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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.

Canada Signs Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement

Canada signed the international Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) on Saturday.

Canada, Australia, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea joined the United States in agreeing to target the theft of intellectual property. The EU, Mexico and Switzerland remain open to participating at some point in the future, and have until May 2013 to sign ACTA.

The U.S.-led initiative requires signatories to create civil and criminal  enforcement mechanisms in dealing with intellectual property infringement. It targets pirated copyright goods, counterfeit trademark goods and goods used to commit IP theft.

The most contentious element of ACTA is the focus on digital locks. While in line with current U.S. policies, the circumvention of digital locks is not yet unlawful in Canada, and is being debated in the House as an element of proposed Bill C-11.

Summit Entertainment Suing ‘Twilight.com’ Site Owner

Film studio Summit Entertainment has filed a complaint with multiple causes of action in the U.S. Federal Court against Tom Markson, owner of website ‘Twilight.com‘. As holder of the rights to the Twilight films, Summit alleges copyright and trademark infringement, and unfair competition.

Although Markson has retained the site since 1994, Summit alleges “after Twilight was released and well received by the public, Defendant changed his website to post links and other material relating to the Twilight Motion Pictures, including copyrighted material owned by Summit”, and developed his website so it seemed to be an official Summit site.

Summit is claiming for damages, gains and attorney fees, and requests the court force Markson to take down the site and provide an injunction against “engaging in further acts of false designation of origin, affiliation or endorsement”.

See the full text of the complaint here.