Justia Entertainment & Sports Law Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiff Curtis James Jackson III, the hip-hop recording artist known as 50 Cent, appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Defendant William Leonard Roberts II, the hip-hop recording artist known as Rick Ross, on the grounds that Jackson's claim of violation of the Connecticut common law right of publicity is preempted by the Copyright Act. The complaint alleged that, on the mixtape entitled Renzel Remixes, Roberts' use of Jackson's voice performing "In Da Club," as well as of Jackson's stage name in the track title identifying that song, violated Jackson's right of publicity under Connecticut common law.The Second Circuit affirmed, holding that Jackson's claim is preempted under the doctrine of implied preemption. In this case, Jackson's Connecticut right of publicity claim does not seek to vindicate any substantial state interests distinct from those furthered by the copyright law, and the policy considerations justifying the doctrine of implied preemption prevail.In the alternative, the court held that Jackson's claim as to the use of his voice on the mixtape is preempted by the express terms of section 301 of the Copyright Act. The court explained that the gravamen of Jackson's right of publicity claim, to the extent it is based on the use of the "In Da Club" sample, is not the use of his identity but rather the use of the copyrighted work itself, and that the focus of his claim therefore comes within the subject matter of copyright. Furthermore, to the extent that Jackson's right of publicity claim is based on the reproduction of a copyrighted work embodying Jackson's voice, that claim is preempted by section 301 because (1) its focus is Roberts' use of a work that falls within the "subject matter of copyright" and (2) it asserts rights that are sufficiently equivalent to the rights protected by federal copyright law. View "Jackson v. Roberts" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Michael Hanna was declared to be a vexatious litigant under several subparts of the California Code of Civil Procedure section 391(b). As a result, and the trial court's determination that Hanna was not reasonably likely to succeed on the merits of this action, Hanna was ordered to furnish a $100,000 security bond. The trial court also imposed a prefiling restriction on Hanna in future litigation, requiring Hanna to seek permission from the presiding justice or presiding judge of the court if he brought a civil action as a pro se litigant. The underlying dispute arose from a 2017 complaint Hanna filed against Little League Baseball, Inc., alleging trade libel and unfair and fraudulent business practices. Hanna alleged he was the president of a youth sports organization known as Team Hemet Baseball and Softball (Team Hemet), and in that capacity, he “executed an agreement” with Little League “for the individual ‘. . . right to conduct a baseball and softball program under the name “Little League”’” for one year. In July 2017, Little League “purportedly” placed Team Hemet on a regional hold, which “prevent[ed] any operations by [Team Hemet] until satisfied.” Hanna alleged that Little League “ha[d] improperly obtained money from [Hanna], and continue[d] to improperly obtain money from the general public.” The trial court dismissed the trade libel claim on demurrer. Little League moved for an order finding Hanna to be a vexatious litigant and requiring him to furnish security, and requested the court judicially notice 14 different civil actions filed from 2009 through 2018 involving Hanna as a pro se plaintiff and a defendant. Hanna challenged the vexatious litigant determination and the determination that he was not likely to succeed on the merits of the action. Hanna further contends that the trial court lacked authority to rule on discovery motions and to impose discovery sanctions after the filing of the motion under section 391.1 to declare Hanna a vexatious litigant and to have him furnish security. The Court of Appeal affirmed the prefiling restriction placed on Hanna’s filing of future actions as a pro se litigant. In the published portion of its opinion, the Court agreed the trial court was without authority to rule on the discovery motions or to impose sanctions. "Under the plain language of section 391.6, all further proceedings in the action should have been stayed once the vexatious litigant motion under section 391.1 was filed." The Court therefore reversed the orders imposing discovery sanctions. Judgment was affirmed in all other respects. View "Hanna v. Little League Baseball" on Justia Law

