Articles Posted in Entertainment & Sports Law

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Warner filed suit claiming that AVELA infringed their trademarks and engaged in unfair competition by licensing iconic pictures and phrases from films. On appeal, AVELA challenges a permanent injunction prohibiting them from licensing images from the films Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz, as well as the animated short films featuring cat-and-mouse duo Tom and Jerry. The court concluded that AVELA’s Seventh Amendment claim is not properly before the court and thus the court declined to consider it; the court rejected AVELA's alternative claim that the $2,570,000 statutory damages award is disproportionate to the offense, insufficiently reasoned, and in violation of this court’s ruling in the previous appeal; the doctrine of judicial admissions does not bar Warner’s trademark claims; likewise, judicial estoppel does not apply; Dastar Corp. v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. does not bar Warner's trademark claims; AVELA has waived the functionality and fair use defenses; the likelihood of confusion does not always require a jury trial and, on the merits, the district court did not err by rendering summary judgment on the likelihood of confusion; the court rejected AVELA's challenges to the permanent injunction; and the district court’s order is not inconsistent with the court's ruling in the prior appeal. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Warner Bros. Entertainment v. X One X Productions" on Justia Law

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League Commissioner Roger Goodell, during the 2014 football season, suspended Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson indefinitely and fined Peterson a sum equivalent to six games' pay. Peterson’s suspension stemmed from his plea of nolo contendere in November 2014 to a charge of misdemeanor reckless assault on one of his children. After Peterson appealed his discipline to an arbitrator, the arbitrator affirmed the suspension and fine. The district court then granted Peterson's petition to vacate the arbitration decision and the League appealed. The Commissioner subsequently reinstated Peterson. At issue in this appeal is whether the League may collect the fine imposed by the Commissioner and upheld by the arbitrator. The court concluded that the parties bargained to be bound by the decision of the arbitrator, and the arbitrator acted within his authority. The court rejected the Association's remaining contentions that the arbitrator was "evidently partial' and that the arbitration was “fundamentally unfair.” Accordingly, the court reversed the district court’s judgment vacating the arbitration decision and the court remanded with directions to dismiss the petition. View "NFL Players Ass'n v. National Football League" on Justia Law

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A class of plaintiffs filed suit against the Rams in the Twenty-Second Circuit Court in the city of St. Louis, alleging state-law violations that arose out of the Rams' relocation of their professional football team to Los Angeles, California. The Rams removed the case to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), 28 U.S.C. 1332(d). Once before the federal district court, plaintiffs moved to remand to the state court based predominantly on a lack of minimal diversity necessary to support CAFA jurisdiction. On appeal, the Rams challenged the district court's decision to remand the case to the Missouri state court. The court concluded that the Rams properly removed the case to federal court by filing a notice of removal; the district court's refusal to consider postremoval evidence effectively denied the Rams the opportunity for jurisdictional discovery to establish their claim of federal jurisdiction; and the district court's refusal to consider postremoval evidence prejudiced the Rams by limiting their ability to prove their statutory right to a federal forum. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's order remanding the case to the Missouri state court and remanded to the district court for further proceedings. View "Pudlowski v. The St. Louis Rams LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, twenty-three professional football players, filed a putative class action against the NFL, claiming that films produced by NFL-affiliate NFL Films violated the players’ rights under the right-of-publicity laws of various states as well as their rights under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125. Twenty plaintiffs settled, but appellants elected to opt out of the settlement and pursued individual right-of-publicity and Lanham Act claims. The district court granted summary judgment for the NFL. Applying the three Porous Media Corp. v. Pall Corp. factors, the court agreed with the district court’s conclusion that the films are expressive, rather than commercial speech and that the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 301(a), therefore preempts appellants’ claims. The court also concluded that appellants' claim of false endorsement under the Lanham Act fails as a matter of law because appellants provide no evidence that the films contain misleading or false statements regarding their current endorsement of the NFL. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Dryer v. National Football League" on Justia Law

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In 2012 the Golans received two unsolicited, prerecorded messages on their home phone line. Each message, recorded by Mike Huckabee, stated: "Liberty. This is a public survey call. We may call back later." The Golans had not answered the phone; more than one million people did and received a much longer message. The Golans filed a putative class action, alleging that the phone calls were part of a telemarketing campaign to promote the film, Last Ounce of Courage, in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. 227, and the Missouri Do Not Call Law. The district court dismissed with prejudice, concluding that the Golans did not have standing and were inadequate class representatives, being subject to a "unique defense" because they had heard only the brief message recording on their answering machine. The Eighth Circuit reversed and remanded. The calls were initiated and transmitted in order to promote Last Ounce of Courage and qualified as "telemarketing" even though the messages never referenced the film. Because the purpose of the calls was the critical issue, the Golans were not subject to a unique defense. Nor did they suffer a different injury than class members who heard the entire message. View "Golan v. Veritas Entm't, LLC" on Justia Law

