Posts Tagged ‘Entertainment Law’

LL Cool J and Toby Keith Accuse Fox, Sarah Palin of Recycling Old Interviews: Could They Sue?

LL Cool J and Toby Keith are accusing Fox News of passing off old interview footage of the two stars as new content, according to the New York Times and the Village Voice.

Fox announced that former Alaska governor and current Fox News talking head Sarah Palin’s new show “Real American Stories” would include interviews with the two stars. LL Cool J says the Fox interview footage in which he appeared was recorded in 2008; Keith says his is from 2009. Ads for the show merely say that it is “hosted by Sarah Palin,” not that she interviewed the two stars, but some news outlets have mistakenly reported that the two stars will be guests on Palin’s show. According to the Times, LL Cool J has lodged a complaint with Fox, and Fox will not air his segment.

Now for the the legal angle: if Fox had refused to drop the segment, could LL Cool J have sued to prevent its airing?

I believe the answer is yes, based on Palin’s status as former governor, former Republican vice-presidential candidate and rumored 2012 presidential candidate. If she were just another Fox news anchor, and Fox had already obtained LL Cool J’s written consent to use the footage, as we can safely assume is standard procedure at the network, LL Cool J would have a tough time arguing that airing an interview with a public figure obtained for news-gathering purposes would violate any of his legal rights.

Palin, on the other hand, is no ordinary newscaster. Because she is seen primarily as a politician, LL Cool J, who supported President Obama’s candidacy, could plausibly argue that his appearance on her show would amount to a false endorsement of Palin. False endorsement is actionable under 15 U.S.C. 1125(a), one of the provisions of the Lanham Act, the primary federal trademark statute.

Left-leaning singer-songwriter Jackson Browne filed a similar suit against Palin’s running mate John McCain, alleging false endorsement, as well as copyright infringement and violation of Browne’s right of publicity, as a result of a McCain ad that used Browne’s song “Running on Empty” without Browne’s permission. (Read his original complaint here.) McCain moved to dismiss all of the claims and argued that the Lanham Act did not apply to political speech. The United States District Court for the Central District of California denied McCain’s motion to dismiss, and McCain later settled the suit and apologized to Browne.

All of the above, of course, assumes that LL Cool J needs lawyers to defeat foes. After all, this is the battle rapper who “crushed Moe Dee, Hammer, and Ice-T’s curl.” Shouldn’t Sarah Palin know better than to tangle with the Greatest Of All Time?


Questlove Explains TV Music Licensing

Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson is the drummer and bandleader of the hip-hop group the Roots, currently on TV five nights a week as the house band for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on NBC.

Playing in a band that must perform live music on television for a huge audience every night has given Questlove some inside knowledge about the complicated process of arranging rights clearance for the songs the Roots play as personalized “walk-on music” to introduce celebrity guests. As you might expect, playing even a few seconds of someone else’s song on network television can be quite expensive. (In a February 2009 interview, Questlove explained that part of the reason the Roots were hired was because they could write original music for walk-ons, allowing NBC to save on licensing fees.)

Questlove recently took to Twitlonger to explain just how expensive these things can get, as well as letting me know in advance what my walk-on song will be if I ever get on Late Night:

one day i gave my last minute clearance list in before a show only to be told mid show i couldn’t use “cry me a river” for joan rivers because justin timberlake charged an enormous rate. i “think” he is the only non dead/non rock and roll hall of famer to charge this strange rate….which kills me because the second we get any Richard on the show i wont even be allowed to do “Dick In A Box”…

Read the rest of Questlove’s post here.


6 TV Shows About Young Lawyers (That You’ve Never Heard Of)

TV shows about the legal industry seem to be on the upswing. This morning, NBC announced it had partnered with Conan O’Brien’s Conaco to produce a new legal drama entitled “Justice,” about a Supreme Court justice who leaves the court to start his own law firm.* The New Tork Times’s recent look at the tough situation in which new law school grads find themselves (a situation the authors of this blog know absolutely nothing about) noted the incogruously breezy tone of the new Fox legal dramedy “The Deep End,” a program it ungraciously panned some days later.

*Never mind that this would be the equivalent of the Pope quitting to become a Bible salesman. It’s television, and television doesn’t have to make sense.

In considering these two new shows, we were plagued with deja vu. A little Internet research, including a look at this canonical list of television shows about lawyers, confirmed our suspicion that there have been quite a number of shows about young lawyers, in and out of the company of Supreme Court justices, produced in the past ten years — these shows just don’t seem to last long enough for anyone to get a chance to watch them. We had honestly never seen, or even heard of, any of the following shows, and more’s the pity.

1) “Supreme Courtships” – A 2007 Fox pilot about “the lives of six Supreme Court clerks and the judges they work for.” At least one of the characters,”Holly,” was a “sexy overachiever.” Overachiever? Really? Someone with a job that’s damn near impossible to get is an overachiever. You don’t say. Whether the Supreme Court clerk selection process produces sexy results is another issue entirely, as Supreme Court clerks are the biggest nerds on the planet.

2) “First Monday” – Another show about Supreme Court justices and their clerks, this one perhaps a bit more serious than “Supreme Courtships,” “First Monday” ran for one season in 2002. Dahlia Lithwick’s review in Slate, one of the scant scraps of evidence of this show’s existence, describes it as terrible and involving a lot of shouting.

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Tuesday Afternoon Legal Information Coverage Explosion

(Left: A page from the Center for the Study of the Public Domain’s “Bound by Law” comic book.)

This was originally supposed to be the Monday Afternoon Legal Information Coverage Explosion (“M.A.L.I.C.E.”), but somehow Monday afternoon turned into Tuesday morning. What’s with the acronym, you ask? I’ve been reviewing criminal law for the North Carolina bar exam and I’ve got mnemonics, acronyms and altered mental states on the brain.

Anyway, here are some interesting news stories, opinion pieces and academic papers that came across our desks in the past week.

Our former professor James Boyle (@thepublicdomain) alerts us to The Public Domain Manifesto and to the latest installment of his always-excellent Financial Times column (registration required), entitled “Obama’s Mixed Record on Tech Policy.” Boyle notes that the U.S’s decision to stand up at the World Intellectual Property Organization’s recent summit in support of certain limited copyright exceptions intended to aid the visually impaired has been seen as a small victory for copyright sanity, but that “[w]hen the decision not to throw the blind under the copyright juggernaut counts as enlightened policy, it tells one a lot.”

Our friends the Future of Music Coalition have information for you about the ins and outs of the LiveNation / Ticketmaster merger and the progress of an antitrust suit alleging a digital download price-fixing scheme between the Big 4 major labels.

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Conan’s Counsel Erred… But How Badly?

A number of commentators, including Business Insider, have cast aspersions upon Conan O’Brien’s legal counsel in the wake of assertions that O’Brien’s “Tonight Show” contract does not specify the time slot at which the “Tonight Show” must appear. If true, this omission would considerably weaken O’Brien’s negotiating position as he fights NBC’s efforts to bump him from the “Tonight Show”’s long-standing 11:35 PM time slot (the Daily Beast claims Conan’s departure from NBC is a done deal but as of late Thursday night other sources have not confirmed). Gawker lays the blame at the feet of O’Brien’s agent Ari Emanuel, claiming a few quality hours with a popular 1990s TV industry tell-all would have clued Emanuel in to potential time slot treachery by NBC.

Admittedly, it is the job of deal counsel to foresee and avoid problems such as these and to prevent clients from incurring the costs of resolving them. But is Conan really up the creek on the time slot issue?

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