Articles Posted in Film

STUDIO WINS ENTERTAINMENT LITIGATION RELATING TO “CARS” FRANCHISE

The studios behind the “Cars” motion picture franchise ended their July with a bang — winning their litigation in Los Angeles federal court over the creation of the franchise. Cars II Movie PosterLast Wednesday, July 27, 2011, Judge Valerie Baker Fairbank of the US District Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles dismissed all claims against the Walt Disney Company, Pixar and studio-related companies filed by a plaintiff who claimed that the highly successful “Cars” films were based upon his copyrighted screenplay and treatment.

Plaintiff Jake Mandeville-Anthony alleged that Disney/Pixar and the other defendants infringed upon his copyrights in two prior works and that the studios owed him compensation for using his materials based upon an implied contract. Mandeville-Anthony’s pursuit of damages against these studios came to an abrupt end with Judge Fairbank’s order dismissing his entire case on the pleadings.

After the jump, I’ll discuss the issues raised by the claims in this case and the import of the court’s decision dismissing the case at such an early stage.
Continue reading

STUDIO SETTLES COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT CLAIM BROUGHT BY TATTOO ARTIST

 

Late last month, Warner Bros. settled the copyright infringement lawsuit brought by the tattoo artist who designed the tatoo which appears on the face of former world heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson. The tattoo artist, S. Victor Whitmill, sued Warner Bros. for copyright infringement in April 2011 because Ed Helms’ character in The Hangover: Part II sports a similar tattoo to the one Tyson made famous. Whitmill initially sought (unsuccessfully) to prevent or delay the release of the film. When that failed, Whitmill pursued his lawsuit in Missouri federal court, seeking damages and removal of his purported copyrighted work in any further exploitation of the movie. The settlement, of course, now eliminates the chance that Warner Bros. might be forced to digitally alter the movie.

After the jump, I’ll discuss some of the legal issues raised by Whitmill’s claims and why Warner Bros. likely felt it had to settle the case.
Continue reading

TOP COURTROOM MOTION PICTURES

In the spirit of the many lists of “top” whatever in the entertainment industry, I decided to write about my favorite courtroom films. Before doing so, I decided to do “research” — so I purchased some movies that I had not seen before and some others that I had not seen in a while. It was gruesome research watching all these films. But someone had to do it.

After the jump, I’ll give you some thoughts on my favorites and my views on what real-life trial lawyers can learn from the fictional ones.
Continue reading

WHEN DOES A LAWYER GET TO DITCH A CLIENT

Mel GibsonMel Gibson’s recent diatribes — lending credence to the widely held view that he’s a racist and abuser of women — provoke an old but interesting debate about lawyers’ duties to clients and when a lawyer can “fire” a client. Last week, Matthew Belloni of The Hollywood Reporter wrote a post on his THR, Esq blog about Gibson’s lawyer, Tom Hansen, staying “loyal” to Gibson — unlike Gibson’s agents who dumped him.

THR’s post was about deal lawyers. One lawyer, quoted (anonymously), says that he/she “couldn’t represent someone who I didn’t personally believe in” and that “a lawyer should be judged by who he chooses to get into business with — and who he stays in business with.” Interesting.

After the jump, why I disagree with this sentiment.
Continue reading

BATTLE OVER THIS YEAR’S SUNDANCE FESTIVAL PHENOM REVIVES AGE OLD QUESTION: WHEN IS A DEAL CONSIDERED A DEAL?

The fight over the rights to “Push: Based on the novel by Sapphire” reflects the same battle that has been fought time and again in Hollywood: when is a deal considered a deal. “Push” was the undisputed darling of the Sundance Film Festival last month. The film built up a steady buzz during the festival week. “Push” ultimately garnered the festival’s US grand jury and audience prizes. And now, “Push” has spawned dueling lawsuits in New York and Los Angeles filed by the two suitors for North American distribution rights, The Weinstein Company (TWC) and Lionsgate.

