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Look, it’s a faithful adaptation of the book and its classic character beloved across the world, and I’ll perform my play based on the novel to prove it.

In court.

So says Broadway producer Scott Rudin in response to a lawsuit that challenges his adaptation of the iconic tale “To Kill A Mockingbird.” The personal representative of deceased author Harper Lee filed litigation last month in Alabama state court against Rudin and related parties.

Estate principal Tonja B. Carter objects to many things in the play, asserting that its presentation undermines the integrity of the novel and takes uncharted – and impermissible – liberties with fictional lawyer Atticus Finch.

Rudin says nonsense to that. Moreover, he counters, it’s really none of Carter’s business how he or noted writer Aaron Sorkin proceed with the play; they executed a contract with Lee prior to her death that expressly permits them to adapt Mockingbird to the stage.

Rudin centers pointedly on that in a return legal salvo to Carter. The producer quickly filed a federal lawsuit in the wake of Carter’s claim that demands she back off and, moreover, pay him $10 million in damages. He views her lawsuit as pure and unjustified meddling.

The agreement inked with Harper reportedly gave her no rights whatever over the play’s specifics. And Rudin says that it is ludicrous to hold that Carter should have a say in the play’s look or feel.

Rudin’s legal filing stresses that Carter “has no known expertise whatsoever in theater or writing.”

And he notes that, at any rate, his play is careful about preserving all essential elements of the story. He is willing to stage a performance for federal jury members to prove the point.

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Imagine that a musical act you want to see is slated to appear next spring at the celebrated Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in the Southern California desert. Tickets are a bit steep for you, but you’ve been hearing some buzz that your favorite band might play at a smaller festival in an adjoining state a couple months later. Obviously, you’re buoyed by that.

Perhaps you shouldn’t be, because a rather arcane legal term known as a “contractual radius rider” might bar the band from appearing for some time before or following its Coachella performance.

In fact, principals with the CVMAF demand that its performing artists sign a clause that prohibits them playing at similar venues within five months and 1,300 miles of the festival.

Is that fair?

We noted in our April 27 blog post the understandable despair it is causing business rivals who, like the Coachella festival promoters, want to cash in on the lucrative festival market.

The CVMAF team says its riders do not unfairly restrain competition and that it has no plan whatever to cave into pressure to drop or amend them.

An Oregon-based rival is putting that to the test. It recently filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the contractual impositions violate relevant federal and state laws by unfairly hindering competition and hurting consumers.

The California court overseeing the case is expected to closely delve into state law on the matter that greatly limits would-be bars on competition. That law allows for only “narrow restraints.” The plaintiff will certainly argue that a five-month and 1,300-mile restriction is anything but narrow, and ask the court to rule that the CVMAF riders are unreasonably broad and unenforceable.

We will timely advise our readers across California of any material updates that emerge in the litigation.

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Musical festivals across the United States are a timeless and popular feature of spring and summer each year. They draw many millions of people to varied outdoor venues to hear multiple artists and kick back in leisured fashion for what is often a weekend or more. As a recent article on this phenomenon notes, attendees revel in the “festival experience.”

They certainly do so at the Southern California desert venue denoted the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, which annually makes scads of money for its promoters. The event runs over two consecutive weekends and has been largely operative (with a hiccup or two) for nearly two decades. This year’s festival just recently concluded. Beyonce was a headliner.

There is no question that the promoters of CVMAF are a powerful bunch. That is clearly evidenced by the contracts they sign with performers. Those agreements are widely known across the industry, with competitors chafing over their details.

What especially draws the ire of business rivals is the so-called “preclusion” or “radius” rider that CVMAF forces musical acts to sign. It bars them from performing at other festivals within five months of their Coachella performance and at any venue within 1,300 miles.

That is patently unfair, they contend. In fact, other promoters assert that such a contractual provision is flatly illegal under American antitrust laws and works as an unlawful restraint of trade.

Unsurprisingly, CVMAF principals deem their insisted-on riders as being reasonable provisions that are not legally objectionable on any basis.

One Oregon-linked production company is testing that argument via a lawsuit it recently filed against CVMAF in a California federal court.

We will take a look at that litigation in our next blog post.

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Los Angeles is filled with aspiring actors. Everyone’s looking for their big break to launch their career. Unfortunately, this creates an unequal situation between actors and production companies, in which an actor may be so eager to land a role, they’ll sign whatever agreements are handed to them—without giving it much thought.

However, proceeding in this way opens actors up to vulnerability and the possibility of being exploited. To make it as an actor in LA, you don’t have to become an expert in contractual legalese. You should, however, consult with an entertainment attorney before you sign any new deal.

