Justia Entertainment & Sports Law Opinion Summaries

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SoundExchange, a nonprofit entity, charged with the responsibility of collecting royalties for performing artists and copyright owners of music, filed suit under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 101 et seq., against Muzak, a company that supplies digital music channels to satellite television networks who, in turn, sell to subscribers. SoundExchange alleged that Muzak underpaid royalties owed. The district court dismissed the complaint. The court concluded that the better interpretation of the statute is that the term "service" under section 114(j)(11) contemplates a double limitation; both the business and the program offering must qualify before the transmissions are eligible for the favorable rate. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court. View "SoundExchange, Inc. v. Muzak LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, former student athletes, filed suit against T3Media, asserting claims for statutory and common law publicity-rights, as well as an unfair competition claim under California law. Plaintiffs alleged that T3Media exploited their likenesses commercially by selling non-exclusive licenses permitting consumers to download photographs from the NCAA's Photo Library for non-commercial art use. The district court held that the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 101 et seq., preempted plaintiffs' claims and granted T3Media's special motion to strike pursuant to California’s anti-SLAPP statute, Cal. Civ. Proc. Code 425.16. In this case, plaintiffs concede that their suit arises from acts in furtherance of T3Media's right to free speech. Therefore, plaintiffs must demonstrate a reasonable probability of prevailing on their challenged claims. The court concluded that plaintiffs failed to do so because the federal Copyright Act preempts plaintiffs' claims. The court explained that the subject matter of the state law claims falls within the subject matter of copyright, and the rights plaintiffs assert were equivalent to rights within the general scope of copyright. Because the district court did not err in granting T3Media's special motion to strike, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Maloney v. T3Media, Inc." on Justia Law

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The court certified the following questions to the California Supreme Court: 1) Under section 980(a)(2) of the California Civil Code, do copyright owners of pre-1972 sound recordings that were sold to the public before 1982 possess an exclusive right of public performance? 2) If not, does California's common law of property or tort otherwise grant copyright owners of pre-1972 sound recordings an exclusive right of public performance? View "Flo & Eddie v. Pandora Media" on Justia Law

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In 2016, the Alabama High School Athletic Association ("the Association") and its executive director, Steven Savarese, filed petitions for a writ of mandamus challenging certain conflicting circuit court orders, issued by the Geneva and the Washington Circuit Courts. The Alabama Supreme Court issued an order granting the petitions and issuing the writs. In that order, the Supreme Court upheld a decision of the Association and declared the orders of the two circuit courts to be void. A.J.K. was a student at Washington County High School, and he played high-school football for the school during the 2016-2017 school year. During the high-school football playoffs, the Association determined that A.J.K. was ineligible to participate on the football team, and, because A.J.K. had participated for the school as an ineligible player, the Association removed the school from the playoffs. At the request of interested persons and entities, the Association's decision was reviewed by both the Geneva and Washington Circuit Courts. The Geneva Court issued an order directing that the Association's decision be enforced, but the Washington Circuit Court issued an order reversing the Association's decision and prohibiting the Association from removing Washington County High School from the playoffs. The Association and Savarese then filed petitions for writs of mandamus arguing that both the Circuit Courts improperly asserted jurisdiction, and asked the Supreme Court to void the orders. In this case, the requirements needed for the Circuit Courts to properly exercise jurisdiction were not present. The Supreme Court therefore granted mandamus relief, and the playoffs proceeded accordingly. View "Ex parte Alabama High School Athletic Assn." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Marlon Wayans and others, alleging, inter alia, that he was the victim of racial harassment during his day of work as an extra on Wayans's movie. Wayans moved to strike plaintiff's claims as an anti-SLAPP suit (strategic lawsuit against public participation), Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16, arguing that plaintiff's claims arose from Wayans's constitutional right of free speech. The trial court entered judgment for Wayans and awarded him attorney fees. Under the two step-process applicable to anti-SLAPP motions, the court concluded that Wayans met his burden of showing that the claims arose from a protected activity because all of the alleged misconduct is based squarely on Wayans's exercise of free speech—the creation and promotion of a full-length motion picture, including the off-camera creative process. In regard to step two, the court concluded that plaintiff failed to meet his burden of demonstrating a probability of prevailing on his claims. The court rejected plaintiff's claims of misappropriation, false light, quasi-contract, and unjust enrichment based on an Internet posting. The court also rejected plaintiff's claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress based on both the on-set comments and conduct, as well as the Internet posting. Because the court held that the trial court properly granted Wayans's anti-SLAPP motion, the court further held that the award of attorney fees was proper. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Daniel v. Wayans" on Justia Law

