among prospective purchasers, and that Plaintiff failed to establish bad faith, actual confusion, or a likelihood of confusion. - SKR


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3. Latifah's Movies Copy Plaintiff's?
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Scriptwriter(s)
Defendants Buena Vista Pictures
Film Distributor(s)
Film Producer(s)
Individual(s)
Queen Latifah
Walt Disney
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Writer of script for movie Amoral Dilemma sued makers of Bringing Down the House, including Queen Latifah, who starred in the film, alleging the film substantially copied Plaintiff's work. The District Court dismissed Plaintiffs complaint numerous times... - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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4. Film About Elvis Infringe El's Rights?
Highest Court Ninth Circuit
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Copyright Owner(s)
Elvis Presley Enterprises
Financial Institution(s)
Leiber & Stoller
Photographer(s)
Defendants Film Distributor(s)
Film Producer(s)
Individual(s)
Other Presley, Elvis
Short Description The Defendant produced a 16-hour video about Elvis' life. As part of the video, it included selections from The Ed Sullivan Show, Elvis 1968 Comeback, and The Steve Allen Show. Also, the Plaintiff owned the copyright to some of Elvis' music. The Court noted that Elvis' appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show is licensed at $10,000 a minute. In the video, a narrator would sometimes overdub the copyrighted footage, which accounted for about 10% of the movie. The footage also played with the original audio. There was no question the Defendant knew it did not have license for the material; the copyright holder refused the Defendant's request because it was preparing it own video. The Plaintiffs' moved for a preliminary injunction, which was granted. On appeal, the Court was looking only for blatantly incorrect legal or factual conclusions by the trial court. The Court found that the Plaintiffs brought the suit promptly after determining what the video actually depicted. The Plaintiffs would likely have been barred from bringing suit before they knew the content under a theory called prior restraint. The only issue before the Court was whether the Plaintiffs had a probability at succeeding at showing the Defendant did not engage in fair use. Fair use is not copyright infringement based upon an analysis of factors, such as, the purpose of the use, whether commercial or not; the nature of the use; the amount of the portion used in relation to the whole of the copyrighted work; and the effect of the use on the potential market for the copyrighted work. For the first factor, the commercial nature of the video weighs against fair use, but by using the clips in a new work, the Defendant may have transformed the work into a new creation. The clips were not consistently transformed, and in fact, the video was made to profit commercially from the clips - this wasn't a history lesson. For the nature of the work, the video and music used were creative, but because of Elvis' life, they also possessed a newsworthy perspective. The Court found the news aspect overwhelmed by the creative nature. The Court next found that the length and repetitious nature of the clips' usage favored the Plaintiffs. Even where only short portions were used, the Court found that those brief seconds were the "heart of the work" and what gave the images their value. Last, the Defendant's video would effect the market for the copyrighted materials because of their commercial nature and lack of transformation. While the last factor did not weight strongly for either side, the other factors favored the Plaintiffs, so the injunction was upheld. In dissent, one Judge found that the district court made too many factual errors concerning the transformative nature of the work. In the dissent, the Judge criticized the court's wholesale adoption of fact findings prepared by the Plaintiff. - JMC


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5. Anti-Evolution Doc Uses "Imagine"?!?
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 2008
Plaintiffs EMI Music
Lennon, Julian
Lennon, Sean
Ono, Yoko
Defendants Film Distributor(s)
Film Producer(s)
Other Lennon, John
Short Description Yoko Ono and Sean and Julian Lennon sued the makers of "Expelled," a documentary about the absurd pseudo-science called "intelligent design," when the filmmakers used clips of Lennon's song "Imagine," which famously invites listeners to imagine there's "Nothing to kill and die for, no religion too." Lennon was well-known for his criticisms of traditional religious doctrine. Plaintiffs sued for copyright infringement and federal trademark infringement. Though the documentary used other songs, "Imagine" was the only one for which no license was sought. On Plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction regarding their copyright claims, the court found that irreparable harm was imminent and that Plaintiffs stated a prima facie claim for copyright infringement, but refused the injunction on (arguably shaky) First Amendment grounds. The court cited the doctrine of "fair use": the song's presence was loosely commercial but "transformative," only 15-seconds long, and only minimally impacted the song's potential market for Plaintiff's exploitation. Since the balance of hardships did not tip decidedly in Plaintiff's favor, the injunction was denied. Given how courts have held on issues of admitted sampling, no matter how insignificant and unnoticeable the samples are, this holding seems a bit odd. - LSW