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Since 1986, the GSW NBA basketball team has played their home games at the Authority's Oakland arena. A 1996 License Agreement gave GSW certain obligations to pay the debt incurred in renovating the arena if GSW “terminates” the agreement. In 2012, GSW announced its intention to construct a new arena in San Francisco. GSW did not exercise the renewal option in the Agreement, and, on June 30, 2017, its initial term expired. GSW initiated arbitration proceedings, seeking a declaration that it was no longer obliged to make debt payments if it allowed the License Agreement to expire rather than terminating it.The arbitrator ruled in favor of the Authority and against GSW, awarding the Authority attorney fees. The court of appeal affirmed. Based on extrinsic evidence, the arbitrator found the parties intended to adhere to the terms of a pre-agreement Memorandum of Understanding, which required the team to continue making debt payments after the initial term. The 1996 License Agreement is reasonably susceptible to the parties’ competing interpretations, so parol evidence was admissible to prove what the parties intended. Even assuming that the arbitrator addressed a question of law when she interpreted the Agreement, the parties intended to include a termination of the agreement upon GSW’s failure to exercise the first two options to renew. View "Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority v. Golden State Warriors, LLC" on Justia Law

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Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), a lower grandfathered royalty rate is paid by some music services that were early providers of digital music transmissions. Music Choice, a digital broadcast music service that consists of several cable television channels, challenges the Board's final determination, which excludes Music Choice's internet transmissions from the grandfathered rate and also adopts more stringent audit requirements.The DC Circuit held that the Board's categorical exclusion of Music Choice's internet transmissions from the grandfathered rate conflicts with the unambiguous language of the DMCA. The court explained that, pursuant to the DMCA, Music Choice's internet transmissions are eligible for the grandfathered rate to the extent they were part of its service offering on July 31, 1998. However, the Board retains discretion to determine whether parts of Music Choice's current service offering, which includes mobile applications and internet-exclusive channels, should be excluded from the grandfathered rate. The court also held that the Board acted arbitrarily and capriciously in altering the audit standards applicable to Music Choice. Therefore, the court vacated the relevant parts of the final determination, remanding for the Board to determine whether Music Choice's internet transmissions qualified for the grandfathered rate and to reconsider the amended audit procedure. View "Music Choice v. Copyright Royalty Board" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's third amended complaint for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), alleging that defendants violated the Copyright Act by copying creative aspects from his unreleased science fiction videogame, including his use of a tardigrade -- a microscopic animal -- traveling in space, in their television series Star Trek: Discovery.Even assuming that actual copying occurred, the court agreed with the district court that plaintiff failed to plausibly allege substantial similarity between protectible elements of his videogame and elements from Discovery. The court explained that, overall, the presence of Ripper the tardigrade in Discovery is minimal, as it only appears in three episodes. Therefore, after extracting the unprotectible elements from plaintiff's videogame -- the scientific facts, general ideas, science fiction themes constituting scènes à faire, and generalized character traits -- the court held that the videogame and Discovery are not substantially similar because the protectible elements are markedly different. View "Anas Osama Ibrahim Abdin v. CBS Broadcasting Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendants' convictions for smuggling four Cuban baseball players into the United States and conspiring to commit crimes against the United States. Defendants, a baseball trainer and a baseball manager, partnered with business professionals, human traffickers, and members of a Mexican criminal organization to smuggle baseball players out of Cuba. The players went to the United States to enter into "free agent" contracts with Major League Baseball (MLB) teams. The players used false residency documents procured from defendants and other co-conspirators to obtain unblocking licenses permitting them to contract with MLB teams. Sometimes the players also relied on the false documents to obtain visas, which allowed them to come to the United States to play baseball.The court held that the Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA) and the Wet-Foot/Dry-Foot policy did not provide prior official authorization for the Cuban players to come to, enter, or reside in the United States; the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions on the substantive smuggling counts and the conspiracy count; and the district court committed no abuse of discretion in the challenged evidentiary rulings. View "United States v. Estrada" on Justia Law