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A class action complaint alleged that for many years the commercial filmmaking wing of the NFL used the names, images, likenesses, and identities of former NFL players in videos to generate revenue and promote the NFL. It asserted claims for false endorsement (Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125), common law and statutory rights of publicity claims under several states' laws, and unjust enrichment. The court approved a settlement calling for: creation of the Common Good Entity, a non-profit organization; payment of up to $42 million to the Common Good Entity over eight years; establishment of the Licensing Agency; payment of $100,000 worth of media value to the Licensing Agency each year until 2021; (5) Payment of attorneys' fees and settlement administration expenses; a reserve for the NFL's potential fees and costs involving class members who opt out; and class members' perpetual release of claims and publicity rights for the NFL and related entities to use. The Common Good Entity is "dedicated to supporting and promoting the health and welfare of Retired Players and other similarly situated individuals." Six players (the class had about 25,000 members) objected. The Eighth Circuit affirmed, finding the settlement fair, reasonable, and adequate despite not providing for a direct financial payment to each class member. View "Marshall v. Nat'l Football League" on Justia Law

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Steve "Wild Thing" Ray wrestled in the Universal Wrestling Federation (UWF) from 1990 to 1994. His matches were filmed. Ray specifically agreed that the films would be "sold and used." Since his retirement from the UWF, Ray has promoted healthcare products and weightlifting supplements. ESPN obtained films of his wrestling matches and re-telecast them throughout North America and Europe without obtaining his "consent to use [his] identity, likeness, name, nick name, or personality to depict him in any way." Ray does not allege that ESPN obtained the films unlawfully. Ray filed suit, asserting, under Missouri state law: invasion of privacy, misappropriation of name, infringement of the right of publicity, and interference with prospective economic advantage. The Eighth Circuit affirmed dismissal on the grounds of preemption by the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 101. Ray's wrestling performances were part of the copyrighted material, and his likenesses could not be detached from the copyrighted performances contained in the films. Ray has not alleged that his name and likeness were used to promote or endorse any type of commercial product. His complaints are based solely on ESPN airing video recordings depicting him in a "work of authorship," which is plainly encompassed by copyright law. View "Ray v. ESPN, Inc." on Justia Law

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Debtor is a talented singer. Wilson agreed to help manage the Debtor’s career. The two entered into a series of agreements. Wilson claims to have spent significant funds to advance Debtor’s career, but did not identify any related debts in his own 2008 bankruptcy. Debtor filed a Chapter 7 petition in 2012. Wilson filed an adversary proceeding and appealed bankruptcy court rulings denying his requests for: a judgment of nondischargeability under 11 U.S.C. 523; a money judgment; enforcement of a money judgment against Debtor’s non-filing spouse or her company; and denial of the Debtor’s discharge under 11 U.S.C. 727. The Eighth Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel affirmed, finding that Debtor owed no debt to Wilson. Two contracts between the Debtor and Wilson were void as unconscionable; Wilson had no claim for a lost investment in the Debtor or his career. Wilson had no cause of action under section 523 and there was no basis upon which to deny the Debtor’s discharge, View "Wilson v. Walker" on Justia Law

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In 2001, N.D. Laws 53-06.2-10.1 was amended to authorize “account wagering,” a form of parimutuel wagering in which an individual deposits money in an account and, through a licensed simulcast service provider authorized to operate a simulcast parimutuel wagering system, uses the balance to pay for parimutuel wagers. The legislature did not make corresponding changes to section 53-06.2-11 or otherwise alter the statutory takeout formulas to authorize a tax on account wagering until 2007. Racing Services (RSI), formerly a state-licensed horse racing simulcast service provider, filed bankruptcy. PW Enterprises, its largest non-governmental creditor filed suit on behalf of all creditors to recover money the state collected from RSI as taxes on parimutuel account wagering. The district court held that the money must be returned to the bankruptcy estate because North Dakota law did not authorize the state to collect taxes on account wagering before 2007. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. Though some members of the legislature may have understood account wagering would be taxed similarly to existing forms of parimutuel wagering, that belief does not make the statute as written ambiguous or require a court to strain to infer a legislative intent that is entirely absent from the statutory language. View "PW Enters., Inc. v. North Dakota" on Justia Law

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Debtor, a managing member of Twister's Iron Horse Saloon, appealed the bankruptcy court's order determining that a debt arising from a civil judgment in favor of appellees for copyright infringement was excepted from discharge under 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(6). Some of the music played or performed at Twister's was in the repertoire of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP). Appellees granted ASCAP a nonexclusive right to license public performance rights of their works. Twister's did not hold a public performance license. In this case, the court agreed with the bankruptcy court that debtor had willfully failed to obtain an ASCAP license and maliciously disregarded the rights of ASCAP's members and Federal copyright law. Therefore, the debt was excepted from discharge and the court affirmed the judgment.View "Sailor Music, et al. v. Walker" on Justia Law