For example, if you’ve been offered a role on a television show, an entertainment lawyer would want to look over your contract and negotiate reasonable terms on your behalf. Particular points of interest include:

  • Pilot option: Has the producer defined a reasonable period of time within which commit to hiring you, following your audition?
  • Series option: If the show is picked up as a series, what are the terms of your employment for the first and successive seasons? Are you prohibited from acting in other productions during your employment?
  • Compensation: Are the terms of your compensation reasonable? Your attorney will evaluate your pay for the pilot, your pay for the first season—if the show gets picked up—and appropriate pay increases for any seasons that follow.
  • Credit: Where in the credits will you appear, and how will you be listed?

Having an entertainment attorney look over any legal document you’re presented with is an important way to make sure your interests are protected—verifying that your new role will provide you with everything you deserve.

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We stressed in a recent blog entry the high stakes involved for any business that seeks to put a celebrity under contract to promote sales of a company product or service. We noted in our April 16 post that decision makers obviously need to “get it right” when they turn to high-profile endorsers to make a pitch for their business.

That begs this question, of course: What makes it right? More specifically, what should company executives be looking for in an individual they hope can help ratchet up sales through affiliation with their brand?

Answering that question with high confidence and before making a marketing commitment is vitally important. Celebrities don’t come cheaply. And the wrong call could harbor a stark downside for decision makers who put the wrong face and personality on display next to the company logo.

“It can be risky for a sponsor to be associated with celebrities,” states a recent article highlighting a study that assesses what perceived traits in a well-known figure will best drive brand success. Business managers might reasonably want to closely peruse that research before they put an endorsement contract and pen in front of any individual.

Pointedly, they might ask themselves whether they trust a given celebrity. Reportedly, that is what most consumers do. The above-cited university-linked study (applicable to the airline industry, but capable of being extrapolated to other business realms) stresses that trustworthiness is more important than anything else when it comes to jump-starting a brand’s credibility and sales.

And then there’s this, which a celebrity either innately possesses or doesn’t: good looks, which apparently drive sales when tied to a particular good or service

Of course, all kinds of endorsers ultimately have some success promoting company brands. Notwithstanding that, though, at least some empirical research now shows that a good celebrity-search starting point for marketing executives might simply focus narrowly on two factors, which can be addressed in a succinct query.

That is this: What attractive and seemingly honest celebrity can we sign up at a reasonable price to endorse our brand?

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Business principals obviously pay attention when large amounts of money are being discussed or exchanged. Seemingly, there is nothing quite like cash to sharpen focus and scrutiny for parties on both sides of a negotiating table when a big-asset deal is in play.

Suffice to say that focus is on ample display when company executives are contemplating a celebrity endorsement for a product or service they market to the general public. Well-known figures don’t come cheap, even when their face and perceived attributes are merely being borrowed temporarily and for a narrow purpose.

Put another way: Marketing principals paid a hefty premium for Elizabeth Taylor hawking their perfumes. When Michael Jordan floated through air in a pair of Nike shoes, sky-high deposits into his bank account buoyed his aerial flight.

Company decision makers obviously need to “get it right” when they turn to high-profile endorsers to make a pitch for their business.

Because getting it wrong can hurt materially in two ways. First, the public’s rejection of a celebrity/brand link can actually drive sales downward when some connection that is posited is questioned or even ridiculed (“Hi, I’m Sylvester Stallone, and I always use X lotion to keep my hands extra soft.”). And, second, a big-name endorsement is going to cost the company a chunk, regardless if it tanks.

Given those stark realities, making the right call at the outset is crucially important to a business’s bottom line. We’ll take a look in our next blog post at what some empirical evidence focused on celebrity/brand linkage concludes regarding the effectiveness (or not) of a stated connection.

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Executives from the Oracle Corporation love a recent federal court decision in their company's favor, and are now eager to garner a maximum recovery that is estimated to be in the many billions of dollars.

Conversely, high-end principals and shareholders of Google lament the ruling, which puts the company on the giving end of all that money. Google is reportedly considering its next-step strategy in the matter, with supporters thinking that an appeal to the U.S. Supreme might ultimately be in the cards.

If it is, SCOTUS justices ruling in the wake of last week's decision reached by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit will be squarely focusing on the "fair use" allowance granted under federal law in copyright matters. A provision in the U.S. Copyright Act allows parties to make limited use of others' protected works for specifically enumerated reasons that promote the public's interest.

That is precisely what Google claims to have done when it used Oracle-owned Java programming software to run an operating system for mobile devices. The company claims that its use never went beyond appropriating more than a small fraction of Oracle code. As an in-depth Bloomberg piece on the case reports, Google warns that the case ruling unchecked "would harm development of new software programs and lead to higher costs for consumers."

