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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.

Licensing Deal To Bring ‘Avatar’ to Disney Theme Parks

The Walt Disney Company, Fox Filmed Entertainment and filmmaker James Cameron today announced a partnership to develop theme park attractions based on the Canadian-born director’s 2009 hit movie Avatar.

The deal grants Disney exclusive worldwide theme park rights to the Avatar franchise.  The first attraction is expected at Disney’s Animal Kingdom resort in Florida.  Construction is scheduled for some time in 2013.

In addition to securing rights, Disney has hired Cameron and his company Lightstorm Entertainment to consult on the design and development of the attractions.

Intellectual property licensing and acquisitions are playing an increasing role in the entertainment world.  In 2009, Disney purchased Marvel Entertainment for US$4-billion. In the deal, Disney gained ownership over more than 5,000 comic book characters.

Time Out for ‘In Time’?

In the latest copyright case to hit Hollywood, author Harlan Ellison is suing the makers of the new science-fiction film In Time alleging copyright infringement.  According to the suit filed in California federal court, In Time is an unauthorized adaptation of Ellison’s 1965 short story Repent, Harlequin!

In the suit, lawyers identify six story element similarities to Ellison’s writing. The suit seeks to halt the release of the film, which is scheduled to open October 28.  The film stars Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried.

A copy of the court filing is available on

Guy Maddin, Jean-Marc Vallée, Bruce McDonald and Others Represent at TIFF

The Toronto International Film Festival draws some of the biggest stars in film from around the world, however, there is a significant amount of Canadian talent being demonstrated throughout the festival. As founder of the Canadian Film Centre, Norman Jewison explained:

[Canada's] got a lot of competition, and we shouldn’t be worried about that, because talent is the engine that drives this whole industry. It’s not driven by money, or studios, or investors, or banks. Talent is the engine.

Canadian filmmakers participating in the festival include both seasoned directors as well as fresh new talent. Canada has developed international recognition for documentary films and children’s programming, some of which might be premiered at the festival through the Short Cuts Canada portion of the festival which will screen short documentary, animated or narrative films from emerging and established filmmakers across Canada.

TIFF will also be celebrating emerging Canadian film talent through the Canada First! program, which offers audiences a wide range of compelling stories from first time Canadian filmmakers.

For a full lineup of the festival and information about each film check out

Source: NOW Magazine