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Champion Pro filed suit against Impact Sports and others, principally alleging that Impact Sports engaged in deceptive and unfair practices in violation of the North Carolina Unfair and Deceptive Practices Act (UDTPA), N.C. Gen. Stat. 75–1.1, by their recruitment of a football player, Robert Quinn. The court affirmed the district court's denial in part of Champion Pro's motion for sanctions based on the alleged spoliation of evidence and grant of Impact Sports motion for summary judgment on all claims. The court agreed with the district court that Champion Pro's allegations, even when assumed to be true, are insufficient to establish a violation of the UDTPA. Likewise, Champion Pro's civil conspiracy claim fails as a matter of law. Finally, Champion Pro's claim that the district court erred in failing to award sanctions in the form of an adverse jury instruction is moot. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Champion Pro Consulting Group v. Impact Sports Football" on Justia Law

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Henderson, Nevada executed an agreement with Developer to construct sports venues on 480 acres of federally-owned public land. The city requested the Bureau of Land Management in the Department of Interior to convey the land to Developer. After completion of the project, Developer was to transfer ownership of the land and the sports complex to the city; the city would lease back the venues to Developer. The Bureau agreed to conduct a modified competitive sealed-bid auction, so that Developer had the right to match the highest bid. After the bidding, Developer paid the balance and requested the land patent for recording. Within hours after the funds transferred to the Bureau, Developer terminated its agreement with Henderson. Henderson requested the Bureau to cancel the sale and sued Developer. The parties settled. Developer agreed to give the city $4.25 million after it recorded the patent and not to pursue any development in Henderson. The city agreed to withdraw its objection. The Department determined that the Bureau should not release a patent for the land. Developer alleged violation of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act by canceling the sale more than 30 days after it paid for the land. The district court held that the Secretary had plenary power to terminate the sale because its consummation would have been contrary to law, given that the Bureau had authorized a modified land auction, only because of the anticipated public benefits. The D.C. Circuit affirmed, rejecting a claim that the Secretary’s action was arbitrary. The auction sale was rendered unlawful when Developer terminated the agreement; it did not suffer a due process violation because it never acquired a property interest in the land. View "Silver State Land, LLC v. Schneider" on Justia Law

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Kibler, a disc jockey, uses turntables and others’ vocals to produce music containing jazz and funk elements. He released several albums under the name “DJ LOGIC” since 1999, but currently has no record deal. Kibler registered “DJ LOGIC” as a trademark in 2000, allowed the registration to lapse, and re-registered it in 2013. He has also been known as “LOGIC.” Hall has performed under the name “LOGIC” since 2009. In 2012, Kibler’s attorney sent Hall’s management company and booking agent an email ordering them to stop using the name “LOGIC” and to recall any product or advertisement that did, claiming infringement on Kibler’s mark. Hall’s company applied to register “LOGIC” as a trademark. Kibler sued, alleging trademark infringement, 15 U.S.C. 1125(a); breach of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act; unfair competition under Michigan law; and trademark dilution under the Lanham Act. In 2014, defendants delayed Hall’s tour and first album release due to ongoing settlement negotiations that ultimately collapsed. Defendants then released the album, which sold over 170,000 copies. The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Kibler did not provide evidence sufficient to find that relevant consumers are likely to confuse the sources of his and Hall’s products or that Hall diluted Kibler’s mark. View "Kibler v. Hall" on Justia Law

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Former students who participated on Penn’s women’s track and field team, regulated by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) sued Penn, the NCAA, and more than 120 other NCAA Division I member schools, alleging that student athletes are “employees” within the meaning of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201 and violated the FLSA by not paying their athletes a minimum wage. The district court dismissed, holding that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue any of the defendants other than Penn, and failed to state a claim against Penn because student athletes are not employees under the FLSA. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The plaintiffs did not plausibly allege any injury traceable to, or redressable by, any defendant other than Penn. Citing the Department of Labor Field Operations Handbook, the court reasoned that NCAA-regulated sports are “extracurricular,” “interscholastic athletic” activities and that the Department did not intend the FLSA to apply to student athletes. View "Berger v. National Collegiate Athletic Association" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, the developer of the computer code for the original John Madden Football game for the Apple II computer, filed a diversity action against EA, seeking contract damages in the form of unpaid royalties for Sega Madden and Super Nintendo Madden. The court concluded that the district court properly granted judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) to EA under the "intrinsic test" because the jury had no evidence of Apple II Madden or Sega Madden as a whole to enable it to make a subjective comparison. In this case, plaintiff's claims rest on the contention that the source code of the Sega Madden games infringed on the source code for Apple II Madden. But, none of the source code was in evidence. The jury therefore could not compare the works to determine substantial similarity. The court rejected plaintiff's argument that EA’s post-verdict Rule 50(b) motion for JMOL regarding the intrinsic test should not have been considered. The court also concluded that the district court did not err in dismissing the Super Nintendo derivative work claims where the Apple II and Super Nintendo processors have different instruction sizes and data word sizes; the court agreed with the district court that the jury could not have determined plaintiff's damages from the alleged breach to a reasonable certainty; and even if the district court erred, there was no harm because plaintiff's failure to introduce any source code precluded a finding that Super Nintendo Madden was a Derivative Work. Finally, the court concluded that the district court correctly dismissed the claim that EA used development aids to create non-derivative works because the claim is unsubstantiated. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Antonick v. Electronic Arts, Inc." on Justia Law