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1. Does Madonna Owe Money?
Highest Court M.D. Louisiana
Year Ended 2011
Plaintiffs Investor(s)
Defendants Film Producer(s)
Film Studio(s)
Madonna
Maverick Films
Music Manager(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Plaintiffs lent money to Madonna and her film company, Maverick Films, as well as various other individuals and entities associated with Madonna's film endeavors, which were in need of financing. After Defendants did not repay Plaintiffs' loans, Plaintiff sued all the parties for contract breach, unjust enrichment, detrimental reliance, unfair trade practices, and conversion. Maverick Films defaulted, and a default judgment was entered against them. (Various other procedural and evidentiary rulings were undertaken during 2009-2010, which are not discussed herein). On Madonna's and her manager's motions to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, the court found in their favor. First, her manager had not submitted to jurisdiction by appearing at Maverick's default hearing, because he contested to jurisdiction all along. Second, there was no jurisdiction over either Madonna or her manager, neither individually nor as corporate officers. Their personal presence within Louisiana was minimal, Madonna having performed there sometime in the 1980s, and their recent contacts with the state were all within their capacities as corporate officers, which does not subject them to personal jurisdiction as individuals. Furthermore, the court would not "pierce the corporate veil" and find jurisdiction over them personally, because Plaintiff did not adequately illustrate that their corporations were mere alter egos or vehicles by which Madonna and Co. perpetuated fraud. Though a default judgment was entered against Maverick, the cause was dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction as to Madonna, et. al. - 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. The Game Defame Officers?
Highest Court Court of Appeals of North Carolina
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Police Officer(s)
Defendants Black Wall Street Records
Bungalo Records
DJ Skee
Film Producer(s)
Game (The)
Music Publisher(s)
Nu Jerzey Devil
Universal Video
Website Proprietor(s)
Youtube
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description While Defendant, rap artist The Game, was at a mall before a show (with his entourage), a mall security guard called police after their language and behavior became disruptive. When the police showed up, one of them began pepper-spraying the crew. Everything was caught on film, and released as an extra on DVD. Images from the altercation were included in packaging and advertising designs. Plaintiffs, police officers involved, sued for various torts, including defamation and commercial appropriation of publicity. When the trial court dismissed some, but not all of the claims, Plaintiffs sought to appeal the interlocutory order, but the appellate court held no substantial right would be lost if appeal was postponed until after trial. The video can be found online, and it's kind of funny watching this tiny white guy freak out and pepper spray The Game's crew (in my opinion), since they seem more confused and annoyed than seriously threatened - LSW


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4. Who Owns Skynyrd Film Footage?
Highest Court N.D. Ohio
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Stage Hand(s)
Defendants Film Producer(s)
Lynyrd Skynyrd
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Plaintiff is a stagehand for many famous bands, relevant here, including Lynyrd Skynyrd. Plaintiff filmed backstage in 1976 and 1977, and licensed use of the reels of film in a documentary about the band, with $2,500 up front and $2,500 if the film is incorporated, followed by a 2.5% royalty of the film's net profits. Following the deal, Defendants used the film in additional projects, including live videos and advertisements, and Plaintiff sued for nonpayment of royalties regarding these uses. The court held the contract was susceptible to multiple interpretations as to whether the license granted all uses or just use in the documentary. Issues of fact exist; no summary judgment granted. - LSW


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5. 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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6. Lil Wayne Unhappy with Quincy's Film
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Business Entity of Artist(s)
Lil' Wayne
Defendants Film Producer(s)
Jones, Quincy
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description This case involved a dispute regarding an agreement between Lil' Wayne and Defendant to produce a 90-minute biographical film about Lil' Wayne's life. Lil' Wayne argued that Defendant breached a provision in the contract granting him "a sole right of final approval" for scenes that might depict him engaged in criminal behavior, or that might adversely affect his pending gun possession and drug possession cases in New York and Arizona, respectively. The Defendant allegedly breached this provision by including a scene in the film depicting Lil' Wayne engaging in criminal activity by "misusing medication," despite Lil Wayne's objections to that scene's inclusion in the film. Lil' Wayne sought a preliminary injunction against Defendant, but the contract that he signed contained an anti-injunction provision. Despite Lil' Wayne's argument that the anti-injunction provision is unconscionable since Defendant refused to negotiate it, the Court enforced the provision, denying Lil' Wayne an injunction. Judgment for Defendant. - SKR