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In these consolidated appeals, appellants challenge the royalty rates and terms established by the Board for the period of January 1, 2018 through December 31, 2022. Appellants challenged numerous aspects of the Board's final determination: the Streaming Services argue that the Board's decision impermissibly applies retroactively; the Streaming Services challenge the Board's rate structure and the specific rates applicable under that structure; the Streaming Services and the Copyright Owners each object to the Board's definition of certain terms; and songwriter George Johnson challenges the Board's acceptance of the Subpart A settlement, as well as its adoption of the final rate structure.The DC Circuit rejected the Streaming Services' retroactivity objection and the challenges brought by the Copyright Owners and George Johnson. However, the court agreed with the Streaming Services that the Board failed to provide adequate notice of the final rate structure, failed to reasonably explain its rejection of the Phonorecords II settlement as a benchmark, and failed to identify under what authority it substantively redefined a term after publishing its initial determination. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, and vacated and remanded to the Board in part because it failed to give adequate notice or to sufficiently explain critical aspects of its decisionmaking. View "Johnson v. Copyright Royalty Board" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court's dismissal of a third amended complaint (TAC) brought by plaintiffs, a putative class of former NFL players, alleging that the NFL negligently facilitated the hand-out of controlled substances to dull players' pain and to return them to the game in order to maximize profits. The NFL allegedly conducted studies and promulgated rules regarding how Clubs should handle distribution of the medications at issue, but failed to ensure compliance with them, with medical ethics, or with federal laws such as the Controlled Substances Act and the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.The panel agreed with the district court that two of plaintiffs' theories of negligence, negligence per se and special relationship, were insufficiently pled. However, the panel held that plaintiff's voluntary undertaking theory survives dismissal, given sufficient allegations in the TAC of the NFL's failure to "use its authority to provide routine and important safety measures" regarding distribution of medications and returning athletes to play after injury. Furthermore, if proven, a voluntary undertaking theory could establish a duty owed by the NFL to protect player safety after injury, breach of that duty by incentivizing premature return to play, and liability for resulting damages. View "Dent v. National Football League" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of actor Ashley Judd's sexual harassment claim under California Civil Code section 51.9 against producer Harvey Weinstein. Judd alleged that, in the late 1990s, Weinstein sexually harassed her during a general business meeting and derailed her potential involvement in the film adaptation of "The Lord of the Rings" book trilogy.The panel held that, as alleged, section 51.9 plainly encompasses Judd and Weinstein's relationship, which was "substantially similar" to the "business, service, or professional relationship[s]" enumerated in the statute. The panel explained that the relationship between Judd and Weinstein was characterized by a considerable imbalance of power substantially similar to the imbalances that characterize the enumerated relationships in section 51.9. The panel stated that, by virtue of his professional position and influence as a top producer in Hollywood, Weinstein was uniquely situated to exercise coercive power or leverage over Judd, who was a young actor at the beginning of her career at the time of the alleged harassment. Furthermore, given Weinstein's highly influential and "unavoidable" presence in the film industry, the relationship was one that would have been difficult to terminate "without tangible hardship" to Judd, whose livelihood as an actor depended on being cast for roles. The panel rejected Weinstein's arguments to the contrary and held that Judd sufficiently alleged a claim under section 51.9. Accordingly, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Judd v. Weinstein" on Justia Law

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U.S. organized amateur hockey leagues come under the purview of USA Hockey, Inc., which is subject to the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, 36 U.S.C. 220501–43. USA Hockey delegates most of its authority to state and regional affiliates. Since 1975, the Association has governed the sport in Illinois. Black Bear, which owns Illinois skating rinks, filed suit under the Sherman Antitrust Act, 15 U.S.C. 2, alleging that the Association is monopolizing the sport. Black Bear does not claim to have paid monopoly prices, nor does it seek an order dissolving the Association and allowing free competition. It asked the district judge to order the Association to admit it as a member and permit it to sponsor a club and to pay damages for business losses suffered until these things occur. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit for lack of jurisdiction. The Sherman Act cannot be used to regulate cartels’ membership and profit-sharing. Members and potential members can enforce (or contest) its rules as a matter of state law, though a private group receives considerable leeway in the interpretation and application of those rules. View "Black Bear Sports Group, Inc. v. Amateur Hockey Association of Illinois, Inc." on Justia Law