So who knew that this drama — about an illiterate African American teen in late ’80s Harlem who is pregnant by her own father and abused by her mother — could cause such a legal ruckus?

Continue reading

TAKING A LESSON FROM BASEBALL’S STEROID SCANDALS

The task of protecting celebrities from public humiliation is difficult and complex. In a recent post, I discussed strategies to protect celebrities and, in particular, the need to be absolutely sure about the true facts before embarking upon aggressive response strategies. Recent revelations about the use of performance enhancing drugs in baseball illustrate the problems for celebrities facing scandalous allegations.

The way different players handle these difficult issues can provide lessons on how to deal with such accusations against any celeb.
Continue reading

WELL KNOWN ENTERTAINMENT LAWYER TAKEN TO TASK OVER HIS REPRESENTATION OF LATE WRITER-DIRECTOR COLLIN HIGGINS

The Daily Variety reported yesterday that entertainment lawyer, Barry Hirsch, has been sued by the trust of the late writer-director, Collin Higgins, for malpractice. You can find the Variety story here.

According to the report, the Higgins trust sued Hirsch on January 14 for malpractice and conflicts of interest over Hirsch’s representation of Higgins on his deal with Fox to rewrite the screenplay for the film “9 to 5” in 1979. Fox hired Higgins to rewrite Patricia Resnick’s original screenplay for that picture.However, Resnick later wrote a stage musical based on “9 to 5” — and Hirsch supposedly represented her in that endeavor.

That did not sit well with the Higgins trust.

Continue reading

SETTLEMENT PROMPTED BY CHRISTMAS EVE RULING

Certain details of the settlement between Fox and Warner Bros. over the “Watchmen” movie have been reported since my post yesterday on the end of the litigation between the studios.

The settlement apparently was prompted by a ruling by the court on December 24 that the film’s producer, Larry Gordon, failed to properly secure the rights from Fox before setting up the project at Warners and that Fox owned the copyright to the property. Since Warners’ rights were based on whatever rights Gordon acquired, the Christmas Eve ruling likely meant that Warners would have been enjoined from releasing “Watchmen” at the permanent injunction hearing scheduled for next week. The ultimate settlement between the parties was therefore inevitable.
Continue reading

FOX AND WARNER BROTHERS COME TO AN APPARENT AGREEMENT ON UPCOMING TENTPOLE FILM

In a filing with the United States District Court in Los Angeles yesterday, Fox and Warner Bros. revealed that they have apparently settled their differences over the upcoming motion picture, “Watchmen.” The studios have been embroiled in a lawsuit since February 2008 over who controls the right to produce and distribute a motion picture based on the “graphic novel.” Warner produced the picture and is the movie’s distributor. Fox claimed that it still owned the rights to make and/or distribute any film based on the property.

I was asked to comment on the dispute for the Los Angeles Times in a story penned by John Horn in November 2008. That story details the long arduous process of getting the story to the silver screen — which in large part caused this dispute among the studios.

Now that the film’s opening is approaching, it’s no surprise that the studios want to settle.
Continue reading

ACTORS’ DEAL EXPIRES WITH NO PACT ON THE HORIZON

July 1 has come and gone with no deal in place which would prevent another crippling strike in Hollywood. The Screen Actors Guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers have reportedly reached an impasse in their negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement to replace the previous agreement, which expired at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday morning. While the two sides are scheduled to meet today, public statements by AMPTP representatives make clear that the studios are unwilling to consider any changes to their final proposal which they transmitted on Monday, June 30.

For its part, SAG has acknowledged that the studios’ final proposal is “generally consistent” with the agreements that the studios brokered with other guilds, including SAG’s sister union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. The studios first reached agreement with the Directors Guild of America in January. That agreement helped facilitate a resolution with the Writers Guild of America after an extended writers strike which halted production virtually across the board. Recently, the studios reached agreement with AFTRA on a new agreement with that union. The voting results of the AFTRA membership should be known some time next week.

Apparently, those deals are not good enough for some at SAG.
Continue reading