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7. 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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8. 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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9. Crazy Plaintiff: "Spears Defamed Meeee!"
Highest Court D. Oregon
Year Ended 2008
Plaintiffs Mentally Unstable Individual(s)
Defendants ABC, Inc.
Assorted Celebrities
Daniels, Charlie
Film Producer(s)
Spears, Britney
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Plaintiff, apparently insane, sued Britney Spears for defaming him in her song lyrics, and also sued Charlie Daniels and the Scooby Doo movie for similar reasons. While it is perhaps, somehow, remotely possible Plaintiff was actually singled out by Defendants, the court, obviously, dismissed the complaint. Most interestingly, the court used four entire pages to render its decision. That was nice of them. - LSW


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10. 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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11. Doc About M.A.F.I.A. Infringe Kim's Rights?
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 2006
Plaintiffs Lil' Kim
Defendants Film Producer(s)
Individual(s)
Lil' Cease
Maiya, April
Record Label(s)
Other Junior M.A.F.I.A.
Notorious B.I.G.
Short Description At the beginning of her career, Kimberly Jones, a.k.a. Lil Kim, had been associated with Notorious BIG and a member of the group Junior M.A.F.I.A. Several years after leaving the group, one of its members, James Lloyd, a.k.a. Lil' Cease, created a video about Junior M.A.F.I.A that had Lil Kim's likeness on its cover. The Plaintiff sued under several theories including the Lanham Act, invasion of privacy, deceptive trade practices, misappropriation, and unjust enrichment. She also asked for injunctive relief, which requires a showing that there will be irreparable harm if the act continues and that the plaintiff has a likelihood of success or the presence of a hardship combined with a fair basis for the lawsuit. The Court found that there was a good chance that Lil Kim would prevail on part of the Lanham Act claim. The Court rejected the Defendant's fair use argument because there was bad faith and a strong implication that she endorsed the video. This sense of confusion on the part of consumers showed enough of a likelihood of success that the injunction was granted. - JMC


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12. N SYNC Film Causes Trouble
Highest Court Second Circuit
Year Ended 2005
Plaintiffs Film Producer(s)
Defendants N SYNC
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Plaintiff was a video producer who contracted with N SYNC to film a performance for release in theaters worldwide. When Defendants learned that Plaintiff had asserted television rights while entering a contract with WB TV, Defendants sent a cease and desist letter, alleging he was in breach of their agreement. Plaintiff responded with his own suit, alleging breach of contract, and various torts, all of which were dismissed. Among Plaintiff's various breach of contract theories, he argued that delayed approval for things like sound mixes was actionable, but like all his claims, his failure to provide notice to Defendants that he perceived them to be in breach was definitive: without such notice he could not act outside the scope of his own rights under the agreement. Fraud and interference were also dismissed (negligence and fiduciary duty claims were gone before this opinion was rendered), while Defendants counter-claim for the breach, initially alleged in the cease-and-desist letter, was allowed forward. Following a judgment in Defendants' favor, there were numerous attempts to recover litigation costs and fees, and in the end, the District Court's holding was affirmed by the Court of Appeals. - LSW


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13. Plaintiff Wants Credit for "Crossroads"?!?
Highest Court C.D. California
Year Ended 2005
Plaintiffs Scriptwriter(s)
Defendants Book Author(s)
Film Producer(s)
MTV Networks
Paramount Pictures
Scholastic, Inc.
Scriptwriter(s)
Spears, Britney
Viacom
Zomba Films
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Plaintiff was inspired to write a screenplay after being cast as an extra in a Mel Gibson film. He authored a script called Dream Alive, and sent it to Defendant MTV to review. He specifically attempted to contact Britney Spears to co-star in the film with him. MTV called him and sent a waiver to sign in response to his submission, which he did not find fair and thus didn't sign it. When Crossroads was released, Plaintiff believed it to be similar to his own. The court found that MTV's contacts with Plaintiff did not constitute sufficient proof of access and the scripts were not even substantially similar, much less so strikingly similar as to overcome lack of proof of access. - LSW


