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Legal Issues Roundup

We’ve been busy planning a panel discussion for the end of November, and have missed out on sharing interesting news in culture industries law. Here’s a roundup of some of those stories:

  • Streaming: Netflix announced multiple content deals, expansion into the UK, and yet its share price dropped after 800,000 subscribers left the service. Facebook and Universal have joined forces to make ‘Facebook Social Cinema’ available to users in Australia and the UK. Viacom claims copyright infringement by YouTube.
  • Music: Syl Johnson is suing Kanye West and Jay-Z for their illegal sampling of “Different Strokes”.Rihanna has settled with photographer David LaChapelle over the uncleared use of his photographs as an influence in scenes from the video for “S&M”. Four members of the British band UB40 have declared bankruptcy, and their assets, including royalties, will be seized to pay off debts.
  • Occupy Wall Street and the art world.
  • Books: A former marine is suing Washington Post reporter Steve Fainaru, claiming defamation, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of nervous distress as a result of his portrayal in the book, “Big Boys Rule: America’s Mercenaries Fighting in Iraq.” Barnes and Noble bookstores have stopped selling DC Comics graphic novels after DC Comics made an exclusive deal with Amazon for digital sales.
  • TV: Former “Happy Days” stars claimed fraud by CBS over alleged unpaid royalties, but the Court found in favour of CBS and is only permitting the stars to move forward on a breach of contract claim.
  • Trademarks: The San Francisco Giants are in a battle over their logo, which the team never officially trademarked and is now owned by Gogo Sports Inc. The creator of building-block game “Minecraft” has won an interim injunction in a legal dispute over trademark of the name “Scrolls” for a game.

English Publisher Releasing Julian Assange’s Memoir Without His Approval

British publishing house Canongate announced yesterday that they would be releasing the “unauthorized autobiography” of Julian Assange, Wikileaks founder.

Julian Assange's Unauthorized Biography

According to the Associated Press, Assange initially agreed to allow the book to be published, but later changed his mind and told the publishers he did not want the book released. Canongate, owner of the rights to the book, stated they believed his story was one worth sharing, and believed the book would humanize Assange and “ultimately do him some favours.”

The decision to publish the book against Assange’s wishes, however, came down to the basics of contract law. Assange tried to cancel his contract but since he did not repay the advance he was given by Canongate upon selling the rights to his memoir they continued with publication. Assange says he was forced into the deal to pay his legal fees and he never wished for the book to be published.

While Canongate has decided to go ahead with publication the American publisher Knopf, who bought the rights from Canongate, has cancelled the contract to publish the book.

Source: Globe and Mail

David Cronenberg on Contracts and Film Financing

David Cronenberg’s new film A Dangerous Method opens tonight at the Toronto International Film Festival.  In a profile in the Hollywood Reporter, Steven Galloway traces Cronenberg’s career from l’enfant terrible of Canadian cinema to one of the country’s most acclaimed directors.  A Dangerous Method is a period drama that examines the private lives of Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud.  It stars Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen and Michael Fassbender.

The article offers a glimpse into the legal challenges involved in a major movie production.  ”It was quite devastating,” Cronenberg recalls. “Even when we started shooting, there were documents still to be signed. It’s like a Frankenstein quilt: 15 entities were involved, and they all had to sign at the same moment.”

Source: The Hollywood Reporter