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6. Who Owns MC5 Documentary?
Highest Court C.D. California
Year Ended 2006
Plaintiffs Band Member(s)
Family of Artist(s)
Record Label(s)
Defendants Film Distributor(s)
Film Producer(s)
Individual(s)
Other MC5
Short Description Wayne Kramer, the guitarist for the Detroit psychedelic proto-punk band, the MC5, assisted in the production of a documentary about the band, and according to his story, he was promised not only reimbursement but editorial credit for his work. When he sued for a variety of causes, Plaintiff's summary judgment motion was denied. - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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7. Concert Clips for Charity Cause Copyright Crisis
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 2005
Plaintiffs Film Distributor(s)
Defendants Charitable Organization(s)
Other Piatigorsky, Gregor
Pons, Lily
Stokowski, Leopold
Short Description Defendant was a charitable foundation that assembled and aired programs on classical music, called "Classic Arts Showcase," which is comprised of video clips donated to Defendant to be included in the show. In this case, Defendant received and aired two clips, one of mid-20th century classical celebrity conductor, Leopold Stokowski, and the other of operatic singer Lily Pons. Each was given to Defendant by a different source, though the clips originated in a movie, "Carnegie Hall," to which Plaintiff was the exclusive copyright licensee. Thus, Plaintiff sued for copyright infringement, because Defendant never received Plaintiff's permission to use the footage. Infringement claims based on the Stokowski clips were dismissed on summary judgment, due to a previous settlement between the parties, signed after a similar dispute regarding clips of Gregor Piatigorsky, which the court interpreted to release Defendant from all claims the potentially existed at the time of the agreement. The Stokowski infringements occurred before the release was signed, and were thus covered by the release. Regarding the Lily Pons clips, Defendant argued its use was a "fair use" according to the First Amendment. Though the court found that two of the four fair use factors favored Defendant--e.g., the use was noncommercial and the amount of Plaintiff's movie used by Defendant was minimal--the remaining factors favored Plaintiff: Defendant's show was a creative work that would adversely impact the value of Plaintiff's market for licensing its clips. Summary judgment granted in Defendant's favor on the Stokowski clip, but in Plaintiff's favor on the Pons bit. - LSW


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8. Who Owns Manson Concert?
Highest Court C.D. California
Year Ended 2004
Plaintiffs Eagle Rock Entertainment
Marilyn Manson
Defendants Film Distributor(s)
Film Producer(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Copyright dispute over who owns the rights to a Manson performance aired on Pay-Per-View, intended for DVD release. Judgment for Manson. - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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9. Jonnie Taylor Concert Film Causes Lawsuit
Highest Court N.D. Texas
Year Ended 2002
Plaintiffs Malaco Records
Defendants Film Distributor(s)
Film Producer(s)
Other Taylor, Johnnie
Short Description Plaintiff is the exclusive licensee of Johnnie Taylor's recordings, including any videos made, and Defendant is an outside film company that allegedly contracted with Taylor to film his performances, but the parties themselves never reached an agreement regarding the film. Defendant, without Plaintiff's permission, marketed and distributed the film, "Johnnie Taylor Live at the Longhorn Ballroom," and Plaintiff sued. The court found blatant copyright infringement and irreparable harm, and thus granted Plaintiff's request for an injunction. - LSW


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10. Illicit Zappa Tapes on the Market?
Highest Court N.D. Illinois
Year Ended 1999
Plaintiffs Business Entity of Artist(s)
Estate of Artist(s)
Family of Artist(s)
Trust of Artist(s)
Defendants Film Distributor(s)
Other Zappa, Frank
Short Description Frank Zappa's wife had licensed the defendant to market five music videos of the late performer. During an accounting, the defendant was found to be underreporting the tapes' revenue. Zappa was found to have been at least an author of the videos, so the estate could sue. The estate's trademark claim and demand for accounting was denied, and the court urged the parties to settle. - JMC


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11. Liberace Licensee vs. Film
Highest Court D. New Jersey
Year Ended 1992
Plaintiffs Music Merchandiser(s)
Trust of Artist(s)
Defendants Film Distributor(s)
Film Producer(s)
Other Liberace
Short Description Plaintiff is the trust established upon the death of Wladziu Valentino Liberace, better know simply by his last name "Liberace," whose over-the top style and performances made him incredibly popular among middle-aged women and gay men (though he always denied he was among the latter). In this case, the trust sued a third party that had been illicitly reproducing and distributing videos containing Liberace's arrangements and performances of Liszt's 14th Hungarian Rhapsody, Liszt's Concerto, Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 and the Moonlight Sonata. Plaintiff sued for copyright infringement, trademark infringement, and violation of rights of publicity. After obtaining a default judgment against Defendants, the court upheld the copyright infringement finding, but held the other actions overcome by Defendants' inclusion of a brief statement of non-association preceding the performances. The court found actual damages of $35,000, but granted Plaintiff $60,000 on account of Defendants' willfulness. Plaintiff's request for the full statutory damage amount of $400,000 ($100k per performance infringed) was denied. $60,000 is enough to teach Defendants a lesson. - LSW


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12. Kenny's Instructional Guitar Video
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 1980
Plaintiffs Film Producer(s)
Defendants Film Distributor(s)
Other Rogers, Kenny
Short Description Parties are producer and distributor of an instructional guitar-playing video, which was developed by Plaintiff but Defendant agreed to distribute. Kenny Rogers, famous musician and fried chicken connoisseur, was used in commercials for the product, which raised the royalties Plaintiff would owe Defendant. While initially Plaintiff was unresponsive and did not account for royalties, Defendant responded by seeking outside distributors and selling Plaintiff's product itself. The court found Defendant in breach; upon Plaintiff's breach, Defendant did not acquire rights to do whatever it wanted with Plaintiff's production, and thus acted inappropriately. - LSW


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