Oracle strongly refutes that notion, of course. It counters that the court's decision was necessary to curb the outright stealing of third-party property and to lend confidence to entrepreneurs expending time, effort and money to bring new ideas and products to market.

The tribunal reversed a lower court ruling in Google's favor, stating that there was "nothing fair" in an appropriation used to directly compete against an original application.

Perhaps the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately decide that.

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A California federal judge's frustration with a recent copyright case ruling was manifestly apparent in the dissent she wrote in a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals 2-1 split decision.

Judge Jacqueline Nguyen didn't just think her fellow justices erred in their view that one song illegally copied another. She didn't even regard the two examined works as being remotely similar, penning a scathing rebuttal that portrayed the ruling as a clear threat to musical artists.

The majority decision "establishes a dangerous precedent that strikes a devastating blow to future musicians and composers everywhere," Nguyen wrote.

The subject matter at the heart of the case concluded last week in Los Angeles is the song "Blurred Lines," a song credited to writers and well-known pop artists Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams. They were sued by the estate of deceased artist Marvin Gaye, which contended that the song ripped off the earlier Gaye creation "Got to Give it Up." A jury in a preceding trial sided with the Gaye family, with a $5.3 million money judgment being awarded them in the case.

The appeals tribunal affirmed that decision. What is likely to emerge as the most notable aspect of the case is the court's acceptance of the trial judge's instructions to the jury in the lower proceeding. The court ordered the jury members to determine whether infringement existed based only on an examination of compared sheet music.

In other words, the jury never even heard the songs.

And they didn't need to, stated the appeals ruling, given the broad protection that already copyrighted works are entitled to.

Judge Nguyen's sharp dissent cast the ruling as an aberration allowing for copyright protection that simply goes too far. She argued that, while the songs might be similar in style, "They differ in melody, harmony, and rhythm."

And that could only be ascertained by a side-by-side comparison of the recordings, she wrote.

The defense team for Thicke and Williams was unsurprisingly dismayed by the ruling.

"We stand by the fact that these are two entirely different songs," stated one spokesperson following the ruling.

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"Shame on you."

In the wake of those three uttered words, self-service advertisement platform Snap's stock value plummeted close to $800 million.

Talk about the power of celebrity endorsement.

Or, rather, anti-endorsement, as uber-star Rihanna's short declaration was decidedly centered on an online development she found most deplorable and in a need of personal condemnation.

Snap allows third-party users to buy and post online ads. A recent CNN article notes that the process proceeds "without human negotiation," an absent condition that undoubtedly played into what is now a major public-relations disaster for the company.

Here's why: A Snap advertiser's attempt at humor failed abysmally when it made light of a case several years ago in which Rihanna was physically beaten in a domestic violence incident.

Understandably, the world-known figure took umbrage with that, with her remarks hitting Snap like a proverbial ton of bricks.

"I'm just trying to figure out what the point was with this mess!" Rihanna remarked in a statement following the ad's display (which was of course quickly pulled). She questioned why any company "would intentionally bring shame" to domestic violence victims.

That's a good question, of course, and Snap is reeling in the wake of that query. A chief company executive duly admitted that the social media platform "dropped the ball" in its failed due diligence.

Some advertising and market-linked commentators question these days the impact of high-level celebrities in influencing consumer attitudes and buying decision. The recent matter involving Rihanna manifestly demonstrates that some social influencers continue to have immense power in the marketplace.

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If you're at all into popular music heavyweights from the 1970s and 1980s, you know the Commodores. That funk, rock and soul band dominated the charts for several years, and its name still resonates for millions of music lovers.

Thomas McClary well appreciates that. It is his awareness of the Commodores enduring name recognition that has led to his continuing efforts to cite it in connection with his solo musical career.

He can't do that.

As a co-founder of the group, McClary thought he could in the wake of the band's breakup. It just made sense from a marketing standpoint.

Doing so also violated a longstanding written agreement, though, which stipulated that the Commodores name would be forever off limits to former members embarked on new careers.

McClary was instructed on that point several times, following trademark infringement and false advertisement litigation commenced against him by former band founders. Those individuals retained rights to the name owing to an agreement that gave them that power as majority voices operative in the still extant group.

The most recent round of litigation just concluded in a federal circuit court. A judicial panel ruled that, while McClary can make fair use of the band name's registered marks, he must stop short of exploiting the Commodores name for profit in new ventures.

Commentators cite several instructive takeaways from the litigation. Most central is an underscoring of the need for musicians and bands to get a proven entertainment lawyer on board early "to properly document ownership and use of the band's name and any other intellectual property."

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