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14. Pissed Off Sportsfan vs. Sum 41
Highest Court W.D. New York
Year Ended 2005
Plaintiffs Individual(s)
Defendants Film Producer(s)
Island Def Jam Music Group
Record Label(s)
Sum 41
UMG Records
Universal Music Group
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Punk rockers are renowned for their obnoxiousness. As this case makes clear, even corporate rock bands that bill themselves as "punk," despite that label's inaccuracy, can be equally obnoxious. Plaintiff attended a baseball game featuring the Rochester Red Wings (a minor league team) at which Sum 41, a pseudo-punk pop rock band, was also present, acting like jerks, and, relevant to this case, and filming every immature antic. According to Plaintiff's complaint, the band heckled and jeered at Plaintiff, and, when he tried to get them to stop, threw a hot dog at him. Footage of the altercation was later included in a DVD the band commercially released. Plaintiff originally sued the band for a single claim, violating his right of publicity under New York's civil rights laws, but later moved to amend his complaint to state an additional cause for intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED), arguing the band "cultivated and marketed an image of themselves as a band that embraces and promotes disrespectful, outrageous and disdainful behavior." The court found Plaintiff had not pleaded facts sufficient to state a claim for intentional infliction, holding both that Defendants' motive was not to induce emotional distress but to ensure commercial sales, and, further, that the conduct, while "plainly lamentable," was not so "outrageous" as to support a claim for IIED. Plainitff's motion to amend his complain was denied. - LSW


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15. 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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16. Girls Gone Wild, Then to Court
Highest Court E.D. Louisiana
Year Ended 2004
Plaintiffs Individual(s)
Defendants Film Director(s)
Film Producer(s)
Snoop Dogg
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Plaintiff was a participant in a "Girls Gone Wild" video hosted by Snoop Dogg, then appeared on the cover of the release. She subsequently sued for violation of her rights to privacy and publicity, seeking economic damages. The court said a lot of things over a lot of opinions. - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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17. Theme Song Co-Writer Wants Royalties
Highest Court C.D. California
Year Ended 2004
Plaintiffs Back-Up Musician(s)
Defendants Do Luca, Joseph
Film Producer(s)
Universal Studios
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Plaintiff, a professional musician, was hired by Defendant to compose and record music for commercials and TV shows. Plaintiff composed and created music for the TV shows Xenia: Warrior Princess and Young Hercules, and subsequently demanded royalties from Defendant after those shows became extremely successful in the late 1990's. The court granted defendants' motion for summary judgment on the grounds that there are no triable issues of material fact as to plaintiff's claim, since Defendant had a non-exclusive implied license to the work Plaintiff created while employed by Defendant. - SKR


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18. 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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19. Pumpkins Video Producer Sues
Highest Court C.D. California
Year Ended 2001
Plaintiffs Film Producer(s)
Defendants Film Producer(s)
Smashing Pumpkins
Virgin Records
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Prior to forming the band, Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins performed in a band in Florida called The Marked, for whom Plaintiff produced a promotional video in 1986, intended to boost the band's statute and position in the music industry. Corgan left for Chicago and took a copy of the tape with him, a small portion (45 seconds) of which later ended up in a 1994 video for the Pumpkins called "Vieuphoria." Plaintiff sued, alleging numerous state and federal causes of action. State claims were dismissed for failing to state viable causes of action, but Plaintiffs copyright infringement accusations warranted court discussion. In suing Corgan for infringement, Plaintiff alleged to have been the sole author of the video made in '86. The court thought this argument unconvincing; after all, Plaintiff can't explain how he could be the sole author (without an employment contract or copyright assignment) when he was filming a video for the band, using the band's songs, taking footage of the band, intended to be released for the band's benefit. Since Plaintiff is at best a co-author, no infringement can be claimed. - LSW


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20. Strawberry Cartoon Too Bad to Sell
Highest Court New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division
Year Ended 1993
Plaintiffs Film Producer(s)
Defendants Animation Studio(s)
Film Producer(s)
Other Beatles
Short Description In 1985, Plaintiff, Vestron, the creator of the market for home videos, and Defendant, ITC Productions, agreed to produce an animated film entitled "Strawberry Fields," contingent on ITC's ability to obtain the legal rights to Beatles' master recordings. Vestron put up $1.25 million in return for the rights to distribute the video and TV rights for the production. The third company, CGL, would do the actual animation work. ITC was unable to secure the rights and offered to redo the deal by using "first class cover versions" of the Beatles' songs, for example, Crosby Stills and Nash (Black Bird), Cyndi Lauper (Across the Universe), Stevie Ray Vaughn (Tax Man), and Michael Jackson (Come Together). Unfortunately, CGL was unable to meet ITC's quality standards. Vestron separately sued CGL for breach of contract for quality and time delays. Vestron tried then to accept the buy-out offer claiming the music covers were unacceptable. The appellate court reversed the trial court's grant of summary judgment for the Plaintiff. They found that there were fact issues concerning the actions of the parties and whether the parties' conduct waived the timing requirements of the contract. In the end, the video was never completed. - JMC


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